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.

 

 

New Book Chattanooga In Old Photos Now Available At Zarzours; Enter Drawing To Win All 4 Photo Books

Rocky Face Man Who Ran Into Patrol Officer Gets 11-Year Sentence

Fort Oglethorpe Arrest Report For Oct. 13-18


The new book Chattanooga in Old Photos, sponsored by Chattanoogan.com, is now available at Zarzours Restaurant on the Southside. The limited edition of 800 copies is printed by College Press ... (click for more)

James William Hefner, Jr., 51, of 1713 Cantrell Dr. in Rocky Face, Ga., was sentenced Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Jim Wilbanks to serve a total of 11 years in prison. Hefner, was convicted ... (click for more)

Here is the Fort Oglethorpe arrest report for Oct. 13-18: 10-13-18 Courtney Lynn Underhill, 28, of 7526 Sims Road, Harrison, TN arrested on a charge of concealment of property. Loren ... (click for more)


Breaking News

New Book Chattanooga In Old Photos Now Available At Zarzours; Enter Drawing To Win All 4 Photo Books

The new book Chattanooga in Old Photos, sponsored by Chattanoogan.com, is now available at Zarzours Restaurant on the Southside. The limited edition of 800 copies is printed by College Press of Collegedale. It is the fourth book in the collection called the Chattanooga Photo Books made possible by Chattanoogan.com. The others are The Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads ... (click for more)

Rocky Face Man Who Ran Into Patrol Officer Gets 11-Year Sentence

James William Hefner, Jr., 51, of 1713 Cantrell Dr. in Rocky Face, Ga., was sentenced Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Jim Wilbanks to serve a total of 11 years in prison. Hefner, was convicted following a jury trial on October 9, 2018 of the felony offenses of fleeing to elude a police officer and possession of methamphetamine, plus possession and use of drug related objects, disregarding ... (click for more)

Opinion

Too Many Questions

First it was about 2,000, then we were told it’s up to 4,000. We have no way of knowing who’s coming or what their purpose is. NBC and CNN assure us they are seeking sanctuary but how can we know? Neither Honduras or our subjective media in America have been honest with us in the past. So, how do we know why that many people are marching across Central America? Then this morning ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: An Answer For Amy

Amy Schumer, whose cousin is Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, is said to be a very successful comedian and an activist of note. You may remember her most recent appearance was when she was arrested at the U.S. Capitol three weeks ago. She was part of a disgraceful mob who unlawfully protested the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and the hunch is Amy wanted to get arrested so she ... (click for more)

Sports

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Opens Ticket Deposits

Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club opened ticket deposits on Monday for its inaugural 2019 season of professional play in USL League One. Deposits ensure soccer fans get to pick their preferred seats early for group, season and individual tickets. By placing a deposit, fans will also have access to priority seating for the new soccer-specific stadium being built for the 2020 season. ... (click for more)

Baylor, GPS, CCS Advance To State Soccer Semifinals

Baylor traveled to Briarcrest in Memphis on Saturday to compete for a Division II-AA final four spot. After play to a 0-0 tie in the first half, Baylor would find itself down 1-0 in the 63rd minute when Anna Strong scored off a corner kick. That lead did not last long as Ara Rhodes scored the game tying goal one minute later off an Avery David corner kick. Two minutes later, ... (click for more)