Tyler NAACP leader faces challengers

TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Two candidates are challenging the long-time president of the Tyler NAACP chapter for his job because they say it is time for a change in the organization's leadership.

Ernest Deckard, 83, has been president of the chapter since 1992. But Dr. Nile Smith, 68, a minister at a Mineola church, and John Samples, 71, a retired John Tyler High School band director and teacher, are hoping to unseat Deckard.

Samples said he has been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 20 years and said he thought the organization could "improve on some things," such as working to increase membership and keeping the community more informed of city services that many people don't know about.

"Many people don't know where to go — sometimes people need help," he said. Samp-les, who retired from education in 2002 after a 22-year career, also said he sees himself as "a guardian for the people — all of the people, and an advocate." Samples said he is concerned for all races, not just black people.

He is no stranger to political races — he ran for Smith County commissioner of Precinct 3 as a Democrat in 2000, losing in that race against Republican Frank Sawyer. Samples also was defeated by Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Mitch Shamberger for that job in 2006. Samples graduated from Jarvis Christian College and has a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma.

Dr. Nile Smith, 68, who also is challenging Deckard for his job as president, is a minister at Sidney Temple Church of God in Christ in Mineola but a Tyler resident. Smith, who originally is from El Dorado, Ark., moved to Tyler in 2008. He said he served as the president of the El Dorado, Ark. chapter of the NAACP in the late 1980s.

Smith said he is interested in the health, education and housing of blacks. But he thinks blacks and whites in Tyler need to come together to solve problems. "I would like to form groups of people, black and white, to work together," he said.
There should be more economic development in north Tyler, including more housing and subdivisions built in black areas, and more business growth in those areas of town, Smith said. But in order for the business development to come, a good school system must be in place, Smith said.

"Most of the students at John Tyler High School and Robert E. Lee are not ready for college when they graduate," he said. "We as a community must have input on how students are taught and what programs are implemented. The community as a whole should be involved."

It takes blacks and whites working together to solve problems, Smith said. The minister earned his doctorate from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, holds a master's degree in divinity from Morehouse College and a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Arkansas. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a chaplain for a Veterans Hospital in Michigan and as a chaplain at a prison in Louisiana.

Deckard, president of the NAACP Tyler chapter since 1992, would like to keep his job for another two years. He said one is not supposed to seek that office with his own personal agenda, but instead should put the needs of the organization first. "The (NAACP) constitution spells out the duties of the organization," he said Wednesday.

Deckard said he feels his organization has brought blacks and whites together in the past. "What the organization should do is to make the community more aware — my issue is to respect everyone," he said.

He echoes Smith's sentiments about the need for more economic development in north Tyler and said more positive changes and economic gain have come to the south side of town than in the north.

Deckard graduated from Green Bay High School in Palestine during the time of segregation in the 1940s. The school no longer exists, he said. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1948 to 1960.


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