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News Archive (Spring 2009)      

Prominent Civil Rights Attorney and Former NAACP Legal Defense Fund CEO
to Speak at Lane College Summer Commencement

Legal powerhouse and civil rights lawyer Elaine Ruth Jones will deliver the commencement address to Lane College summer graduates on Sunday, June 14 at 2:00 p.m. in the J.F. Lane Health and Physical Education Building.

Jones was born on March 2, 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia, the daughter of a Pullman porter and a schoolteacher. She observed firsthand the impact of racism on her community, when one of her teachers was represented by Thurgood Marshall in the case, Allen v. Hicks.

Jones attended Howard University, where she worked her way through school. Joining Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and becoming dean of pledges, she graduated from Howard University in 1965, finishing school on the Dean's List. After college, she entered the Peace Corps, where she traveled to Turkey and taught English as a second language. Jones considered applying for a second tour of duty in Micronesia, but decided to return to school in 1967.

In that year, Jones entered the University of Virginia Law School, where she was one of five black students. After her graduation as the first female African-American graduate in 1970, she was offered a job with a prominent Wall Street firm, but declined the offer in order to take a position at the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund (LDF), which, at that time, was headed by Jack Greenberg.

In 1972, Jones represented a black man on death row who had been accused of raping a white woman in the case of Furman v. Jones. The Supreme Court’s decision on the case abolished the death penalty in thirty-seven states for twelve years; only two years after Jones had left law school. During this time, Jones argued numerous discrimination cases, including some against the country's biggest employers. These cases included Patterson v. American Tobacco Co., Stallworth v. Monsanto, and Swint v. Pullman Standard. In 1973, Jones became the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's managing attorney.

In 1975, Jones left the NAACP's LDF to join President Ford's administration as Special Assistant to Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman. She returned to the LDF in 1977 as a litigator. During her continued tenure with the LDF organization, she was instrumental in the passage of 1982's Voting Rights Act Amendment, 1988's Fair Housing Act and Civil Rights Restoration Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Jones was elected to the American Bar Association Board of Governors in 1989, the first African-American to do so. In 1993, she became the first female president and defense counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and was named one of Ebony Magazine's "10 Most Powerful Black Women" in 2001. Jones worked as President and Director-Counsel of the LDF until 2004, and received an honorary degree from Spelman College in 2007. In 2009, Jones was awarded the prestigious George Bundy Smith Pioneer Award by the New York State Bar Association.

Lane graduates urged to 'Rise'

The pre-eminent orator of the present age, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, urged the 160 most recent graduates of Lane College to rise above their circumstances and become productive and impactful citizens of this generation, while never forgetting the place from which they came.

Dyson used the word Rise as the theme of his speech, telling an audience of 4,200 at Oman Arena that it stood for responsibility, intelligence, struggle and excellence. The Commencement Convocation was held on Sunday, April 26.

"Rise because you are emerging from an institution of higher learning," Dyson said. "Rise because of brilliant faculty and students. Rise because of your family. Rise because someone invested in you. You must learn to be Inspired despite all the negativity that may surround you. Remember that the Struggle for equality is not over just because President Barack Obama is in the White House. And finally, Excel in every endeavor in which you enter.”

For about 40 minutes, Dyson spoke about race, politicians, hip-hop, black relationships and the importance of having goals as well as someone who inspires you.

"It could be your grandmother who couldn't go to college and had to haul cotton," Dyson said. "It could be your grandfather who was treated like an animal. You must remember those black people who didn't have the highest education but had the Lord on their side and did the right thing in life."

Dyson, who went from having a father on welfare to graduating from Princeton University, encouraged students to take responsibility for their life and to not let others drive them down the wrong path.

"You are responsible for developing your mind and spirit and becoming the best human being possible," Dyson said. "Get a driver's license for your own life. Don't make any excuses.

"What ability do you have to make a way out of no way," he asked. "That's why we like Barack Obama."

Dyson, who's known the president since 1991, said Obama is a hard worker who never made excuses.

"He said, 'I'm going to take what God gave to me and make something out of it,'" Dyson said. "You've got to find out what you can do."

What a year to graduate from a historically black college with Obama in office and his family in the White House, he said.

"Hold this man and his family in prayer, defend his honor," Dyson said.

The Obamas should inspire blacks to reach for excellence, he said.

"You will not get very far if you don't remember you are to do what you can as best as you can," Dyson said.

Following his address, Dyson was awarded the Doctor of Laws Honorary Degree by President McClure and Dr. Vicki Vernon Lott, Lane’s Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Mississippi Freshman Crowned Miss Lane

Raven Wiseman of Hernando, MS was recently crowned Miss Lane College. The Mass Communications freshman performed a dance routine to singer Beyonce's "Flaws & All" for her talent in the pageant. She aspires to be a television host on the entertainment news series "Entertainment Tonight."

