Maxine Cousin, Longtime Chattanooga Civil Rights Activist, Dead At 71

Monday, February 12, 2018 - by Judy Frank
Maxine Cousin, whose father’s violent death in 1983 in the now-defunct city jail launched her on a 34-year campaign for equal rights and justice – notably as a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit which led to the restructuring of Chattanooga government in 1989 – died last week in a local hospital. She was 71.

Wadie Suttles, a 66-year-old WWII veteran, was declared dead Dec.
6, 1983, four days after being found unconscious in his cell at Chattanooga City Jail and transported to a hospital.

Although police initially said Mr. Suttles died of a heart attack, an autopsy revealed Ms. Cousin’s father actually had suffered severe head trauma which resulted in damage to his brainstem. Decades later, despite scrutiny by a variety of law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no arrests have ever been made in the case and no assailants publicly identified by authorities.

In August 1984, frustrated by the failure of law enforcement and prosecution officials to identify her father’s killer(s) and bring charges, Ms. Cousin helped found Concerned Citizens for Justice (CCJ), a local organization dedicated to fighting racism and police brutality.

Three years later, Ms. Cousin and other CCJ members approached the American Civil Liberties Union in Atlanta about the possibility of filing a lawsuit aimed at ending systematic under-representation of Chattanooga’s black population in city government.

The resulting suit, Brown v. The Board of Commissioners of the City of Chattanooga – filed by 12 plaintiffs, including Ms. Cousin – argued successfully that the city was discriminating against minority groups by choosing representatives at-large, rather than by district.

In 1989, in an historic decision, U.S. District Judge R. Allan Edgar agreed with the plaintiffs, declaring that Chattanooga’s commission-style government violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 by preventing political representation of minority voters.

The city responded by creating its current mayor-council form of government and dividing the city into nine political districts, three of which were drawn so that their population was at least 60 percent minority.

Buoyed by that success, Ms. Cousin – who spent decades as a secretary at the Tennessee Valley Authority prior to her retirement – devoted the following 29 years to activist politics and campaigning against police brutality here and across the nation.

She also continued her quest to find justice for her father, filing lawsuit after lawsuit and petitioning national and international organizations to investigate the case. In 2010, she published a 323-page book titled “Murder in a Chattanooga Jail.”

Ms. Cousin is survived by a daughter, Carla Cousin; a son, Ivan Cousin; sisters Patricia Emmons and Laviolet Millsaps; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at noon today (Monday) in the chapel of Taylor Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Chattanooga National Cemetery.

 

 


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: BOMAR, KELLY LYNN  9690 HOSTA LN OOLTEWAH, 37363  Age at Arrest: 50 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga VANDALISM/MALICIOUS MISCHIEF DISORDERLY CONDUCT PUBLIC INTOXICATION --- BOYER, CHARLES OVERTON  77710 LEE HIGHWAY APT 128 CHATTANOOGA, 37421  Age at Arrest: 37 years old ... (click for more)

Old Photos: Fort Oglethorpe

Liberal Conspiracy Afoot

According to Roy Exum’s Sunday column, there are now upwards of six or seven Democrats in Hamilton County, and all of them have secretly maneuvered their way onto the boards of a couple of dozen local organizations. Unlike Republicans, some of them serve on multiple boards and some of them serve with one another on the same boards. This is outrageous. We all know that boards and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Is This Civil War II?

Jack Minzey, by all accounts, was a beloved professor at Eastern Michigan and, as the head of the university’s School of Education, wrote many books and papers. Some were on the Civil War – he was an avid student of our nation’s worst moment – and his beliefs how to better public education will be quoted for years. Dr. Minzey died at age 89 last month and just last week, the ... (click for more)

Six Chattanooga Baseball, Softball Teams Open State Play This Week

The state tournament matchups in baseball and softball have been announced. Only thing left is for the fortunate teams that have reached the 2018 TSSAA Spring Fling in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to make a final push toward possible championships, the most prized trophies in high school sports. While only two local baseball teams -- Baylor and McCallie -- are ... (click for more)

Lookouts Fall (3-2) In 10th Inning Walk-Offs By Biloxi Saturday & Sunday

The Biloxi Shuckers (26-17) grabbed their second walk-off victory of the season in extra innings on Saturday night against the Chattanooga Lookouts (28-15) with a 3-2 win. The Lookouts have a 3 1/2 game lead over second-place Jackson in the North Division, while Biloxi has a 3 1/2 game lead over Mobile in the South Divisioon The Shuckers scored two runs to counter Chattanooga's ... (click for more)