Legacy of L.C. Dorsey is unparalleled in the war on poverty in Mississippi

lcdorseyBy Alice Thomas-Tisdale

Jackson Advocate Publisher

Few people, if any, have achieved making such a vast impact on their state in the areas of health care, prison reform, education and community development more than Dr. L.C. Dorsey. The pride of the

Mississippi Delta went from working on a plantation at age 8, to becoming a wife and working mom of six children, a civil rights activist, an intellectual, a health care specialist, an education, jobs and prison reform advocate, a protector of the black press, a proponent in the war on poverty, a writer and author, and a spokesperson for underserved populations in her state over the course of her 76 years. Dr. Dorsey succumbed on Wednesday. Funeral arrangements were not available at press time.

“I am extremely heartbroken over the passing of Dr. L. C. Dorsey. She was such a source of strength and wisdom for me personally. I was always humbled when I was in her presence because of the sacrifices that she made not just for herself but for her people. She will truly be missed in  my life,” said Cynthia Goodloe Palmer, Executive Director, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, an organization Dr. Dorsey was very involved with. Dr. Dorsey was born December 17, 1938, in Tribbett, MS.

She later moved to Shelby, MS, where she and her husband had the complex task of keeping the family safe during the turbulent Civil Rights Era. One day, Fannie Lou Hamer knocked on her door enlisting her help to improve conditions for black delta residents. She answered the door and the call, and the two worked untiringly on voting rights, civil rights, human rights, the Freedom Farm Cooperative and other projects that made significant changes in communities of color, including Head Start, health initiatives and prisoner rights.

Her incredible life journey has been captured in scores of oral interviews, documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles and book references. Dr. Dorsey has received numerous awards and citations for her community organizing and goodwill. As early as 1964, she was organizing communities, even to the point of initiating boycotts with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She also worked with the Community Action Program creating job opportunities for youth and adults.

Mississippi Senate Resolution 33, adopted in 2005, only begins to tell the story of this magnificent woman: A RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING AND PAYING TRIBUTE TO DR. L.C. DORSEY, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, DELTA RESEARCH AND CULTURAL INSTITUTE, MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY, FOR HER CONTRIBUTIONS AS EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR 2005.

WHEREAS, on February 17, 2005, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning recognized Dr. L.C. Dorsey, Associate Director, Delta Research and Cultural Institute, Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU), as the Black History Month Educator of the Year 2005; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Dorsey was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta to tenant farmer parents. She dropped out of Drew Colored School in the 11th grade to care for her family and later returned to school at the age of 31 to earn her GED. Today, she holds a Doctorate Degree in Social Work from Howard University in Washington, D.C., a Master’s Degree in Social Work from State University of New York in Stony Brook, New York, and a Certificate in Health Systems Management from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Dorsey’s employment experiences include working as a laborer on several cotton plantations; as a local community organizer during the Civil Rights movement of the sixties; as a teacher in Operation Head Start (Bolivar County); and as a community organizer with Tuft’s Delta Health Center (Bolivar County). She helped to organize and was selected Director of the 427-acre farm cooperative (North Bolivar County Farm Cooperative, A.A.L.) which was developed by Tuft’s Delta Health Center, Inc., Mound Bayou, Mississippi; and

WHEREAS, in addition to community development activities, Dr. Dorsey has also been involved in the following social services/educational activities: Director of Social Services, Washington County Opportunities, Inc. (Greenville, Mississippi); Director of Administration and community advocate for prison reform, Mississippi Prisoners’ Defense Committee; Associate Director, Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons (Jackson, Mississippi); Program Director, Offender Services, Lutheran Social Services (Washington, D.C.); Assistant to the Chief Health Officer, Memphis Health Center, Inc. (Memphis, Tennessee); Assistant Research Professor, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi (Goodman, Mississippi); Executive Director, Delta Health Center, Inc. (Mound Bayou, Mississippi); Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Jackson State University (Jackson, Mississippi); Director, Mississippi Area Health Education Centers and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center (Jackson, Mississippi); and

WHEREAS, in 2001, Dr. Dorsey joined the staff of the Delta Research and Cultural Institute (DRCI) at Mississippi Valley State University, where she has been very instrumental in leading the cause for diversity at the “Valley of Scholars”; and

WHEREAS, Dr Dorsey is recognized as one of Mississippi’s living legends and is a true advocate of community involvement; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Dorsey has been recognized for her longtime civil rights activism and commitment to education by the following recognitions: recipient, The Lifetime Achievement Award, Mississippi Chapter, National Association of Social Workers, Jackson, Mississippi; recipient, The Harriet Tubman Award, The Magnolia Bar Association, Jackson, Mississippi; recipient, “Long Distance Runner Award,” “Distinguished Social Award,” The Jackson Chapter, National Association of Black Social Workers, Jackson, Mississippi; induction into the Hall of Fame, National Museum of the Voting Rights, Selma, Alabama; recipient of Certificate of Appreciation Mississippi Community Foundation during the Freedom Summer 30th Year Anniversary; recipient of the Mississippi State Health Officers Award for Outstanding Services in Health Promotion; and a member of The President’s Health Care Reform Professional’s Review Committee, William Jefferson Clinton, President; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Dorsey is a renowned author of numerous books, including, but not limited to, Southern Journey; Local People, This Little Light of Mine and Free at Last; and WHEREAS, Dr. Dorsey’s commitment to academic and professional excellence and her willingness to share her own story to encourage others of all races and backgrounds to succeed makes her an extremely valuable resource at MVSU and for the State of Mississippi: NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, Dr. L.C. Dorsey for her tireless efforts in the pursuit of excellence in education and commitment to positive advancement of diversity atMVSU, in the Delta Community, and in the State of Mississippi. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution be presented to Dr. Dorsey in recognition of her commitment to diversity and higher education, be forwarded to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and the President of Mississippi Valley State University, and be made available to the Capitol Press Corps.

Since 2005, Dr. Dorsey has received many more accolades for her devotion to Christian service, including the Fannie Lou Hamer Award presented by the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute at Jackson State University. A few years ago, she wrote a major piece on her mentor, Fannie Lou Hamer, which was published in the Advocate. There is even an award named for Dr. Dorsey by the Mary S. Nelum Foundation.

After retiring in 2006, Dr. Dorsey spent the majority of her time gardening, speaking, reading and counseling others. A charter member of the Mississippi chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, Dr. Dorsey was also a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the Mississippi Conference on Social Welfare, the Mississippi Association of Public Health, the American Public Health Association, the advisory committee of the W.K. Kellogg Fellowship Program in Health Policy Research (Washington, D.C.), Southern Black Women for Economic and Social Justice, Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), Mississippi Families for Kids (Jackson, MS), and several other state and local organizations whose missions include changing the environment and lives of people who are affected by negative social conditions, such as poverty, inadequate education, and/or racism.

Supporting L.C. Dorsey’s later life community work was her late husband, Richard Young, JD, MSW. She is survived by six adult children and seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

Editor’s Note: Dr. L.C. Dorsey is largely responsible for the resurgence of the Jackson Advocate in the late 1970s. Her moral and financial support of the newspaper since that time has enabled us to provide valuable information to the public. Although we met on few occasions, her influence on the work we do was felt every day. The plant she gave me when the Charles Tisdale died in 2007 just lost its last leaf. However, what else she gave me that day and since, which was a sense of purpose, will continue to inspire me to strive to do more. L.C. was a counselor, a friend, a comrade in the struggle for equal rights and self-determination. We will  miss her warm smile.

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