Charles Holloway Jr. of Conway really didn’t want to go to his first NAACP meeting when invited. Now he’s president of the Faulkner County branch.
Holloway, 46, was invited to a meeting about five years ago by a former Acxiom Corp. co-worker, Chris Hervey, who is also a fellow Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity member.
“I was very ignorant of the association,” Holloway said. He knew only what he saw in the media, which he said portrayed the organization as radical or in a negative light.
“My friend assured me that wasn’t what the NAACP was about,” he said.
Holloway did his own research.
“It was founded in 1909, and to my surprise, it was a very diverse group — predominantly white and heavily Jewish-American,” he said.
“During that time, the groups of people that required attention were Native Americans, African-Americans and immigrants,” he said.
Holloway said the organization didn’t have its first African-American president until 1975.
“It defied everything I thought I knew about the organization,” he said.
He credits his father, Charles Holloway Sr. of North Little Rock, with his journey to join the NAACP.
Holloway’s father is a pastor, but Holloway Sr. didn’t become an ordained minister until 1993.
“He had been preaching to us all our lives,” Holloway said, referring to him and his sister. “He’s my role model. He is all about doing the Lord’s work in any situation. I think his teaching is what drove me to NAACP. He taught us to respect and love people, whether they resembled us or not.
“This is my ministry,” Holloway said, sitting in a coffee shop, his laptop open in front of him.
He was dressed in a perfectly pressed peach-colored shirt under an oatmeal-colored summer suit.
He could have been going to church.
Holloway was born after the height of the civil rights movement, and he said he didn’t experience discrimination like his parents did.
“I never experienced segregation. We were bused to Northeast [High School] in North Little Rock. It was a predominantly white school,” he said, although he doesn’t know the percentage. “I didn’t grow up in an all-black school. Diversity is how I grew up.
“My parents grew up in a time this country was not as kind to minorities, but they didn’t hate folks,” he said. “They took the opposite approach — how could they make things better?”
An honor student, Holloway excelled in math and science, so much so that he was awarded an engineering scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville — one that he didn’t take.
“I really wanted to pursue a career in the military,” he said, then go into the medical field. “I thought I would be a doctor.”
He changed his mind after realizing he’d have to do two enlistment terms in the military and delay his career goals.
Instead, he went to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he did a two-year internship with aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Despite job offers at several places, including McDonnell Douglas, he ended up taking a job for State Farm Insurance in Little Rock, where he was a claims adjuster for four years.
“I loved the people interaction. I was on the national catastrophe team,” he said, and he traveled to every major disaster during that time, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the North Ridge, California, earthquake in 1994.
“Being my first time out of the gate, that’s pretty horrific,” he said of the hurricane. “There was nothing to write an estimate on — it was a total loss. It was like stuff you see on television in a Third World country … total devastation.”
It was a satisfying job, Holloway said.
“It was that servant mentality my parents instilled in me,” he said. “I got to help people at their worst.”
Traveling all the time got old, though, and he changed jobs. He worked at Alltel Corp., where he had several jobs, ending up as supervisor of the sales-compensation department.
From there, he went into state government at the Department of Environmental Quality, where he oversaw all the agency’s projects as program support manager. Holloway was the first African-American in that position, he said.
He felt like he was giving back, true to his upbringing.
“I had a chance to serve the taxpayers of Arkansas,” he said. “We had a 10-year strategic plan that was second to none.”
He and his wife were living in Conway, and he was commuting to southwest Little Rock when he found out about a job at Acxiom in Conway. He is a team leader in the change management area.
Like his father, he is a preacher, but not ordained.
Hervey, president of the Faulkner County branch of the NAACP when Holloway first attended, “really stressed diversity,” Holloway said.
“He was very in tune with what’s going on today. We have more of a situation where we have the haves and the have nots,” he said.
“Discrimination has taken more of an economic base,” he said, “and comes in all skin complexions.”
Hervey, 40, of Conway said he invited Holloway to that first meeting because he thought Holloway would be an asset to the organization.
“Knowing he’s a very astute man, very intelligent and just an individual who was willing to do for the community, I thought it would be ideal to ask him to come visit an NAACP meeting,” Hervey said.
“He understands the importance that we collaborate. When I say we, I mean from an African-American standpoint, a Hispanic standpoint, a Caucasian standpoint. He understands that the NAACP is not just for African-Americans,” Hervey said.
He pointed out that Mary White Ovington, who was white, was a primary founder of the organization.
“Inclusion is important if we’re going to make any difference in our community and in Faulkner County. We both had that in common,” Hervey said.
Holloway, who has been president of the organization for almost 1 1/2 years, said he’s often asked what the relevance is of the NAACP today.
“When you look at some of the issues — health care, civil rights — if the world were perfect and the playing field were level for all, we wouldn’t need NAACP. Ignorance fuels racism,” he said. “The more educated we are about the world and about various cultures, the more you take an interest in people different from you and you try to understand their values and respect them.”
The Faulkner County NAACP has about 50 paid members, Holloway said, which include whites and Hispanics, as well as African-Americans.
One of his goals is to increase membership.
“We want people who are committed to making a difference,” he said. “We don’t care about your skin complexion. We care about your heart and making a difference.”
Another initiative for 2015, he said, is to assist the Conway School District in mentoring African-American males, as well as Hispanic males, who do not perform as well on nationally normed tests.
“We’d like to use that district maybe as a pilot, then move on with the hopes of helping others,” he said. “Mentorship is something I really want to push. I figure we can invest the time and money now on this side, or make that same investment on the other side,” Holloway said, referring to incarceration.
“The mission of the Faulkner County NAACP is to become the nucleus of the community. We want to bring all churches together, all organizations together and create one body that can make this county a better place for all to live.”
At the recent Juneteenth celebration in Conway, a festival recognizing the end of slavery, Holloway said a white man told him “he didn’t realize anyone could join” the NAACP.
“I thought that myself,” he said. “You look at the acronym, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. That’s tough. It was 1909 — colored people, that’s just a term they used. Colored people, I think, took the meaning of African-Americans, [but it] also meant Hispanics. It also meant immigrants, as well, and Native Americans.”
Holloway said his desire is for different cultures to get to know one another so that people realize they are more alike than different.
“I believe there’s only one race, and that’s the human race, and I believe we are all God’s children and God has commanded we all help one another as we would our own brother and sister.
“My mission is diversity,” he said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.