- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

MONROE, La. (AP) - Funeral arrangements are incomplete for civil rights pioneer Benny Ausberry.

The News-Star reports (http://tnsne.ws/1AAmf1Z) Ausberry died Saturday after a lengthy illness. He was 81.

Ausberry, whose lawsuit against Monroe changed the infrastructure of city government, later served on the City Council he helped create. He was also instrumental in making improvements to his Powell Street neighborhood and was the driving force behind the city building the Powell Street Recreation Center.

He was also a long-time Boy Scout troop master and a founding member of Citizens United for Progress, formed in the 1960s to elevate African-Americans’ voices in local government.

“Benny Ausberry was a giant,” Mayor Jamie Mayo told the newspaper Sunday. “In addition to being one of the original five City Council members, he secured jobs and improved the quality of life for many in our community.

“He paved the way for people like me to be able to serve. I had the privilege to serve with him for seven months as a councilman during Mayor Bob Powell’s administration. Our prayers are with his family.”

Ausberry, an educator by profession, was a native of Mangham.

He and the late Alfred Blakes, whose daughter Betty Blakes currently serves as a member of the City Council, filed a lawsuit against the city in 1974 to challenge its three-person commission form of government. Members were elected at-large, and blacks were still the minority, preventing their representation.

In 1978 the U.S. District Court found the Monroe Commission Council form of government and its at-large scheme unconstitutionally diluted the votes of black residents, denying them any meaningful access to the voting process.

Ausberry was elected to the City Council in 1980 in the first election following the lawsuit, which required the city to map five districts and elect a representative from each district. He and the late Charles Johnson were the first blacks to serve on the council.

He served on the City Council for four terms through 1996.

As president of Citizens for Progress, Ausberry and other members helped swing Ouachita Parish into Edwin Edwards’ column during the 1972 gubernatorial election, the first tangible sign of the group’s political muscle.

He was appointed to the Monroe Planning and Zoning Board in 1972 and served in other leadership positions to advance race relations such as the Monroe City School Board Bi-Racial Committee.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Miller Funeral Home.

___

Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide