Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tha Artstorian Reports: Why Dr. T.R.M. Howard Should Be Remembered: The John The Baptist Of The Civil Rights Movement.

Tha Artstorian Reports: Why Dr. T.R.M. Howard Should Be Remembered: The John The Baptist Of The Civil Rights Movement.
By R2C2H2 Tha Artivist

“One look told you that he was a leader: kind, affluent, and intelligent, that rare Negro in Mississippi who had somehow beaten the system.”  ~Myrlie Evers

“The man was dynamic...I just thought he was the greatest in the world.” ~Mamie Till Mobley (The mother of Emmett Till)

Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard (March 4, 1908 – May 1, 1976) could arguably be considered the John Baptist of the Civil Rights Movement because through his unorthodox methods and brave dedication, he initiated and forecast the things to come in the U.S. social revolution of the 1950s and 1960s…

He and other forward thinking Black Mississippians started the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) when they were ironically denied membership in the Mississippi (White) Citizens Council. Although Dr. Howard was an advocate for Black businesses and Black self-help, he also was at heart an integrationist.  During the 1950s and 1960s the RCNL would have annual meetings in the vicinity of Friendship Clinic that would at its peak draw upwards of 10,000 Blacks from around the Mississippi Delta. The issues that were discussed included Black economics and voting rights. The event also included great soul food and barbeque, marquee entertainment which sometimes included the otherworldly talents of Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and accomplished keynote speakers of both national and international renown such as U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell and Thurgood Marshall. 

It was at these events that famed legendary Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Ms, got her first taste of civil rights organizing.

Dr. Howard was also instrumental in getting the legendary Evers Brothers involved in the civil rights movement. He gave Medgar Evers his first job out of college (Alcorn State) as an insurance sales agent for his Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Co. where he also employed Medgar’s wife, Myrlie Evers, as a secretary.  It was through this job that Medgar was able to interact with the public on issues that related to the movement. Medgar was also the program director for Dr. Howard’s RCNL. This opportunity eventually led to him being named the NAACP Field Secretary of Mississippi.  The colorful Charles Evers who eventually became the NAACP Ms Field Secretary after his brother’s murder and the first elected Black mayor in the South since Reconstruction has spoken throughout the years very favorably of Dr. Howard’s influence on him as an activist, man and entrepreneur.
Although the Emmett Till story is very well known today, it was the crusading efforts of Dr. T.R.M. Howard that kept it from being lost to historical obscurity. He got the National Black press into covering the story and even hired his own private investigators to look into the matter and find witnesses. 

He also caught the ire of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI when he very publicly ridiculed them in their apparent aloofness and lackadaisical efforts in trying to solve the horrific hate crime.  

Dr. Howard also went on a national public speaking tour to raise awareness about the Emmett Till tragedy. One day in the fall of 1955 he spoke at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. The minister that presided over the church was a young man from Atlanta, Ga, named Martin Luther King, Jr. (at that time he was still working on his doctorate). Dr. Howard spoke to an overflowing capacity crowd who were very eager to hear the story about Emmett Till and the grim situation in Mississippi overall…Dr. Howard was a very gifted and electrifying orator, the audience was mesmerized by his every word…Some were even motivated to do something about the plight of Black folks in the U.S.A. One of those in the crowd inspired was Mrs. Rosa Parks, the local NAACP secretary. A few days later she refused to move from her bus seat which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which of course arguably led to the birth of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.   All of this came about through the singular and selfless efforts of Dr. T.R.M. Howard.

Dr. Howard was very effective at heading economic boycotts in the Mississippi Delta too. A few years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. Howard and the RCNL led a very effective don’t buy gas where you can’t use the restroom campaign. It was so effective that the White Citizens Council put a very harsh credit freeze on members of the RCNL, many of whom were proud independent business owners and farmers.   To counteract this economic blockade, the RCNL & NAACP formed a relationship with the Memphis Tri-State Bank to make credit available for the activists.

Dr. Howard was also very ahead of time concerning affordable and quality universal healthcare. Being just as gifted with his hands as he was with his mouth, Dr. Howard made necessary surgery very affordable for poor citizens in the Mississippi Delta.  A man who was very intuitive with his times and beyond and one not afraid to confront adversity, he also performed abortions for both poor Blacks and the wealthy white elite alike at a time when it was very illegal to do so which in turn could have led to the suspension of his medical license, a hefty fine and considerable jail time. Abortion of course is an issue that was very controversial then as it is now.
Due to increasing death threats that affected his ability to effectively run both his businesses and civil rights activities, Dr. Howard and his wife Helen (a beautiful Black California Socialite whose brother, Ed Boyd, was the first Black Advertising Executive at Pepsi) left the Delta and moved to Chicago.  There his Midas touch continued, opening a thriving multi-million dollar Friendship Medical Center on the Southside, at the time the largest privately owned hospital for Blacks in Chicago. As a proud Republican, He unsuccessfully ran for office against formidable Democrat incumbent U.S. Rep. William Dawson.

However, over time he became a powerful mentor, supporter and kingmaker to some of the most successful Black Chicago politicians of the latter half of the 20th Century. Among his political progeny one can count the ambitious Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago. It was Washington historic campaign and eventual election as mayor that inspired a young community organizer by the name of Barack Hussein Obama to start his own political career. 

Dr. Howard was also one of the first people to raise money for Malcolm X’s widow and family.
Before there was a P. Diddy, Dr. Howard’s New Year Eve party was the much attend event of the Black Society calendar year.  Dr. Howard also co-founded and funded Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Push-Rainbow Coalition organization in his Chicago mansion.

Dr. T.R.M. Howard was a savvy renaissance man who was also a noted big game safari hunter. His famed safari room in his Chicago mansion showcased his mounted big game trophies from hunting expeditions in exotic locales such as Africa, India & Alaska.
Dr. T.R.M. Howard was truly a Black Maverick whose personal fortune, selflessness, talents and calculated risks provided enormous opportunities for Blacks then, now and generations to come. He deserves to be commemorated for his pioneering efforts metaphorically created and paved a highway for us to get to our promised land together.

To Learn More About The Amazing Life Of Dr. Howard & Order The Book, Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight For Civil Rights & Economic Empowerment Please Visit The Official Website:
Please Use The Following Link To View More Pics From The Dr. T.R.M. Howard Memorial Highway Dedication Event (All Pics Are © Property O f The W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Group):

View Extra Coverage & Footage Of Event On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. TV:
Watch The Documentary “Black Maverick: Dr. T.R.M. Howard: Forgotten Civil Rights Hero” On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. TV:

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special~Remembering The Black Maverick: Dr. T.R.M. Howard...
The Greatest Civil Rights Leader You Never Heard Of...

More Dr. T.R.M. Howard On W.E. A.L.L. B.E.:

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