Emmitt James Douglas (October 14, 1926 – March 25, 1981) was an
African-American businessman from New Roads, Louisiana, who served
as president of his state's National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP) from 1966 until his death.
was born in Newellton in northern Tensas Parish in north-eastern
Louisiana to Samuel Frederick Douglas and the former Fannie Rose
Armstrong. He was educated at the segregated since defunct black
schools in Newellton and from Tensas Rosenwald in St. Joseph. He was
a classmate of Andrew Brimmer, later the first African American
named to the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System. The
institutions closed in 1970, when Tensas Parish public schools were
Brimmer then attended the historically black
Roman Catholic-affiliated Xavier University in New Orleans.
Thereafter, Douglas entered the United States Army, where he reached
the rank of master sergeant. From 1950–1952, he was stationed in
Anchorage, Alaska, and Fort Worth, Texas. Thereafter, he was a
letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and a salesman for
Southern Barber and Beauty Supply Company in Baton Rouge. On July
24, 1949, in New Roads, the seat of Pointe Coupee Parish, Douglas
married the former Audrey Marie Daisy (1920–1991), daughter of
farmer Thomas Daisy (1898–1975) and the former Lillian Pourclau
(1897–1985). The Douglases had one child, Kordice Majella Douglas
(born 1955). Kordice Douglas is a graduate of the Harvard Law School
and practices law in Baton Rouge.
Douglas was active in
Democratic politics at a time when his party dominated most of his
native state. He headed the New Roads NAACP from 1965–1981 and
served on the national board of the organization from 1967–1981.
Governor Edwin Washington Edwards appointed Douglas to the Prison
System Study Commission. He served in 1975 on the Commission on
Judicial Compensation for City, Parish, and Municipal Courts. He was
a member of the St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Roads, where he
resided from 1949 until his death. He had lived in New Orleans from
1942–1946 and in Baton Rouge from 1946–1949. He was a district
manager for Standard Life Insurance Company and Supreme Life
Insurance Company and the proprietor of Douglas Barber and Beauty
Supply Company and Douglas Fine Foods Grocery, both in Baton Rouge.
Douglas pushed to accelerate school desegregation, a gradual
process completed in all sixty-four parishes by August 1970,
including Douglas' native Tensas Parish, which is predominantly
African American. In 1970, Douglas was arrested when he attempted to
dine at an all-white establishment in Baton Rouge. The incident
occurred six years after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Douglas retained as his attorney Murphy Bell, also a former NAACP
In 1976, Douglas quarreled at the national NAACP convention in
Memphis, Tennessee, with executive director Roy Wilkins, who
postponed his planned retirement from the organization by an
additional year. Wilkins criticized certain board members as having
conducted a "campaign of vilification" against him, questioning his
integrity, health, and competence. Wilkins had threatened lawsuits
against the offenders. Douglas took a microphone and rebuked
Wilkins: "I resent allegations against board members unless they are
Douglas died at the age of fifty-four of a heart
attack at New Roads General Hospital. He and his wife are entombed
at the St. Augustine Catholic Church Mausoleum in New Roads. he is
honoured by the naming of the Emmitt J. Douglas Park on Tenth Street
in New Roads.
REMEMBERING MR. EMMITT J. DOUGLAS--MY MENTOR
IN THE EARLY
1980'S I WAS INVITED TO SPEAK TO THE NEW ROADS BRANCH OF THE NAACP
AT THE INVITATION OF MR. ROOSEVELT GREMILLION, PRESIDENT OF THE NEW
MR. ROOSEVELT GREMILLION, MEMBERS OF THE DAIS,
AND SPECIAL GUESTS, I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE YOU A CHRONOLOGY OF MR.
DOUGLAS AS I REMEMBER IT.
1. I FIRST MET EMMITT DOUGLAS IN
NEW ORLEANS AT THE V.A. HOSPITAL IN 1956 WHEN I WAS THERE. HE CAME
WITH MY SISTER GLORIA MOORE TO SEE ME.
2. IN 1959 OR SO
DOUGLAS GAVE A BEAUTY SHOW AT THE RHYTHM CLUB, THE BEST SHOW EVER TO
COME TO BATON ROUGE. IT WAS SPONSORED BY SOUTHERN BARBER & BEAUTY
3. SOUTHERN BARBER & BEAUTY SUPPLY SUPPLIED THE
STATE OF LOUISIANA AND PARTS OF MISSISSIPPI.
4. ON OR AB0UT
1963 OR ‘65 DOUGLAS ASKED THE OWNER OF THE SOUTHERN BARBER & BEAUTY
SUPPLY FOR A PARTNERSHIP IN THE BUSINESS. SOUTHERN BARBER & BEAUTY
SUPPLY WAS OWNED BY A WHITE MAN. EMMITT D0UGLAS HAD BUILT THE
BUSINESS FOR THAT WHITE MAN; THE OWNER REFUSED TO LET D0UGLAS BECOME
5. IN 1966 OR ABOUT DOUGLAS CAME BY MY HOME TO
SEE MY SISTER, MS. GLORIA MOORE, WHO HAD A BEAUTY SHOP AT HER HOME
WHICH DOUGLAS HAD ENCOURAGED HER TO OPEN. DOUGLAS TOLD HER IN MY
PRESENCE THAT HE WAS GOING TO LEAVE SOUTHERN BARBER & BEAUTY SUPPLY
AND GO INTO HIS OWN BUSINESS, AND HE ASKED HER IF HE DID, WOULD SHE
SUPPORT HIM. SHE SAID YES.
6. THE NEXT' THING WE KNEW,
DOUGLAS HAD RENTED A SPACE IN A BUILDING ON SOUTH BLVD. HE NAMED HIS
BUSINESS DOUGLAS BARBER & SUPPLY. DOUGLAS WAS ON THE MOVE.
