St. Louis recently lost a political icon, in Charles Quincy Troupe. Known with distinction amongst his Senatorial/Representative colleagues in Jefferson City as the “Dean,” for his long tenure as a senior State Representative and statesman, and by associates and those with familiarity and affection, Quincy.
I write this having been on both sides of the political battlefield at times with Quincy, and within the intimacies of a political circle that included, former State Representative Yaphett El-Amin, current Alderwomen Sharon Tyus, Irene Smith, former Senator Jamillah Nasheed, Elaine Diggs and myself. In my faith, I’m taught to ‘reverence the wombs that bore you’.
In a physical sense, this is a reference to the respect we give our mothers who birth us. Metaphorically, this is anyone, circumstance or situation that gives birth to, helps create, nurtures and/or develops and edifies one’s growth and advancement.
Quincy was part of a political womb that many were birthed and nurtured. If you had the privilege of working close up with him you got a taste of a mind of a contemplative and shrewd master strategist.
If you found yourself on the other side, then you got a like serving, either way, you were sharpened and learned. Whether one found themselves politically or philosophically aligned with Quincy, one thing that could not be debated was his love for Black people. There was a guiding principle of working with people , especially outside the community that he shared and I often relayed. He said, “I’ll never ask you to do anything to hurt your people and don’t ever ask me to do anything to hurt mine.”
I knew this to be true because a former outstate colleague of his confirmed this. Something that I hope our electeds today can take note. To not align with anyone, any thinking, principle, process or policy that would hurt the collective or any individual in the Black community within or outside the Black politic body.
What was admirable is that he was a superbly astute statesman, a historian of our history and political struggles, having introduced many to Sun Tzu’s Art of War. He knew how to connect the dots and was unapologetic in challenging the power structure to extract concrete benefits, for the Black community. He wasn’t lulled to sleep by or married to dogmatic partisan loyalties over the particular interest of the community he served first.
After a few years of political dispute and mutual antagonism between us, Quincy and I were able to accomplish what many who become politically embattled fail to do, unable to move in unison from the political scar tissue amassed from battles….we laughed together! We went to dinner one day at Maggiano’s and asked the why’s, the what’s and possibilities of what could’ve been and we laughed.
Two men, mutual respect, but I as a student humbly in the presence and in appreciation of a charismatic, charming, intellectual warrior. Thereafter, occasionally, I’d call him, stop by and he’d even ask me to pick him up to go see my Mother who was ailing herself from cancer. Prior to that, my own beloved father, who shared a mutual respect and admiration, would visit and play dominoes at his home even in the midst of our political disagreements. Martin Matthews, another respected elder and founder of Matthews-Dickeys Boys Club once shared with me, “TD, the perfect balance in life is to know that you’re old enough to know and young enough to grow!”
With Quincy, in the last several years in his presence, I was humbly restored to that student having had the opportunity to pay his respect to a political sensei, for whom I learned directly and indirectly from. In his company, I as a man in my own being, but in context a youth young enough for room to have grown and learned. That’s the lesson that I hope can be carried from his life to the benefit of the younger public servants, who don’t know or respect the history of the pillars of our community and their sacrifices.
To learn from them, be humble enough to extract the lessons that came from battlefields that were laced with the most overt and blunt devices of racism and challenges that would’ve cost most today to wither into a oblivion state of acquiescence, accommodation and cowardice. Just maybe there’s a Black Caucus beyond this life, a table where Paula J. Carter, John Bass, Jet Banks, Greg Carter, Betty Thompson, Leroy Tyus, T.D. McNeal, DeVerne Calloway, Elaine Diggs, Myrtle French and young Greg Carter and the “Dean” sit and laugh in wonderment of their days and strategize on a “real” progressive course and reprieve for the future of St. Louis politics.
Who am I kidding, maybe Troupe sent a trusted proxy, strategically bypassed that meeting opting for the comforts of his own Black Smithsonian on Union Boulevard to play chess and talk strategy with Eric Vickers. May Charles Quincy Troupe, and all those who contributed to the betterment of our community, the strengthening of our political landscape and advancement of our people rest in favor, be rewarded and elevated in the ranks of the departed. Thank you sir.