Eddie Scott 1928-2017

Eddie Scott arrived in Reno in 1950, when the city had just 32,497 residents. “There were signs saying they didn’t want colored trade,” Scott told reporter Ed Pearce in 2011.

Scott arrived looking for work. He departed Reno for a time to work in nearby Herlong where he reportedly first became involved in civil rights. He served as Reno-Sparks branch president of the NAACP in 1961-64 and 1967-68. He worked to win enactment of equal rights legislation in the Nevada Legislature. In a 1961 wire to Nevada’s congressional delegation and President Kennedy, Scott described conditions for blacks in the state: “FHA discrimination everywhere. Negro service men suffering. Seventy percent relegated substandard rentals.”

For 12 years, Scott was director of the Race Relations Center in Reno. Begun with seed money from feminist leader Maya Miller, the Center dealt with the problems of daily life for low-income people of any color—jobs, housing, rights. Scott fought constantly for funding to keep the Center alive, tapping contributors and governments at all levels. Funding from a now-defunct federal program, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), made life easier, but the details of administration caused friction with those who oversaw the funds, often leading to public battles county officials. At one point, County Commissioner Dick Scott advised the employees of the Center to seek other jobs.

Elizabeth Gower Woodard, Scott’s aide at the Center, was one of those workers. She said he kept the Center going “on a slim budget. He got small grants here and there, like the one from Maya Miller, and small donations. But he was very smart in taking advantage of government programs, too. I was a CETA employee, and his association with CETA worked well for Mr. Scott.” Strain of fundraising and the work took their toll. Woodard said, “We tried to help everyone who called or came through our door. Mr. Scott was brilliant in finding partners to help people, many of whom had been denied help from agencies specifically designed to help them. It was maddening sometimes, but Mr. Scott just carried on with a quiet dignity.”

What many of those who faulted Scott’s performance never knew was that he was illiterate. One of Woodard’s functions was to read office materials to him. His numerous accomplishments were achieved in spite of this drawback. Those who stumbled onto his secret were often disbelieving.

In 2015, Scott was named a “Distinguished Nevadan” during a University of Nevada, Reno commencement. An NAACP branch award is named for Scott and his colleague Bertha Woodard.

Scott was not voluble about his pre-Nevada life. He was born June 19, 1928. He reportedly arrived in Nevada from Louisiana, though whether he was born there is uncertain. He died last week in Seattle.