W. C. Patton

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William C. Patton (born c. 1912 - died January 16, 1997 in Birmingham) was an official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and founder of the Alabama State Coordinating Association for Registration and Voting (ASCARV).

Patton graduated from Alabama State College and worked as a high school teacher and principal in the 1930s and 40s. With attorney Arthur Shores he founded the Jefferson County Negro Democratic League in 1936.

He was also active in the Birmingham branch of the NAACP and became president of the Alabama NAACP in 1947, serving until the group was prohibited from operating in the state under a 1955 court order. ASCARV, which he founded in 1952, furthered his efforts to strengthen the power of African Americans in the political process. His activities on behalf of the latter organization were considered by then-Governor Albert Patterson to be merely an extension of the NAACP activities he had already banned. He unsuccessfully sought a contempt of court ruling against Patton.

Locally, Patton also founded the Negro Business League and the Police Community Affairs Committee, the latter organization in hopes to create freer communication between black citizens and Birmingham Police Department officials.

In 1956 Patton became a national director of voter education for the NAACP, holding that position until 1978. Throughout his career as an activist, Patton traveled across the state promoting voting rights and trying to coordinate registration drives with limited success. Through NAACP-sponsored court actions many of the arbitrary registration requirements to which prospective black voters were subjected were found to be unconstitutional. When he resigned the NAACP's voter registration office moved from Birmingham to Detroit, Michigan.

Patton died in 1997. He was survived by his wife Marguerite, by four children, William, Jarvis, Celestra and Jacqueline, and by six grandchildren. He is interred at Elmwood Cemetery. Birmingham's W. C. Patton Park is named in his honor. The Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity also bestows an annual "W. C. Patton Community Service Award".

References

  • Cameron, Dwight (March 2, 1995) "I Shall Not Be Moved: The Legacy of W. C. Patton". Alabama Public Television
  • Saxon, Wolfgang (February 3, 1997) "W. C. Patton, 84, Alabama Voice for Black Voters." The New York Times