400 Caddo Street Shreveport
Dr. C.O. Simpkins Sr., civil rights pioneer from Shreveport, La., will be honored at a gala at the Shreveport Convention Center on Nov. 3 benefiting the capital campaign of the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition (NLCRC) to restore old Galilee Baptist Church as the future location of the Galilee Civil Rights Museum. Simpkins was a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the 1950s, serving closely with his friend Martin Luther King Jr.
Simpkins was born in 1925 in Mansfield, La. He attended Wiley College and Tennessee State University, where he received his undergraduate degree. Simpkins earned a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tenn. He served in the Air Force as a captain until 1951 and returned to Shreveport to practice dentistry.
Simpkins’ civil rights activities focused on voting rights. He was harassed by the Ku Klux Klan, elected officials and law enforcement. Simpkins invited Dr. King to Shreveport to call attention to the racial problems here. His home and office were firebombed, and he ultimately moved to New York, where he continued his civil rights advocacy.
After 26 years in New York, he returned to Shreveport and ran for mayor. Simpkins lost the mayor’s race but won a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives, representing District 4 from 1992-1996. He retired in 2011 but continues to be a community advocate. He and his wife donated land for a community clinic in an underserved neighborhood. Simpkins is honorary chairman and founder of the NLCRC, along with Dr. Harry Blake and Dr. C.E. McLain.
Andrew Young, who also worked with Simpkins and King, will be the keynote speaker for the event. Young is an American politician, diplomat and civil rights activist.
Beginning his career as a pastor, he was an early leader in the civil rights movement, serving as executive director of the SCLC. Young later became active in politics, serving first as a U.S. congressman from Georgia, then United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and finally mayor of Atlanta. Since leaving political office, Young has founded or served in a large number of organizations working on issues of public policy and political lobbying. Ambassador, congressman, mayor, humanitarian, ordained minister, international businessman and sports enthusiast, Andrew Young has been serving and shaping our country for almost 50 years.
According to Honorary Chairman Willie Bradford, “It is an honor and privilege for me to co-chair the NLCRC Living Legend Gala honoring my friend and a true living legend, Dr. C.O. Simpkins. Dr. Simpkins was a towering giant in the civil rights leadership that changed the course of history in our nation and city. His courage, kindness, friendship and character define his greatness. Whether he was dealing with domestic acts of terrorism against him and his family, or standing next to Dr. King facing police dogs, or running for mayor of our city, he did it with grace and dignity. In honoring him, we honor our greatest generation and what it means to be a true patriot.”
Deborah Allen, executive director of the NLRC, said, “The North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition has the privilege of honoring our co-founder, Dr. C.O. Simpkins. This organization holds his legacy and ongoing work in civil rights as a shining example in everything we do. Our mission is to make his dream of restoring the old Galilee Baptist Church into a civil rights museum a reality. Dr. Simpkins has worked for decades to make this museum possible, and now it is upon us. We shall see it to fruition.”
Simpkins is married to Elaine Shoemaker Simpkins, Ph.D., a biochemist. His children are Cuthbert Ormond Simpkins II, MD, of Shreveport, La., a trauma surgeon; Deborah Simpkins-Savage, of California, a translator; Eric Simpkins of Washington, D.C., a computer analyst; Cheri Simpkins Gardner of Washington, D.C., an assistant district attorney; and Alicia Ritchens of Australia.
Sponsorship opportunities, tickets and details for the event are available at the website, www.nlcrc.org.