JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It was 50 years ago today a young Mississippi attorney took action that would eventually change the face of those who keep our highways safe.
Thursday, at the Masonic Temple in Jackson, that attorney, Constance Slaughter-Harvey, was honored by the men for whom she helped open the squad car doors.
To see an African-American in a Mississippi Highway Patrol uniform these days is nothing unusual. In fact, the spokesman you see in our interviews is Black. But 50-years ago, it was unheard of.
“In ’70 we only had cooks and janitors.”, said R. O. Williams.
For Constance Slaughter-Harvey, enough was enough. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from the Ole Miss School of Law and barely finished, she filed suit so that Blacks could also be troopers in the Magnolia State.
Two years later, Walter Crosby, Lewis Younger and R. O. Williams became the first African-Americans to wear what was then the Mississippi Highway Safety patrol uniform.
Constance Slaughter-Harvey said, ”Because while I felt like I was an instrument of God to start the change. They were, indeed, instruments to execute the change.”
She continued, ”I can’t think of any other task as great as the task that they accepted, especialy during those days, when the highway patrol represented the state arm of the Ku Klux Klan.”
R. O. Williams said, ”We’re here to say thank you to Connie for her years of service, her dedication. And we refer to her as Mother Pearl because it was her tenacity, her skills, her dedication and dislike for the highway patrol that got us here today.”
Thursday, 50-years later, R.O. Williams, representing the original three, thanked Slaughter-Harvey with a special trophy bearing the eagle mascot of her alma-mater, Tougaloo College - President Carmen Walters looking on.
Presenting the trophy was retired Missouri state trooper Charles Jackson, who had this to say about the impact of Slaughter-Harvey’s work.
”You go to Proverbs 31 chapter, verse 8 and 9, it says those who have the voice are charged to speak up for those who are voiceless. Thank you very much and I just want to say this and I’m going to say it. It’s because what you did here opened the doors for us in Missouri and across the nation and if it had not happened here, I’m not sure whether any of us would be standing today, so again thank you so very much for stepping up,” said Charles Jackson.
Constance Slaughter Harvey said, ”I can’t say enough to R. O., Lewis and Walter. These guys didn’t stop with their graduation. They continued. And they continue to monitor and mentor our young people.”
Constance Slaughter-Harvey has dedicated her life to using her skills to help others.
Some of her other more notable cases are the criminal trial of civil rights activist Rev. John Perkins and the murders of two Jackson State University students.
What drives her, said Slaughter-Harvey, is her motto: “To whom much is given, much is required.”