Family remembers voter registration pioneer in DeSoto Parish
Thomas Louis White Sr. was one of the first Black men to register to vote in DeSoto Parish
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Despite safety risks and constantly being told no, Thomas Louis White Sr. went up to the Mansfield Courthouse on a mission. He was determined to get registered to vote.
However, as a Black man during the mid-1950s, he faced several obstacles on his journey to be able to cast a ballot in DeSoto Parish.
“For so many days, they went back and forth, back and forth, and they’d say, ‘didn’t we tell you yesterday and the day before that we can’t register you?’ They’d be very polite, ‘yes sir, yes ma’am, but that was yesterday, this is a new day.'"
Lora Timberlake, White’s daughter, said her father laid the foundation for so many people to come after him. She was in high school when her father decided he wanted to get registered to vote, and she remembers it all.
“The people in the community of Mansfield, Louisiana, they decided to get together and have a meeting,” she recalled. “They decided they would go to the voting registration’s office and register to vote only to be told no.”
Timberlake said people from all over the parish would go to Mansfield to be involved with the movement to get registered. She said they would have meetings to boost morale and plan their next visits.
“It was a struggle, but they fought right through that struggle,” she said. “Like he says, never give up on a dream.”
Despite the 15th Amendment granting Black people the right to vote, they would be asked questions to determine their eligibility to vote.
“They used to ask so many questions that seemed not related to what they were trying to do, such as ‘tell me how many gummy bears are in this jar,’ or ‘recite the Preamble to the Constitution,’” Timberlake said.
When she went to college, she said she feared for her father’s safety.
“[His siblings] would take turns to come and spend the night at my dad’s and mother’s house to make sure they were protected,” Timberlake said.
One day, instead of “no,” they heard a “yes.”
“Finally, they decided to register one or two of them," said Timberlake.
White died March 19,1993.
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