Thomas T.H. Poole

A cast bronze portrait, One of a kind, 20" x 18" x 10" (h x w x d)
Ships at a Distance
My take on Mr. Thomas H. (T.H.) Poole, Sr.
by Brian R. Owens

A few years ago I met T.H. Poole through his extended family. I live an hour or so away. We shared the same Thanksgiving table 3 times before I realized he was a prominent civil rights leader. In the words of James T Rotella, Mayor of the City of Eustis, Florida, T.H. Poole has a long history as a "mediator, peacemaker, watchdog, and public conscience ... throughout Lake County". He served as President of the Tri-City branch NAACP for 26 years and had a national presence as a member of the NAACP Board of Directors. At the table however, we spoke of other things; Existential things and common things. I've learned not to underestimate people, especially people older than me. I could sense he was a leader of some kind; A leader in business, perhaps. Like a fine silk shirt, men like T.H. Poole reflect light a bit differently than most others even when they're not trying. I've sat across from men like this before. So I was not surprised to learn, over time, of the dimensions of T.H. Poole, his wife Rena, their colleagues and their work.

T.H. Poole is a complicated man - formal and casual at the same time. He is at home in his suit of clothes. If the suit could talk it would tell you that the man within is attentive to details and understands the perceptions of other men. T.H. Poole is also a funny guy and has an "aw-shucks" kind of easy-going manner. He puts people at ease. He reserves his sharper wit for playful duals with closer friends and relatives who are equally capable and a better match than myself. As an artist, I have no special insight into the hearts and minds of men. As Gordon Parks grew older he offered this caution, saying: "At times ... I allowed my camera to pass judgement on people ... Since then, I have learned that what a man is, does not always show on the face he wears. Usually, there is a deeper truth submerged inside ...".
(*1) Still, I can tell from his face that he smiles a lot. The smiles have carved lines in his face. In my imagination, still more lines were carved by many sleepless nights spent in councel with his colleagues to right a wrong, change a law or unseat a powerful opponent. And perhaps, lines carved by his own words; Truthful words aimed at men participating in their own destruction "imprisoned by their most constant enemy: Themselves". (*1)

I see the life of T.H. Poole as a coin; One side is ordinary - with a business, a wife, kids and a mortgage. The other side is extraordinary like a tight chess game that lasted 30 years with far more at stake than pride. In this game, the pieces were human beings. If they won, they got a decent shot at life - a chance to use the education they invested years to acquire - a chance to succeed or fail. If they lost, they got to watch their ship of dreams float on the horizon forever "mocked to death by time".

I suppose that I detect these things because T.H. Poole comes with such a different set of standard equipment than myself. In fact, I am his polar opposite. I'm at my best when I am alone with my work, when the rest of the world is fast asleep. So different am I from men like T.H. Poole that to me, they almost glow with some kind of light. I admire them. Also, he appears to be at peace in ways that I am not. If Zora Neale Hurston was correct; If "ships at a distance have every man's wish on board", then T.H. Poole's ship either came in with the tide or he has made his peace with it.

Many years ago someone told me that everything I do and every word I say will either enhance or diminish me and my standing with other people; That I would need other people to reach my goals in life regardless of my talent; That once I figured out why I'm here, I'd better get on with my plan; That if I am not in the vanguard of my profession, then my days are numbered; That tomorrow is not promised; That the meaning of life is - it has an end. T.H. Poole didn't say these things to me but we need people like him who are heavy enough to speak the truth as they see it without being laughed at; "Truth-tellers" who stand in counterpoint to those whose primary motive is to second-guess what we want to hear, who preach as a device or as an end in itself. These people are real to us because we can see them on the street. We know that they're not perfect but we need them to help sustain what Leonard Cohen called "the nation's sweetest dreams of itself". I know this is a good life. I also know that we are contingent creatures in a dangerous world and nowhere is it written that the "American experiment" will go on forever. The legacy of T.H. Poole and others like him is now in our hands. We will either continue to strengthen the Constitution through our practical commitment to it or we will be diminished. We will either continue to crawl forward in our awkward but sincere quest for truth or we will slide backwards, for we cannot by our nature remain at rest.

*1. Gordon Parks, Visions, 1996, A Documentary, Monterey Home Video, Seen on PBS
*2. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God, 1937, HarperCollins Publishers

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T.H. Poole is very much alive and socially active. The bronze portrait bust of T.H. Poole was unveiled on Saturday, October 27th, 2007 at the conclusion of a formal ceremony attended by some 250 - 300 people at Lake/Sumter Community College, Leesburg Campus. The celebration included live music, a number of speakers, good food and an honor guard courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office. The ceremony was sponsored by the City of Eustis, the Tri-City NAACP Branch, the St. James AME Church and individual contributers. A partial list of organizations and businesses with representatives in attendance or offering written proclamations and letters of support is listed at the bottom of this page. It was a lot of fun.

