Civil rights veteran C.C. Bryant dead at 90

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Civil rights veteran C.C. Bryant Sr., whose community service in southwest Mississippi extended well beyond the turbulent 1960s, died Sunday at his home in McComb. He was 90.

Otis Taylor, a manager at Cook’s Enterprise Funeral Home of McComb, confirmed the death. Bryant was born on Jan. 15, 1917, in Tylertown, Miss.

“Wherever I travel across the country doing this civil rights work, Mr. Bryant is known,” Anthony Witherspoon, president of the McComb branch of the NAACP, said Monday. “That name is known nationally in the movement, and so the nation will mourn today.”

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Over the years, Bryant received many awards for his activism and community service.

In 1986, he received the Medgar Evers Medallion Award. In 2005, he was honored by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. The institute’s Award for Community Organizing is named for Bryant. In 2006, Bryant received the Aaron Henry Award from the Southeast Region of the NAACP, named after the longtime Mississippi NAACP leader.

Former McComb mayor and U.S. Rep. Wayne Dowdy said Bryant was a peacemaker.

“When I was mayor, there would be a number of issues that otherwise might have been racially charged, but I could always turn to Mr. C.C. Bryant as a calming influence so that both sides could come together and reach out to each other,” Dowdy said.

Bryant served as president of the McComb NAACP for over 33 years.

“Mr. Bryant served as mentor to many and as an example strength and courage during a time of turbulence in this state’s history” said Derrick Johnson, state president of the Mississippi NAACP.

Bryant and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee launched a voter registration drive in southwest Mississippi in 1961.

In the 1960s, Bryant endured jail and threats, including the bombing of his family home and barber shop. Bryant once described McComb’s violent summer of 1964 as “hell on earth.”

Yet Bryant never became bitter, said longtime friend Izeal Bennett.

“He was a Christian man, and that’s what made him able to overcome the problems that he was confronted with,” Bennett said. “He didn’t see color as a barrier to get along. He saw it as a reason to go ahead and work together. Togetherness is what he was all about. He was a people person.”

In later years, Bryant’s work focused on crime, drug abuse, joblessness, poverty and nutrition.

Survivors include his wife, Emogene; a son and a daughter.

Taylor said a memorial service was planned for Sunday but the location had not been chosen.

Funeral services would be held Monday at 11 a.m at Society Hill Baptist Church in McComb.