Salem Sunbeam : Sunday, February 06, 2011, 11:52 PM
The famous painter Vincent van Gogh once said: If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into and understanding of many things.
Ken Braxton, 70, of Woodstown has that insight and as the president of the Salem County Branch of the NAACP he carries with him the true spirit of humanity and equality among not only African-Americans, but all people of this world.
“A lot of people do many different things,” said Braxton. “I tell people I like to concentrate on one thing and the NAACP is what I am concentrating on right now.”
Braxton was born and raised in Salem County. His parents moved to the Woodstown area from Virginia in the 1920’s.
“Things were just better up here,” said Braxton. “My Dad was really good at carpentry work and I know he worked up at DuPont for some time.”
His father bought a nice size piece of land on Bailey Street in Woodstown that many family members built their houses on and Braxton still lives today.
“A lot of the land is still in the family,” he said.
In 1965 Braxton began his career at New Jersey Bell Telephone, which was later split to form AT&T and then split again to form Lucent Technologies.
Staff photo by Paul LutesNAACP President Ken Braxton speaking at the Salem County branch’s recent monthly meeting.
“I’m glad I took the job. Sometimes you can’t see the big picture when you are young,” said Braxton. “I was a little leery because I knew you had to go into people’s houses and I never knew how people were going to react.”
Now retired, Braxton admits he is a daydreamer, but most days he likes to spend time with his wife and other family. He also finds himself riding his four-wheeler around the multi-acre plot of family land.
“I like playing around with it you never get to old for such things,” said Braxton. “It’s nice and I use it quite a bit.”
Braxton and his wife, Barbara, have been married for 43 years. He said they met at a dance in Yorktown. They have two sons.
“Time goes by so fast and I feel fairly good and sometimes I forget my age,” Braxton said.
Braxton had two sisters and six brothers. He was the third youngest.
“We started off, all of us, at the South Woodstown School,” he said. “It had two classes per room.”
Braxton distinctly remembers the coal stove used for heating the classroom.
At this time the schools were segregated in Woodstown and it wasn’t until Braxton was in fourth grade that district was desegregated.
“When they closed it (South Woodstown School) down we ended going to the middle school in Woodstown,” said Braxton. “I was apprehensive at first, but I personally never had any real problems there that I can remember.”
Braxton excelled at sports and played both football and baseball for Woodstown High School.
“At that time we could never beat Salem,” Braxton said with a chuckle. “I remember one of our coaches used to say ‘We don’t care about the rest of the season, just beat Salem,’ but we could never beat them.”
NAACP Membership Chair Cecil Parsley graduated from Salem High School the same year as Braxton did from Woodstown. He often jokes with Braxton about their high school football rivalry.
“I’m really proud to know him,” Parsley said of Braxton. “Ken has always been a hard worker for the NAACP and now taking on the role of president he has been a real asset.”
Parsley said himself, Braxton and many of the others executive board members have worked together to restore the branch.
Braxton said the NAACP is working on a number of initiatives including increasing membership and making sure the hiring process is fair throughout the county.
He said this is especially important in schools.
“I like to think at least the NAACP, as a county organization, will look at these things. It’s not that we mean to take jobs or push people out. We just want to make things equal,” said Braxton. “But we understand there has to be qualified people applying.”
The vision of the NAACP is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.
The NAACP is also introducing the group to all the police chiefs in the area to build a better relationship with law enforcement.
“I think sometimes people tend to think that the NAACP is the boogeyman,” said Braxton. “But that’s not the case. We just want a level playing field.”
Braxton said the NAACP hopes to revive its Youth Council again. He hopes to get this accomplished this year. The youth program has been dormant for a decade.
“We hope to get this started up real soon,” Braxton said.
The NAACP is always seeking new membership. The group meets the fourth Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Grieves Parkway in Salem or you can visit the organization’s website at http://www.salemcountynaacp.org/.