By Joel Hall
As a boy, William J. "Bill" Breeding, Sr., learned how to play golf working as a caddy on segregated golf courses in Birmingham, Ala. As an adult, he spent many years integrating golf courses throughout the South.
"Blacks couldn't play then, even up to the '70s," said attorney Katrina Breeding, his daughter. Her father was the first black man to integrate the Greene County Golf and Country Club near their hometown of Greensboro, Ga.
On Wednesday, about 20 people braved the rain to play a few rounds of golf to usher in the first William J. Breeding, Sr., Golf Tournament, and kick off the 65th Annual Georgia State Civil Rights Advocacy Conference, of the state NAACP.
Also, NAACP officials confirmed on Monday that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will attend its Religious Affairs Breakfast on Friday morning, and offer brief remarks during the breakfast.
Breeding, who is being honored by the tournament, was also an outspoken advocate for the state's educators. He served as a teacher or principal in Green County for 40 years without missing a day at work. "Bill Breeding was good for education,"said Clayton County School Board Member Eddie White. "He gave excellent leadership and I'm very proud he is being honored. It's well deserved."
White served with Breeding on the board of directors of the old Georgia Teachers & Education Association before the all-black teachers' group merged with the state's predominantly white teacher group to form the Georgia Association of Educators. "Breeding served a term as president," recalled White.
He said the golf tournament is a fitting tribute to a man who was an avid golfer.
The keynote speaker for the Friday breakfast, hosted by Clayton County Women in NAACP (W.I.N.), will be former Fulton County Sheriff Jacquelyn Barrett. In 1992, Barrett became the first African-American woman in the history of the nation to be elected to the office of Sheriff.
Wearing a yellow wind-breaker bearing the NAACP emblem, Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia NAACP, read a proclamation declaring the golf tournament an annual affair. The wife, daughter, and oldest grandson of the late Breeding, Sr., were present.
"This is a great start," said DuBose. "Words can't express what it means, not only to have [the Breeding family] here, but to have this vision come to light. It's a victory today for young African Americans who are interested in golf. Mr. Breeding, who has gone to glory now, would be speechless at what is happening today."
Spirits were high at the tournament, despite the cold wind and drizzle.
"What rain?" joked Dexter Matthews, president of the Clayton County Branch of the NAACP. "It's a perfect day ... they are ready to play.
"The rain's good for you," Matthews added. "Rain hasn't stopped us from doing anything. It might mess up my hair a bit, but that's it," he said, rubbing his cleanly-shaven head.
DuBose said that, to people who knew Breeding, Sr., the number of people who continued to play in the rain, "represents that commitment and loyalty to him."
"It's an honor," said Mary Lyne Gay Breeding, the widow of Breeding, Sr. "I always felt that he was doing what he thought was good and would help the people. If you want to do something ... go do it. That was his motto."
"The best thing is that it will go on," said Katrina Breeding. "None of us play golf, but hopefully, one day a Breeding will be playing in this tournament."
Other events, during the NAACP's four-day gathering, will include a Public Mass meeting at New Macedonia Baptist Church on Thursday, Oct. 4, and a career fair at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel on Sullivan Road in College Park on Oct. 4 and 5. The State NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet will be on Saturday night, at 7 p.m., also at the Sheraton.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond will be the keynote speaker for the banquet.Tickets for Friday's breakfast are $30. Tickets for the banquet on Saturday are $60 for NAACP members and $75 to the general public.
For more information about the conference or to register for events, go to www.ganaacp.org.