An anonymous letter filled with racial slurs arrived in the mailbox of the only black elected official in Bay St. Louis on Monday.
Ward 3 Councilman Jeffery Reed read the letter that begins, N----- Jeff, at the Council meeting Monday night.
The letter, filled with racial slurs, ended with the writer inviting Reed to their next “meeting” but said he should “come to the back door.”
“I think we as a city, we as a state have progressed far beyond this,” Reed said after reading the letter. “I was talking to a couple of my daughters and said, basically, whoever wrote this is ignorant and they don’t represent Bay St. Louis and Hancock County as a whole. I think we’re better than this.”
He said he had no idea who sent the letter, which bore a Gulfport postmark.
Reed said the letter was the result of controversy over an appointment to Bay-Waveland Board of Education. Mayor Mike Favre convinced the Council to replace Joan Thomas, the only black member of the board, with longtime educator Ann Lathrop. Earlier, Favre said he would not re-appoint Thomas “based on her voting record” but he did not specify which votes.
The Council approved Favre’s nomination on a 5-2 vote with Reed and Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Zimmerman voting no.
Favre said the nomination had nothing to do with race and that a “lady is a minority,” a statement that got the crowd going.
“She’s highly recommended by many people,” said Favre of Lathrop.
Reed said he had a good working relationship with the mayor, having first worked together in the Bay recreation department as college students.
“You’re taking diversity off the school board,” he said to much applause. “When you take diversity off the school board and the school board doesn’t look like the school system, I think it’s a step backward.”
About 30 percent of students in the Bay-Waveland School District are black, said Hancock County NAACP President Gregory Barbino.
Favre said he was confident Lathrop could represent every child in the district, regardless of color.