East Biloxi civic organization to honor community champions

Gilbert Mason Jr.
Gilbert Mason Jr.

The Dr. Gilbert R. Mason Sr. Civil Liberty League will hold its 11th Annual Banquet 6 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Dr. Frank Gruich Sr. Community Center, 591 Howard Ave., Biloxi.

This year’s theme is “No Voice, No Vote, Yes, We Can.”

Kent Jones, Harrison County Board of Supervisors president, will be the event’s keynote speaker.

Dr. Gilbert Mason Jr. and longtime Elks Lodge manager Bro. Jackie Mitchell will be honored for their impactful community service.

The League — an umbrella organization of the Vernon Gilbert Elks Lodge #575 and Gulf Coast Temple #471 — was formed in July 2006 to help maintain community awareness and improve quality of life, through promoting equal access to employment and economic opportunities, along with organizing voter registration and education campaigns.

The League then named the organization after Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr., one week after his death. The highly decorated Civil Rights leader led a series of “Wade-In” marches and court battles that resulted in the 1968 desegregation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches, enduring violent attacks by the police and angry mobs, along with the firebombing of his property.

Mason Sr. also helped found the Biloxi branch of the NAACP and served as its first president for 34 years.

Jones was elected as Supervisor of Harrison County District 4 in 2016 and subsequently elected by the new board as its president.

Dr. Gilbert Mason Jr., himself, a noted physician, witnessed much of his father’s Civil Rights, medical and community achievements and has been a mainstay in preserving his legacy and history.

He holds annual events that keeps the Wade-In story in the public eye and also works with local historians to keep alive other valued accomplishments by Biloxi’s and South Mississippi’s black community.

Mitchell has served in several capacities with the Vernon Gilbert Elks Lodge, including Past Leading Knight, Past Exalted Ruler and Treasurer. He was also a Basillieus with the Iota Upsilon Chapter of Omega Psi Phi. He was a longtime Civil Service instructor at Keesler Air Force Base.

Donations for the banquet are $20. For more information, contact Nell Davis at 228-233-5500.

Dr. Gilbert R. Mason Sr. Civil Liberty League’s 11th Annual Banquet

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16,

Where: Dr. Frank Gruich Sr. Community Center, 591 Howard Ave., Biloxi.

Donations: $20

Contact: 228-233-5500.