Charles E. Thompson

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Charles Edgar "C. E." Thompson

Superintendent of Schools
for Tensas Parish, Louisiana
In office
1970–1977
Preceded by Stathum Crosby
Succeeded by Harold Eugene Carroll (1977 interim)

William Edward Vosburg, Sr. (1977-1981)


Born February 25, 1932
Waterproof
Tensas Parish
Died November 27, 1993 (aged 61)[1]
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Patricia "Patsy" Winkler Thompson
Children Dr. Charles Anthony "Tony" Thompson

Dr. Bruce Alan Thompson, Sr.
Michael David "Mike" Thompson

Alma mater Waterproof High School

Northwestern State University
University of Southern Mississippi

Religion United Methodist

Charles Edgar Thompson, known as C. E. Thompson or Charles Ed Thompson (February 25, 1932 – November 27, 1993), was a Louisiana educator who from 1970 to 1977 served as the superintendent of his native Tensas Parish in the northeastern portion of his state. Thereafter, he was an administrator in Baton Rouge with the Louisiana Department of Education under then state Superintendent James Kelly Nix.

Background

Thompson was born in Waterproof, a particular poor community in southern Tensas Parish. In 1970, Tensas Parish had an average family income of $3,173, or 41 percent of the national average that year of $7,701. It has long been the poorest parish in Louisiana and among the twelve poorest counties in the United States. Thompson was one of five children of Arthur Orah Thompson (1904-1968), and the former Sallye Mozelle Howell (1910-1992). Arthur Thompson, a North Carolina native, was employed by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Thompson's younger brother, Jessie R. Thompson (1933-1946), died in childhood and is called the "Sunshine of Our Home" on his grave marker at Legion Memorial Cemetery in Newellton in northern Tensas Parish. Thompson graduated from the since defunct Waterproof High School and received bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, at which he met his wife, the former Patricia "Patsy" Winkler (1932-2010). A native of Shreveport, she graduated from the last class of the formerly all-white Olla-Standard High School in LaSalle Parish. She became an elementary school teacher and was active in the Business and Professional Women's Club.[2]

Educational career

On August 15, 1970, Thompson received his doctorate in professional education from the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg. His dissertation, "A Study of Acts of Disruptive Behaviour Affecting the Utilization of Public School Principal's Time" is the culmination of a seven-year study, which involved contacting 1,450 principals to gain input on school behavioral issues. The work was cited in Principal Magazine of the National Association of Secondary School Principals and The Southern Journal of Education. By that time he received his terminal degree, Thompson was already working as the Tensas Parish superintendent. His educational career had begun in the middle 1950s at Coushatta in Red River Parish. Later assignments were at Winnsboro High School in Franklin Parish, Mangham High School in Richland Parish, and Ferriday High School in Concordia Parish, just south of Tensas. He was until February 1970 the principal at Ferriday High School, during which time the last wave of school desegregation was completed, sixteen years after Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.[3]

Tensas Parish superintendent

As the new Tensas superintendent, Thompson gained a statewide reputation in educational circles and was in demand to address professional gatherings. In October 1970, he was the keynote speaker at the Louisiana School Administrators Conference in Baton Rouge, at which he lectured on "Educational Performance Contracting," an examination of a pilot summer reading program for disadvantaged pupils used that year in Tensas Parish. In 1974, Thompson was elected president of the Superintendents' Association for the then fifteen parishes of Louisiana's 5th congressional district, anchored at Monroe. In 1975, he became president of the then 66-member Louisiana Association of School .[4]

Under Thompson, the school board budgets did not exceed $2.15 million. By 1997-1998, long after Thompson's tenure in the parish, the budget topped $9.5 million, with $6,704 spent per pupil. Ninety-four percent of the pupils qualified for free or reduced lunches of the National School Lunch Act of 1946. In the fall of 1974, Tensas Parish enrolled 2,335 students in public education. Of these, 546 were at the former Newellton High School, which was 62 percent African American. Waterproof High School had 366 pupils, of whom 90 percent were black. And Joseph Moore Davidson High school in the parish seat of St. Joseph, since renamed Tensas High School, had 342 students, of whom 93 percent were black. The 1974 enrollment represented a decline of 358 pupils, or 13 percent, from the preceding year. From 1970 to 1980, the Tensas Parish population dropped 12.4 percent from 9,732 to 8,525.[5]

Public school enrollments declined in part because of the still functioning Tensas Academy, a private school in St. Joseph which opened in 1970 at the advent of desegregation. Located on land donated by the Panola Company of Fred Maher Miller (1915-1996). The company originated in the 20th century by William Mackenzie Davidson (1857-1930), the founding mayor of St. Joseph and the father of the young man for whom the former Davidson High School was named. Fred Miller, who lived at Avondale Plantation in St. Joseph, was also the long-term president of the Tensas Parish School Board during the time of Thompson's service as superintendent. Tensas Academy had rapid success. Its football team, the Chiefs, won the state Class A championship in 1971 by defeating the Claiborne Parish Rebels from another academy north of Homer, Louisiana. Tensas Academy had 359 white students in the 1971-1972 academic year. In 2016, the academy website reported an approximate enrollment of two hundred. Only whites have applied to attend the academy, but non-whites would not be excluded where they to seek admission.[6]

