Emmitt Douglas

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Emmitt James Douglas

(President of the Louisiana chapter of the NAACP, 1966-1981)

Emmitt Douglas of LA.jpg

Born October 14, 1926
Newellton, Tensas Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died March 25, 1981 (aged 54)
New Roads, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana
Political Party Democrat
Spouse Audrey Marie Daisy Douglas (married, 1949-1981, his death)

Kordice Majella Douglas

Religion Roman Catholic

Emmitt James Douglas (October 14, 1926 – March 25, 1981) was an African-American businessman from New Roads, Louisiana, who served as president of his state's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter from 1966 until his death.


Douglas was born in rural Newellton in northern Tensas Parish in northeastern Louisiana to Samuel Frederick Douglas and the former Fannie Rose Armstrong. He was educated at the segregated since defunct black schools in Newellton and from Tensas Rosenwald in St. Joseph, Louisiana, an institution now known as Tensas High School.[1] He was a classmate of Andrew Brimmer, later the first African American named to the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System, appointed by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Tensas Rosenthal closed in 1970, when Tensas Parish public schools were desegregated.

Brimmer then attended the historically black Roman Catholic-affiliated Xavier University in New Orleans. Thereafter, Douglas entered the United States Army, in which he reached the rank of master sergeant. From 1950 to 1952, he was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, and Fort Worth, Texas. Thereafter, he was a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service and a salesman for Southern Barber and Beauty Supply Company in Baton Rouge. [1]

On July 24, 1949, in New Roads, he wed the former Audrey Marie Daisy (1920–1991), daughter of farmer Thomas Daisy (1898–1975) and the former Lillian Pourclau (1897–1985). The Douglases had one child, Kordice Majella Douglas (born 1955).[1] Kordice Douglas is a graduate of the Harvard Law School.[2] and practices law in Baton Rouge.[3]

NAACP activities

Douglas was active in liberal Democratic politics at a time when his party dominated most of his native state. He headed the New Roads NAACP from 1965 to 1981 and served on the national board of the organization from 1967 to 1981. Governor Edwin Edwards appointed Douglas to the Prison System Study Commission. He served in 1975 on the Commission on Judicial Compensation for City, Parish, and Municipal Courts. He was a member of the St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Roads, where he resided from 1949 until his death. He had lived in New Orleans from 1942 to 1946 and in Baton Rouge from 1946 to 1949. He was a district manager for Standard Life Insurance Company and Supreme Life Insurance Company and the proprietor of Douglas Barber and Beauty Supply Company and Douglas Fine Foods Grocery, both in Baton Rouge.[1]

In 1969, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Woodrow Wilson Dumas imposed a curfew during a disturbance that seemed likely to spread throughout his city. Then Governor John J. McKeithen deployed 250 Louisiana National Guard troops to maintain order. The unrest resulted when a white Baton Rouge patrolman, Ray Breaux, shot to death in the back a 17-year-old fleeing African-American suspect. Dumas called on Douglas to speak via radio to urge calm. Douglas called for more black police officers and integrated patrol cars. Dumas promised Douglas that Breaux would be suspended pending an investigation. After a grand jury exonerated Breaux, Douglas accused Dumas of betrayal. Dumas cited civil service rules which protected the officer. Thereafter, Dumas adopted a hard line toward protesters, having told officers that "We will back you 100 percent. Police officers will no longer take abuse and vilification from anyone."[4]

Meanwhile, Douglas was indicted for incitement to riot under a new Louisiana law patterned after the national Civil Rights Act of 1968.[4]

Douglas pushed to accelerate school desegregation, a gradual process completed in all sixty-four parishes by August 1970, including Douglas' native Tensas Parish, which is predominantly African American. In 1970, Douglas was arrested when he attempted to dine at an all-white establishment in Baton Rouge. The incident occurred six years after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Douglas retained as his attorney Murphy Bell, also a former NAACP state president.[5]

In 1976, Douglas quarreled at the national NAACP convention in Memphis, Tennessee, with executive director Roy Wilkins, who postponed his planned retirement from the organization by an additional year. Wilkins criticized certain board members as having conducted a "campaign of vilification" against him, questioning his integrity, health, and competence. Wilkins had threatened lawsuits against the offenders. Douglas took a microphone and rebuked Wilkins: "I resent allegations against board members unless they are named."[6]

Douglas died at the age of fifty-four of a heart attack at New Roads General Hospital.[7] He and his wife are entombed at the St. Augustine Catholic Church Mausoleum in New Roads.[1]

Douglas is honored by the naming of Emmitt J. Douglas Park on Tenth Street in New Roads.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Douglas, Emmitt J.. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved on November 11, 2019.
  2. (March 1980) Emmitt J. Douglas. The Crisis (NAACP newspaper). Retrieved on November 11, 2019. 
  3. Kordice M. Douglas. kordice.com. Retrieved on November 11, 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Adam Fairclough. Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972. Google Books. ISBN 978-0-8203-3114-0. Retrieved on November 11, 2019. 
  5. Civil-rights attorney Murphy Bell, 87, dies. The Baton Rouge Advocate (June 14, 2008). Retrieved on December 16, 2010; no longer on-line.
  6. Races: A Leader's Dissonant Swan Song. Time (July 12, 1976). Retrieved on November 11, 2019; under pay wall.
  7. Emmitt Douglas obituary. The New York Times (March 25, 1981). Retrieved on November 11, 2019; under pay wall.
  8. Emily Holden (May 25, 2009). Discussion on litter leads class to act. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on December 16, 2010; no longer on-line.