BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - James Crowell has served as President of the Biloxi branch of the NAACP for 18 years now. He grew up a child of the 1950s and 1960s. It was not an easy time to be young and black.
"I was involved in segregation, I had to go to the back of the bus. I have sat in the back of the bus, I had to go the colored water fountain," Crowell told WLOX News.
Crowell spent his formative years in Columbus, Mississippi, the son of a maid and mechanic. He saw first hand, the ugly face of racial hatred.
It is something that has shaped who he is today.
"I try to do things that will help people have a better life, that's what I am all about," Crowell said.
As a young man, after moving to South Mississippi, he learned a lot of "life lessons" from the legendary Dr. Gilbert Mason, who served as NAACP President of the Biloxi branch for 34 years.
Crowell said a day never goes bye, when he does not think of Dr. Mason.
"I learned from him, that no matter what, we have to continue to struggle to right those wrongs that we see," he said.
Crowell said there are some people who think the NAACP, is no longer relevant. He emphatically points out, those who think that way have no idea of what this organization is all about.
"They need to sit in my desk everyday," Crowell said. "Let them hear the calls that come in from people who have these issues, and not all are discriminatory issues, then let them claim the NAACP is no longer a relevant organization."
Crowell also wants people to know, that despite the perception some people have, the NAACP is not just for African-Americans.
"We are not discriminatory about who wants to join. Our main issue is to help those people who are not being recognized in terms of their legal rights, and that is what we do," he said.
A smile comes to his face, when he thinks of the progress made in race relations, not just here in Mississippi, but nationwide, he added.
But he also makes the point, there is a long journey ahead before full equality is ever achieved.
That's why Crowell said he will continue to fight and struggle for the rights of those who are discriminated against, no matter what their race.