Skip to main content

Honoring Brownsville, Tennessee Branch Charter Members, Especially Elbert Williams Who was Murdered June 20, 1940 in the Struggle for African American Voting Rights

WHEREAS, in 1939, Elbert Williams became a charter member of the Brownsville, Tennessee, NAACP Branch. Thereafter the funeral business of first Branch President Ollie S. Bond, father of the NAACP's beloved Mildred Bond Roxborough, came under a white economic boycott. President Bond began to receive death threats, was harassed and beaten by police, his home was burned, and a plot to murder him forced him to leave the state to preserve his life; and

WHEREAS, the Brownsville Branch in 1940 launched a voter registration effort that was met by a white terror campaign that included: termination of the employment of Branch members; threats of death to Branch leaders; armed mob action that forced the Reverend Buster Walker, second Branch President, to flee for his life; the kidnapping of Elisha Davis, leader of the voter registrants, and forcing him from the county on threat of death; and

WHEREAS, in the face of mortal danger, on June 20, 1940, Elbert Williams was overheard planning a Branch meeting to carry on the voter registration campaign and was reported to police, and on the night of June 20, 1940, Elbert Williams was kidnapped by police from his home, locked up, questioned about the NAACP, and then murdered, becoming the first NAACP member murdered for his civil rights activity; and

WHEREAS, then NAACP Executive Director Roy Wilkins, at the funeral of Medgar W. Evers, publicly recognized Elbert Williams as a pioneer fighter and the first NAACP martyr for civil rights; and

WHEREAS, on June 20, 2015, the 75th anniversary of the murder of Elbert Williams, the Association's President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, delivered the keynote address in Brownsville, Tennessee, at a memorial service honoring Elbert Williams as a civil rights hero.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP"), recognizes the courage of all the Brownsville Branch 1939 charter members, and expresses its deepest appreciation for their sacrifice for voting rights, with special thanks to Ollie Bond and wife Mattye Tollette Bond, Buster Walker, Elisha Davis, and Elbert Williams; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP recognizes Elbert Williams as a voting rights hero, the first NAACP member to die in the struggle for civil rights, and offers its eternal thanks to his memory and his family.