In 1974, Superintendent Thompson developed a policy to prevent teachers from abusing sick leave. He had found that some educators had taken time off to engage in private farming and business interests. Thompson also faced civil suits filed by some African-American educators who claimed unfair policies in his office. Tensas was a defendant in a suit by school boards in six parishes which sought to forbid the use of public funds to finance bus transportation and books and educational materials for private schools. Despite his specialization in handling disciplinary issues, Superintendent Thompson in 1976 struggled with vandalism of school board properties and sought parental assistance to halt disruptions. The matter grew sufficiently glaring that Thompson asked Sheriff Theo "Bill" Poe (1912-1988) to issue a reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects. Thompson was forced to drop the popular vocal music program at Davidson High School because of teacher-pupil funding guidelines. He grappled too with reductions in the Title I program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. In 1974, he ended the holding of baccalaureate ceremonies with a religious theme, which had long preceded high school commencements. In 1976, he managed to obtain completion of the renovation of Newellton High School, a $700,000 project.[7]

In January 1977, Thompson resigned as the Tensas superintendent after nearly seven years in the position. Two weeks earlier, the school board had given him a four-year contract renewal. Instead he became an assistant to state Superintendent Kelly Nix. Thompson said the new position, his last in education, offered "a chance for a greater impact on education" and noted too that he "could not turn down the financial benefits involved." Thompson's interim successor as superintendent, Harold Eugene Carroll (1927-1985), a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, was soon replaced by William Edward Vosburg, Sr. (born October 13, 1940), the principal during the early years of desegregation at Newellton High School. Vosburg was born in Natchez, Mississippi, but reared in New Roads in Pointe Coupee Parish. His original education experience had been in Port Arthur, Texas. He left the superintendent's position in 1981 to enter business in Ruston, the hometown of his wife, the former Sarah Elizabeth "Beth" Young. Vosburg was succeeded as superintendent by Lanny Johnson, the former Davidson High School principal and the supervisor of career education for Tensas Parish.[8]

Assistant state superintendent

Thompson's state title was "deputy assistant superintendent for special education." His immediate supervisor was Henry Leroy Smith, Jr., a North Carolina native, who from 1976 to 1982 was the assistant superintendent over special education. In 1981, a federal grand jury indicted Thompson and Smith on tent counts in an alleged kickback scheme. One count was merged with another, and the men faced nine counts. They were charged with having sought to extort assets from the Missouri-based International Management System. They were found to have placed a portion of a contract price from the State of Louisiana into a "kitty" in which the money was divided among themselves and a third person, Edward George Ackal, a Lafayette businessman whose Educational Products Corporation sold goods and services to the state. The grand jury alleged that Thompson, Smith, and Ackal collectively split $360,000 of an $889,000 contract to International Management System, which financed the testing of thirty thousand pre-school pupils to determine how many qualified for expanded special education under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. The law required school districts to provide an educational experience comparable to what a non-disabled child would receive. The act also requires school districts to provide one free meal per day for children with physical or mental disabilities.[9]

Thompson, Smith, and Ackal were found guilty in federal district court in Baton Rouge for having defrauded taxpayers. All three lost their appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans and were imprisoned. Information is sketchy on Thompson's activities for the seven years from his release from prison until his death in Baton Rouge in the fall of 1993 at the age of sixty-one. Two funeral services were held for the veteran educator: at St. John's United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge and then the Newellton Union Church, an amalgam of Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. He is interred alongside his wife and other family members at Legion Memorial Cemetery in Newellton. The Thompsons had three sons. Charles Anthony "Tony" Thompson and Bruce Alan Thompson, Sr., are twins born in 1956 and practicing physicians, who reside, respectively, in Nacogdoches, Texas, and Searcy, Arkansas. The younger son, Michael David "Mike" Thompson, is a bank officer at Cross Keys Bank in St. Joseph.[10]

References

  1. Charles Edgar "Ed" Thompson. Old.findagrave.com. Retrieved on May 24, 2018.
  2. Billy Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish, Louisiana: Desegregation, Re-Segregation, and the Continuing Decline in School Enrollments, 1970-2017" North Louisiana History, Vol. 49 (Winter-Spring 2018), pp. 34-35, 44.
  3. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish," pp. 35-36.
  4. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish", pp. 36-37.
  5. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish", p. 37-38.
  6. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish", p. 39-40.
  7. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish", pp. 42-44.
  8. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish", pp. 45-48.
  9. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish", pp. 50-51.
  10. Hathorn, "Education in Tensas Parish" pp. 51-52.