Grambling community mourns loss of resident

Leon Frederick Blankenship Sr., the first African American unit conservationist for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in Louisiana, died Nov. 9 at St. Francis Hospital in Monroe.Visitation will be held from 6 p.m. -7 p.m. today at Paradise Funeral Home, 3201 6th St. in Arcadia. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 2586 (Highway 150) Martin Luther King Blvd. in Grambling.

Blankenship was born on Feb. 5, 1924, to Joseph Nathaniel and Fannie Moore Blankenship. He attended Shady Grove High School in Saline and graduated from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala., in 1949.

He married Mildred Johnson on April 25, 1952, and they had two children, Leon F. Blankenship Jr. and Pamela Anita Blankenship.

As an educator, Blankenship’s first teaching job was teaching vocational agriculture in Bernice from 1949-1951. In 1951, he joined the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, starting out in Grambling in 1951 as work unit conservationist.

In 1965, he was transferred to the Ruston Field office, and was later promoted to Resource Conservation and Development specialist and relocated to the Shreveport office. The following year he was transferred to the state office in Alexandria and appointed chairman of the EEO Committee for the Soil Conservation Service of Louisiana. His primary responsibility was to ensure that minorities received their fair share of assistance for services.
Blankenship remained in the position at the state office until his retirement in 1983. During his 33 years with the Conservation Service, he improved the plight of the African American farmer.

He was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., the Soil Conservation Society of America, and Mt. Zion Baptist Church. At Mt. Zion, he was a deacon for 57 years, serving as church clerk for 28 of those years and, more recently, as chairman of the Deacon Board.

Even though he worked full time for the federal government, Blankenship found time to open several successful businesses, including a day care center and Laundromat, raised and sold cattle and insurance, and bought and sold timber for a major timber company.

He is survived by his wife of almost 58 years, Mildred Johnson Blankenship; one son,
Leon F. Blankenship Jr. of Shreveport; one daughter, Pamela Anita Blankenship of Grambling; one grandson, Robert E. Carter Jr. of Grambling; one granddaughter, Teneisha T. Carter of Grambling; four great-grandchildren, Brittani, Kamille, Mason and Gabriel Carter; one brother, King H. Blankenship of Richmond, Calif.; three sisters, Addie L. Milner of Saline; Cleo B. (Israel) Robinson of Itta Bena, Miss., and Lenora B. Gibson of Compton, Calif.; two brothers-in law, Clarence Hogans Sr. of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Israel Robinson of Itta Bena, Miss.; two sisters-in-law, Freddie L. Johnson of Baton Rouge and Dorothy J. Moody of Monroe; and a host of other nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.