Lowndes County native tells racial violence story
By Fred Guarino
Josephine Bolling McCall has been telling the story of racial violence in Alabama and Lowndes County almost her entire life.
She has worked to help the state of Alabama, the county of Lowndes and the nation to recognize and own its racially violent past so that it can never be repeated.
She has also dedicated her life to improving educational opportunities for the people of Lowndes County, where she was born, as well as encouraging, promoting and recognizing their achievements.
McCall is the author of the book “The Penalty for Success: My Father Was Lynched in Lowndes County, Alabama,” first published in 2015. She is also president of the Elmore Bolling Foundation, which was founded and incorporated in 2008 to honor her father’s legacy and spirit.
McCall’s father was a black entrepreneur and philanthropist whose successful business interests led to his being killed in Lowndesboro at the age of 39 on Dec. 4, 1947.
He is listed among the Alabama Martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement, and his name is included on the National Museum for Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery where the more than 4,000 victims of terror lynchings are honored.
McCall’s most recent engagement to continue her work will be this Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Federated Church in Charlemont, Ma. where her presentation will be part of the Charlemont Forum’s special fall session on “Race: Facing the Truth, Owning Our Past.” While there, she will also sign copies of her book.
McCall explained, “I have two (foundation) board members who live in Boston. The chair, Vickie Rothbaum hosted me in 2015 when the book was first published and planned two-a-day presentations for a week, to include the Northeastern University School of Law.”
She said, “This year, the other board member, Lois Fine, arranged for her church to make a donation to our foundation and I am planning to go to Boston for that.”
She said, “When the other group (Charlemont Forum) found out I was already coming to Boston, they asked me to speak at the Charlemont Forum.”
When asked about the opportunity to speak at such events, McCall said, “Being able to share how my father died and the reason for his murder is very important because it gives me the opportunity to make others aware how far some people will go to maintain a superior way of life rather than follow the teachings of the Bible.”
She said, “Many people are unaware of the plight of the black race and the truth about how the races have become so divided. An understanding of the facts is surely to help with reconciliation.”
McCall also said, “The Elmore Bolling Foundation’s mission is to preserve his legacy by promoting community-wide services to Lowndes County and under-served citizens of Alabama. Every donation is used to assist with the preservation and restoration of the Lowndesboro School, and provide services to the community by promoting achievements in entrepreneurship, citizenship and education. The foundation also gives a scholarship each year to a graduating senior from Calhoun or
Central High School.”
McCall remembers of her father’s death… “The killers fired six bullets from a pistol that hit him in the front and a shot gun blast that hit him in the back. My mother and we four children heard the shots at the store.”
She explained, the lynching definition does not include the type of murder, but rather the number (usually a mob) of persons that commit the crime, and there’s no due process.”
Thanks to McCall and the Elmore Bolling Foundation,
Some 71 years after his death, her father’s achievements and philanthropic acts are still being acclaimed in the Lowndes County Community through the Elmore Bolling Foundation Legacy Luncheon Awards Banquet.
As McCall stated, at the annual Legacy Luncheon awards are given to “persons in the community who have made outstanding contributions in the areas of citizenship, education and entrepreneurship (small business owner).”
Also, a scholarship is given to a high achieving graduating senior from Calhoun or Central High.
Through McCall’s efforts, the Elmore Bolling Foundation has also received grants for restoration of the 19th Century historic black Lowndesboro School.
The Lowndesboro School was built around 1890 and is one of the few remaining nineteenth century schools built for African-American children.
The school’s owners, Lucius and Myrtle Evans donated the school to The Elmore Bolling Foundation on Aug. 18, 2011.
Located in the historic antebellum village of Lowndesboro, the school was recognized by Alabama Historical Commission Executive Director Frank White, as “a historical gem which must be preserved so that future generations will understand its important historical and educational significance.”
Also, through McCall’s efforts, the man who made that school possible was recently honored.
With four of his descendants and local representation from Lowndes County in attendance, church leader and education advocate Dr. Mansfield Tyler of Lowndesboro, a self-educated slave who represented Lowndes County in the Alabama State House of Representatives during 1870-1872 and who founded the Lowndesboro School for African Americans, was inducted into the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame (AMHOF) in Birmingham on Sept. 18 of this year.
Tyler was presented to the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame in the Grand Ballroom of The Club Inc. by McCall.
She said, “A Baptist minister, Tyler also organized the Lowndesboro First Missionary Baptist Church, White Hall First Missionary Baptist Church, The Alabama Colored Baptist Convention, the Alabama District Association and chaired the board of trustees at Selma University from its inception until he died in 1904.”
He was nominated for the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame honor by The Elmore Bolling Foundation.
On May 19, 2011, the Lowndesboro school was included on the Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Landmarks & Heritage.
More, in 2017 McCall participated in an effort to collect the oral histories of Lowndes County residents and others who knew someone who was killed due to racial violence between the years 1930-1970.
She said, “These oral histories will be made available online to the public for historical study.”
She explained, “The principal convener of the RTS project was the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law. And Collaborating entities included The Elmore Bolling Foundation, the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site of the National Park Service, Tuskegee University Archives and the Alabama NAACP.”
McCall was born in Lowndes County, Alabama. She attended G. W. Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama State University and Auburn University.
She is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (Retired), and was the first black president of the Alabama Association of School Psychologists and first person ever elected to serve two presidential terms.
She was the first black to serve as Alabama’s delegate to the National Association of School Psychologists. And she retired as Director of Special Education from the Phenix City Public Schools.
After retirement, she served as the Director of the Alabama League for the Advancement of Education working with six historical black colleges to provide tutorial and other educational services to public school children.
McCall and husband, Charlie, have two children, Carlton Alan (Chuck) McCall and Jerilyn McCall Corlew and three grandchildren Adam McCall. She currently makes her home in Montgomery.