As Human Resources director for the city of Hot Springs, Minnie Lenox has built a life and family here in Hot Springs that she can be proud of that boasts four children and nine grandchildren.
Growing up, Lenox attended Langston School from seventh through the 11th grade, and explained the transition she and her classmates had to make to Hot Springs High School her senior year.
"If anything happened at school, your parents knew about it when you got home," she said. "That's the type of relationship that was in the African American community. When we had to go to Hot Springs High our senior year, it was not great. It was not a fun year. It was a year we hoped would hurry up and get over because it was like everything we had and learned at Langston was gone away with. Because we had not attended Hot Springs for whatever number of years you had to be able to be in different organizations. We couldn't be a cheerleader -- I was a cheerleader at Langston for four years. When I got to Hot Springs High School, I couldn't even try out for cheerleading because you had to be a T-Stepper. ... We weren't afforded those opportunities. That was quite demeaning to me. We just didn't have the relationship between the students and the instructors as we did when we were at Langston. It was totally different."
Experiencing instances of racial tension during her adjustment to Hot Springs High School in 1968-1969, Lenox noted that it was a turning point in her life.
"They brought us out there before school started and told us to our face -- 'We didn't want you all to come out here, but we're gonna try to do the best we can.' It wasn't like you were welcome. They told us that they were forming a new school. It would be a new mascot, a new school name and everything. We were known as the Bulldogs. Hot Springs was the Trojans. Hot Springs did not have a good record when it came to sports and things of that nature. Langston had a good record. We went out there at first and they had the Trojan head, the name of the school was Hot Springs High School -- everything was Hot Springs ... They just continued on. We had to forget (Langston) and leave everything behind. That was a turning point for me in my life at that time."
After losing her mother in 1964, she and her siblings were raised by her father and great aunt and instead of following through with plans of heading for the Hampton Institute in Virginia, Lenox chose Indiana University.
"I wanted to go away to college, but my great aunt did not want me to go away because of the times and everything," Lenox said. "She said, 'Anything can happen to you. Anything can happen and you would be so far away. You have no family or relatives out there.' So because of that I ended up staying close. I went to Indiana University. My brother lived in Gary, Ind. It wasn't that far and I stayed up there until I got sick and I came back home to Henderson. She said it was her responsibility to take care of us and I thank her for that."
Lenox's four children, Dino Ronald, Eric and Melody, also attended their mother's alma mater. With Dino as president of the Hot Springs School Board, his wife, Natasha, as president of the middle school, and her grandson, Eric, who is the assistant principal at Langston, Lenox takes notice of the strides that have been made since her years at the school.
"They did experience some things -- discrimination and things of that nature," she said. "They had some of the (struggles) but it wasn't as overt as it was when I was going to school. I was just right out in the open of racial discrimination. They met discrimination but it was kind of -- I call it 'behind the scenes undercover.' They had teachers who liked them and they had teachers who didn't like them. I didn't let that deter them. There's this saying. You stand on the shoulders of greatness and you look ahead because of the past that your ancestors. I've seen how they have walked and grown and become stronger in spite of everything they had to go through."
Lenox has preached the importance of integrity to her children throughout their lives.
"I always told them to make sure that integrity speaks for you," she said. "That's your character. Once you compromise your integrity, you've lost everything. As long as you're doing what's right, it'll pay off in the years. That's what I've always told my kids. ... When you walk out that door, you're under a microscope 24/7. You always make sure you're doing what's right. I don't care if you have to stand by yourself. You do what's right. I'm not going to say that my kids have been perfect, but I know that they know what has been instilled in them.
"You have to walk the talk. You have to love yourself before you can love anybody else. I teach them respect, dignity and excellence. Respect is something that you work hard to do. You've got to respect yourself and respect others. You have to have dignity in whatever it is you're doing. I'll never forget that when my kids were younger and growing up that they would work down at the convention center and I had a co-worker ... who asked 'Can I have your boys come work down at the bath houses?' They were working at the convention center, cleaning up after big events and they would go and work at the bath houses. Of course, they would complain because they'd be hot and tired and I told them 'If you don't want to do this the rest of your life, then there are things you must do. No matter how hard it gets.' They stuck to the grind and they've become what they have become because of that."
At the age of 68, Lenox is a volunteer member of multiple organizations such as the Hot Springs Community Foundation, Ouachita Behavioral Health and Wellness as a board member, Jessieville Lions LEO Club, and West Central Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management as well as the national chapter.
"One of the most important lessons I've learned is to be a servant," Lenox said. "Help in any way I can. I don't know everything, but I will work and strive to help somebody else. I will sacrifice in order to help someone else. Serving and leadership attitude -- I strive to be the type of individual who says follow me as I follow Christ. Sometimes I'm very short on words but I try to walk it out. I watch people a lot. I listen a lot and I take all of that into consideration. In the end, I want to be an example for others to follow."
Has her life turned out the way she thought it would all those years ago? Not quite, but Lenox "wouldn't trade it for the world."
"While I was in college, I thought I wanted to be a commercial engineer. I wanted to work on building buildings. I wanted to do that for about two years and I wanted to open up my own school and eventually retire by the time I was 60 years old. Well, fast forward to today. Here I am. I'm 68 ... I love what I do. The profession that I have as HR has been my passion and my calling and a lot of the things I do -- I've been asked to speak for different organizations. I love what I do. I love to share. I love to pour out into others and then see them pouring out into others. That's the gift that keeps on giving. You can't put a price on that."
"I work hard. I sacrificed. I'm grateful that I can stand back and look at my kids and grandkids -- I'm still alive to see the changes, the things that are going forward. I'm grateful for my family and the love that we have for each other ... Having the love and respect of your children and grandchildren means the world."