The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 21, 2012

Joplin man's dream of attending Obama speech fulfilled

JOPLIN, Mo. — Russell England, who cast his first presidential vote for Franklin Roosevelt, listened intently Monday night as President Barack Obama addressed the 2012 graduating class of Joplin High School.

For England, who never thought he would live to see a black man become president, hearing one speak in his hometown was a dream fulfilled.

“I nearly fell out of my chair when I got a call from the governor’s office,” he said, sitting in the VIP section of the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center at Missouri Southern State University, waiting for Obama. “They told me I would have a ticket.”

“My uncle has seen many things in his life, but today he got to see the president. I don’t think I have ever seen him happier,” said Kim Weathers, of Joplin, who accompanied her great-uncle to the ceremony.

Weathers said England was so excited Monday that he talked of little else but the graduation.

England, 90, was born when the Ku Klux Klan was at its most powerful in the United States, and he lived through the Jim Crow era. He grew up in Joplin in an era when a large KKK sign lit up the roof of the Connor Hotel during Klan gatherings.

England remembers the racism he experienced growing up in Joplin. He said he would have to go in through the back door of a store. Blacks in town could go to only one movie theater, and once there they had to watch the movie from the balcony.

“They had signs up: ‘Colored Here,’ ‘White Here,’” England said recently in a profile that appeared in the Globe. “Now, you can go anywhere you want to.”

After graduating from Lincoln School — Joplin’s segregated black school — just before World War II, England moved to Tulsa, Okla., and eventually joined the Army. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor, after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack, and in Okinawa, Japan, for more than three years.

He returned to the United States after his service and went to work at R&S Chevrolet in Joplin for $1 an hour. He attended Pittsburg (Kan.) State University for two years, studying refrigeration and auto mechanics on the GI Bill.

From 1948 to 1952, England was the president of the Joplin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which pushed for improvements to Ewert Park in Joplin and other changes for blacks.

England said his wish to see a black man elected president was fulfilled in 2008, but he wanted to hear him speak.

He has gotten close to Obama a couple of times before.

He had a ticket to see Obama during a campaign stop in Springfield before he became president, but he was unable to see him because he couldn’t walk to the viewing area.

Last May, when Obama visited Joplin after the tornado disaster, England saw the president’s motorcade pass through town. It went right by the Frisco Building where he lives.

When it was announced that Obama was returning to Joplin for the graduation, he got another chance.

Several weeks ago, Bruce Baird, a former Joplin resident and longtime family friend of England’s who now lives in Alameda, Calif., put ads on Craigslist seeking graduation tickets so that England could hear the president in person.

After a story appeared in the Globe, Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff and Gov. Jay Nixon arranged for England to attend the speech.

GLOBE EDITOR CAROL STARK and staff writer Kelsey Ryan contributed to this report.



Frisco ‘mayor’

RUSSELL ENGLAND, a resident of the Frisco Station Apartments in downtown Joplin, is known as the “mayor” of the building where he worked shining shoes as a youngster.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • r073114rebuildjoplin3.jpg 30 volunteers a day would be a ‘game-changer’ for Rebuild Joplin

    Betty and Louis Wirick, both 79, say they are grateful to have survived the 2011 tornado as it tore down part of their home of 25 years on South Bird Avenue. But three years later, they are frustrated.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Event for veterans on tap at Crowder

    For area veterans who have returned home from more than a decade at war, the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks hopes to send a simple message at an event this weekend: Welcome home.

    August 1, 2014

  • Fair to feature goats, chickens and decorated bras

    Along with the usual fair sights, sounds and smells — livestock, poultry, produce and the like — there will be something a bit unusual at the Cherokee County American Legion Free Fair this year: Decorated brassieres. And pink. Lots of pink.

    August 1, 2014

  • Damien D Doxley 051314.jpg Prison term meted out in carjacking case

    A Newton County judge assessed a defendant in a Joplin carjacking case seven years in prison Friday on a conviction on a charge of tampering with a motor vehicle.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 080114 Older worker1_72.jpg Co-workers, friends honor nurse with 50-year career

    Wilma Massey has worked a half century in health care and, even at the age of 74, she’s the first to arrive at work each morning.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • Amendment 7 backers tout safety, new jobs; foes say special interests to benefit

    Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
    The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
    After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
    Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
    The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
    “The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
    Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.  
    Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
    Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
    “Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
    The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
    “We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
    The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”  
    “The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
    Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
    “There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
    If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
    The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
    “We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
    Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
    Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
    Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
    “We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
    Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
    Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.

    Tuesday’s election
    Amendment 7 is one of five measures voters will consider when they head to the polls on Tuesday. Statewide, local election officials reported to the Missouri secretary of state that it was their estimate that about 27 percent of the state’s 4.06 million registered voters will show up to vote, including 25 percent of registered voters in Jasper County and 30 percent in Newton County.

    August 1, 2014

  • Brownback names 3 Kansas Board of Regents members

    Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday named a former veteran Kansas House member and two attorneys to the board overseeing the state’s higher education system.

    August 1, 2014

  • Grant to fund solar energy system for PSU’s Plaster Center

    An $80,000 grant from Westar Energy will fund solar panels to provide both energy and education at the Robert W. Plaster Center, now under construction at Pittsburg State University.

    August 1, 2014

  • Survey seeks views on Joplin’s future goals

    Residents are being asked to fill out a survey on priorities for Joplin’s future. The effort was inspired by a meeting of community leaders last month. Survey forms are available at the Joplin Public Library and online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/jointjoplinareaplanningsurvey.

    July 31, 2014

  • Habitat slates volunteer work days

    In the wake of the 2011 tornado, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has been a partner with organizations and individuals in the construction of 86 new houses. But what’s also needed, Executive Director Scott Clayton said, are repairs to area homes.

    July 31, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

Do you plan on voting in the Aug. 5 elections being held in Missouri and Kansas?

Yes
No
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter