The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded February 12, 1909 in New York by a bi-racial group of Americans dedicated to democracy and civil rights. The National NAACP Board of Directors chartered the Tri-County Branch NAACP on February 8, 1965. Prior to 1956-1957, it was known as the Tri-Cities Branch NAACP, but was expanded to encompass the entire counties of Lauderdale, Colbert, and Franklin.
Today, the branch has over two hundred members on its rolls, and typically has approximately one hundred paid members at any given time. Our current officers are:
- President, Tori Bailey (Colbert County)
- 1st Vice President, Commander Jessie Qualls (Lauderdale County)
- 2nd Vice President, Sheryl Hamilton (Franklin County)
- Secretary, Ms. Darlene Minniefield, WIN Co-Chair
- Assistant Secretary, Ann Underwood; Treasurer, Bettie Robinson
- Treasurer, Bettie Robinson, Chair Finance Committee
- Assistant Treasurer, George Johnson
- Parliamentarian – Mr. Ollie Underwood
- Historian – Mrs. Clara Penchion
There are fifteen executive committee members.
The NAACP radio program was provided for in the seventies by Hampton-Davis-Watkins Funeral Home of Sheffield. Currently, the radio program is paid for by the branch itself. There had been Freedom awards presented by the Tri-County Branch in previous years (such as in 1977 under the leadership of president James R. Cobb, and presented by Program Chair Emmitt Jimmar and Membership Chair Cecilia Goode). It was not, however, until November 1992 that Mrs. LaFreda C. Winston, a member of the Branch executive Committee and the Youth Advisor, issued a call to the members stating that “the NAACP should honor local citizens for their service to the Shoals Area Communities.” To answer that call, the Freedom Awards and Banquet committee was re-established in December of the same year and has continued consistently since that time. The Freedom awards identified the following goals:
- To recognize community contributions of Shoals Area residents
- To promote high academic achievements
- To encourage improved human relations
- To focus on citizenship, service, youth, business, and humanitarian activities,
- And to present special awards to individuals that promote diversity and positive human relations programs regardless of race or color
The freedom awards are named to honor the memory of past officials of the Tri-County Branch of the NAACP for their faithful struggle for freedom, equality, and Justice. These awards are presented to individuals or organizations that best exemplify the qualities of these great local NAACP leaders and patriotic Americans.
During our Freedom Banquet, the Tri-County Branch has recognized our Veterans, those who defend us at home and abroad by fighting for us. Commander Jessie Qualls, chair of our Tri-County Armed Services & Veterans Affairs Committee, a dedicated man who not only advocates on behalf of veterans in this area, but also provides rides to some of our NAACP meetings, provides rides, and leads us in the pledge of allegiance. We also recognize those who protect us, whether it be from crime, from fires, from disasters. We were excited, and proud, to present the first ever African American Fire Chief, and first ever African American Department head, in the city of Florence, Alabama, Chief Jeffrey Perkins. We recognize the protection of our local law enforcement. The Tri-County Branch has hosted and will continue to host community forums which are designed to help build bridges between law enforcement and those of us they are there to serve and protect. We truly appreciate our local police chiefs and sheriffs for being willing to have those conversations, answer questions, and be held accountable. As Florence Chief Ron Tyler has said, we want to be proactive rather than reactive. At our March 2015 meeting (held in Sheffield), we welcomed Tuscumbia Chief Tony Logan, Sheffield Chief Greg Ray and Muscle Shoals Chief Doug Evans, Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson and his deputy chief Jim Heffernan. At our April 2015 meeting (held in Russellville) Chiefs Logan and Evans joined again with us and with Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver to continue the dialogue.
The branch’s Legal Redress committee has addressed and has helped to resolve many situations involving the violation of civil rights. We continue to advocate for citizens in our three county jurisdiction. The Tri-County Branch has made a difference in our community, and we will continue to work toward making our community an even better place to live.