7. ABOUT TWO YEARS LATER, DOUGLAS HAD LEASED THE WHOLE BUILDING. HE
HAD A BEAUTY SUPPLY, A GROCERY STORE, AND HE GAVE EXCESS SPACE TO
THE BATON ROUGE BRANCH OF THE N.A.A.C.P. OFFICE AR0UND 1968.
8. IN 1969 EMMITT DOUGLAS, AS STATE PRESIDENT OF THE N.A.A.C.P. AND
DOCTOR D’ORSAY D. BRYANT, PRESIDENT OF THE BATON ROUGE BRANCH OF THE
N.A.A.C.P., LED A DEMONSTRATION, BOYCOTT, AND PICKETTING OF THE
POLICE DEPT, AND WHITE BUSINESSES IN BATON ROUGE BECAUSE OF POLICE
BRUTALITY AND A NUMBER OF KILLINGS OF BLACK, FLEEING FELONS BY THE
BATON ROUGE POLICE DEPT. AFTER THOSE DEMONSTRATIONS AND RIOTING,
DOUGLAS WAS ARRESTED AND CHARGED WITH INCITING TO RIOT AND OTHER
UNSPECIFIED CHARGES. MR. ROOSEVELT GREMILLION LEDTHE MARCH TO
DOWNTOWN BATON ROUGE.
9. IN 1970 DOUGLAS WAS FOUND GUILTY
AND SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS AT HARD LABOR IN THE STATE PENITENTIARY
AT ANGOLA. ATTORNEY MURPHY BELL AND A LAWYER FROM THE NATIONAL
OFFICE OF THE N.A.A.C.P. REPRESENTED EMMITT DOUGLAS AND FILED THE
10. ON OR ABOUT 1975 EMMITT D0UGLAS‘ GUILTY VERDICT
WAS OVERTURNED. THE JUDGE THAT TRIED DOUGLAS, JUDGE DONOVAN PARKER,
CAME TO DOUGLAS’ OFFICE AND PERSONALLY APOLOGIZED. THE REST IS
11. EMMITT DOUGLAS WENT ON TO MAKE DOUGLAS BARBER &
BEAUTY SUPPLY A MILLION DOLLAR ENTERPRISE. DOUGLAS BROUGHT MANY
YOUNG BLACK MEN & WOMEN FROM NEW ROADS TO WORK. I WILL NOT TRY TO
NAME ALL OF THEM--I MIGHT MISS ONE. WITH THE YOUNG BLACKS FROM BATON
ROUGE AND NEW ROADS DOUGLAS HAD A TOTAL OF TWENTY-SOMETHING
EMPLOYEES WORKING IN HIS ENTERPRISES CONSISTING OF TWO GROCERY
STORES AND THE BARBER AND BEAUTY SUPPLY HOUSE THAT COVERED ALL OF
L0UISIANA, PARTS OF MISSISSIPPI, AND TEXAS. HIS PAYROLL WAS CLOSE TO
A QUARTER OF A MISSION DOLLARS.
12. IN 1980 DOUGLAS AS STATE
PRESIDENT HAD A MEMBERSHIP DRIVE FOR THE BATON ROUGE BRANCH OF THE
N.A.A.C.P. AS A RESULT OF HIS EFFORTS, I WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT OF
THE BATON ROUGE BRANCH.
13. AGAIN IN 1980, THE BATON
ROUGEBRANCH OF THE N.A.A.C.P. WON A LAWSUIT AGAINST EAST BATON ROUGH
PARISH SCHOOL BOARD AND THE STATE OF LOUISIANA, A DESEGREGATION
LAWSUIT THAT WAS FILED BY THE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND AND THE N.A.A.C.P.
14. IN 1981 EMMITT DOUGLAS, DOCTOR D’ORSAY BRYANT,
ATTY. ROBERT WILLIAMS, OTHER MEMBERS OF THE BOARD AND I WERE IN
FEDERAL DISTRICT C0URT IN EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH TRYING TO FIND
WAYS TO SETTLE THIS SUIT. AFTER A WEEK OR TWO, MEETING DAY AND
NIGHT, I GOT A CALL EARLY ONE MORNING THAT MR. EMMITT DOUGLAS HAD
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS STATE HAD LOST A GREAT
LEADER; AND I HOPE AND PRAY THAT SOMEONE WILL COME AND PICK UP THE
EMMITT JAMES DOUGLAS -1926--1981
October 14, 1926 on the Plantation, "Little Nebraska," owned by the
Douglas Family, located near Newellton, Louisiana, in Tensas Parish.
He was the fourth child, and the third son of Samuel Frederick
Douglas, Sr., and Fannie Rose Armstrong Douglas, both deceased.
Completed elementary school in Newellton, Louisiana, in 1937,
and Tensas Parish High School, St. Joseph, Louisiana in 1942.
Attended Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1942 - 1946.
He was District Manager of Standard Life, and Supreme Life
Insurance Companies; Former United States Postal Carrier, Baton
Rouge, Louisiana. Received his Honorable discharge as Master
Sergeant, Korean War Veteran, United States Army, on August 12,
1952. Worked as a salesman for Southern Barber and Beauty Supply
until he established his own businesses, Douglas Barber and Beauty
Supply and Douglas Fine Foods, retail grocery of Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, and Alexander's Grocery of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, of
which he was sole proprietor. He organized the New Roads Branch of
the N.A.A.C.P. in 1965 and served as president until 1976. Was
elected State President of the N.A.A.C.P., and became a member of
the National Board. This position he held until his untimely death
on March 25, 1981.
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