For many years, Dr. David Jones, Jr. inspired educators to be their best and achieve. It was customary that he would have Saturday morning workshops with sitting Black administrators and those who aspired to be administrators. He helped many to accomplish their goals one by one. Those Saturday morning workshops usually started at 8:00 a.m. and lasted until 9:30 or 10:00. Participants were dutiful in attendance. What spirit they had, to give up a late sleep-in on a Saturday, but they did! Out of that group, many were promoted and continued to move to higher levels in the school system. Much of that was due to his inspiration and motivation to young Black professionals.
It was to this small group of professionals that Dr. Jones turned when the word came to him that there was an urgent need for Nashville to establish a local affiliate of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. All it took was a telephone call and those individuals congregated at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. Some knew of the organization but some did not. It was their faith and confidence in Dr. Jones that prompted them to make the trek to Opryland to hear about this organization called NABSE. The reception for the national officers was held on July 1, 1996. NABSE was introduced to those Nashville educators and the purpose and mission were explained. Once the information was shared, it was crystal-clear to the group that a Nashville affiliate would be formed. Then on that day at Opryland Hotel, the Nashville Alliance of Black School Educators was formed. At this meeting the following persons were in attendance to help in the founding of the Nashville chapter: Dr. and Mrs. David Jones, Jr., Dr. Jim Murrell, Ralph Thompson, James Sawyers, Pat McNeal, Florence Kidd, L. C. Batson, Frances Perry and Brenda King.
After the establishment of the chapter, the following officers were named in the interim: James Sawyers-President, Frances Perry-Vice President, Pat McNeal-Secretary, Carlene Bowers-Assistant Secretary, Brenda King-Treasurer, Dr. Jim Murrell-Historian, and Dr. David Jones, Jr.-Parliamentarian. The tentative slate of officers, hereby represented, were in place pending the installment of the Nashville chapter and meeting to vote on permanent officers.
To establish the operating standards for the local affiliate a Constitution and By-Laws committee was named. The committee members were: Ralph Thompson-Chair, Robert Churchwell, Jr., Gracie Porter, Dr. Julie Williams, Florence Kidd and L. C. Batson.
After preparations and organization, the Nashville affiliate was formally introduced to the community. On August 9, 1997, the Greater Nashville Alliance of Black School Educators was sanctioned by the National Alliance of Black School Educators. This illustrious affair took place in the Appleton Ballroom of Fisk University at five o’clock in the afternoon.
The Founding members for the Nashville Alliance were Dr. Jim Murrell, Patricia McNeal, Dr. Virlyn Williams, Ralph Thompson, Dr. Brenda T. King, Frances Perry, James Sawyers, Dr. David Jones, Jr., Florence Kidd, Gracie Porter, James Porter, Jr., Robert Churchwell, Jr. , Dr. Julie Williams, L. C. Batson, Vanessa Barbour, Derrick Williams, and Carlene Bowers. Other charter members were: Katrina Thirbenny, Patria Haley-Howard, Sandra Burns, Dr. Carolyn B. Tucker, Robert Farmer, Jr., Audrey Davis, Vera Merritt, Gwendolyn Smith, Dr. Geraldine Farmer, Larry Glover, Dr. Dorothy Gunn, Juanita Lockert, Faye Stewart, Rev. A. L. Hayes, Dr. Trevor Holt, Gwendolyn Watson, Henry Merriwether, Dr. Mildred Pitts Mason, Ruth Murray, Ronnie Smith, Dr. Laura Snyder, Marva Blanchard-Woods, Dr. Jamye Merritt, Dr. Charles Beaman, Addie Massey, Jacqueline Lucas, Dr. Aldorothy Wright, Angeline Smith, Dr. James E. Tyus, and Dr. May Alice Ridley.
