PAST BRANCH PRESIDENTS
Nicole S. Thompson-Martin (Current President)
Avohom “Vo” Carpenter (2019 – 2022)
LaSalle J. “L.J.” McCoy Jr. (2008 – 2019 Removed)
Jerome Seldon (2007 – 2008)
Joseph C. Seay (2005 – 2006)
Paige P. Johnson (1999 – 2005)
Robert N. Harvey, Jr. (1994 – 1999)
Rev. Lawrence Pollard, Jr. (1982 – 1994)
Charles E. Morton
Joseph Friend (1920’s -1930’s)
By: Milton Arthur Friend (2003)
Founded Feb. 12. 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P) is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization.
The Chesterfield County Branch NAACP was organized in the late 1920’s or the very early 1930’s at the First Baptist Church Centralia, now known as the Historic First Baptist Church. People were notified through various churches in Chesterfield County that a Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P) had been established.
Mr. Joseph Friend, father of Arthur Milton Friend; Mr. James P. Spencer, Principal of Hickory Hill School; Dr. Luther Jackson, Professor at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), and others who were concerned about the people’s rights, voter registration, and Colored men being charged with crimes committed by someone else, gathered from all over the County at the First Baptist Church Centralia on a Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Joseph Friend was elected President of the newly organized Chesterfield County Branch of the NAACP. Mr. Thomas D. Harris was elected Secretary. Meetings were to be held once a month at a different church each time. Members consisted of the Crawleys from Winterpock, the Harris’s and Mr. Price from Spring Creek, Levi Johnson and the Branch’s from Midlothian, Mr. Surley from Union Branch, the Goodes from Union Grove, the Christians and Lawing’s from Bethesda and a host of others.
W. Lester Banks, the Executive Secretary for the State, and Dr. J.M. Tinsley, President of the Richmond Branch were always available for information and consultation.
In the mid 1930’s the Chesterfield County Branch was honored for having the largest membership of any rural Branch in the United States of America (USA). A write up along with Mr. Joseph Friend’s picture appeared in “The Crisis” magazine (the official magazine of the NAACP). The first Virginia State Conference of the NAACP State Convention was held in Roanoke, VA.
With the many problems of discrimination during this period, local attorney Robert Cooley always made himself available to the Branch. Attorneys Martin and Hill also assisted in the defense of the many Colored citizens that were being falsely charged with crimes that they did not commit. A direct quote from that time was: “There were so many cases the Black Lawyers won for the NAACP, the people were told to keep the “nigger lawyers” from Chesterfield away.”
Another problem in Chesterfield County was that Black teachers discovered that they had graduated from colleges and universities with degrees and were being paid less than white teachers who had only obtained a high school diploma. Three Black teachers, with the help of the NAACP, sued the County. Attorneys Hill, Martin and Robinson (all Black) prevailed in court in obtaining equal salaries for those teachers. After this monumental court victory, Black teachers were held under high scrutiny. This pressure caused Black teachers not to join the NAACP and many left the County to seek jobs elsewhere.
Mr. Charles E. Morton became the second President of the Chesterfield County Branch. Mr. Joseph Friend went on to become elected as the President of the Chesterfield Civic Association. The Chesterfield Civic Association was instrumental in getting George Washington Carver High School in Chester constructed for Black students.
As Black people’s conditions began to get better, the membership in the Chesterfield County Branch NAACP began to decline. Mr. Eugene Wilder, a member from the beginning, continued to solicit new members for memberships and processed those memberships through the State Headquarters in Richmond. Till this day, First Baptist Church Centralia has always made its facilities available to the Chesterfield County Branch NAACP.