Lucie Campbell

Women of Achievement
1998

HERITAGE
for a woman whose achievements still enrich our lives:

Lucie Campbell

Lucie Campbell, the youngest of 11 children, was born to former slaves in Mississippi in 1885. Following her father’s death, Lucie’s mother moved the family to Memphis. Lucie graduated as the 1899 valedictorian from Kortrecht High School, which was later renamed Booker T. Washington High School. She returned there to teach until her retirement.

Lucie served five years as president of the Negro Teachers Association and was vice president at-large of the American Teachers Association. In 1916, she was one of nine founding members of the Baptist Training Union Congress of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. Shortly after its inception, she became the national music director. She was a self-taught musician who composed more than 80 hymns, many of which she did not copyright until 1950. The majority of her compositions were given to the Baptist denomination and helped to create and maintain an atmosphere of religious fervor and optimism necessary to keep the convention intact.

In 1943, she was invited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to attend a conference in Washington on Negro Child Welfare. She was a member of the National Policy Planning Commission of the National Education Association in 1946. Lucie was considered an accomplished and dynamic orator and was a popular women’s day speaker. Like many black professional women of her time, she devoted much of her life to others. She married the Rev. C.B. Williams of Nashville in 1960 and died there in 1973 following a brief illness.

Lucie Campbell is one of many African-Americans, and few Memphians, featured in the exhibit, “Wade in the Water: African-American Sacred Music Traditions,” which was at the National Civil Rights Museum. This exhibit, organized by the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Service, opened in Washington, D.C., and traveled to more than a dozen U.S. cities.

Lucie Campbell made great contributions to a collective struggle. She was a committed and inspirational teacher, both in the academic and arts fields. She did critical community work within her profession that aimed to improve opportunities for teachers and students. She worked diligently to inspire people and to shape a musical tradition that spoke to the spiritual side of a people doing the daily and necessary work of resisting oppression, building family and community institutions that would enable them to take the struggle to another level, and openly challenge a system of inequality and injustice.

Jeanne Dreifus

Women of Achievement
1998

STEADFASTNESS
for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Jeanne Dreifus

Jeanne Dreifus could have led a comfortable life of home, children, and community board memberships, but she chose to be more – a lot more.

Twenty years ago, she brought the seed of an idea to the University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University) for a youth agency to divert kids from the juvenile justice system. From its concentration on youth, the Human Services Co-Op soon included agencies for all ages. Out of the linkages that developed among the various agencies grew a number of grassroots community organizations such as the Council on Aging. Throughout the last 20 years, countless collaborations and training events have benefited our community as a result of the Human Services Co-Op.

Jeanne was also one of the founding mothers of Women of Achievement and she served two years as its president. She has served on the Mayor’s Community Relations Commission, the Free the Children think tank, and Goals for Memphis, just to name a few.

She continues to work to make her community a better place with her involvement with Aloysius Home, Inc., a residence for persons with AIDS. But she is probably best known as “The Hippy Lady.” An organization that began in 1969, the acronym stands for The Home Instruction Program for Pre-School Youngsters. The program began in Israel, but today HIPPY can be found in 11 countries and 30 states, helping mothers prepare their children for school.

Jeanne received the University of Memphis’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Award for her work in improving human relations at the university. And she was also honored with the prestigious Hannah G. Solomon Award from the Memphis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. This award is given to a person making an outstanding contribution to the council and the community.

In addition to her community involvement and being a grandmother to five grandchildren, Jeanne still finds time to interview students each year for entrance to Harvard/Radcliffe College. She is an alumna of Radcliffe and was elected alumni trustee from 1981–1985.

Jeanne received a 2001 Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Ellida Sadler Fri

Women of Achievement
1998

VISION
for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Ellida Sadler Fri

Through all of her numerous community activities, Ellida S. Fri has been a silent role model to those around her – leading with her actions. With compassionate leadership and empathy, she has paved the way for others. Her encouragement, good nature, and positive attitude have endeared her to those she meets.

Ellida became involved with the YWCA when she was 9 and attending a camp in Connecticut. She has been a volunteer ever since. Many years and three states later, she has crossed the country making an impact in every community where she has lived. In Lexington, Kentucky, she realized that groups of girls weren’t being served and she was proactive in starting racial and economic outreach while serving as the teenage program director for the YWCA. In Hawaii, she became the associate director of the YWCA where she was a founder of the Runaway House in Honolulu for delinquent girls. Since 1973, the Memphis YWCA has reaped the rewards of Ellida’s commitment to service.

