2021 NEA Women in Business: Ethel Tompkins
Hoxie Civil Rights Museum
Education: Shorter Jr. College, North Little Rock, (1961-1962); certificate of introduction to criminal justice (1963), US Navy North Island, San Diego; San Diego State University (1963-1964); Bachelor of Computer Science (1972), Control Data Institute, Los Angeles; Certificate in Savings and Loan Auditing and Accounting (1976), Savings and Loan Institute, Los Angeles; certificate of completion (2005), Center for Regional & Community Development, Arkansas State University
What was your dream job as a child and why? Airplane pilot so that I can fly to a place where I would be free to be anything other than a domestic.
What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career so far? See the look of wonder on the faces of school children when I tell them about black history.
What advice would you give to young women starting out in their careers? Never let anyone step on your dream.
What character traits do you think have helped you be successful? Persistence.
How do you spend your time outside of work? What are your hobbies? Make greeting cards, read and research black history.
What’s the last good book you read? “If the Boot Fits” by Rebekah Weatherspoon.
Of all the mentors in your professional career, which has been the most influential and why? My father. Even though he had no education, he taught me to know who I am, to keep my Christian values and never to be a disciple unless I know where they are going. Sometimes when I analyze a problem, I hear his voice telling me that I can do it.
What is your greatest passion and why? Completion of the Hoxie Civil Rights Museum. When completed, the museum will show why Hoxie was the first booth. Hoxie was the first Arkansas school to gain national attention, the first court order overturning public school segregation laws, the first time the United States Attorney General and Department of Justice supported a school district’s attempt to comply with Brown v. Education Council decision. The museum will also tell the story of the Hoxie heroes. The school board and the administrators who did not back down. Black parents who defied threats. White parents who refused to boycott. Teachers who welcomed all the students. Lawyers who set legal precedents. And above all, the black and white students who have marked the history of civil rights.
What’s special that people would be surprised to know about you? I really am not a social person.
Can you share what you learned about your business during the COVID-19 pandemic? We were just starting to set up fundraising events and COVID-19 put an end to it all.
What’s your favorite app right now? I do not have any. My app usage is changing from minute to minute.
If you have a bucket list, what are the top three things on it? Go on a photographic safari in Africa. Take part in an archaeological dig in Egypt. Complete the Hoxie Civil Rights Museum.
Editor’s Note: This year’s NEA Women in Business class profiles were compiled and written by George Jared and Paul Holmes.