(Jackson, TN-Feb 19, 2009) President Wesley Cornelious McClure today announced that the guest speaker for the Lane College Annual Founder’s Day Convocation, to be held on Sunday, March 1, is the renowned Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba Gray, the Pastor of New Sardis Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

During the seventeen years that Dr. Gray has led the flock at New Sardis, the membership has grown by 2,000 members. He served as the Health Coordinator for the Memphis Affiliate of the Congress of National Black churches from 1992 - 1998. In this capacity, he led the Memphis affiliate in health ministries and environmental justice.

In his prophetic ministry, Dr. Gray is the current President of the Memphis Satellite Office of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and has served on the Tennessee Human Rights Commission under three governors. He teaches in the Congress of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and Bluff City Christian College, in Memphis.

Dr. Gray received the Bachelor of Science degree from Lane College, in 1968; the Masters Degree in Education from the University of Memphis; the Masters of Divinity and the Doctor of Ministry Degrees from the Memphis Theological Seminary.

In 1984, Rev. Gray was elected to serve as an Alternate Delegate At-Large to the National Democratic Convention as a Committee Head delegate for Rev. Jesse L. Jackson to be nominated by the Democratic Party to be President of the United States of America.

In 1990, Dr. Gray organized a group of activists and filed a federal lawsuit challenging the runoff provision of city elections in Memphis. The federal court ruled, without a trial, that the runoff was unconstitutional and Dr. W. W. Herenton was elected the first African-American Mayor of the city of Memphis.

On December 5, 1999, the Shelby County Commission renamed a major section of Holmes Road in Memphis “The Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray, Jr. Road” to honor Dr. Gray for his long tenure of service in Shelby County.

In February 2000, Dr. Gray made available to the general public his third published book: Deacons for Defense and Justice. This spellbinding book is about African-American Men in Bogalusa, Louisiana who armed themselves to defend their community against the Ku Klux Klan during the civil-rights movement.

The public is cordially invited and encouraged to attend the celebration of the 127th consecutive year of Lane College’s tremendous contributions to this community and this nation.

This Convocation services will begin at 3:30 p.m. in The Lighthouse, which is the former St. Paul CME Church building located at the corner of Lane Avenue and Middleton Street.

Seventeenth Annual Jennie E. Lane Lecture Series

(Jackson, TN-Feb 19, 2009) President Wesley Cornelious McClure today announced that the guest speaker for Lane College’s Seventeenth Annual Jennie E. Lane Lecture Series, to be held on Friday, February 27, is Mrs. Joy Baker, a retired educator. Mrs. Baker will speak of her fond recollections of her aunt, Mrs. Mary Johnson Lane and her uncle, Dr. James Franklin Lane, the third president of Lane College. Dr. Lane served with distinction for thirty-seven years while his wife, Mrs. Mary Johnson Lane is remembered for her untiring service to the college as registrar, secretary, and library staff member.

Mrs. Baker retired from the Bay City, Michigan Public Schools in June 2003 after a career spanning over thirty-six years in elementary education. After graduating with a B.A. degree from Aquinas College in 1962, she was hired to teach at Dolsen Elementary School. In 1980, Mrs. Baker was appointed principal of Woodside Elementary School, making her the first African American woman to serve as a principal in that school system. Mrs. Baker also served as a Trustee for Aquinas College from 1980-1986, where she was the first African American to serve in that position.

While principal at Woodside, she implemented the district's first total school (K-5) foreign language program, with French taught as the second language. During her tenure at Trombley School, Mrs. Baker piloted the district's first full day kindergarten. She was also the founding member and charter president of Tri-City Links, Inc., an interna­tional organization focusing on educating at-risk students.

In 1968, Mrs. Baker was appointed by the governor to serve on the twelve-member State Officer's Compensation Commission, a position she held until 1974. For over a de­cade, Mrs. Baker and her husband held the Tri-Cities United Negro College Fund scholarship fundraising event in their home. Over the years, she has received numerous honors and awards and expresses deep gratitude for each recognition.

Presently, Mrs. Baker serves on the boards of the Bay Area Community Foundation and the Bijou Orchestra. She is a member of the Bay City Arts Council Education Committee, serves as the Bethel A.M.E. Church Day Care Personnel Committee Chairperson, and is the NAACP Life Membership Chairperson. She is also an active member of the Rotary Club of Bay City.

Mrs. Baker holds a Masters of Arts degree from Saginaw Valley State University and a Doctor of Education degree from Central Michigan University. She and her late husband James W. Baker, Sr., have two adult children, Renee Baker and James W. Baker II.

