Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas – Sunday, May 13, 1971
Thompson hopes to pave way for others
Dr. G. W. Thompson, the first black man ever to be elected to a position of the Texarkana, Tex., Independent School District board, hopes that his election to the previously all-white board will pave the way for others in the Negro community to seek election to public offices, not only the school board but local government as well.
Thompson said he had no preconceived ideas as to what to expect or anticipate from members of the board during his campaign and really had no set plan of action in mind when he was running for the office.
“I planned only to be on the scene and to participate in the policy making of the board with an interest in mind as to what would be best for the community as a whole,” Thompson said.
“My presence on the board will definitely have an influence on the policy-making. I hope to implement things into the board’s policies that have before been left hanging.
“The mere fact that I am on the board creates a consideration for the black community in the overall planning. My presence doesn’t act as a threat, but only as a reminder that all segments of the community, either black or white, should be represented in the policies that govern the education of our children,” said Thompson.
He first ran for the school board in Texarkana in 1969 and was defeated, although he polled 1,310 votes. “There were quite a few racial overtones in my first campaign. The local populace was concerned with “freedom of choice’ and there was a fairly large voter turnout,” he said. Thompson won last month’s school board race over three other opponents by polling only 950 votes.
Thompson said that including every segment of the community into the board’s policies was his main motive in running again.
“I was hardly a stranger to the members of the school board,” Thompson said. “I had had either professional or civic associations with all but one member of the current board and I was fairly knowledgeable as to their actions and how they operated.
“There has been no evidence of animosity toward me on the part of any board members and I have been accepted as a member of the board, not just as the first black member. Everyone has been exceedingly nice to me in helping me become acclimated to the functioning of the board.
“I hope that my being elected will open an avenue for others of the black community to seek public office. More and more blacks are being elected to school board posts in Texas. I had the opportunity to speak to several from Marshall and Mt. Pleasant recently at a workshop for members of 45 Texas school boards at East Texas State in Commerce,” Thompson said.
He said that funding of educational programs and activities is the biggest problem facing Texarkana’s schools. At the first board meeting Thompson attended members voted to pass a tax increase to finance needed programs.
“Funding will continue to be a problem as long as funds are either nonexistent or unavailable from either state or local agencies. The slight increase in next year’s taxes was necessitated to meet the school’s future expanding programs. The schools cannot be allowed to retrogress,” Thompson added.
Thompson said he felt the proposed legislation now being considered by the Texas state legislators which would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a misdemeanor would neither lessen nor increase its usage among high school students.
“It usage is not a major problem of the masses,” Thompson commented. “There are certain groups of young people who are going to use drugs no matter what the penalty.
“On the whole, however, I believe that kids today are pretty sane in their ideals and practices,” he added.
Thompson is the son of a Texarkana physician and attended public schools in the twin cities until the fourth grade. He then moved to Chicago where he finished high school and college. “The main reason I left Texarkana was because Chicago schools offered more chemistry and related science courses I would need to get into medical school,” Thompson said.
“I always kept in touch with people in Texarkana and moved back and set up my practice here the first opportunity I had,” he said. “My friends and associates sort of coerced me and did a little arm-twisting to get me to run again.
“The motivation which got me to run this time was to make all schools for which taxes are paid to support available to all people. My sole aim is to improve the operation of the board and the school district during my three-year term in office,” Thompson added.