Valdosta Daily Times

Breaking News:

Local News

February 24, 2013

Three decades later, individuals recall changing the area’s voting system



With the new system in place, a special election was held Feb. 14, 1985. Three black City Council members were elected to office. They were Houseal, Bunnis Williams and Joseph “Sonny” Vickers. Donald “Butch” Williams, Minnie Martin, and Jacqueline “Jackie” Brown were elected to the Valdosta City Board of Education; Willie Jones was later elected to the school board’s Super 4 District. Alvin Payton Sr. was elected to the Lowndes County Commission.  

Jet magazine featured the Valdosta-Lowndes County election. Several national news organizations reported on the election.

With the change in the election process came changes within the black community. Within a matter of years, all city streets were paved. Other infrastructure changes came.

Hiring, training and promotional changes came. Daniels shares a story of being excluded from a promotional possibility within the fire department. He mentioned it to Houseal, then an elected City Council member; by the next day, Daniels was included in the process.

There were unexpected turns. The overpass, for example, ensured trains would not isolate the southside from the rest of town, but the construction period killed many of the black businesses located within the overpass’ shadow, Houseal says.

Houseal was elected, then stepped down to take a job with the Brooks County School System. Following Houseal’s resignation, Willie Rayford became the district’s representative.

In discussing the changes within the past 30 years, they say there have been many positive changes, but they would still like to see more African-American department heads within city government.

In the coming months, Denson says she hopes to organize a reunion or event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the effort to change the voting system.

They laugh recalling some of the events and episodes from the early 1980s, though Gordon says, “We weren’t laughing then.”

“We knew there was the possibility something could happen to us personally,” Houseal says. “But we weren’t afraid of it.”

During the suit, few people had heard of the Winnersville Coalition Consultants; the group had no phone or address. But people knew the NAACP and it did have a phone numbers and an address.

As NAACP head, Gordon bore the most animosity in terms of negative letters or threatening phone calls. He recalls going to the police department with threatening letters and being told the police would be unable to investigate the anonymous threats because too many people had handled the letters. So, the letters were never even taken into evidence.

Asked if they felt the lawsuit was essential, if they thought years later, the political change would have come as a natural progression, or black representation would have eventually increased through the at-large system, Daniels, Denson, Gordon and Houseal all agree the suit was essential.

As for the rest of the question, they all agree again. Asked if change would have come without the lawsuit, they answer in one voice, with one word. No.

Text Only
Local News
  • DSC_2381.jpeg Award-winning young professionals share success secrets

    The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s MetroOne Young Professionals hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn to highlight successful business practices.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140726_summerlibrary002.jpg Library celebrates end of summer reading program

    With the first day of school just around the corner, students are soaking in the last few weeks of summer vacation. The end of summer also means the end of the South Georgia Regional Library’s 2014 summer reading program.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • artseason1 copy.jpg A sneak peek at some area arts organizations’ 2014-15 seasons

    Beethoven. Tennessee Williams. Non-stop art. Two versions of “The Wizard of Oz.” The 2014-15 arts season is coming.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • sabalmap.jpg Sabal Trail explains its position

    Representatives from Sabal Trail Transmission recently sat down with The Times to provide an update on the ongoing pipeline and potential economic development opportunities associated with the project.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514-MoodyComp007.jpg Moody AFB crews race in load competition

    Moody Air Force Base hosted a weapons load competition Friday morning, a maintenance group tradition in which two 23d Maintenance Group A-10 munition load crews raced against the clock to load munitions onto an A-10C Thunderbolt II.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • moonshine bust.jpg Police close illegal drinking house

    After receiving numerous complaints, the Valdosta Police Department shut down an illegal alcohol sales operation Friday.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • election.jpg Black earns most votes in runoff

    State Rep. Ellis Black led the votes for state Senate District 8 Friday with seven of seven counties reporting certified results, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140724-LAT1.jpg Little Actors Theatre ready for summer show

    Since 2004, the Little Actors Theatre has provided a place for children ages 6 to 19 to express themselves through acting.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072414-MichelleNunn003.jpeg Michelle Nunn visits Valdosta

    The day after learning that her Republican challenger would be David Perdue, Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn kicked off her Common Sense and Collaboration Tour Wednesday by meeting with business owners in Atlanta, Athens and Macon and continued her tour Thursday morning by visiting the David S. Waller Unit facility of the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • lunch.jpg Valdosta One Lunch feeds summer-hungry kids

    Hunger is a concept that many people associate with third-world countries, not their hometown. However, in Valdosta, hunger is real. To combat this hunger, a group of Valdostans have created Valdosta One Lunch, a program that distributes bagged meals to children in need.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

Top News

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results