I definitely consider myself as being blessed to have participated in some crucial moments in Mississippi History–such as Freedom School in 1964, Civil Rights Movement in Hattiesburg from 1964 to 1968, and other events. However, the most memorable event during my childhood would be having been at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on March 19, 1968, to hear Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., speak about the “Poor Peoples March on Washington.” Further, I had the opportunity to work my way through college on the Work Study Program at Texas Southern University and for four years I worked in the History Department for some of the greatest historians. One of the professors who had the distinct honor of being a Distinguish Professor at the University, Dr. J. Reuben Sheeler, was the previous Chair of the “Association for the Study of the Negro Life and History” which is the organization started by Carter G. Woodson–the founder of Black History Month. I received my B.S. Degree (May 1976) in Political Science/History from Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas; my M.A. Degree (May 1978) in Criminal Justice/Counseling from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, and my J.D. Degree (August 1984) from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. Interestingly, I had an opportunity to enroll in a History Course while in Law School. I previously served on the Faculty at Texas Southern University (1979 -1981) and the University of Southern Mississippi (1992 – 2003).
Since moving back to Mississippi in June of 1990, I have made it my mission to honor some of the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement each year and in June 1994, I had the opportunity to bestow honor upon one of our Freedom School Teacher, Richard (Dick) Kelly at the first reunion of the SNCC students who participated in Freedom Summer. Also, in November 1999, I donated the first State Historical Marker honoring a Civil Rights Site to the Mt. Zion Baptist Church where I attended Freedom School and Dr. King spoke approximately two weeks before his death.
For the 40th Anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, I coordinated a Civil Rights Institute for Children in middle and senior high school to teach them about the Civil Rights Movement which was an 8-week course that was taught on Saturdays. However, two of the weeks were spent traveling to various Civil Rights Sites and Museums in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The Class Project for the Faculty and Students of the Civil Rights Institute consisted of donating a State Historical Marker honoring the life and legacy of Vernon Dahmer who died after his home was firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan in January 1966 here in Forrest County.
I also have a love of the arts, and in March 2010, I did an Exhibit (with 50 photos) honoring the “Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement” at the Cultural Center in Hattiesburg and these photos were of the major Civil Rights marches in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
I am presently working on a research project involving a little known history fact involving a federal case filed in 1950 by 15 local African Americans (with their own resources) for the Right to Vote and they were represented by a local White attorney. Interestingly, many of the Plaintiffs I personally knew, but I was not aware of their bravery and it is my hope and desire to have a State Historical Marker unveiled in their honor.