By Clint Confehr
COLUMBIA, TN — The NAACP branch here — now in a reorganization period — may rise again this spring, according to officials with the association’s state conference.
Membership in the Columbia Maury County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was seen by national association officials as less than 50 nearly 18 months ago, the officials said after a Jan. 20 report saying the branch closed.
Branches need at least 50 members.
For about three months, the NAACP’s Tennessee State Conference has been helping the branch under the supervision of Paco Havard, a state NAACP branch reconstruction leader, and Area Coordinator Larry Patton, Conference President Gloria Sweet-Love said.
Havard is reaching out for new and renewal memberships, Sweet-Love said. In 4-6 weeks, conference leaders may call an election for new branch officers.
The Rev. Timothy D. Byrdsong “has not been president for over a year because the branch is not in compliance,” Sweet-Love said. “People in Columbia and other nearby counties were saying he’s a good person, but he’s just too busy.”
Elected in November 2016, Byrdsong said he didn’t bite off more than he could chew, but mentioned his move from being a state corrections officer to being a school resource officer.
“I didn’t know I was going to be hired within law enforcement, but God saw fit to allow that to happen … that calls for … intensive training” for state certification, Byrdsong said. “We had an executive board [to fill in] … Things didn’t work out … That’s the reason the state is coming down to help us to continue to work as a unit.”
Membership “has been a problem that the branch has struggled with for years,” he said.
Long-time branch members Ruth Harwell and Joan Knight say Byrdsong is a gentleman. Another long-time member, Annie Hardison, said other young people aren’t “willing to take up the baton … and we’re out of breath.”
Byrdsong doesn’t know and, without current numbers, Havard couldn’t state a membership total.
Byrdsong has roots in Columbia and is an American Baptist College student set to graduate this year.
“The Columbia branch is the only one in the state that’s being reorganized,” Sweet-Love said. There might be another, but, “If a unit is … having regular meetings, working on raising the membership, then I can ask the national office to not remove the charter.”
Havard said national officers gave Byrdsong “a chance to be a president … He would make promises and wouldn’t follow through.” Havard and about eight others are “working diligently” to add members. “We’re getting to where we need to be.” People can join by completing an annual adult membership form and sending it with $30 for annual dues to Maury County NAACP, P.O. Box 952, Columbia, TN 38401. Members live or work in the county.
One of the issues being addressed is providing receipts and/or membership cards, Havard said.
Havard might run for branch office, but it depends on others’ support. “I’m always willing to serve.”
Byrdsong said there’s a “slight possibility” he might run for office. Factors include executive committee membership.