April will mark Jimmy Simmons’ 16th year as president of the Casper branch of the NAACP. He also served as first vice president of the Colorado, Montana and Wyoming Conference for 10 years. He explained how his involvement began.
“Back when Mel Hamilton was being railroaded out of the school district when he was principal at East Junior High, that’s what did it. I was in the oilfield (still am), and both of us were experiencing hostility in both those industries. We started a little support group. We used to meet once a week at the Village Inn. When they were removing Mel from the principal position, that’s when I stepped in. We started writing letters to the editor and monitoring the response and we were getting positive response. Mel said he didn’t have time to be president, so he ran for first vice president and I ran for president. We have 50 members, regular meetings every second Sunday of the month at 6 p.m., at the Parkway Plaza Railroad Room, we have had as many as 130 members.”
The NAACP will host its Freedom Fund Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Feb. 11, at the Parkway Plaza. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. The public is welcome but reservations for the $30 lunch are due Monday by calling Joanne Tanner at 307-234-6266.
What does the Freedom Fund do? When civil rights movements got started in the south, you had people being arrested and put in jail. They needed money to be bailed out, so people in the community, along with the NAACP, started selling dinners to raise funds for legal defense, and those dinners were named Freedom Fund Banquets.
Tell us about the luncheon speaker, Henry Allen, past president of Colorado Springs Branch NAACP, and current president, Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He will address the topic, “America 2017 through the eyes of Martin Luther King, Jr.” He served 24 years in the U.S. Army and worked as a sheriff until his retirement. There is so much chaos in society right now, what Martin Luther King Jr. was shooting for versus where we are now, it may be different, it should be different, it is different. The talk will be what Martin Luther King Jr. would see through his lens today. After Mr. Allen’s work with the NAACP, he started work for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was started by Martin Luther King Jr., in 1955. He and his wife are really nice, really neat people.
What work is the NAACP involved in locally? We still do civil rights work, we are noted to be the smallest organization in the state conference — the smallest and the most effective. My branch is about 99.5 percent white. People who are interested can attend our meeting, we give you an application, it’s $30 a year to join There are 19 committees around the country. We don’t have enough people to man all those committees, the one most active in Casper is the legal redress committee. It’s usually the busiest committee and it definitely is for us. We have to hire private detectives to go out and investigate things for us and write them up in a manner that can be used in a courtroom. We’ve been able to resolve problems by sitting down and talking to officials. You haven’t seen a whole lot of publicity about us because we get things settled in a quiet manner. Our opponents may say we’re not effective, but we know that we are getting things done quietly.