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JS Online: Spraggins' efforts have made county more diverse
For 18 years, Paul T. Spraggins Jr. has approached his role as an advocate for equality and diversity in Waukesha County in the same sensible, steady way.
"Talk to the leadership," he
said."Sit around the table.Talk about what's in the best interests of the community, for diversity."Since 1984, when Spraggins and others gathered in his Waukesha home and founded the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he has worked quietly yet firmly as chapter president.He
is stepping down later this year when he
wife, Beverly, retire to Florida.Paul T. Spraggins Jr.
...Paul T. Spraggins Jr.
...Spraggins, 63, who retired July 5 as division director for the state Department of Public Instruction's Wisconsin Educational Opportunities Program and Office of Urban Education, is at ease calling on political leaders, corporate CEOs or local police chiefs.
When talking doesn't work, there's still the hammer.
In the 1980s, Spraggins
got nowhere in reversing the city of Waukesha housing authority's subsidized housing policy that gave preference to city residents and effectively kept low-income blacks out of the city.The NAACP
finally filed a lawsuit.The policy was overturned.
That fight was among the chapter's finest hours, said Spraggins
.Waukesha County's population - more than 360,700 people in 2000 - includes almost 2,700 African-Americans today.
"African-Americans are not going to knock down the walls to come to Waukesha County.But people need to have a choice, to live anywhere they like, like anyone else."
as its sole spokesman and without paid staff, the NAACP chapter has tackled other serious issues.It worked with Waukesha County school districts to smooth the transition to the Chapter 220 student exchange with Milwaukee Public Schools
.It intervened on behalf of blacks who felt they were being unjustly targeted by suburban police for traffic stops.Spraggins meets with corporate and government leaders to encourage minority hiring.
...Waukesha Police Chief Les Sharrock hears from Spraggins on issues of minority hiring and police treatment of minorities.
"The thing about Paul
doesn't just jump to conclusions, jump up and down.
...Born in Mobile, Ala., to a middle-class family and educated in private schools, Spraggins became the first and only black among 1,000 students at Spring Hill College in 1957 before attending the University of Southern California and Pepperdine University.
"The '65 riots in Watts changed my career path," he
said.While volunteering there, "I could see real poverty reflected.That's when I decided I wanted to work on behalf of the low-income."
A severe earthquake persuaded him and his
wife to move from California to Wisconsin, where they raised two children.For nearly 30 years, he
has worked on education programs for low-income children.