By Jackie Hampton
The Honorable Carlton Reeves, U. S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi, called on The Honorable Fred Banks, former Supreme Court Justice, to introduce guest speaker Derrick Johnson, president & CEO of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People.
However, before Banks introduced Johnson, Reeves, gave the worshippers a history lesson about Banks and encouraged them to learn more about this man who has spent a great deal of his legal career dedicated to civil rights and justice. He talked about his 52 year career as a lawyer going back to when Banks was a law student passing the bar when there were those who did not have to take the bar and he spoke of him as a former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice trial judge and legislator.
Reeves referenced the 1969 case, Alexander v Holmes, in which the court ordered immediate desegregation of public schools in the American South. This case, in which Banks played a part in suing the state of Mississippi, took place 15 years after the US Supreme Court had ruled that all children should be able to go to school together. Reeves noted that as a young lawyer he learned so much from Banks while he was on the bench. He said, “Read about Fred Banks Jr. and understand what has made this man great.”
When Banks, who is now senior partner at Phelps Dunbar Law Firm, approached the podium to introduce Johnson, he assured the listeners that the NAACP is in great hands with Johnson being at the helm. He said the Tougaloo undergraduate student makes great decisions and has demonstrated remarkable skills in collaborating with others. Banks said, “Derrick has a clear vision in which direction the organization should go.”
Johnson, in his message, recalled the role that College Hill played in the Civil Rights Movement at a time when few churches got involved. He also said there is something special about Mississippi and College Hill. “While other churches were afraid of retaliation for getting involved in the movement, College Hill and its members were not afraid and kept their doors open when needed,” said Johnson.
He spoke about the character of it’s members and reminded church goers of the legacy of civil rights workers like the late Deacon Sam Bailey and Rev. R.L.T. Smith who was the grandfather of District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.
Johnson challenged the members to get involved in government. He said we need prayer and we need workers because the progress that has been made in the past 50 years is being rolled back. He said we need to elect officials that know how to govern and how to read bills, such as Senator Hillman Frazier, who was in the audience
Johnson spoke of this country being on the edge of the cliff where racial hate is increasing but that College Hill can be a beacon of light while sitting in the center of Mississippi. Johnson received numerous amens and applause throughout his message.
Pastor Michael T. Williams thanked Johnson and all participatants who worked hard to make the Men’s Day service a success.
He also congratulated Rev. Calvin Peoples who was recognized as Man of the Year of College Hill. Peoples, who has been a right hand to the pastor in the pulpit, during weekly Bible study, prayer service and other events at the church, was chosen by the membership of College Hill to be Man of the Year.
Peoples is admired and loved by the members of College Hill as expressed by Deacon Gregory Anderson who gave a tribute on his behalf. Peoples’ son, Tim, also gave a tribute but it was his wife, Sandra Peoples, who introduced her husband of 26 years as Man of the Year. Also in attendance was his daughter Denise and employees of Nissan where he has been employed for 15 years.
A special presentation was given to Peoples by Leon Williams, president of the Laymen’s Ministry.
Bernard Bridges, co-chair of the Men’s Day Committee, gave a presentation to the speaker Derrick Johnson.
Douglas Sanders, co-chair, gave the acknowledgements as many members beamed in pride because this was the first time College Hill members had seen him in a suit.
Members and visitors both stated Men’s Day, held on Father’s Day, was a great success.
This article originally appeared in the Mississippi Link.