After serving five terms for a total of 20 years on the Coahoma County Election Commission, Alma Brown retired from her position at the end of 2020.
The other four commissioners and circuit clerk Demetria Jackson recognized Brown and presented her with a plaque at the Coahoma County Courthouse Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. Brown represented District 3 and Mary Smith is her successor on the election commission.
“It was just great, really great,” Brown said. “I really did enjoy it. It’s been just a pleasure and I’ve learned so much about the election system. It’s just been marvelous.
“It’s been a pleasure working with the election commission, especially with my co-workers.”
Brown said when she first joined the commission, she had to do a lot of work by hand.
“We had to put all the names and addresses in the books and do it by hand, but after 2006 when the machines came in, then things changed and we didn’t have as much handwriting work to do,” said Brown, adding she prefers the computer system.
Each election commissioner expressed appreciation toward Brown.
“I consider Alma the dean of the commission,” said District 2 commissioner and board chair Andrew Thompson. “She’s very knowledgeable and she kind of keeps us straight around here, especially me. She says I talk too fast and I get ahead of the game, so I classify her as the dean of the commission and we truly, truly are going to miss her.”
District 1 commissioner Joann Gates expressed similar sentiments.
“We’re going to miss Alma very much,” Gates said. “She’s so knowledgeable on all the procedures and the agenda of election and when to do whatever and mass mailing. Just all of the things, Alma is very knowledgeable.”
District 4 commissioner Roosevelt Noah also appreciated Brown’s leadership.
“The time that I’ve been here, she did her job,” Noah said. “One thing extra what she did was, when Mr. Herman Furniss was the chairman of the board, when we used to go off to our meetings, she really took care of us.”
District 5 commissioner Virginia Burchfield is the newest member of the board. She began serving after Furniss died two-and-a-half years ago, but learned a lot from Brown in a short time.
“Alma has helped me out tremendously in keeping us straight,” Burchfield said.
Looking back, Brown said she always voted, but was not interested in politics when becoming a commissioner. She was asked to run for the position.
“It was something new to me and it was something I wanted to find out about – the election system and the kind of work election commissions were doing,” Brown said. “I agreed to and it wasn’t something that you had to be there every day. It was a few days out of the month and that kind of thing.”
Brown graduated from then-Coahoma Agricultural High School in 1956, then-Coahoma Junior College in 1958 with an AA degree and Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., in 1960 with a degree in math education. She went on to teach math in the Paul Breaux school in Lafayette, La., at CJC and in the Clarksdale Municipal School District.
Brown said, when she was younger, voting was not as easy for minorities until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.
“Voting is important,” Brown said. “If you want to have a voice in what goes on, you’ve got to vote. You should vote.”
Brown said today she hopes minorities take advantage of voting opportunities.
“There was a time where voting was not a privilege for me as individuals,” she said. “Times have changed and I guess my concern is that minorities should turn out more when it comes to voting. No matter what the office is, every office is important. If they want to have a voice in it, I think they should get out to the polls and vote.”