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An Officer and Gentlemen

An Officer and Gentlemen

By Floyd Miller

 

 

 

For the 3rd year, our community celebration of Black History Month has special significance. Rather than just highlighting the achievements of African Americans from a national perspective, we have an opportunity to include two of our own in this year’s observance. In 2009 the Abilene City Council set aside by resolution February 15th as Claudie Royals Day, and in 2010, the council approved February 12th as Dr. Leo Scott Day. Because of the influence and efforts of these two visionaries, Abilene is a better place. However, while recognizing that the leadership of both Royals and Scott was pivotal in the development of our community, it’s also important to understand that these men had two significantly different philosophies. {{more}}In history, I see several analogies for this difference. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois, for example, both African American Leaders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, had profoundly different paradigms. Washington, an educator and reformer, thought blacks should accept discrimination for the time being and work hard on improving themselves through education and wealth accumulation. Sharply opposing that strategy, Du Bois promoted more immediate change through political action; in fact he was one of the founders of what we know now as the NAACP. To cite another example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were both orators with powerful capabilities. Where King was eloquent and almost unfailingly gracious, a statesman and advocate of nonviolent protest, Malcolm X didn’t always agree that violence wasn’t necessary. Indeed, one of his more famous maxims was, “By any means necessary.”Now, I am not suggesting that either Dr. Scott or Mr. Royals should or should not be closely identified with any of the four aforementioned men. Instead, my point is that throughout history, as African Americans have struggled for equality, great leaders have held honest differences about the best strategies to use for achieving success. It doesn’t mean one approach is better or more effective than the other in the sweep of history; it just means they’re different. When I look at our two local leaders, I see, respectively, an Officer and a Gentleman. In many situations, Mr. Royals was the spokesman and leader for many in the African American community; he stood unfailing watch in our community and was never hesitant about sounding the alert when injustice threatened those for whom he felt responsible. Representing those families in conferences with the school district, law enforcement, city administration, commissioners court, employers, and other groups, Mr. Royals was frank, assertive, and direct; passivity was not an attribute he easily embraced. As a former president of the local chapter of the NAACP, he often didn’t ask but rather demanded, and what he demanded was justice. Standing over 6’ and about 300 pounds, he was a big man, but his heart was even bigger. He truly loved his community and his aggressiveness was fueled by a burning desire for equality.Dr. Scott was of the most elegant, gracious human beings I have ever met. Although most frequently recognized for being Abilene’s first African American elected official, his contributions to our city surpass that designation. Dr. Scott often worked behind the scenes, serving on boards and committees and using his influence to improve the quality of life for African Americans in our community. As a native Abilenian, I saw how Dr. Scott, through his example of kindness, respect, and consistent, wise leadership, helped local African Americans see themselves differently–and also changed for the better the way others saw us.Mr. Royals and Dr. Scott are heroes, great leaders, and two great Americans, and although differing in philosophy, their common goal was to improve the quality of life for those in their community. Let’s salute them and resolve to uphold the best of the heritage they have left us.Anthony WilliamsCity Councilman Place 3

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