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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Mr. East Akron was local crusader

Community activist was volunteer, tireless advocate for civil and labor rights By Marilyn Miller Beacon Journal staff writer He was known as Mr. East Akron. Art Minson, a longtime community activist who lived a lifetime of leadership in civil rights, labor and community issues, died Wednesday. He was 90 years old. Always full of energy, Mr. Minson fought injustices from neighborhood streets to the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The Akron resident stressed the importance of having structure in a community. ``If you organize your community, you can make a difference,'' he said in a 2002 interview with the Akron Beacon Journal. He believed volunteer work was his way of helping the underdog. ``People in the neighborhood used to also call him `the mayor of the east side,''' said granddaughter Pam Richardson of Michigan. ``He was laid back, he didn't let things worry him. But he didn't bite his tongue either. He learned he could fight verbally to get his point across.'' Mr. Minson had been a volunteer with the East Akron Community House since 1931. Grady Appleton, the agency's assistant executive director, said he was so helpful that he was considered an extra staff member. He was instrumental in starting neighborhood block clubs, addressing social issues and heading a political action committee that raised awareness about issues and candidates. He was also a housing and economic activist who helped lay the foundation for the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation to channel money back into the community. He loaned the corporation its first $25 and the corporation now has a net worth of $7 million. Minson Apartments on Talbot Avenue as well as a street, Minson Way, are named for him. City Councilman Jim Shealey, D-5, who represents Mr. Minson's neighborhood, described him as a ``good, gentle person.'' A keeper of records on the history of the East Akron community, he worked for a variety of causes, such as the Millennium Fund for area children. ``He meant a lot to the community,'' said City Council President Marco Sommerville. ``He loved the community and he loved being involved. He made many trips to Washington, D.C., pushing neighborhood concerns.'' Sommerville said Mr. Minson always taught the younger generation to understand the struggles of African-Americans -- ``where we were and where we are going.'' ``I knew him all my life; we were neighbors,'' said Dorothy Jackson, former deputy mayor of Akron. ``He was a man who loved life and loved people.'' Mr. Minson was an active member of St. John Christian Methodist Episcopal Church on South Hawkins Avenue for more than 40 years. ``His strongest message was his social ministry,'' said the Rev. Arthur Green. ``He started the feeding, clothing and food giveaway at the church. That was his passion, helping others.'' A volunteer in the community for more than 50 years, Mr. Minson received many awards, including the Howard M. Metzenbaum Ohio Citizen Award, Cliff Skeen Lifetime Achievement Award and Volunteer of the Year award for Coming Together. He also initiated many programs, such as a credit union for rubber workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to help minorities get loans. But Mr. Minson didn't do it for the recognition. ``When people tried to get him to name his achievements and honors, he said: `It's all a matter of record,' '' said his son, Charles Minson. ``He said he wanted to be remembered most for his church participation and his lifetime membership with the NAACP.'' Mr. Minson was 5 years old when he arrived in Akron in 1920 during the migration of blacks from the rural South to the industrial North. The graduate of East High School married Eula Belle in 1940. Mr. Minson, widowed since 1995, retired from Goodyear after 40 years. At one time, three generations of Minsons worked for Goodyear in the same department: Mr. Minson, his father and his son. Mr. Minson was also a musician -- a trumpet player who tried to make a living with his music. In the 1930s he had his own jazz group, the Art Minson Band. He also did stints with jazz legends Count Basie and Duke Ellington. ``Art Minson was a tremendous and outstanding individual. He was so dedicated to seeing that everyone was treated equally. He had the ability to bring out the best in persons,'' said attorney Edwin Parms. ``I knew him as Mr. East Akron. Although he was known throughout the community, the east side was the side of town that he had a major, major impact.'' Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or 800-777-7232 or


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