Thursday, February 21, 2008
Black History Banquet held at St. Paul Outreach
Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. of Shelby County, Tenn., was the keynote speaker for the second annual Black History Awards Banquet.
It was held February 9 at the St. Paul Outreach Center, 1393 Hwy. 309 South, Byhalia. A large crowd attended.
Wharton was elected to his first term as mayor of Shelby County in 2002 and then was easily re-elected in 2006. He is a graduate of Tennessee State University and the University of Mississippi Law School.
“Black History Month is an important opportunity to honor not only the great historic figures of black history, such as Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes and Jackie Robinson, but the living history of Marshall County African-American citizens,” said Rev. Andrew Cheairs, pastor of St. Paul M.B. Church.
“Our past is not the end, but it is there to reveal the key to our future. I challenge us to let our lives be a positive reflection for all men, women, boys and girls.”
Others on the program included – Rev. Archie Bowen, the St. Paul Mass Choir, Judge Ernest Cunningham, toastmistress Bessie Tables, State Representative Kelvin Buck, Senator Bill Stone, Angelina Cheairs and Mattie Stone.
Honorees included Otis Anderson of Byhalia, Mayor Jimmie Collins of Potts Camp, J.M. “Flick” Ash of Potts Camp, plus the late Lessye Lee Davis, Butler Young Jr., Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Ben Ingram Jr.
Anderson’s great interest in agriculture led him to be among the first African Americans to serve on the Farmers Service Agency. He is a World War II veteran.
Collins was the first African American mayor of Potts Camp and the first African American to be elected to the board of aldermen in the town.
Ash, who served as state representative, sheriff and chancery clerk, presently serves on the Marshall County Industrial Development Board and owns Flick’s Amoco and Restaurant.
Davis was the first African American employed as a home demonstration agent in Marshall County by the State of Mississippi. The annual Lessye Lee Davis Parade is held in her honor.
Young’s tragic death in 1974 in Byhalia at the age of 21, following his arrest and attempted escape, led to the longest civil rights boycott in Mississippi history. It was organized by the United League of Marshall County, a local civil rights group.
Wells-Barnett was born in Holly Springs. While later living in Memphis, she became editor and co-owner of a black newspaper called “The Free Speech and Headlight.” She used her paper to attack the evils of lynching. She continued her crusade for equal rights for African Americans until her death in 1931. A museum in Holly Springs honors Wells-Barnett.
Ingram, of Byhalia, was freed in 1919 by an all-male, all-white jury. The Commercial Appeal headline told of what was believed to be a first in the South: “Negro kills white man; is acquitted.” The 1991 newspaper article said testimony at the trial in Holly Springs showed the landowners had a “discussion” over the boundary between their large farms and Ingram was freed as a rare symbol of tolerance and justice in a part of the world where “justice” often came without a trial in the form of a noose.
Organizers of the annual Black History Awards Banquet thank everyone for their support, contributions and sponsorships.
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