Black History Month: Ouachita Parish civil rights activist - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Black History Month: Ouachita Parish civil rights activist

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OUACHITA PARISH, La. (KNOE 8 News) - John Russell is the pastor at New Antioch Baptist Church in Ouachita Parish. He is also only the second African-American to be on the parish's school board. In honor of Black History Month our Nolan Crane brings us another story about a pioneer for equality in the ark-la-miss.

Reverend John L. Russell has stood at this pulpit for 50 years. He practices what he preaches just like his hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who he met and heard speak.

"That was one of the thrills of my life because he gave me incentive to do better and be better," said Russell.

After King's death Russell fought for equality. He marched and protested for 10 years to get the Ouachita Parish School Board to observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"I can remember when Ouachita Parish did not recognize Martin Luther King's birthday and

other people were out of school and off work and stuff but not Ouachita Parish," said Luberta Byrd.

"If king could not get any recognition for being a servant that people were ignoring and treating him you know as though he didn't exist, what happened to us," asked Russell.

Russell went to serve Ouachita Parish as a school board member and has held the position for 28 years. Thanks to his leadership and dedication in rallying people together in support of King, Ouachita Parish changed its stance.

Luberta Byrd says every community stands on the shoulders of pioneers who sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves. She puts Reverend Russell in the same category as other well-known civil rights leaders.

"I feel like if he hadn't done some of the things that he's done a lot of this stuff wouldn't have come to pass," says Byrd.

Reverend John Russell is currently the longest serving member of the Ouachita Parish School Board.

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