Marion Officer

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Marion Officer Discusses Humility

 

Carl Officer's father Marion dressed immaculately, was manicured, wore tasteful jewelry, was very polite and polished, and known for his gracious manners; always a gentleman.. He built the Officer Funeral Home into a quality and profitable establishment, and he built a respect for himself and his family among the black and white residents and professionals with whom he had any contact whatsoever. He lived comfortably and graciously.

Then his son Carl ran for mayor, after a humiliating defeat in a county race for coroner where the youthful candidate was buried in the white county Precincts. Carl learned the Democratic party's precinct committeeman were selective in their support in the outer county and in East St. Louis. And he learned that racism was not dead.

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Angry at his defeat and only old enough to have voted in a handful of elections, he ran for the mayor's seat in what still was the biggest city in St. Clair County, black East St. Louis. Carl's victory was exhilarating - suddenly he was John F. Kennedy and the Officer complex was the Camelot compound.

I saw him descend on one school board meeting conducted by Clyde Jordan, not alone but with an entourage of body guards and the favored not-so-few preceding, accompanying, following, arriving in an auto cavalcade and then sweeping uninvited and unannounced into the meeting room. Business stopped while Carl made the rounds shaking hands and beaming his smile on those whom he enriched with his blessing. Then he was gone again, leaving his then-freind Clyde Jordan to resume control of his meeting. Carl was a young king reveling in his glory.

It was against this background that Marion Officer told me that he had tried to restrain Carl. "I told him that it was not he who won the election. It was me and the Officer family who for two decades had built the family name into one deserving respect and confidence; it was his bevy of friends here and from college who came to help him; it was his political friends who gave their support, and all those voters who believed in him - they, not he, won the election."

Marion Officer was concerned that Carl keep his perspective as one elected to serve the people.

"I've always had my wife to help me with that," he told me. "When I went out to make a speech and returned to tell her how great I was, that I had held the audience in the palm of my hand as they hung onto my every word, she would roll her big brown eyes up at me and say "You ain't worth shit."

 

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