For nearly 40 years, Willie Haynes, Jr. devoted his time and talents to improving African-Americans’ quality of life in Monroe. He died last week at the age of 87.
Graveside services were held at the Richwood Memorial Gardens on Saturday, March 13, 2021, under Smith Funeral Home’s direction.
Haynes devoted most of his adult life to the nation as a veteran and the local community as the leader of various successful community initiatives.
During the 1960s Civil Rights endeavor Haynes promoted African-American voter registration after the enactment of the 1965 Votings Rights act. He was among the new leaders of the 60s that floated the new idea of African-Americans holding elective office. Before that time, the community supported white officials as political surrogates to get improvements for the poor and minorities.
The idea of African-Americans serving as council leaders, mayors, and school board members was thought unachievable for African-Americans before the wave of thinking promoted those in Haynes’ generation.
A prolific reader, Haynes was among his generation’s intellectual leadership, applying principles associated with the National Civil Rights movement to Ouachita Parish. Along with other men of his generation, such as Richard O. Miles, Anthony Facen, and John Reddix, Haynes raised the possibility of blacks holding office in Ouachita Parish. To accomplish that goal, he became a candidate for District 17 House of Representatives, along with Miles, Reddix, and others who also qualified to run for offices, knowing they had little chance of victory.
In 1970, he pushed to reorganize the Ouachita Parish NAACP and through the NAACP, pushed to change Monroe’s form of government from the Commission Council (three-members city) to single-member districts. Successive NAACP leaders continued the push that Haynes began, which ultimately resulted in the present form of government in 1980 and the city’s first black officials since Reconstruction.
Haynes became the commander of the F.D. Thompson American Legion Post 521. He used his influence with veterans to promote voter registration and participation by African-Americans and continued and expanded the Post’s push to train young men using Boy Scouting and other initiatives.
Simultaneously, Haynes helped Develop and Manage a credit union for teachers, the expansion of the Ouachita Community Action Agency and Head Start programs, and African-American involvement in the Monroe Housing Authority’s leadership.
Haynes, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, served as the Monroe Housing Authority’s assistant director and worked with other great thinkers in the African-American community to chart a path for improved housing for the poor. That brain trust included Joseph Miller, Jr, and Henry Bonner, among others who worked with former Director Frank Wilcox to provide a quality housing program for the poor that has been praised across the United States.
A member of Allen Chapel, A.M.E. Church, Haynes believed that the community’s future rested in its ability to get its best minds positioned to control the instruments of government that set policy and procedures for our people.