Filed suit that resulted in African-American representation on the city council


Benny Ausberry was one of the first Blacks to serve on the Monroe City Council since reconstruction. A school teacher, he became active in parish politics in the early 1970’s. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Monroe City Council in the early 70’s. Afterwards he was part of a group of citizens that sued to change the form of Monroe’s government. The suit resulted in the city’s government form being changed and Black representation guaranteed. Ausberry was one of the first two Blacks to be elected under the new form of government in 1980. Many improvements in the Booker T. Washington community are attributed to his credit including his participation in talks that resulted in the building of the Powell Street Neighborhood Center and the Highway 165 Crosswalk.

Biography

He was born on January 18, 1933 in Mangham, Louisiana. He was one of the nine children of Richard and Ada Ausberry. He attended and graduated from Richland Parish high School in Alto in 1950 and four years later graduated from Leland College in Baton Rouge. In 1954 he entered the military for a two-year tour of duty.
Upon leaving the military he returned to the Monroe area and became certified to teach in elementary education from Grambling State College.

From 1956 to 1967, Ausberry remained in relative obscurity, serving as a Boy Scout master of Troop 63 and teaching school. In 1967, he was named president of Citizens United for Progress (CUP), a small group of young men who sought to make improvements in the city in ways different from the past. The group began to exercise its political muscle in local elections and found its greatest success when it successfully swung the Ouachita Parish Black vote for the electoral bid of Edwin Edwards as governor of the state in 1972.

As chairperson of the Booker T. Community Advisory Council to the Community Action Agency he wanted to get improvements in the Booker T. Community.

The construction of a recreation center for the area and the closing of ditches along Powell Avenue were his main priorities. After the Edwards victory, white politicians across the area began to recognize the muscle of the “new” Black leaders and members of C.U.P. were appointed or elected to offices and boards across the parish. In 1972, Ausberry was appointed to the Monroe Planning and Zoning board. In 1973 he was named to the Monroe City School Board’s Bi-Racial Committee. In 1974 he was appointed to the parish Welfare Board.

Change The Government

The nucleus of his group sought to change Monroe’s form of government from a three-man commission council to single member districts. Single member districts would guarantee Blacks representation in city government. Ausberry became one of several plaintiff’s in a suit file to challenge Monroe’s government form.

The mayor W.L. Howard argued that Monroe’s all-white, three man, government did not prevent. blacks from being elected. Shortly after Morris Henry Carroll, a prominent Black citizen aligned with the Howard Administration announced that he would run for the city council. Since Carroll had the financial and moral (not public) backing of Howard and KNOE-TV owner James A. Noe, Ausberry and other members of C.U.P. feared Carroll could possibly win the election and nullify any chance Blacks might have to permanently guarantee Black representation.

Opposed Henry Carroll

The group decided that it would have to fight Carroll’s candidacy and Ausberry became the candidate. Ausberry waged a merciless campaign against Carroll that was filled with name calling and personal attacks. Some who observed the race, and not privy to the real reasons for Ausberry’s candidacy, felt it was a classic case of envy and Black infighting. Many Blacks felt Carroll was a sure short for the community and they frowned on Ausberry. Carroll lost his bid, but not because of Ausberry’s race. Carroll carried 90% of the Black community in an enormously high turnout, but he failed, even with the support of prominent whites to carry a sizable white vote.
C.U.P.’s fear that Carroll might pull off a once in a century win, proved vain. Many Blacks blamed Ausberry for Carroll’s defeat, but the elections told provedAusberry had little effect on Carroll’s run.

Proven Right

The court’s eventually ruled that Monroe’s government would change, and in 1980 Ausberry threw his hat in the ring again as a candidate for the city council. In April of 1980 he was elected to the council of the new government he helped form.