JACKSON, Miss. — Rep. Charles L. Young Sr., a longtime Mississippi lawmaker, civil-rights activist and president of a company that manufactures Black hair-care products, died Wednesday at a Meridian hospital. He was 77.
JACKSON, Miss. — Rep. Charles L. Young Sr., a longtime Mississippi lawmaker, civil-rights activist and president of a company that manufactures Black hair-care products, died Wednesday at a Meridian hospital. He was 77. Young died at Rush Hospital in Meridian after a suffering a heart attack during a physical therapy session, says his daughter, Veldore Young. Funeral arrangements were incomplete. He is survived by three other children. Young, a Democrat, was elected to the Mississippi House in 1979 and took office in 1980. He had served as chairman of the Universities and Colleges Committee since 1992. He underwent triple bypass surgery in 2004. As legislators prepared to leave the Capitol on April 1, House Speaker Billy McCoy turned the microphone over to Young and let him address the chamber. Several spectators wiped away tears as Young said he thanked God for the opportunity to serve. "I love the Legislature because it gives me an opportunity to be here and help improve the quality and standards of living for everyone," Young said. McCoy, D-Rienzi, said Wednesday that he was deeply saddened by his colleague’s death. "He was one of the most astute members of the House of Representatives, one of the master legislators to serve in this body," McCoy said in a statement. "He was always a gentleman in everything he did. He loved the House, and we loved him back." Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said Young was "an absolute gentleman." Rep. Billy Broomfield, D-Moss Point, said he first met Young at political conventions in the 1970s, and when Broomfield was elected in the early 1990s, "Mr. Young was one of the people who took me under his wing and told me he was going to make sure that I learned all the do’s and don’ts of being a member of the Legislature so you can be effective back home." Young "was like a father and a mentor to me," said Broomfield, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. "We sat side by side for 18 years and not a day has gone by when we did not share something positive. I watched him and admired him for those 18 years." Young was born in Lauderdale County. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Tennessee State University and served in the Korean War and was awarded the Bronze Star. In 1969, Young became the third family member to become owner and president of E.F. Young Jr. Manufacturing Co., which was started by his father. He expanded the company’s manufacturing of cosmetics for Blacks and expanded its markets into Canada and the Caribbean. Young was active in the Civil Rights Movement in east Mississippi. In a 1998 oral-history interview for a Mississippi Civil Rights documentation project, Young said he first registered to vote in the 1950s. "And, at that time, we had to pay poll tax, which was a $2 taxation for every year, and you had to have two poll tax receipts before you could vote. Fortunately, my father and grandfather were pioneers in the arena of rights of people over in our area. And I was a registered voter," Young said in the interview that is archived at Tougaloo College and available on a University of Southern Mississippi Web site. Young was an active member of the Newell Chapel C.M.E. Church, where numerous meetings were held to plan voting registration projects and operation of the Freedom Schools. Young also participated in the boycott of white-owned stores in Meridian during the 1960s. In 1964, Young quietly helped Michael and Rita Schwerner, a young white couple who had moved from New York to Meridian to work in the Civil Rights Movement. The Schwerners lived with several Black families, moving from one home to the next after the families were threatened. When the Schwerners rented a room with no shower or tub, they went to wash up in the mornings at the Hotel E.F. Young, which was owned by Charles Young. Michael Schwerner and fellow civil rights workers James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were ambushed and killed by Ku Klux Klansmen outside Philadelphia, Miss., in June 1964 in a case investigators referred to as the "Mississippi Burning." Young helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which in 1964 challenged an all-white state delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Young said he was unable to go to Atlantic City because of a mishap at his business. Young said in the 1998 oral-history interview that he and other Black leaders recognized civil rights would be achieved through the political arena. "We viewed that if we were going to solve some of the problems that we were confronted with, we were going to have to harness some of the political power," Young said. Young was elected to the House in 1979 after a redrawing of legislative districts created more opportunities for Blacks to win election. Fifteen Black members were elected to the House in 1979. There are now 36 Blacks — with the death of Young — in the 122-member House. ______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.