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C. O. Simpkins Sr.

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Covid-19
Preceded by  Tommy Armstrong
Role  Dentist

Name  C. Simpkins,
Succeeded by  Cedric Glover
Rank  Captain
Political party  Democratic Unsuccessful runoff candidate for mayor of Shreveport, 1990
Spouse(s)  (1) Dorothy Herndon Simpkins (divorced) (2) Elaine Joyce Shoemake Simpkins
Children  Cuthbert Ormond Simpkins, Jr. Deborah Simpkins-Savage Eric Simpkins Cheri Simpkins Gardner Alicia Ritchens
Parents  Oscar and Olivia Gardner Simpkins
Education  Tennessee State University, Wiley College, Meharry Medical College

Service/branch  United States Air Force

Cuthbert Ormond Simpkins Sr. (born January 13, 1925) is a retired dentist and civil rights activist from Shreveport, Louisiana, who served from 1992 to 1996 as a Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from the heavily African-American District 4 in Caddo Parish.

Biography

Simpkins was born in Mansfield in DeSoto Parish south of Shreveport, the son of Oscar Simpkins, also a dentist, and the former Olivia Gardner. He has one sister, Marguerite Simpkins-Call.

Simpkins was educated at three historically black institutions, Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and in Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry. He was inducted into Sigma Pi Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha, the first African-American Greek-letter social fraternities. Simpkins served in the United States Air Force, in which he attained the rank of captain while stationed at the former Sampson Air Force Base in the Finger Lakes section of Upstate New York. He was honorably discharged in 1951 and returned to Shreveport to practice medicine.

In 1960, Simpkins was among the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a personal friend from 1958 until the assassination in 1968 of Martin Luther King Jr. He initially met King when the civil rights figure was speaking in Chicago, Illinois. Simpkins recalled that when King first came to Shreveport: "People often think he first used 'Free at last' in the 'I Have a Dream' speech. But he used it first right here in Shreveport. To me, that was his best speech ever, and I told him that." Simpkins was active in securing voting rights for African Americans as the founder of the United Christian Conference on Registration and Voting.

At the height of the civil rights movement, Simpkins' home and dental office were firebombed, and he was placed on a "death list" by white-supremacist organizations. He fled to New York because he could not obtain insurance on his properties, and he feared for the safety of his family and neighbors He established a dental practice on Long Island and continued his advocacy for civil rights. In 1966, he was among those who helped bring forth York College of the City University of New York, located in Jamaica in the Queens borough of New York City. York College now enrolls more than 8,000 students on a modern 50-acre campus. After twenty-six years in New York, he returned to Shreveport.

In 1990, long after the end of segregation, Simpkins entered the political arena. He led with 31 percent of the vote in the multi-candidate nonpartisan blanket primary for mayor of Shreveport. However, he was defeated in a runoff election held on November 6 by the Republican Hazel Beard, 38,604 (59.4 percent) to 26,341 (40.6 percent).

Two years later, Simpkins assumed the state House seat for a single term. The district was formerly held briefly by a Republican, Tommy Armstrong. Because of redistricting, Armstrong did not run for the House but instead failed in a bid for the Louisiana State Senate. Simpkins did not run again in 1995 and was succeeded by another African-American Democrat, Cedric Glover, who eleven years later was elected mayor of Shreveport, the first black in that position. After his House tenure, Simpkins was a co-chairman of the Shreveport Airport Authority.

He was previously married to the former Dorothy Herndon (February 1926 – September 27, 2015), a retired social worker and a Shreveport Democrat, originally from Chicago, also the birthplace of their son, Cuthbert Ormond Simpkins Jr., a physician and historian. Dorothy Simpkins' services were held at the Central Free Methodist Church in Shreveport on October 6, 2015; she was interred at Burr Oak Cemetery in the Chicago suburb of Aslip, next to her mother, Ida Mae Pettus Lomax Herndon, who died in 1967. Mrs. Simpkins edited and distributed the newsletter Freedom, taught voter registration classes and led active voter drives. She was the adult advisor to the youth branch of Simpkins' organization, "The United Christian Movement."

Simpkins has four other children, Deborah Simpkins-Savage, of California; Eric Simpkins, a computer analyst from Washington, D.C.; Cheri Simpkins Gardner, an assistant district attorney from Washington, D.C., and Alicia Richens, of Canada. His current fourth wife is the former Elaine Joyce Shoemaker, also a Shreveport Democrat and a biochemist.

Long active in a plethora of dental organizations, Simpkins retired from his practice in 2011. He remains involved in black community affairs.

References

C. O. Simpkins Sr. Wikipedia


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