SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Family and friends gathered to say goodbye to late civil rights pioneer Dr. C.O. Simpkins. The services took place Saturday, Dec. 14 at Galilee Baptist Church, in Shreveport.
KSLA streamed his services on our Facebook page.
The retired dentist died Dec. 4, after being hospitalized for several days, according to Shreveport District A Councilman Willie Bradford. A Mansfield native, 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.
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.
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 his honor.
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.