By William Reed
Special to the NNPA
Washington, D.C. (NNPA) – Dr. John L. Cashin, Jr. a Black dentist and Alabama civil rights leader who once ran for governor against George C. Wallace, died in a Washington, D.C. hospital on March 22, 2011. He was 82.
Cashin, a native of Huntsville, Alabama, received almost 15 percent of the statewide vote in 1970 as the gubernatorial nominee of the National Democratic Party of Alabama, a Black political alternative to the state Democratic Party. During the course of his tenure with the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA), Cashin and his supporters gained power at the local level and speeded up the integration of county courthouses.
Cashin once ran for Mayor of Huntsville, and between 1968 and 1974 the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) facilitated the election of more than 100 Blacks to public office in Alabama. In 1974, the Alabama Democratic Party surrendered to what had been Cashin’s demands and integrated its ballot.
Cashin was born on April 16, 1928 in Huntsville, Alabama to Grace Brandon Cashin, a school principal, and Dr. John Logan Cashin, Sr., a dentist.
Cashin received his D.D.S. degree from Meharry Medical School in 1952.
After his graduation, Cashin was drafted into the U.S. Army where he was a first lieutenant and Chief of Dental Services for soldiers near Fountainebleu, France.
After serving two years in the Army, Cashin returned to the U.S. where he joined his father’s dental practice. He also became active in politics, particularly with the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC), a political league formed to bring newly registered Blacks into the Democratic ranks.
Whites had long dominated Alabama’s political system at every level, and when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, very few African Americans were even registered to vote in the state.
Through registration drives were held successfully across the South, White party leaders at the state level were unwilling to incorporate Blacks into their organizations. As a result, many Blacks who had been successful in getting registered still found themselves excluded from the political process. Frustrated with the continuing lack of African American political power, Cashin contemplated a third-party that would allow Blacks to align with the Democratic Party in presidential elections while providing an alternative at the state and local levels. He modeled his proposal on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which had mounted serious but unsuccessful challenges to Mississippi’s White Democratic Party in 1964 and 1965.
In 1967, Cashin helped found the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) and was elected the first party chairman. The NDPA embraced the ideals of the “Black power” movement and marked a shift in the methods of civil rights activists in Alabama. Instead of direct-action protests, such as marches and sit-ins, which targeted the elusive and intangible goal of “equality,” the NDPA engaged in Black power politics. He led a delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1968, challenging the representative nature of the regular Democratic Party delegation.
Although it failed to make significant headway in statewide campaigns, the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) did have some local success, and more importantly, it provided many African Americans with their first experiences in politics.
Cashin moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997. He is survived by his wife of 14 years, Louise; three children, two sons, Carroll and John, and a daughter Sheryll.