Brenda Beedles knew she wanted to be part of Top Ladies of Distinction Inc. after growing up around its founders.
She said the founders acted like ladies, and her goal was to be a Top Lady herself.
“I love being a lady. What’s wrong with being a lady? It makes you feel good,” Ms. Beedles said.
“My mom even taught me whenever you step out of your house, stay within that character. Someone is always watching. … And you carry yourself like that at all times,” she said.
This year, the public service organization celebrates its 50th anniversary. The anniversary will be recognized on March 26 during a Texas College 120th anniversary Founder’s Convocation. A luncheon will follow at Glass Recreation Center, which is named for charter member Dr. Willie Lee Glass.
When asked what the 50th anniversary means, TLOD Rose City Chapter President Sharon Mosley said, “These giants have walked among us and walked on the same premises that we have, and today we’re still holding up that legacy that they’ve set.”
She said charter members’ main thrust involved impacting lives, and TLOD wants teens to know that there’s something beyond high school, whether it’s college, a vocational school or something else.
Pamelia Franklin Adams, Fathers and Mentors Committee program chairwoman, said she considers the 50th as the golden anniversary, while Ms. Beedles said, “it’s 50 years in the mirror.”
Top Ladies of Distinction began in the 1960s.
Dorothy Franks, Northeast Area 1 cluster coordinator, said Mrs. Glass had become acquainted with Lady Bird Johnson, and received an invitation to a luncheon that the first lady was holding for women.
Mrs. Glass didn’t attend, and asked Major Ozell M. Dean, who had graduated from Texas College and resided in Washington, D.C. at the time, if she would go in her place, which she did, she said.
Mrs. Glass and several of her friends received a report from Major Dean on what the luncheon meeting was about, she said, and thought they needed to establish an organization or movement that would help prepare teens to participate in an integrated society. From there, Top Ladies of Distinction was founded in Tyler.
“I think they did a wonderful job. They didn’t just throw an organization together. They did a lot of research,” Ms. Franks said.
Fifty years later, she said the organization still focuses on its motto — “serving youth and adults.”
The organization has five major programmatic thrusts — Top Teens of America, Senior Citizens, Status of Women, Community Beautification and Community Partnership.
With Top Teens, which is for ages 13 to 18, mentors work to instill character, leadership and volunteerism, Ms. Franks said.
“It’s just about building teens to be future leaders,” she said.
Health issues also have been a focus, and Top Ladies does a lot with Sickle Cell disease projects and March of Dimes, Ms. Mosley said.
She said Top Ladies of Distinction also works with various organizations, such as the National Council of Negro Women, the National Association of Campus Card Users, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Locally, Ms. Franks said, TLOD has formed partnerships with major contributors, financial and otherwise, and has developed partnerships with local nursing homes, such as Mel Rose Nursing Center in Tyler, where they visit with seniors and have an annual Christmas gathering.
She said the organization also donates and collects socks for senior citizens.
Additionally, TLOD is involved in Dress for Success, and teens and ladies recently collected more than 200 items for a local homeless shelter, she said.
Ms. Franks also mentioned that the organization is involved in scholarships and that men serve as mentors and chaperones.
Aside from what they do, Ms. Adams said, the Top Ladies also have etiquette and are dignified.
“People want to say that’s outdated, but it’s not,” she said.
In fact, Ms. Franks said charter member LaVerne Madlock once told her that when Top Ladies of Distinction first started, members wanted to impress women around the country.
Therefore, everything that was done in writing was sent to charter member Major Ozell M. Dean in Washington, D.C., and she mailed it from there so it was postmarked from Washington, D.C., she said.
Top Teens also know etiquette, respect, how to carry themselves and are volunteers, Ms. Adams said.
As far as evolving over the years, Ms. Franks recalled that most members used to be educators. However, she said, members now come from all walks of life and vocations.
Ms. Adams, who was a Top Teen, said it was a teacher in Jacksonville who made her want to be a Top Lady.
For Ms. Franks, it was her children, now ages 44 and 45, who led to her involvement.
She said her children participated in Top Teens of America, and without that, they would not have received the leadership training they received.
“They learned how to become presidents of an organization or secretaries or treasurers,” she said. “My daughter was a national recording secretary at the time. It was her first time to participate in actually running a campaign.”
When her children graduated from high school, Ms. Franks said she was asked to join TLOD, and did so to help other teens have the same experience that her children did.
In the future, TLOD is looking at recommending that satellite chapters be brought back in order to reach more teens, Ms. Franks said. She said there also is an opportunity for younger ladies to mentor the older ladies as far as the use of new technology.