For more than three decades the Council of Organizations building has been the setting for various programs and events of the African-American community. And one man has closely associated with the building: C.E. Oatis Jr.

For more than 30 years, Oatis has served as president of the Council of Organizations Inc., a conglomerate of clubs and individuals, which spearheaded the purchase of the building. This month, he stepped down as


"Mr. Oatis' dedication and outstanding leadership have been what has sustained the Council of Organizations throughout all these years," said Irene Wade, who serves as secretary of the organization.

On Sept. 20, the former council president will be recognized for his contributions when the council building will be renamed in his honor during an unveiling ceremony.

The event will feature several speakers who, according to Wade, have journeyed with Oatis throughout his work with the council, as well as his contributions as an educator and in the community.

"There will be representatives from the National Council of Meridianites Inc., his church, his fraternity, fellow educators as well as family members," she said.

The soft-spoken Oatis is humbled about the dedication.

"I think it's nice to be remembered in this way," he said.

During his presidency, the council grew from 14 organizations to more than 200 men and women. In addition to providing a setting for local programs and events, the council provides scholarship assistance to needy and worthy high school and junior college graduates; supports and encourages community support for local, state and federal programs of education; has sponsored conferences and workshops; and works with local community service agencies. The council serves as host of the Annual National Council of Meridianites Convention and Picnic's homecoming, which is held in Meridian every five years.

For two decades, Oatis served as chairman of the Department of Music and director of bands at Harris High School/Junior College. He went on to serve as assistant principal at Meridian High School, Harris Campus, and principal at Magnolia Middle and Kate Griffin Junior High schools.

His accomplishments are numerous and include serving on the State Health Curriculum Committee for the Mississippi State Department of Education, as a member of the Minority Advisory Committee for Meridian Public Schools, executive secretary for the Mississippi State Music Teacher Association and president of the Mississippi Teacher Association's band division.

Oatis has also received numerous awards, including being honored in 2002 by his fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, with the Distinguished Chapter Award. He is the only Mississippian to receive what is the fraternity's highest honor. The same year, a proclamation was issued by the city of Meridian naming August 2002 C.E. Oatis Jr. Day in honor of his service to Meridian and Lauderdale County. He has received special recognition for his efforts in organizing several National Council of Meridianites Convention and Picnic events, was presented the Governor's Merit Award in 1975 by Gov. William Waller and was included in the 1979 edition of "Personalities of the South."

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