At the February 22, 1997 meeting James Sawyers introduced Katrina Thirbenny to our membership. Katrina was a very versed member of the national organization and she provided insight to our members on how to get our chapter moving in the right direction. Thirbenny suggested many steps that we needed to take to give life to our affiliate. She had materials from the National Conference for our review and encouraged our involvement in the annual conference. The organization flourished from this point and on February 22, 1997 the first officers of the newly chartered affiliate were elected. They were: Katrina Thirbenny-President, Dr. Jim Murrell-Vice President, Dr. Virlyn Williams-Treasurer, Pat McNeal-Recording Secretary, Patria Howard-Corresponding Secretary, Ralph Thompson-Parliamentarian, Dr. Brenda King-Historian and Sandra Burns-Chaplain.
In the year 1998, GNABSE honored Dr. David Jones, Jr., who was the Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services for Metro Schools at its inaugural “Living Legend” breakfast. The date was March 7, 1998 in the Jane Elliot Hall on the campus of Tennessee State University. Dr. Jones was not only recognized by our local affiliate, he was acknowledged as a national Living Legend at the annual conference held in Sparks, Nevada in November, 1998. He was noted for his tireless efforts to promote public education in Nashville and the world. His career at that time spanned more than thirty years along with his service as Senior Pastor of Schrader Lane Church of Christ in Nashville. GNABSE, the Greater Nashville Alliance of Black School Educators, has achieved much and worked hard. Membership growth is one area that is often difficult to obtain. However, in 1998, we were unstoppable in this area. GNABSE was recognized by the national office and we received The Cornerstone Award. This award is presented to affiliates for outstanding service to the National Alliance of Black School Educators in sustaining 50 or more national members in the local chapter.
1999 was the year that GNABSE was the local host for the national annual conference. It was held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in Nashville. Our local affiliate was excited and worked diligently to be of support for one of the largest national conventions held in our city. Workshops and seminars were abundant and education Scholars in Residence graced our city and shared with our community, parents, students, and educators.
In April, 2001, GNABSE hosted the Living Legends Awards dinner on the campus of Tennessee State University. At this dinner, we saluted Judge A. A. Birch, who received the President’s award. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to former principal and co-founder of the Smithson-Craighead Academy, Ms. Mary Craighead. Velma Lois Jones was the recipient of the Marcus Foster Distinguished Educator of the Year and our Living Legends were named. They were Dr. Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, Dwight Lewis, and Foster Shockley.
True to the purpose of NABSE, our affiliate, GNABSE, had a Drive-In Conference on September 29, 2001. This conference was organized to give back to our community and was held at Pearl Cohn High School at no cost to the public. At the conference, we had a magnificent program with a nationally recognized speaker, the late Dr. Barbara Sizemore. Dr. Sizemore was the Professor Emerita at Depaul University in Chicago, Illinois and the former superintendent of Washington, D. C. Public Schools. Dr. Sizemore spoke to the theme of “Teach Me Right and I’ll Fly Away”. She was absolutely inspiring and was well-received by all. Other motivating speakers from the Nashville area were Ms. Linda Roland, then principal of Napier Elementary. She shared with our audience and her topic was “Strategies for Motivating and Teaching Students with Untapped Potential”. Mr. Ralph M. Thompson’s topic, who was the Assistant Superintendent of Grades 5-8 for Metro Schools, spoke to us about “Accountability: Meeting System’s Goals”.
On February 15, 2003, GNABSE held a conference at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church with its theme of “Empowering Educators”. At this gathering, former Metro Nashville Public Schools’ educators shared their expertise and gave motivation and inspiration to educators. The Panelists were Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, former Nashville central office Vocational Education Administrator, Dr. Carolyn Baldwin-Tucker, former Nashville Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, Dr. Reva Chatman, former Nashville Human Resources director, and Dr. Stella Simpson, former elementary principal in Nashville public schools. Dr. James Armstrong, former Nashville high school principal, was the facilitator for the program.
GNABSE has been a promoter of professional development since it’s inception for the purpose of serving students by empowering our educators. Helping students to reach their goals and tap their strengths is of utmost importance to GNABSE. Along with our work with educators and the community, we promote our students’ continued growth and development by awarding scholarships annually. We have been able to offer from $500-$1500 of financial support to students showing need and desire to further their education. These scholarship dollars are used at a college or university of the students’ choice.