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The bronze portrait bust of T.H. Poole is on long-term loan to the
Lake County Historical Museum
located on the first floor of the
Lake County Historic Courthouse
First Floor
317 W. Main Street
Tavares, FL

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Program, Family and NAACP Speakers (in the order of presentation)
Mrs. Charlotte Williams, Saint James AME Church
Reverend Richard E. King, Minister, Saint James AME Church
Honor Guard, Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office
ReverendWilliam Hawkins Jr., Minister, Gethsemane Baptist Church
Reverend Leroy Lee, President, Eustis Ministerial Brotherhood
Rene' Caldwell, Educator, Daughter of T.H. Poole Sr., and Rena Poole
Lamica Caldwell, Granddaughter of T.H. Poole Sr., and Rena Poole
Estella Chatman, Past President, Tri-City Branch NAACP
Beverlye C. Neal, Ex. Director, Florida State Conference NAACP
Brendien Mitchell, President, Marion County Youth Council NAACP
Leon Russell, National Board of Directors NAACP
ICTUS (live music by Bill Moss)

Community Speakers (in order of presentation)
Bryan Keith Broomfield
Dr. Charles R. Mojock, President, Lake Sumter Community College
Anthony Hooks
Michael Stearman
Whitfield Jenkins
Everitt A. Kelly
Gale Bass
Dr. Jim & Flora Glisson (Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate from 1968 - 1978)
Sheriff Gary S. Borders, Lake County Sheriff's Office
Jeffrey Holman

Government Speakers (in order of presentation)
The Honorable James T. Rotella, Mayor, City of Eustis
Steve Benetz, Director of L.S. Library, City of Eustis
Emogene Stegall, Lake County Supervisor of Elections

"Tributes to be Acknowledged" (in order of presentation)
Irene Maxwell Johnson, Executive Director, African American Museum of the Arts, DeLand, FL
Bettye S. Coney (Solo)
Brian R. Owens. Sculptor

Letters of Salutation and Gratitude (in the order read for presenters unable to attend)
Althea Bonello, Regional Youth Field Director NAACP
Jabari Paul, National Board of Directors NAACP

Proclamations, Letters of Salutation and other written tributes (in the order printed in the Program)
Proclamation: James T. Rotella, Mayor of the City of Eustis, Eustis, FL
Tri-City Branch NAACP
Proclamation: Reverend Richard E. King, Pastor, St. James AME Church, Eustis, FL
Mike Archer, former Editor of the Daily Commercial, Leesburg, FL and former columnist for the Orlando Sentinel
Governor Charlie Crist
Senator Carey L. Baker, Florida Senate District 20
Dr. Charles R. Mojock, President, Lake Sumter Community College on behalf of the District Board of Trustees of Lake-Sumter Community College
Everett KellyThe Glisson Family: Dr. Jim and Flora Glisson & Dr. Randy and Denise Glisson
T.H. Poole, Jr.
James H. Lowe, Executive Dir. and Dorothy F. Everett, Board President, Lake Community Action Agency, Inc. Eustis, FL
The Manning Family: Gwen and Lynn ManningThe Extended Family of T.H. Poole
Haines City Branch NAACP
Bea Tillman, Charlie M. Coleman, Fletcher Boone and Rosetta Boone
Florida State Conference NAACP
Rev. and Mrs. Maxwell Johnson, Founders of The African American Museum of the Arts, DeLand, FL
Sheriff Gary S. Borders and Staff, Lake County Sheriff's Office
Paul A. and Paula Berg, Eustis City Manager and Wife
Ed Havill, Lake County Property Appraiser
Marion County Branch NAACP, Ocala, FL
The Community Development Corporation of Leesburg & Vicinity (CDC) and its Board of Directors
St. James AME Church, Eustis, FL
Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, Eustis, FL
Bernice Odums and Family
Mary Ann and Pat Pearson, Jacksonville, FL
North Brevard County Branch NAACP, Titusville, FL
Mets Senior Citizens Club of Mount Dora, Mount Dora, FL
Dr. Joan
Dr. Shirley B. Johnson, Miami Lakes, FL
The Silver Star Seniors, Eustis, FL
Rev. James M. Brazzell
Lewis F. Hart
James and Cassie Napper
Lake Wales Branch NAACP, Lake Wales, FL
Felix D. Pryor, DVM, Mount Dora, FLT.C. and Irma Adams
Dr. Charles C. Cartwright, M.D.Scott and Debra J. Ales, Eustis City Commissioner
Alberta K. Wilson, President, Central Brevard NAACP
Poe's Memorial Baptist Church, Eustis, FL
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Committee
Gary and Janet Dahler, Gary Dahler Insurance Agency, Inc.
The Willie Williams Family of Orlando
Charles and Doris Birdsong, Eustis, FL
Jacksonville Grey Hound Racing
Senator Anthony (Tony) Hill, Sr.
Dr. Annie B. Martin, President, New York City Branch NAACP
Bishop Victor T. Curry, D. Min., D. Div. and New Birth Ministries, offices Miami, Belle Glade, Avon Park, FL
Mrs. Charlie Mae Coleman
Madie A. Robinson, Florence, South Carolina
Lois Manigualt and C.J., Jr.
Jabari Paul, President, Florida State Youth and College NAACP

Brian Owens is available at 386-956-1724
or via E-mail by clicking on the link below:
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