BLACK HISTORY MONTH A legacy of government and politics

BY CAROLYN GRIFFIN

The Greenville Standard

 

As with education, there are so many influential Blacks who have played a role in government/politics of Butler County, it is impossible to cite them all in one publication.

A few of the legacies not covered, but their names should be mentioned, include former Greenville City Councilmen Jeddo Bell and James Lewis (also renowned educators), former Butler County Commissioner Oliver Brooks (also a renowned educator), Ben Hall of the Alabama New South Coalition, and George Cook of the Butler County Civic League (ADC).

 

DANIEL ROBINSON SR.

Daniel Robinson Sr. was the longest-serving commissioner on the Butler County Commission. His political career began in 1996 and ended in 2008 when he lost his battle against cancer.

Though he fought this battle for many years, he never let his health affect his civic duties to the citizens of Butler County.

During his tenure as commissioner, he helped secure economic opportunities throughout the county, was very instrumental in the construction of the new Butler County correctional facility and sat on many boards to secure a sound future for the children in the community.

Daniel had secured his 4th term (ran un-apposed) but passed away on July 19, 2008 prior to the term beginning.

His wife, Mary A. Robinson finished out his 3rd term, becoming the first woman to hold the commissioner seat in Butler County.

Robinson was also a successful business owner in downtown Greenville. He served his church faithfully and founded the “Gospel Hour” and co-founded “KBBN” on WGYV radio.

He was affectionately referred to as “Deacon Dan!” He encouraged and motivated his family, friends, fellow commissioners, and all that he met.

Commissioner Robinson will always be remembered for his integrity and fairness as he served the people of Butler County.

 

MARCUS ROBINSON

Three months after dad died in 2008, I lost my job in retail due to the economy crashing. A friend of mine, who works for the legislature thought that it would be a good fit for me, considering my background, to come down and apply.

I took her up on her offer, and after a couple of interviews, I ended up getting the job. Now, almost 13 years later, I am supervisor of the Bill Status department of the Alabama Senate.

My department keeps records of everything that goes on during the legislative sessions, while answering constituent questions, providing the public access to information that may help them better understand the legislative process, and aiding legislators and their executive assistants with their daily business needs.

Over the past 13 years, I have made lifelong friendships with some of the most influential people in the state. Legislators, lobbyists, you name it.

But I take pride in knowing that no matter what, I am the same person every day. And the person that I am is the person my Father raised me to be.

 

EUGENE R. HUDSON: MOTIVATION FOR POLITICS

Born at a time of racial prejudice and segregation, my interest began at about twelve years old. I was a newspaper carrier for the Alabama Journal.

Their reward for good newspaper boys was better gifts for white carriers than black carriers. I led fifteen boys to their office in a small protest of this situation.

At that time, I made up my mind to go to college and major in Government. The class was Political Science.

In 1955 I began driving Bootleg Taxi for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In coming to Greenville in 1956, I connected with some real men who had interest in equal rights for blacks.

They were George Gaffney, Fred Bennett, John Fails, Robert Austin, Buddy Watson, Comer “Snow” Maye, & Roy Gandy. There were some others, but not as positive as these men.

The clearly uninvestigated death of Buddy Watson was the stimulus that inspired me to begin openly working to help breakdown the walls of segregation in Butler County.

The first real working group in this area was Robert Austin, Fred Bennett, John Fails, Rev. Roy Gandy, Rev. K.L. Boan, Rev. James E. Cook, Rev. Avehart, Rev. C. H. Bennett, Rev. L. I. Spears, and me.

We pushed for: Poll workers; the use of school buses for black students for football and basketball like the white schools, better classrooms, school supplies, and equal job pay and positions; for the setting up of districts so blacks could be elected as commissioners, council persons, school board members, and any elected office.

I ran for the city council to place a black voice in city government and served the people proudly. I ran for mayor twice.

The first time, to my knowledge, the election was fair. The second time, there was a problem in a certain district. There were people who wanted me to go to court on this problem, but I decided not to.

 

JIMMY LEE CRUM

In 1984, Mr. Jimmy Lee Crum (1939-2012) became the first African American ever elected to the Butler County Commission.

A community icon, he had tremendous popularity and respect within the community, serving as the first Director of Dunbar Recreation Center from 1968-1975.

Mr. Crum went on to serve three consecutive terms as a county commissioner until 1996. During his third term, Mr. Crum’s fellow commissioners elected him as the first commissioner to serve as commission chairman. Before this, the county’s probate judge served as chairman.

Mr. Crum was a man of many talents. He was a mechanic, welder, and bulldozer repairman.

