John LeFlore

John LeFlore (1903-1976) was a prominent civil rights leader in Mobile. LeFlore worked with Mayor Joe Langan to achieve integration without violence.

LeFlore was born in Mobile in 1903 to Dock and Clara LeFlore. He graduated from Owen Academy in 1920. He married Teah Beck in 1922 and began work for the U.S. Postal Service.

In 1926 LeFlore reorganized the Mobile chapter of the NAACP and served as its executive secretary from its inception to 1956.

In the 1930s and `40s, he helped open Pullman dining car service to blacks, and helped open employment opportunities for blacks in the U.S. Postal Service.

LeFlore became correspondent for the Chicago Defender in 1942, as well as the Pittsburgh Courier and the Associated Negro Press, and covered many of the civil rights violations in the South. The Defender awarded LeFlore a citation for covering the lynching of four black people in Monroe, Georgia, in 1946. LeFlore later became associate editor of the Mobile Beacon and wrote many editorials and features for this weekly newspaper.

In 1956 when the NAACP was outlawed in Alabama, LeFlore and others in Mobile shifted their civil rights work to the Non-Partisan Voters League. LeFlore remained with the League even after the ban was lifted in 1964 and the Mobile branch of the NAACP was reorganized.

He was instrumental in filing the Birdie Mae Davis lawsuit in 1963 that forced the integration of Mobile County Schools, as well as the Bolden vs. City of Mobile suit that forced a change in Mobile’s form of government. In lNovember 1962, John LeFlore presented a petition for the desegregation of Mobile schools, signed by the parents of twenty-seven African American students, to the all-white school board. When the school board failed to act on the petition, Vernon Crawford filed suit against the Mobile County School Board on behalf of Birdie Mae Davis, Henry Hobdy, and twenty other African American students.

Shots were fired at his house in 1965 and his home on Chatague Avenue was fire-bombed in 1967.

LeFlore was appointed by Mayor Langan to the Board of Commissioners of the Mobile Housing Authority in 1966 and remained on the board until 1970. He was the first African American appointed to the Housing Board and, with J. Gary Cooper, was the first elected to the state legislature from Mobile since Reconstruction.

He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1974 as a Democrat. He served in that position until his death in 1976.

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