Vicksburg NAACP celebrating 100 years with banquet

Published 8:21 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Vicksburg Branch of the NAACP celebrates the 100th anniversary of its charter with a banquet Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“The theme for the program is ‘Steadfast, Immoveable, Necessary and Pressing Forward,’ said Bobbie Bingham Morrow, who is coordinating the program. Tickets are $35 and available by calling Morrow at 601-630-5847.

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Morrow said the Vicksburg Branch received its charter in 1918.

“We were the first branch to be chartered in Mississippi,” Morrow said. “But because some of the members were having problems in the community because of their membership, we disbanded. We received a new charter in 1940. We are celebrating the 1918 charter.”

Dr. Bettye Gardner will be the featured guest.

A native of Vicksburg, Gardner is professor emeritus at Coppin State University, and a graduate of Howard University. Her cousin, Dr. Howard Foote, a local black dentist, started the city’s NAACP branch and served as its first president.

One member who will not be able to attend is Lee Willa Miller, the branch’s oldest member at 101 years old who joined the Vicksburg Branch in 1950.

“She was a member of Pleasant Green Baptist Church, and there she met Mr. Pink Taylor,” said Miller’s daughter, Beverly Gaskin. “Mr. Taylor told her she needed to join the NAACP; they needed somebody young who could be a part of the organization and work. He paid her first NAACP dues. From then on, she became a worker bee for the NAACP.”


Gaskin said her mother served as the membership chairman and worked with voter registration.

“That was a tough job,” she said, adding her mother went to other NAACP meetings in the state.

“And you were doing things in secret,” she said. “You couldn’t let the place where you worked know you were with the NAACP or anything of that nature, and people would always ask different ones (people) if she was a member, and they would tell them ‘no.’”

During this time, Gaskin said, her mother worked as a catering cook at the YMCA on Clay Street.

Besides helping register voters Miller also talked with people interested in running for office.

“We saw a lot in our house, but I realized she hid a lot of things from us as children,” Gaskin said, “because she did not want us to know or somebody question us to go out and talk. Some things she did not tell my father, because she feared that somebody would harm him.”

Miller, her daughter said, was one of the people instrumental in getting Dr. Martin Luther King to speak at Pleasant Green.

“A lot of members did not want Dr. King to come, because they were afraid the church would burn down,” Gaskin said, adding the church’s pastor said, “If they burn the church, we’ll just build another one.”

Community advocate

Gaskin said her mother continued to work registering voters and encouraging people to run for office. She was also a member of the PTA at Rosa A. Temple High School and worked to get new uniforms for the school’s band.

Miller also worked on the city Democratic Executive Board and also made sure her children and grandchildren registered to vote, taking them to the courthouse to register.

Her efforts have been honored by the Magnolia Bar Association with the Harriett Tubman Award, and by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

“She really worked hard in the community,” she said. “People would call and ask her who to vote for and she would tell them. She would ask them, ‘When do you want to go (vote)? I will pick you up and take you there.’ She would have people from all over calling her, ‘Miss Willa, when can you pick me up?’ and she would send someone.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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