Solomon Osborne

Solomon Osborne, left, a candidate for the District 32 seat in the state House of Representatives, speaks to the Greenwood Voters League Wednesday. At right is Robert Sims, the league’s vice president.

Lawyer Solomon Osborne took a dozen members of the Greenwood Voters League on a journey through the past Wednesday night in an attempt to establish the context of his candidacy for Mississippi House District 32.

With only three business days and one federal holiday remaining before the deadline, Osborne qualified  Wednesday for the March 12 special election to replace Willie J. Perkins Sr. in the state House. Perkins gave up his legislative seat after being elected in November to a chancery court judgeship.

Osborne is expected to face Troy Brown Sr. on the ballot.

Osborne talked about growing up on a Schlater farm purchased by his great-grandparents, freed slaves, after they moved to Mississippi from Alabama. He said the 336 acres they bought were taken from them in 1906. He talked about picking cotton as a youth on a farm his father rented from an uncle.

Osborne, 70, said he was 8 years old when his family moved to Greenwood, about the same time that Emmett Till was killed in an incident that helped spark the civil rights movement. He said he and his 10 sisters and brothers were taught by their parents to “stay away from white people.”

He said his father was a skilled farmer, and white plantation owners would approach him to work for them. “And he’d always say he would not have any white people, you know, telling his children what to do. So I’m thankful that we were all insulated somewhat from what was going on back then.”

Osborne talked about his early years as a lawyer, working for North Mississippi Rural Legal Services in West Point and Greenwood, filing civil rights, employment rights, and housing rights lawsuits against the cities. He found friends among those advocating for those victimized by local laws and customs.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter good people,” he said. “People just wanted change to come about, and that’s the background I had.”

Osborne said people need to elect officials who will be vigilant in keeping black people from losing what rights they have gained. He noted numerous recent attacks on the Voting Rights Act in requiring voter IDs and other efforts.

“I want to be in Jackson and be an advocate for the people I have been advocating for all my working career and continue the good job Willie Perkins did when he was there,” he said.

“We don’t need people down there just skinnin’ and grinnin’ and so happy to be down there they don’t do anything but just drink coffee and go to receptions,” Osborne said. “... We need people to go down there and advocate for the things we need for this district.”

Osborne said he would support more money for education, pay raises for teachers, reforms to the criminal justice system for such things as the right for ex-cons to vote, reform the juvenile criminal justice system to make it an educational experience rather than a jail, and provide vocational education in schools.

Osborne has run for office before, and was elected as Leflore County judge. He resigned that seat in 2008 after being suspended for his role in ordering a 17-year-old girl to be held without trial in the county juvenile detention center. The Mississippi Supreme Court finally ordered her freed. He had been disciplined by the Supreme Court three times previous to that, and as a result received a lifetime ban from ever holding judicial office again.

Osborne also ran and lost in 2011 for Leflore County District 4 supervisor.

Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.

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