The Seventeenth Laurel Wreath Wearer [1953]

Jesse Monroe Tinsley [Richmond (VA) Alumni Chapter], a dentist, was a dedicated civil rights leader. In 1935, he helped found the Virginia State NAACP Conference. Tinsley was elected the first president and served until 1954.

The fixst major target of the Conference was the salary differential between white and negro teachers. On June 18, 1940, the United States Court of Appeals held such discrimination was forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment, and directed the United States District Court to fashion an appropriate remedy. This was the first of many victories for the Tinsley led Conference.

At the 12th annual convention [1947], Tinsley announced a revolutionary agenda item: eliminating segregation in public schools by requiring school boards to bear the expense of equalizing schools for Negro children with schools for white children.

In 1948, the United States District Court ordered school boards in three counties of Virginia -Chesterfield, King George and Gloucester - to equalize school facilities. In 1949, the United States Courts of Appeals held invalid the practice of requiring Negro high school students living in Pulaski County to attend Christiansburg Institute in Montgomery County when there were three high schools in Pulaski County operated for white pupils. In 1950, the United States Court o.f Appeals found the high school offerings for Negro pupils in Arlington County to be far short of those for whites, and directed the district court to correct the disparity.

By far, the boldest action by the Conference during the Tinsley tenure was its support for the refusal of Negro students in Prince Edward County to attend a "tar paper shack" characterized as a high school. The case, Davis v School Board of Prince Edward County, would become a part of the Brown v Board of Education cases that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on in 1953. Locally, Tinsley and Attorney Oliver Hill were at the center of a Negro political renaissance. In 1936, Negroes were dealing with the hostility of a mayor that neutralized any effort to influence local politics. Tinsley, Hill and other Negro leaders increased the number of Negro voters by approximately 50% and supported a progressive white politician willing to consider problems that had long plagued the Negro community. They achieved this result despite an onerous poll tax that the Supreme Court did not declare unconstitutional until 1946. In 1947, Hill was elected to the Richmond (VA) City Council with the backing of Tinsley and others.

Initiated at the Temple University Chapter, the Lambda of Kappa Alpha Psi, in 1919, Tinsley was instrumental in the formation of the Alpha Gamma at Virginia Union University [1927] and the Richmond (VA) Alumni Chapter [1945]. Grand Polemarch Wilson appointed Tinsley to the Golden Anniversary Committee [1959].

His exemplary contributions to the civil rights movement earned him the 17th Laurel Wreath.