Willie Lee Slaughter 1922-1983
A Tribute-The Man
Willie Lee’s love for sports and competitive games greatly influenced his life. He loved to challenge himself on the football field or wherever he could get a challenger. He loved to prove himself or advance a worthy cause. He loved to play by the rules of the game.
His life began September 28, 1922, in Hinds County on Pear Orchard Road, Jackson, Mississippi. He was the sixth child (of seven) born to Fannie Jane and Percy Clifton Slaughter, Sr. His father was a plasterer, and Willie Lee early learned he did not have the talents of a plasterer and saw a good formal education was what he would choose.
He began school in a one-room school on County Line Road, taught by his aunt, Mrs. Ella Reedy Hayden. In the second grade, he was large enough to walk to Tougaloo (Daniel Hand School). He remained at Tougaloo until his twelfth year, transferring to Lanier (Jackson), where he graduated and played high school football and basketball.
He began Tougaloo College as a freshman and was soon called to active duty with the army (Engineering). An injury ended his brief army career, and he was back at Tougaloo College. The injury did not allow him to participate in sports as a player, but as a student coach, he could participate. Thus began his coaching career.
Harris High School (Meridian) was his first job under the guidance of W.A. Reed, Jr. He often referred to the things Mr. Reed taught him. Whenever he was involved in counting a large amount of coins, he’d say, “Let me show you how easy it is to count coins. Mr. Reed taught me when I worked at Harris High.” He admired Mr. Reed and tried to pattern after some of his qualities.
Coaching at Hawkins High School (Forest) was a profitable learning experience. With Mr. E.T. Hawkins as his principal, ideas were broken down, altered, and glorified. The championship teams produced at both schools game much conversational material for years. He served as commissioner for an athletic conference in east central Mississippi, where the track meets, and the basketball tournaments were big features.
His election to the Fifty District Educational District President allowed him to bring forward some of his ideas. He started the practice of having the district meeting part of two days rather than crowding everything into one Saturday. He greatly respected time and believed a meeting should never be long and drawn out.
As President of the Magnolia Activities Association, he was part of the committee that combined the black organization with the white. In this unselfish transaction, the accomplishments of black high school athletes would be judged along the same standards as white high school accomplishments.
He began his role as administrator at North Scott High School in rural Scott County and served for fourteen years. The teachers, students, and patrons had a stimulating professional working relationship during his administration. A lighted athletic field and a gymnasium were added. While principal, he served on many committees, including the Evaluation Committee of various district schools.
Being a Sigma inspired him and other Sigma’s in Forest to charter a chapter locally in Forest-Eta Sigma Sigma, Phi Beta Sigma.
He reconstructed the Scott County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and remained President until his death. He was also State Chairman of the NAACP Education Committee.
As a Tougaloo College student, he operated his first business venture. He operated a small sandwich grill. His next business venture was the owner of the Six Cees Superette and Six Cees General Store (names for his six daughters). The business world always fascinated him and, along with farming, provided a challenge and a hobby.
The desire to serve in city government was another idea that grew in his mind for a period of time. He held the distinction of being the first black alderman for the City of Forest, Mississippi. He returned for a second term without opposition. He believed the duty to vote is a requirement for a good citizen. He shared a beautiful relationship with the mayors and other city officials. The City of Forest was his second family.
In receiving his Master’s Degree at Jackson State, he prepared a thesis-“The Impact of the Initial North Scott Head State Program at Forest, Mississippi.” This study traced the progress of the first Head Start Program at North Scott Attendance Center. He was always concerned about the welfare of children and youth. He challenged his children in their early years. Maybe it was a foot race, writing a composition without error, or a verbal defense for some undesirable act. His grandchildren were taught approval and disapproval by being allowed or denied playing with toys he kept on his desk or in his bedroom. He often said that working with children is one of the greatest gifts God can give.
His love for God was revealed in his everyday life, and the teaching of the Bible-“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”-guided him. He was a member of White Oak Baptist Church, Tougaloo, Mississippi.
Searching for an excellent formal education led him to Tougaloo College, Jackson College, the University of Colorado (Boulder), and the University of California (Los Angeles). He attended Tennessee State, Virginia State, and Florida State coaching clinics. He kept warm memories of each of these schools. He also accredited his day-to-day relationship with people as a tremendous educational experience-for the educational process continues for life.
He firmly believed that active and meaningful participation in all aspects of life was essential. He served on the Mississippi Criminal Justice Standards Commission, the Scott County Mississippi Action for Progress Headstart initial board, the Mississippi Teachers’ Association, the NAACP State Conference, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, American Notary Association, Honorary Colonel to Governor Finch, and Mississippi Municipal Association.
There Is a Man
His eyes, I find sweetly gleaming
From the grandchildren at play.
His words echo mockingly
In the things they say.
And then, when it’s night
And prayers must be said,
Willie Lee stands, as ever,
By the side of their bed.
He had noble visions-
That struggle to live.
His ideas surround us
And guidance give.
He cautiously blazed paths-
That we now trod.
He’s not gone-
He’s just consulting with God.
By the gentle spirit
Of the winds of the morn,
His bidding and comforting
To us are borne.
If you pause and listen,
His voice you’ll hear
As he softly whispers-
My dear ones, I’m still here”.
Olivia K. Slaughter, September 1982