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Mrs. INA M. BOON, A Lifetime Crusader for Justice, Dies At 90

 

 

 

During the height of the turbulent 60s, where blacks were still being lynched in the South, and had to own property or passed outrageous tests -- like how many jellybeans were in a jar to vote, Mrs. Ina M. Boon had become a volunteer for the St. Louis Branch NAACP. She quit her U.S. Government job as she was invited to come on board, as the St. Louis Branch NAACP’s executive secretary, a paid position under the leadership of Attorney Margaret Bush Wilson, the City branch president, at the time.

This indefatigable NAACP crusader for justice and equality, Mrs. Ina M. Boon for 55 years went through the civil rights ranks as an outspoken, tough, smart and capable foot soldier working alongside hundreds of committed local, regional and national NAACP staffers and volunteers. Mrs. Ina M. Boon, died this past Monday, February 27, at 90 in a North County nursing home, under hospice care. She had retired from the National NAACP, as the longest tenured director of NAACP Region IV, in August of 1995.

“I’ve lost a dear friend, whom I’ve known for more than 50 years. She gave much to the entire community and region IV, especially the NAACP,” said Attorney Franke Muse Freeman, who Mrs. Boon engaged in her earlier days as part of the St. Louis Branch’s legal redress committee. “Our community and the civil rights movement is better off, because of Ina’s hard work and courage.”

For more than half a century, Mrs. Boon advocated for racial justice through her leadership skills and various roles with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. During her long tenure, Mrs. Boon worked closely with some of the NAACP’s most notable civil rights generals, (at least 6 national CEOs), who knew how to command their troops in the field to the fight and sweat for equality and face danger.

In St. Louis, it was Alderman Joseph W.B. Clark, Dr. Evelyn H. Roberts, Ernest Calloway, and Fred Weathers.

The venerable Roy Wilkins led the national civil rights organization during its glory days, and at a time of church bombings, and lynching in the south, during the JFK and LBJ era of racial strife. He had hired Mrs. Boon, as field secretary for Missouri.

“A civil rights giant, has not only fallen in the state of Missouri, but in our country, “said Pastor B.T. Rice, New Horizon Seventh Day Christian Church in North County, where Mrs. Boon was a member for the past seven years. “Ina blazed trails where wise men, have feared to tread, and Region IV and the National NAACP are truly mindful of her achievements.”

After Wilkins’ retirement, she worked for the venerable Dr. Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks, as the new executive director/CEO. He and his wife Francis Hooks, maintained a personal relationship with Mrs. Boon for more than 30 years.

In the late 60s Ms. Boon was named by the National NAACP headquarters, as their national life membership director. She worked briefly out of the New York headquarters. She then returned to St. Louis having been promoted to Region IV director, by Reverend Hooks. She supervised the fundraising, voting, housing, job, and education initiatives of the branches and state conferences in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Mrs. Boon worked under the leadership skills also of Ben Muhammad (formerly Benjamin Chavis) and Kweisi Mfume, and the national office’s first president and CEO. Mfume, often fondly referred to his regional director IV, Mrs. Ina Boon as “the Lena Horne” of the NAACP, because she was still full of energy working and having just as much as a tough travel schedule as her male counterparts. And she was in her late 70s still working.

“If you have ever experienced a hurricane with tenacity and determination, Mrs. Boon was like one, trying to move negative racial obstacles blocking the advancement of minorities, you didn’t wish to stand in my mom’s way,” said her son, Gentry W. Trotter, founder of Heatupstlouis.org.

In 1967, black firefighters quit their union and established F.I.R.E. The first St. Louis African fire chief George Sherman along with many black firefighters were pushing to get promoted. But City Hall didn’t take their efforts for equal opportunity access to promotions, serious. “They laughed at us, and we needed the long arm of the NAACP,” said Sherman who was looking to be promoted to a captain position at the time.

“Captain George Baker went to NAACP’s Ina Boon, she immediately recognized the issues of discrimination and unfairness in the fire department,” said Sherman. “They strategized and came up with a two-pronged solution. The first was pickets and rallies every Sunday with churches supporting us, and the next was legal redress through the NAACP.”

NAACP won a legal victory and Sherman became a captain through a consent decree with the St. Louis Fire Department, where 12 whites and 12 blacks were promoted to captains. He said blacks were referred to as the “Dirty Dozen.” “Mrs. Boon’s coordinating the NAACP’s efforts through determination and an unyielding commitment to fair job promotion access, I believe, she played a pivotal role in our promotions and helped change the racist landscape within the fire department.”

Earlier on in her career, the murder of a fellow field secretary, did not stop her from traveling the backroads of the Missouri Bootheel; but she also made arrangements to keep her family safe.

When Medgar Evers was field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi, and she was field secretary of Missouri, when Evers was murdered, the children were sent to Wisconsin to live with relatives. The death of a friend and colleague didn’t stop divorcee Mrs. Boon or the National NAACP from backing down.

One of NAACP’s Unsung Champions of Justice and Freedom

“From the backrooms to the boardrooms, Mrs. Ina Boon helped change and shape the civil rights landscape of the Midwest and the nation. Mrs. Boon was the national office’s longest serving Region IV Director. Her contributions to the Association are exceptional,” said chairwoman emeritus Roslyn Brock. “Ina Boon was truly one of the driving forces within the NAACP.”

When financial strife forced the temporary closing of the Region IV office in the 90s in St. Louis, she still went to the Anheuser-Busch and Schnucks to hold an emergency benefit with garnered more than $90,000. Through the efforts of national labor board members, Mrs. Boon was offered the largest Region, V – which is based in Atlanta; she didn’t accept it. She elected to remain in St. Louis, actively engaging on all levels of our community, lending her wisdom and strong experience to area local NAACP branches.

Mrs. Ina M. Boon was actively involved in her St. Louis Community as well, she served as chairwoman of the Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Center. She served as a president of the Top Ladies of Distinction. She was a long-time member of the St. Louis Black Roundtable. She was Chairwoman of the Trustees of Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church. She graduated from Sumner High school, and attended the Oakwood University in Alabama.

“Mrs. Boon's survivors include her son, Gentry W. Trotter, who also served on the National NAACP board of directors and was the civil right group’s editor-in-chief, publisher and chairman of The Crisis Magazine; a niece, Alice Marie Boon; nephews Nelson E. Boon, Jr; Garfield Boon, Jr., David Boon and Christopher Harris; grandsons Damon Christopher Trotter, LaVert Simmons, and Perry Simmons, and several extended family members which include Daisy Berry and Carole Trotter; and seven great and great, great grandchildren.

The family has asked that donations be made to the National NAACP headquarters at 4805 Mount Hope Dr. Baltimore, MD 21215 in her honor. The family is coordinating a public memorial service within the next 6O days, at New Horizon Seventh Day Christian Church.


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