First black sheriff in St. Helena Parish

– The first black sheriff in the history of St. Helena Parish has taken his oath of office.

Nathaniel “Nat” Williams was the chief criminal deputy under former Sheriff Ronald “Gun” Ficklin before becoming sheriff. He was sworn-in during ceremonies on Friday.

Ficklin resigned as sheriff after pleading guilty to 17 federal counts last year. He admitted that he worked with a stolen car “chop shop” and had state prisoners housed in the parish jail work there and as his personal race car pit crew.

Ficklin is serving a 63-month prison sentence.

Williams, who started his law enforcement career as a dispatcher, was elected with 51.6% of the vote in the October primary against four other candidates.

He becomes the parish’s eighth sheriff.

Ark. panel rejects resolution congratulating Obama

An Arkansas House committee has rejected a resolution congratulating President Barack Obama on his electoral victory after some lawmakers questioned wording that referred to the United States being founded by slave owners.

Six members of the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs voted Wednesday to recommend the nonbinding resolution to the House, while 11 members voted against it. Several of the critics took issue with a sentence that began, “whereas, a nation founded by slave owners…”

“My recollection of American history is that while some of the founders were slave owners, some of them were abolitionists. And some of them were sent to the constitutional convention from states that made slavery illegal,” said Rep. Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock.

Rep. Ed Garner, R-Maumelle, echoed that argument, adding “this nation was not founded on the basis of slavery, was not founded to promote slavery.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, said she didn’t intend her resolution to be divisive and that she thought it was truthful.

“Just because something is not palatable or might be offensive, you cannot dismiss this as the truth that was present at the time our country formed,” Flowers said.

The resolution notes Obama’s academic and political achievements, before congratulating him “on his historic election as the forty-fourth president of the United States.”

Flowers said she was disappointed but not surprised that the resolution failed. She noted that the majority of Arkansas voters picked Republican presidential nominee John McCain last year.

Flowers said she wasn’t sure if she’d remove the reference to slave owners and bring the measure back before the committee, whose 20 members are all white.

“But I’m hopeful and will remain hopeful that Arkansas as a state can educate our children and ourselves about the truth,” she said.

JILL ZEMAN, AP

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Awards Melanie L. Campbell Social Action Award

– In recognition of her outstanding work as a civic leader, public administrator, and civil rights activist, Melanie L. Campbell was presented the Althea T. L. Simmons Social Action Award during Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s 49th National Convention held recently in Orlando, Florida.

The award was presented by Dr. Louise A. Rice, national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Marcia L. Fudge, Esq., co-chair of the sorority’s Social Action Commission.

“I never had the opportunity to meet Althea Simmons, but I am aware of her great accomplishments, especially lobbying for the extension of the Voting Rights Act,” said Campbell, executive director and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (www.ncbcp.org). “I am honored to accept this award from my sorors and hope that I live up to the example set by Ms. Simmons and others whose shoulders I stand on.”

A sisterhood of more than 200,000 predominately Black college educated women, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, is a private, non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world.

With over 20 years of experience, Campbell is a nationally recognized expert in black voter participation, election reform, and voting rights. She spearheaded the creation of the successful Unity Voter Empowerment Campaign, and founded an innovative, youth-focused leadership development program, Black Youth Vote!, for which she received the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Legacy Award (’03).

Certified in non-profit management by the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute Executive Program, the Clark University graduate was in the first class of the Progressive Women’s Voices at the Women’s Media Center, and served as a resident fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University.

Campbell has published numerous articles on civic participation. Most recently, she contributed to Opportunity Journal magazine, the National Urban League’s scholarly journal. She is a contributing writer in the 2006 Harvard University Journal on African Americans in Public Policy, and has been a guest expert on radio and television shows including CNN News, Washington Journal, and The Bev Smith Show.

A proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Campbell serves on the board of the Black Leadership Forum and is also a member of SCLC W.O.M.E.N., NAACP, NCNW, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the National Association of Female Executives.