Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas – Sunday, January 30, 1972
W. G. Garrison to retire from YMCA directorship
W. G. Garrison is a complex individual. He is a man who has worked both behind the scenes and in the forefront for the betterment of Texarkana. But more than that, he has worked for the betterment of Texarkana for the youth of the city, Black and white.
Garrison has been the executive director of the Texarkana YMCA for more than 19 years. He is retiring Monday. Though the local YMCA chapter has been a predominately black organization, it has made strides in the modernization of the city for the future as well as the present.
Garrison first came to Texarkana in 1943 to head the industrial chapter of the United States Organization. The purpose of the organization was to aid and organize recreation facilities for people away from home working in war-time industries.
The membership and number of workers was less than was anticipated, so in 1945, Garrison asked the USO to open the facilities in Texarkana to the youth of the area. The Texarkana YMCA was organized in December, 1945, by Garrison through the auspices of the USO, under which YMCA was an agency.
Garrison left Texarkana in 1946 to accept a position in the Beaumont YMCA. In 1953, he was asked to return to Texarkana to take over the office of executive director. He accepted, and has been here since.
“The first site of the YMCA was on the 400 block of Elm St.,” Garrison recalled. “Our building was called the John J. Jones Building. We started with money from the World Youth Fund. They provided money for the professional director, and the city provide money for the actual programs.”
The first donation by the city amounted to $6,000. $3,000 was paid the first year, $2,000 the second year, and $1,000 the third.
“The executive secretary had to find means of underwriting the funds when the city donations ran out,” Garrison said.
Garrison pointed out the YMCA is basically a membership organization.
“We don’t have raffles or bakeries,” he said. “We appeal to the churches, to the Community Chest, and to citizens for our operating funds.”
The program of the YMCA was designed to meet the needs of both youth and adults.
“At that time,“ Garrison said, “we were mainly setting up our program for the blacks. The YMCA was the only outlet available for the blacks. There was a need among the black people of Texarkana for such an outlet, because most of the other youth organizations were for whites only.”
Garrison possesses the somewhat amazing ability to have a lack of bitterness in the face of prevalent conditions of the 1950s. He can, and does, laugh at the incidents caused by segregation.
“I became friends with the police here because I was arrested. I could have been bitter and bad, but it would have done no good. In a situation we faced in those times, we had to look at the future.”
The YMCA began to acquire property and to branch out in different directions. Three lots were purchased at Oak and 10th Streets. Working with the city, the YMCA got a lighted baseball park on Lincoln St. Under Garrison’s direction a 31-acre park was acquired in Nash.
The YMCA was mainly devoted to the high schools and junior high schools in Texas and Arkansas. Clubs started by the Y included the Indian Guides, the Junior Hi Y, the Senior Hi Y, the Grey Hi Y, and the Coed Club.
“We provided the youth with a chance to make trips outside Texarkana,” Garrison recalled. “We set up overnight and weekend camps and tours to district meetings at Prairie View, Little Rock, and Shreveport.”
The Y sent members of its Coed Club to Austin, Tex., for participation in the Model Education Club.
“The Model Education Club was designed,” Garrison said, “to educate youth on the workings of governments. They discussed and passed laws and bills, named bills, and elected their government.
Garrison, pointed out the trips were at first by black youths only, but last year two white students from Texas High went on the trip.
Adults were also welcome in the Y. Classes were organized in bridge and ceramics. Instructors were hired and taught classes that had not before been available.
“Also,” Garrison said, “we were the headquarters for a number of community organizations. The Twin Cities Business League, the Texas Voters League, the NAACP”, any group could use our facilities.”
Garrison does not like to talk about his accomplishments. He talks of the accomplishments of the YMCA and other groups, but these accomplishments are usually because of his work. He was instrumental in the passing of the city charter changing the city government from a strong mayoral government to a city council government.
Garrison was the first black president of the Greater Texarkana Ministerial Alliance. He is now secretary for the organization.
In addition, Garrison served as vice president of the concentrated Employment Program, vice president of the local Polio Foundation, secretary treasurer of the Community Leaders Coordinating Committee, and secretary of the Twin City Civic League.
He is past secretary of the Baptist Ministers Conference, past president of the Model Cities Planning Area, and past board member of the Office of Economic Opportunities.
Garrison is also a member of the Religious Emphasis Committee, the Texarkana Centennial Planning Committee, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, Community Service Council, Texas Voters League, and a member of advisory committeeman for the NAACP.
Garrison received his B. A. from Talladega College in Talladega, Ala., in 1931. He has studied in the field of special education at Southern University in Scottlandville, La., and attended workshops on Christian emphasis at the Oklahoma University Extension Service at Norman, Okla. He was certified as a professional YMCA administrative secretary in 1937.
“I have enjoyed living in Texarkana,” Garrison said. “The people here are the nicest in the world, I am happy I have lived here.”
A special retirement ceremony in Garrison’s honor will be held at the State First National Bank’s Community Room today at 4 p.m.
Hosts for the ceremony will be the YMCA Board of Directors. Attending will be past and present mayors of Texarkana as well as city officials.