Wilson County Civic League
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Site Name

Wilson County Civic League


(615) 449-0719

Site Name

Wilson County Civic League


(615) 449-0719


Improving Social Conditions in the Community Since 1984.

About Wilson County Civic League

About Wilson County Civic League

The Wilson County Civic League is a non-profit organization, established in 1984 and chartered in 1986 for the purpose of improving the social conditions in the community.

We seek to strengthen and preserve our community by promoting programs that enhance self-worth and dignity, with emphasis on youth.

Our primary focus is youth. Through recreation and education, seminars, workshops, and regular tutoring programs, we address problems such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy, violence, and AIDS.

Our philosophy is that preventive measures exceed rehabilitative efforts.


Originally published February 2011 by Helen Catron
Updated January 2020

Symbolically, the Wilson County Civic League Continues to represent the spirit and desires of an organization that wants to make significant changes within the community which It serves by providing services which will Improve the development of the educational, social, political and economic structure of one of Lebanon's oldest communities.

Today, much of what remains of the once thriving Market Street community can be credited to the efforts of the Civic League and it's members. The most visual accomplishment may be the saving from destruction of the Market Street Elementary School which educated thousands of Young blacks and served as a community anchor for African Americana during the harsh days of segregation.

In 1936 when a group of Negro citizens saw a need for change In the community regarding the education of black youth, they organized a Negro Civic League. Its goal was to get a new High School building on Market Street. Eventually that League became extinct.

In October 1967, a group of citizens again saw the need to re-organize the league. They hoped to Improve conditions In the home, school, church and community. It gradually expired. Ed Seay, a former member of the League, became concerned about the community an enlisted the help fo other citizens to re-organize the League.

Seay, Harry Watkins Sr., Robert Stokes, and others worked together to Inform citizens of the need of a new League. In September 1984, a group met at the Market Street School to discuss these concerns. An organizational meeting was held at the Market Street Church of Christ Annex and the present Wilson County Civic League was established.

Officers and Board of Directors Include: Harry Watkins Jr., Donald Hatcher, Jimmy McGowan, Dlianthia McGowan, Perry White, Robert Stokes, Earl Ferrell, 

Bessie Allen, Fred Burton, Richard Owens, Willle Dean DeBow and others. The goal was to promote the following: the election of minority officials, the hiring of more minority teachers, ownership of minority businesses, voter education for the community, the development of a community park and a community center, and Improvement of race relations.

Wilson County Civic League was chartered In 1886. It became tax exempt with an IRS 501 c (3) status and was accepted as a agency affiliated with the United Way. The groups crowing achievement may be one that is far less noticeable than some others, fighting to end decades of leas than adequate representation on the Lebanon City Council by successfully changing the law that allows each member of council to be elected at large, ensuring that whoever represented the community now known as the second ward would be a resident of the same community.

Ronnie Kelley, president of the League, said, "The leadership provided by Harry Watkins Jr., Fred Burton and others not only won the battle but forged the Civic League into an Integral part of Lebanon's dally life. It was a struggle getting to that point, but these men (Watkins and Burton) made It happen."

The W.C. C. L recognizes that though the Market Street Community is historically predominantly African American, It is rapidly changing with white and Hispanic residents becoming a large part of the community.

The W.C.C.L's major program are the Tutorial Program coordinated by Leslyne Watkins, which started In 1994 and exists to help students In the community with school work.

Marilyn Bryant heads the Senior Citizens Program, which gets the Market Street Seniors and other community seniors together weekly for food, arts and crafts. A summer Arts Academy is held each summer, and a basketball camp is sponsored each July.

Other accomplishments throughout the years Include:

  • Restored Market Street Elementary School, utilized as a community center 1992.
  • Restored Rest Hill Cemetery, which was placed on the National Historic Register.
  • Historical State Marker for Wilson County Training School a former Rosenwald School.
  • Restored Historical Wheeler School where W.E.B. DuBois taught school In the 1800's.
  • Developed Community housing Development Organization (C.H.D.O.)
  • Through Tennessee Housing Development Authority completed 23 new apartment units.
  • Taught pre-purchase homebuyer education that led to home ownership.
  • Provides scholarships for graduates of tutoring program.
Cover for Wilson County Civic League, Inc.
Wilson County Civic League, Inc.

Wilson County Civic League, Inc.

Wilson County Civic League, Inc. is a non profit, United Way sponsored, organization in Lebanon, TN

AmericanJobCenter Job Fair at Market Street Community Center November 1, 2022 10a.m. to 2p.m. ... See MoreSee Less
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History: The one room schoolhouse for Blacks was established during the Reconstruction Period (1865-1877) in Wilson County on land donated by Captain J. D. Wheeler, formerly of the 5th Tennessee Calvary C.S.A.Renowned Black educator, W.E.B. Dubois (1868-1963) taught at the school during the summers of 1886 and 1887. W.E.B. Dubois graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, TN, where he attended from 1885-1888. He was a writer, teacher and sociologist who helped to establish the N.A.A.C.P. He was also the first Black person to receive a Ph.D. in social science from Harvard University.The original log building dimensions were 28 ft x 20 ft. The schoolhouse was located on the farm of Keith Harrison in Alexandria, TN (48 miles East of Nashville). The school was reconstructed and donated to the Ward Agricultural Center in 1994. All of the school is original except for the tin roof. The Tennessee Historical Commission has recognized the site with a marker designating its historical value.For more information: read “Souls of Black Folk: by W.E.B. Dubois Signet Classic Printing 1969 ... See MoreSee Less
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