She served on the organization’s Downtown Committee and also as chairperson of the “Action Audit for Change” program designed to encourage YWCA participation by women of all races and backgrounds. When the YWCA relocated to its present location on Highland Avenue, the facility was named the Ellida Sadler Fri Administration Building in appreciation of her longtime support.

In addition to working with the YWCA, she has been active with the Memphis Symphony League, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Shelby County and Tennessee Republican Women, Planned Parenthood of Memphis, Memphis Literacy Council and was honored by Big Brothers/Big Sisters as “Woman of the Year” for all her work. She was also named to “Who’s Who in Hawaii.”

Ellida’s hope is to be a beacon for young girls, helping to realize their potential and that they can do anything they set their minds to. In addition, she hopes young girls realize the honor that comes in serving others and helping those in need. Through her example, girls and women have gained strength and self-confidence.

Alison Williams

Women of Achievement
1998

HEROISM
for a woman whose heroic spirit was tested and
shown as a model to all in Shelby County and beyond:

Alison Williams

Alison Williams’ parents raised their daughter to be colorblind. So it was no wonder that as the newly elected 17-year-old student body president of Hernando High School, she questioned the race-based student election system that began during integration in 1970.

Freshmen, sophomore and junior classes elected co-presidents – a black student and a white student for each class – as a way to give representation to black and white students. The high school also had two principals – one black and one white. The common response was, “That’s just the way we do it here.”

“Race relations are good, so why does the school need this system?” Alison wondered.

She spoke up about this policy at a DeSoto County School Board meeting in May 1997. The school board quickly dismissed Alison’s question, but they couldn’t dismiss her conviction. She believed that the student body should be able to vote for student council representatives based on individual merit and the individual’s desire to run and serve. She decided to fight to the end.

With assistance from a local parents group, Alison and her parents persuaded the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education to investigate. As the investigation became publicized, Alison began losing friends at school. One teacher told her she was disappointed in her. Eventually the national media approached her – the Associated Press, Good Morning America, CNN, and 20/20.

A petition to have her impeached was started by a teacher and a few former friends. However, on June 2, 1997, the DeSoto County School Board announced that there would be no ethnicity requirements on any activity at Hernando High School. A month later, it became a countywide change. And she learned that the next year, there would be only one principal at the school.

Alison is now a senior and is thankful for the friends who stood by her in her fight. Alison has said that if she could go back, she would do it all over again. She is what we call people who challenge accepted practice and spark important debate about unpopular causes – a hero.

Alison completed high school out-of-state and is a straight-A student in criminal justice at Northwest Mississippi Community College. She works for the Sheriff’s Department and raises and trains horses.

Doris Bradshaw

Women of Achievement
1998

COURAGE
for a woman who, facing active opposition,
backed an unpopular cause in which she deeply believed:

Doris Bradshaw

Doris Bradshaw stood up against powerful forces to protect her community.

Doris serves as the executive director of the Defense Depot of Memphis, Tennessee – Concerned Citizens’ Committee which was formed during a PTA meeting in October 1995, to address the pollution the Defense Depot was causing in the black residential community surrounding it. She became known as “troublemaker” when she began researching the issues connecting pollution and cancer which contributed to her grandmother’s death. She discovered scores of chemicals flowed throughout the Depot’s 18 drainage ditches into the surrounding community, which included eight schools.

Doris’ efforts have resulted in many achievements for the community. When health department statistics showed the cancer rate in her community was twice as high as the country as a whole, she challenged plans to “pump and treat” contaminated water beneath the depot because it was insufficient and not scientifically well-founded. She demanded that the Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry perform another health assessment on the community surrounding the Defense Depot. The assessment proved that the one done in 1995 was unscientific. Later, she created and chaired the community board of the Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry. She searched for an outside lab to test samples of the water in Memphis and identify contaminants.

Doris is also a community representative for the Community Tribal Subcommittee of the Board of Scientific Counselors, one of the nine people chosen from a field of 75 applicants.

In order to keep people informed about environmental racism, Doris travels extensively and has become a familiar figure in this movement. She has been appointed to and chairs the Tennessee African-American Environmental Justice Action Network and she is a member of the Tennessee Minority Health Coalition.

A member of the National Organization for Women, she conducted a workshop at their 1997 annual conference titled, “A River of Pollution Runs Through It: Women Fighting Environmental Racism in the South.”

