Joyous applause greeted the Texarkana, Ark., Board of Directors on Saturday in their decision to rename a city park after a local intrepid civil rights leader and outstanding community champion.
With a unanimous decision, board members agreed to rename to Hobo Jungle Park to the Ermer Dansby Pondexter Sports Complex.
The name change, initiated by Ward 3 Director Tim Johnson, received hearty cheers during the special called meeting before a boardroom audience that was noticeably larger than usual.
"From her earliest days, Ermer committed her life to ending racial segregation and even to this day, this lady continues to give her whole heart and soul to the community," Johnson said in a tribute to the honoree. Pondexter spent at least five decades not only fighting for local racial harmony and integration, but also giving tireless community service to both sides of Texarkana and beyond.
Arkansas-side Mayor Ruth Penney-Bell said Pondexter's zeal for seeking justice for any and all people—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender or age—is still very much alive and well.
"I believe that if I, to this very day, were to suffer an injustice of any kind, Ermer would be walking with me and helping me all the way," Penney-Bell said.
Ulysses Brewer, NAAPC president for Miller County, said Pondexter not only went above and beyond in seeking justice for others but continues to yearn for offering service to others.
"Segregation may be over, but she continues to show a rich amount of identity, purpose, direction and motivation," Brewer said.
Texas-side resident Robert Jones said that when he came to Texarkana 28 years ago, issues still existed, but he was fortunate enough to meet Pondexter. By then, she knew a lot about how to solve problems the right way, as well as who to meet for problem-solving.
"One thing I found out about Ermer, is that it's true that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog," Jones said. "She is a person who has given many, many years of herself to the service of others."
Arkansas-side resident Anderson Neal said in his 35 years of federal service, he always knew Pondexter to be the right person for enormous challenges, such as ending racial discrimination.
"Ermer proved herself always to be about the task at hand and doing the right thing for all involved," he said.
Arkansas-side resident Vicki Lacy said that in addition to being up to challenges, Pondexter was and is always well-prepared for such tasks as leading voter-registration drives.
"Ermer helped register as many as 300 this year," Lacy said.
Arkansas-side resident Lisa McDermott said Pondexter showed great courage and determination early on by going to college and earning bachelor and master degrees at a time when racial segregation discouraged such ambition.
"I also know that by my friendship with her, Ermer has made my life a lot better," McDermott said.