[nfbwatlk] The News Tribune: 5 to be honored for civil-rights work Sunday at Olympia church

robert sellers robertsellers500 at comcast.net
Tue Jan 31 07:08:03 UTC 2012

When I worked at DNR, Virgil and I  shared the same office. We often would
share stories of discrimination we experienced.
If I recall correctly he was one of the first black citizens inThurston
When he laughed, it was very infectious and could be heard  for some
distance around him. Virgil is  a very, very nice guy.

I knew John and found him to be very pleasant and a gentle person.
When he would sing 'Amazing grace', you could feel the emotion and  it would
captivate your Spirit.

They both are worthy to be recognized and its probably long overdue.

Bob Sellers

  -----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Mike Freeman
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 8:34 PM
To: 'NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List'
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] The News Tribune: 5 to be honored for civil-rights
work Sunday at Olympia church

Wow! He's still around! Good for John!


-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Nightingale, Noel
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 8:44 AM
To: nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org
Subject: [nfbwatlk] The News Tribune: 5 to be honored for civil-rights work
Sunday at Olympia church

The below article includes recognition of a blind piano tuner in Olympia.

5 to be honored for civil-rights work Sunday at Olympia church LISA
PEMBERTON Last updated: January 29th, 2012 01:30 PM (PST) In 1965, after
being discharged from the military, Virgil Clarkson was offered a job as a
data processor for the state Department of Natural Resources.
His friends from the Seattle area urged him not to take it.
"They suggested I don't because Olympia was a very racist town," Clarkson
Nearly a half-century later, the newly re-elected mayor of Lacey is one of
five South Sound residents who will be honored for their contributions to
civil rights during a service Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in
John Grace, Barbara Dolliver and Nat and Thelma Jackson also will be honored
at the service, which is open to the public.
Former longtime Secretary of State Ralph Munro helped organize the event as
part of the church's annual celebration of Black History Month. He described
the five honorees as "Dr. Martin Luther Kings in our community."
"They were willing to stand up during an era that was terrible," he said.
"And they stood up for what's right about America."
Here's a closer look at each.
Blind since birth, John Grace grew up on a farm in Georgia. He moved to the
Northwest to study at the Piano Hospital and Training Center in Vancouver,
now known as the School of Piano Technology for the Blind.
In 1963, he became one of the area's first black business owners when he
opened Grace Piano Co.
"He was the first African-American man to go into many white homes because
he would come to tune their piano," Munro said.
Grace, 81, of Olympia, said folks were generally nice and that even though
he experienced some discrimination when he moved to the area, he didn't let
it bother him.
"I didn't have too much problems because, you know, those days - as in these
days - you're always going to have one having different ideas," he said. "To
rise above that, you just have to let go and let be and do what you can for
one another."
In 1975, Grace and a handful of others founded New Life Baptist Church in
Lacey. He has held several leadership positions at New Life, including
minister of music, chairman of deacons and member of the board of trustees.
He also trained numerous piano-service and tuning professionals in the area.
Born in Boston in 1927, Barbara Dolliver worked as a part-time college
professor and writer.
But it was her work as a mom and women's-rights advocate, Munro said, that
helped create social change.
During the 1960s, Dolliver and her late husband, former Supreme Court
Justice James Dolliver, adopted two multi-racial children.
"In the middle of the controversy and civic-rights brawls, she quietly went
out and adopted a black child and enrolled that youngster in Olympia public
schools," Munro said. "A year or two later, she adopted a second black
child. The Dollivers raised the children as their own and broke scores of
racial barriers in the area."
Dolliver wasn't available for an interview because of health issues, but
Munro said he had spoken to her recently and that she was especially proud
of her work involving women's rights and multi-cultural adoption.
"She said she wanted to set an example, and she wanted to legitimize
adoption and making adopting a minority child a legal process," Munro said.
"Up to that point, minority children had not been placed in Caucasian
Virgil Clarkson, 79, of Lacey, moved to South Sound to work for the state.
He spent six years at the Department of Natural Resources for six years and
27 years at the Department of Transportation.
Even though they shared the same job titles, Clarkson knew his paychecks
were less than those of his white counterparts. He struggled to find a
landlord who was willing to rent to a black man and experienced
discrimination in many areas of life.
A turning point in his life came in the hours after the assassination of Dr.
Martin Luther King, when Clarkson, with then-Gov. Dan Evans and his
assistant (and later Supreme Court Justice) James Dolliver, crafted an
open-housing ordinance for the cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater and
Thurston County.
"I was deeply proud of that," he said.
The Houston native is an avid volunteer and has been in a range of
organizations including the Thurston County Fair Board, Selective Service
Board, the Masonic Lodge and Kiwanis.
He also is a charter member of the Olympia Opera Association and is in his
14th year on the Lacey City Council. This is his third term as mayor.
Clarkson's advice to others who want to create change: share, and be
generous with your time.
He thinks that's the strategy that helped open many doors for him and other
"Because I was treated so badly simply because I was not Caucasian, I vowed
to myself that I would give back to this community as much as I could, when
I could," he said. "... This community eventually opened itself up to me,
especially the church, and permitted me to sort of lead their children
(while) the rest of the country was binding up in civil strife. The
community wrapped its arms around us."
Nat Jackson was the son of a sharecropper and grew up in rural Louisiana.
"We were taught we could do anything that we set our minds to," said
Jackson, 78, of the Lacey area. "We were taught we could change things."
Jackson marched with King in 1965 and three years later helped organize for
the leader's first return to his wife's hometown in Marion, Ala.
"When you see the part of America that I saw in rural Louisiana, you see the
belly - the underside - of America," he said. "And you see the things that
many people don't see in the cities: Dilapidated houses, an absolutely
abominable criminal justice center, not allowing blacks to work or shop in
stores. ... My goal has always been to change the world. Period."
Thelma Jackson was the first female student-body president of her high
school. Like her husband, she grew up only knowing segregation - in which
black students were considered separate and unequal.
"I didn't realize at the time what the impact would be on me in later
years," she said. "And now I'm an adult looking back ... and one of the best
things that could have happened to me is I missed integration. The person I
am today is because I had to hone my skills, develop a sense of self-worth.
I could focus on my personal growth and development."
The couple moved to the Northwest in 1968 when she was recruited out of
college to work for Battelle Northwest at the Hanford plant.
A few years later, they moved to Olympia for his job with the Office of
Economic Opportunity. He later was appointed special assistant to Gov. Dan
Thelma Jackson, 66, who grew up in Mobile, Ala., became involved with the
YWCA and the Women's Movement.
They've both been involved in numerous efforts, including the establishment
of New Life Baptist Church.
She was a North Thurston School Board member for 20 years, and a member of
The Evergreen State College's Board of Trustees, among other organizations.
Her advice to others: "Get involved. There's only so much you can do from
the sidelines looking in."
He was instrumental in the Olympia Urban League. After state service, he ran
Nat Jackson & Associates, working in telecommunications, technology and
other enterprises.
Now he runs a wellness business, and she is an educational consultant.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433
lpemberton at theolympian.com
(c) Copyright 2012 Tacoma News, Inc.

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