Shelia Tankersley

Women of Achievement
1998

DETERMINATION
for a woman who solved a glaring problem despite
widespread inertia, apathy or ignorance around her:

Shelia Tankersley

Shelia Tankersley watched her best friend, who was diagnosed with AIDS, speak out about his disease and become involved with local AIDS education and support groups. He died in 1989, but his struggle with the disease changed her life forever, and she promised him she would continue working for this cause.

At first, she organized friends and family to rock newborns at The Med. Soon the staff started asking if she could help babysit so patients wouldn’t miss appointments. Still more requests came for help with diapers and transportation. Recognizing a need in the community, Shelia founded Loving Arms in 1991, a nonprofit group with a goal of providing emotional and financial support to women and children battling HIV/AIDS.

By 1994, with a grant from the Ryan White Foundation, she was able to lease a van to provide transportation to her clients who come from St. Jude, Methodist/Le Bonheur Healthcare and most of the area hospitals and social services. Other money comes from donations and fundraisers.

As the number of clients continued to grow, Shelia was forced to make a career decision. She prayed very hard, and in 1995 she decided to walk away from her job of 14 years to devote herself full time as executive director of Loving Arms. However, the only means of support for herself and the organization was her savings.

In 1996, with another grant from the Ryan White Foundation, she was able to pay herself a salary. Her staff is comprised of about 75 volunteers working with 93 families and close to 200 children.

AIDS is a controversial disease, and Shelia has not escaped negative comments. But other people’s opinions have not slowed her down. While caring for others, she also has raised four children as a single parent. Her children are all involved in Loving Arms. One daughter quit her job to drive the van full time.

Shelia has won the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award, the East Memphis Exchange Club’s “Book of Golden Deeds Award,” and in 1996 she was awarded Mayor W.W. Herenton’s “Make A Difference Award,” the first of 12 to be given to Memphis citizens who are giving something back to their communities. In 1997, she was featured in the Sept. 16 issue of Family Circle magazine.

Shelia says the greatest blessing has been the women and children she serves daily. Her clients are some of the bravest and most determined women she has ever met, living with the personal, emotional, physical and financial stress of their disease, yet possessing positive attitudes and a will to survive. And the children, with all the difficulties they encounter, are filled with love and joy. She feels we can all learn from these children.

Tonga Nguyen

Women of Achievement
1998

INITIATIVE
for a woman who seized the
opportunity to use her talents and created her own future:

Tonga Nguyen

Tonga Nguyen knows what it’s like to start your life over – and over again. She has found success after coming to a new country, learning a new language, experiencing a new culture, buying a new business and then yet another new business. And all before she was 26 years old.

Tonga, her parents and two brothers came to Memphis in 1990 as South Vietnamese refugees fleeing the brutal North Vietnamese Communist government. Unlike immigrants, refugees are designated by the United States government as having documented political or religious persecution that could cost them their lives in their native land. The family arrived in their new homeland with only $50, minimal possessions, and hopes for safety and freedom. They were placed in an apartment on Court Street in Midtown Memphis and received additional help from the agency that resettled them, Refugee Services of Associated Catholic Charities.

Tonga spoke little English when she arrived in the United States. Determined to receive an education, she entered the 10th grade at Central High School when she was 18 years old. She tenaciously pursued her studies and spent many hours away from school in the library. Tonga graduated from high school in 1994 at the age of 22. She became a U.S. citizen in 1995.

While still a student, Tonga worked after school in the office of the apartment building where the family lived. Eventually she was promoted to manager. After graduating, it was clear that Tonga was a natural entrepreneur. She convinced her brother to help her purchase a grocery store in North Memphis. It proved to be a dangerous business. The family sold the store in 1995 after numerous robberies, which resulted in an employee being killed and her father being critically wounded.

Tonga was unwilling to give in and pursued another business endeavor. She used the proceeds of the sale of the grocery store, her family’s savings and other financing to purchase two apartment buildings with 80 units on Court Street. In 1996, just six years after arriving in Memphis with nothing, Tonga and her family purchased the building where they first lived. Her position evolved from tenant to manager to landlord. Today, in addition to her duties as a landlord, she manages more than 400 apartments in other buildings in the neighborhood for Roberts Properties.

She said in a recent newspaper interview, “When I came (to America), I expected freedom. And I believed that if you worked hard, you could make it.”