Civil rights pioneer Dr. C.O. Simpkins dies

The retired dentist was a founding member of the SCLC in which he served with MLK, his personal friend

Civil rights pioneer Dr. C.O. Simpkins dies

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — A retired dentist who was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement in Northwest Louisiana and nationally has died.

This photo was taken during a meeting Aug. 14, 1958, at Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport. Seated in the front row toward the upper left is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Dr. C.O. Simpkins to his right. (Source: cosimpkins.com)
This photo was taken during a meeting Aug. 14, 1958, at Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport. Seated in the front row toward the upper left is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Dr. C.O. Simpkins to his right. (Source: cosimpkins.com)

Dr. C.O. Simpkins died Wednesday night after having been hospitalized for several days, Shreveport District A Councilman Willie Bradford says in a post on his Facebook page.

"Not All Heroes Wear Capes.. 🙂

“Rest in Peace My Friend And Mentor. 🙏🙏,” Bradford says in a subsequent post.

BREAKING NEWS: Dr. C.O. Simpkins dies at age 94

Mansfield native Dr. Cuthbert Ormond “C.O.” Simpkins was a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1950s, in which he served with the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his personal friend.

With profound sadness and a heavy heart, I regret to inform you that Dr. C.O. Simpkins, beloved civic leader, and hero...

Posted by Willie Bradford on Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A photograph taken during a meeting Aug. 14, 1958, at Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport shows King seated in the front row toward the upper left and with Simpkins to his right.

King visited Shreveport twice, each time speaking at a church. Simpkins once told KSLA News 12 that King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech was to be tested in Shreveport.

Simpkins also said that the last time he saw King was a week before the civil rights leader was assassinated.

“A lot of things happened to him. You know, his house was burned down. His farm was destroyed,” Bradford once recalled of Simpkins.

Simpkins, born in 1925, attended Wiley College then Tennessee State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree.

He went on to earn his doctorate of dental surgery from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tenn.

And Simpkins served as a captain in the Air Force until 1951 and returned to Shreveport to practice dentistry.

In 1954, he made history as the first black to run for a seat on the Caddo School Board.

Simpkins left the city and practiced dentistry and continued his activism in New York City.

He returned to Shreveport 26 years later, captured 32 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful run for mayor in 1990 and was elected to the District 4 seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives a year later.

A Shreveport street has since been named in Simpkins’ honor.

And former Atlanta Mayor, Congressman and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young keynoted a gala in November 2018 that the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition held to honor Simpkins.

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Shreveport lost a real hero tonight. Dr. C.O. Simpkins was a civil rights icon, a veteran, civic leader, and founding...

Posted by Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins on Wednesday, December 4, 2019

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