New Orleans Civil Rights Activist Carlton Roy Dies
Roy was a founding member of the Black Businessman's Association of Louisiana
CAIN BURDEAU The Associated Press
August 14, 2011NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Carlton J. Roy Sr., a black businessman who worked against segregation alongside influential New Orleans civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Avery Alexander and Dorothy Mae Taylor, has died. He was 94.
Roy died on Aug. 6 in the city he did most of his work, according to a funeral announcement. Grandson Shedrick Roy said Wednesday that his grandfather was unable to recover from a recent stroke.
Roy was a founding member of the Black Businessman's Association of Louisiana. He owned several businesses in Central City, which was at the heart of the black civil rights movement in the 1950s and '60s in New Orleans. They included a hauling company, taxi cab fleet, laundry, bar and restaurant. He let early black politicians use his property for campaign offices.
Shedrick Roy said his grandfather was known as a fearless Civil Rights activist. "He would say: `We know they're going to sic the dogs on us, we know there is a possibility that we'll get beat, but we're going to march,'" he recalled.
"He was driven. He was one who didn't like inequality for people and in particular for black people," his grandson said. "If you told my grandfather you couldn't do it, he would prove you wrong."
As a successful black businessman, Roy had some resources to help African-American politicians.
Ernest "Dutch" Morial, the city's first black mayor, and Alexander and Taylor ran campaigns out of his properties, according to family members. His wife, Ida Mae Kuluke Roy, cooked food for Morial's campaign, the grandson said.
"White people respected him because he had a skill, a little money and he could talk," his grandson said. "He was very smart."
Alexander was born on Feb. 27, 1917, in New Iberia, his family said.
He got his start with Martin Luther King Jr. and in 1963 he famously went into the segregated basement cafeteria of City Hall in New Orleans and refused to leave. He was dragged up stairs by police, which was caught on film.
Two police officers grabbed Alexander by his heels and slid him across the cafeteria floor and up the steps. The reverend later organized boycotts to force utility and transit companies to hire black bus drivers.
Dorothy Mae Taylor was the first woman on the New Orleans City Council and the sponsor of a bitterly debated 1991 law banning racial discrimination among Mardi Gras parade clubs. She served as a state representative in the early 1970s and was one of the first blacks elected to the Louisiana Legislature and was the first black woman elected to serve there.
Carlton Roy also helped Oretha Castle-Haley, the Rev. A. L. Davis and the Rev. Sampson "Skip" Alexander, other important civil rights leaders, family members said. Roy also served as the master of ceremonies for an event featuring King in New Orleans, Shedrick Roy said. He was uncertain of the event's date.
Lance Hill, the executive director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research, a race relations center based at Tulane University, said black businessmen played an important role in the civil rights movement because they were able to help black candidates who found it hard to round up money for campaigns.
"There were few African-Americans who were able to donate to political campaigns," Hill said. "The white community, or elite, had difficulty controlling independent black businessmen because they weren't in their employ."
Roy served in the Army during World War II and spent time in Germany, his grandson said. He also was a member of the International Longshoreman's Association.
His grandson said Roy was a licensed air condition and refrigeration repairman, one of the city's first black licensed repairmen, and that he helped many folks after Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Betsy get back into their homes free of charge.
"He was a humanitarian," his grandson said. "He was very proud of what he did after the hurricanes."
Roy was preceded in death by his wife and six siblings. He is survived by his children, Carlton Jr., Errol, Shedrick Sr. and Adreian Roy.
A mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday at St. Katherine Drexel Church.