The public is cordially invited and encouraged to attend this most important event. The lecture will begin at 11:00 a.m. in the William H. Graves Auditorium located in the Chambers-McClure Academic Center (CMAC) on the Lane College campus.

Lanite Travels the Globe

      Juanita Austin, ’75, waving a Lane College Banner in Antarctica.

When Juanita Austin graduated with honors from Lane College in 1975 with a BS in Business Education, she decided that she wanted to see the world. She completed graduate studies at Murray State University and began a successful career in education. She has held positions as a college professor, counselor, program director, and, for the past 23 years, District Academic Dean of Developmental Education at Collin College in Plano, TX. Throughout the years, she held tight to her dream of international travel.

In 1994, when Dean Austin took her first trip to Africa, she confirmed her commitment to accomplish the global quest. After Africa, she toured Europe, Australia, Asia, and South America. Along the way, she has toured 47 of the 50 states in North America and, in November 2008, she boarded a Russian ship in Ushuaia, Argentina and sailed south. Two days later, she stepped onto the icy shores of Antarctica, waving a Lane College banner. Antarctica was continent number seven.

Antarctica has the coldest and harshest climate in the world. Average temperatures in the interior vary between -70 and -40 degrees C. On the day that Ms. Austin waved the Lane College banner, it was -28 degrees C.

Ms. Austin writes, “Although I am tremendously grateful and blessed to have seen so much of this beautiful world, my heart belongs to Africa.” As evidence of her love, she has been to Africa nine times (seven countries) and plans to visit the remaining 47 countries! After each trip to Africa, she makes standing-room-only presentations at schools, colleges, universities and churches all over the nation. “I love sharing the stories of the beautiful African people,” she states. “Media outlets eagerly share the bad parts (and bad parts do exist), but the bad parts are only a fraction of the whole story. The good parts (hard working, talented, intellectual, and loving people who live in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings) far outweigh the bad. That’s the story I love to share!”

Navy Officer to Speak at King Celebration

In celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the College will hold a special chapel assembly on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. in the J.F. Lane Health and Physical Education Building. The speaker will be United States Navy Captain Voresa Croom Booker.

After enlisting in the Navy in February 1983 and following Recruit Training and Personnelman “A” school, she was assigned to the Personnel Support Detachment at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. During her first enlistment, Captain Booker was selected for Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island and was commissioned in March 1985.

In April 1985, Captain Booker reported to Training Squadron TEN in Pensacola, Florida where she served as both the Legal Officer and Administrative Officer. After completion of the Navy’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counselor School, she reported to Naval Base Seattle in February 1987 and served as the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Regional Coordinator for the Northwest Region (Washington, Oregon and Alaska). During this tour, she also served as the Command Managed Equal Opportunity Program Officer and the Total Quality Leadership Training Officer.

In May 1991, Captain Booker reported to Navy Recruiting District Seattle as the Officer Programs Department Head. While assigned, Navy Recruiting District Seattle earned the Navy Unit Commendation for outstanding performance and Captain Booker earned four Gold Wreaths for recruiting excellence.

Following her Department Head tour, Captain Booker completed Manpower School and served on the staff of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command as a manpower analyst and split toured to complete her second Department Head tour as Officer in Charge, Personnel Support Detachment NAS Oceana, Virginia.

In July 1997, Captain Booker attended Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and successfully completed the Manpower, Personnel, Training and Analysis curriculum, earning a Masters Degree in Systems Management. Following Postgraduate School, she assumed command of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Tampa, Florida. In August 2002, she transferred to the staff of Special Operations Command where she served as the Chief of Navy and Marine Corps Personnel and Navy Element Commander.

In April 2005, Captain Booker reported for duty as the Executive Officer of Navy Recruiting District Nashville and assumed command July 2006. She relinquished command in April 2008 and is currently the Director of Human Resources and Logistics at Navy Recruiting Command in Millington, Tennessee.

Captain Booker is a proven subspecialist in Manpower, Training and Education. Her personal awards and decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (four awards), and the Expert Pistol Marksmanship Medal.

Captain Booker is married to Harold Booker and is the mother of three children, Victoria, Ashley and Naki.

Of particular note is the fact that Captain Booker holds the noteworthy distinction of being one of only twenty-four female African-American Captains serving among the 335,000 seamen and seawomen enlisted in the U. S. Navy. Currently, she serves the Navy as the Director of Human Resources and Logistics at Navy Recruiting Command in Millington, Tennessee.

The public is invited to join the Lane College family as it honors the memory of Dr. King and reflects on his immense contributions to this nation and the world. All persons are asked to be seated no later than 10:45 a.m.

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