Ludye Wallace, one of the more colorful politicos to have served in Metro Council, has found himself back in the political fray, this time running for president of the local NAACP chapter.
Wallace, who served 20 continuous years in the Council before losing in 1995 to fellow Council incumbent Julius Sloss, is running a head-to-head race for the volunteer position against NAACP vice president Marilyn Robinson.
Since his loss in 1995, Wallace has tried to renew his political standing, most recently losing a four-way Democratic primary for state Rep. Edith Langster’s seat.
Local NAACP chapter officials say they expect only about 200 to 300 of the approximately 2,600 local members to vote next Tuesday, Nov. 17, for outgoing president Neal Darby Jr.’s replacement. Those low numbers have Wallace’s supporters and critics alike predicting that he could very well wrest control of the local organization. In fact, Wallace nearly won the presidency two years ago, losing to Darby by just a handful of votes.
During his legislative career, Wallace gained an odd kind of respect from his Council colleagues for his incredible mastery of parliamentary procedure and his relentless involvement in minority issues. But he was frequently a fly in the ointment of progress, often voting against the annual Metro budget and periodically championing more Council perks like increased pay and the establishment of pensions.
Darby notes that Wallace is a life member of the NAACP who has served as a board member and officer in the past, and he says Wallace’s past antics shouldn’t “disqualify” him from running. But other local black leaders have aligned themselves with Robinson.
Rosetta Miller-Perry, an NAACP board member and publisher of the black Tennessee Tribune newspaper, says Wallace “would not make a good spokesperson for the NAACP.” She says Wallace is running for “political reasons” and “needs to move on with his life.”
Perry goes so far as to say that if Wallace were to win next week’s election, she would resign from the board. She predicts others would as well.
For his part, Wallace points out that the position is an unpaid one, and that his experience as an elected official particularly qualifies him to pursue the traditional functions of the organization, such as investigating discrimination in local government. “Metro Government is something I’m very familiar with,” he says.
Other black leaders, while holding nothing against Wallace, are supporting Robinson, who is the executive director of Nashville’s Minority Business Development Center.
“I think she (Robinson) brings a good standard of professionalism,” says the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, pastor of Corinthian Baptist Church. “We need people to serve just to serve, not because they want recognition or titles.”
But Fuzz also points out something other prominent local leadersblack and whitehave been noticing for some time now. The NAACP has become too “reactionary,” he says. “The black community in Nashville has been too stagnant, and I blame the leaders. They’ve been too laid-back.”
Robinson herself has not been without some controversy. She was behind a letter sent to Mayor Phil Bredesen last year claiming Metro officials have shown “disparate” treatment to blacks seeking to do business with the city. The letter, which came out of Metro’s decision to reopen bidding for a hotel next to the arena after black developer Charles Covington repeatedly missed deadlines, prompted Bredesen to fire back. The mayor acknowledged treating Covington differently, “but the different treatment has been in Mr. Covington’s favor,” the mayor said at the time. “Mr. Covington has gotten good faith extensions times five.”
The local NAACP has taken other controversial positions recently, which observers note have done nothing to advance the organization’s credibility or political effectiveness. Last year, for example, when Gov. Don Sundquist innocuously referred to Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodsonwho beat UT quarterback Peyton Manning for the honoras “this guy from Michigan,” the NAACP’s executive director called on the governor to apologize because she found the phrase offensive to blacks.
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