Black History Month

Michael Smith

When 57-year-old Beaumont Fire and Rescue fire inspector Michael Smith became one of the first 20 black firefighters to work for the city of Beaumont in 1982, he said it was like experiencing a case of déjà vu.

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Levell Manuel (center) and family

Long-time Orange resident Levell Manuel is turning 90 on Saturday, Feb. 8, and she is celebrating with the entire city of Orange after Mayor Jimmy Sims and the Orange City Council declared her birthday to be Mrs. Manuel Day in the city.

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Chelsea Tipton II isn’t your typical maestro.
“There aren’t many black conductors,” said the three-year conductor of the Symphony of Southeast Texas.
In a classical music industry dominated by Anglo-Saxon composers such as Mozart, Handel, and Bach, Tipton is breaking the mold and interpreting humankind’s most important musical masterpieces in a way everyone can appreciate.
“It’s hard to turn the music off,” he said. “There are historians who study the fabric of music and there are performers. I kind of fall in that (latter) category.”

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While it can be difficult to measure the impact one person’s life has, the results can be easily seen. During Black History Month, The Examiner would like to honor members of the community who have had a palpable and positive impact. Pat Willard is one of those people. Willard started her career as a teacher and has since retired, but she continues to educate and motivate through her work with the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program and other endeavors.

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Donald Bailey spent the beginning of his life doing what he had to do. Now, he does what he loves.

Donald “Doc” Bailey was born in Beaumont in 1949 to Doris and Robert Bailey, and led what he called a pretty typical life for that time.

“I was right on the edge of integration,” Bailey says. “It was a different time back then.”

Bailey graduated from Beaumont’s African-American high school, Charlton Pollard, and then war brought him far from Texas, where he had spent his entire life.

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In his 21 years at Lamar University, Oney Fitzpatrick Jr., 55, has witnessed prestige and growth as well as prejudice and intolerance. He has watched thousands of students graduate, many his own, and said that helping them reach that goal has been his greatest accomplishment.

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