He was also a heavy equipment operator that often donated his time and his skill, saving Butler County an untold amount of money.

Mr. Crum was a staunch advocate of education, and he was a longtime supporter of the Butler County School System. You would routinely see him walking the Greenville High School halls encouraging students to “get their lesson.”

He was a graduate of the first graduating class of the Alabama County Commissioners College, sponsored by Auburn University, a testament to his lifelong learning belief.

Mr. Crum served his final term on the commission beginning in 2008, passing in 2012 at the age of 72.

He is buried in Greenville’s Magnolia Cemetery. His headstone reads: “He had courage and conviction to fight for the betterment of his community. He believed education was the way to better one’s life.”

He was a faithful servant to the people of Greenville and Butler County. The lives that he touched and the impact that he made will continue to be a lasting legacy.

 

KENNETH CRUM

I would never have thought that coming back to Greenville to assist my mother, Mrs. Dorothy Crum, would ultimately lead to a historic mayoral candidacy.

Nearly five years ago, I became aware that my mother was going to need assistance.  After talking to my siblings, we decided that I would be the one to do it.

Within weeks of residing in Greenville, I realized that there were many issues within our community that needed addressing. Several people within the community agreed.

We came together and decided to form the Butler County Concerned Citizens. It is a grassroots organization that would serve and address our communities’ needs–especially the youth.

That is something that we have done and will continue to do. We thought that one way to help Greenville become a better city would be for me to become mayor.

After much prayer and discussion with my family, I decided to enter Greenville’s mayoral race. I knew that the campaign would be both exciting and challenging.

I put God first and began a year-long campaign. I knew it would take time for Greenville citizens to realize that there was a qualified Black candidate in the race.

The mayor’s (or any elected official’s) primary purpose is to serve the people who elected you. My platform was to be a servant of the people.

The City of Greenville is such a great city and has such great potential. The most rewarding part of the campaign was meeting, listening to, and interacting with all of Greenville’s amazing people. I want to thank everyone that supported me.

 

JAE’QUES K. BROWN: INSPIRED TO SERVE

Often times, while out of town on a business trip, vacation, or just simple free leisure. I would often be asked a familiar question that I have heard many of times before.

The question asked to me would simply be, “Where are you from”? I would always answer with a joyful expression of excitement with the response saying, “I am from the amazing City of Greenville, Al”.

This question has been presented to me more times than I could ever recall. I have always been excited to tell people about my birthplace.

Being born and raised in the city of Greenville has been an amazing experience thus far. Over the years, I’ve grown to have such a special place in my heart for this city and community.

Greenville is great place to live, with so many pioneers and trailblazers who have made a difference throughout this community.

Approximately over a year ago around the month of December 2019, I pondered upon the thought about running for City Council for the City of Greenville representing “District 4.”

I remember just like yesterday when first told my family how I desired to run for public office, mainly wanting to get their opinion and see what their thoughts were about me making such a big move as that.

My family immediately encouraged me and expressed their support for my future endeavors in what I desired to do.

I decided that I would run for Council and officially announced my bid for candidacy on April 24, 2020. I campaigned with the slogan “Progressively Moving forward to a Brighter Future.”

Three components that I vowed to always follow throughout this term were to: 1. Serve the community with integrity; 2. Advocate for our Youth & Development; and 3. To always keep the interest of District 4 and the City of Greenville in my foresight.

Now being elected to City Council representing “District 4” at the age of 24 (the youngest to serve on council in Greenville History), I am frequently asked the question about what or who inspired me to serve at such a young age.

There are so many names that I would like to acknowledge however I will only name a few. I had the opportunity to be reared in a close niche family who always pushed me to go for greater no matter the circumstances.

I can remember back to my teen years of how my grandmother, Hattie Brown, would always have me involved in some local or even state level organization.

While most teens would be out playing of having fun, at the age of 12 or 13, I would often look forward to traveling to Civic League meetings or even the yearly ADC Convention just to tag along to the seminar classes to learn about the importance of voting, or how to engage the people in local or national government elections.

I can remember the sweet calming words of encouragement that I would often receive from Ms. Ruby Price Womack on how to be the best I could be in anything I desired out of life.

Or also the many afternoons I would spend at Mr. and Mrs. John L. Peagler and Evangelist Carolyn Griffin’s house preparing for some state level oratorical contest perfecting my diction or pronunciation.

Even being able to receive so much out pouring of wisdom from Mr. E.R. Hudson on how to serve and in all things being patient while doing so.

The reason I chose to serve, was because I had caring people from the community who chose to take me under their care and pave such a way for me, being the pillar of light that would lead to success just so in return I could do the same for the next person coming along.

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