7th National President
In 1978, the Twenty-first Assembly, meeting in Chicago, installed Link Julia Brogdon Purnell as the Seventh President of the organization. Link Purnell was born in Belton, South Carolina, one of three daughters of the Reverend and Mrs. Richard E. Brogdon. Her sister, Sadie Brogdon Blackwell, is also a member of The Links. Link Purnell completed her undergraduate work at Allen University where she majored in psychology, minored in education, and graduated with honors. She received her Master of Arts degree in educational psychology in 1942 from Atlanta University, did further graduate work at the University of Michigan, and earned a specialist certificate in the teaching of reading from Colorado State College of Education. Link Purnell has also studied at Louisiana State University, Syracuse University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana. Among her many civic activities, Link Purnell is a life member of the National Council of Negro Women and the NAACP. She was also a member of the Baton Rouge YWCA, Women in Politics, the League of Women Voters, and the Blundon Home for Orphans, the local Girl Scouts’ Executive Board, and the Steering Committee on the Status of Women in Louisiana.
When she retired in 1984 as professor of education at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Link Purnell’s distinguished career included teaching positions at Avery Institute in Charleston, South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, and Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina. She has received citations from her Alma Mater for distinguished service and from her church for outstanding church leadership. Link Purnell has been awarded eight honorary degrees and is a member of three academic honor, societies, Beta Kappa Chi, Alpha Delta Mu, and Psi Chi. The professional organizations to which she belongs include the International Reading Association, the American Association of University Professors, the National Association of College Women, the National Reading Association, and the Louisiana Reading Association. Among her many religious affiliations are membership in the Bethel A.M.E. Church of Baton Rouge and its Missionary Society, Stewardess Board, and Laymen’s Organization. She has also served as chairman of the Bethel A.M.E. Building Fund, and as the church organist, and works in the church credit union.
Link Purnell brought to the presidency of The Links the experiences she gained as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Among many achievements in that office which honed her already highly developed skills as an administrator, she established a Washington office for Alpha Kappa Alpha program services and directed the development of a successful proposal to fund the organization of the Cleveland Job Corps for women. Calling upon these experiences during her first term as Links National President, Link Purnell directed moving the national headquarters into larger, more suitable accommodations. Moreover, she coordinated the changes involved in continuing the shift from voluntary leadership to the current partnership of voluntary elected leaders supported by an expanded professional staff funded by the organization. Working closely with the National Program Committee, and particularly with Link Hazelle Boulware of Lynchburg, VA the National Director of Services to Youth, Link Purnell secured for The Links, a grant of $101,205 from the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Program (LEAA) of the U.S. Department of Justice. With five other organizations, The Links worked with the juvenile justice project of the National Board of the YWCA. This project was developed as part of the continuing effort of The Links, and other organizations of concerned women, to respond to the need for prevention and treatment of delinquency among female juveniles. During Link Purnell’s term, updated Orientation Manuals for chapter presidents, Area Directors, chapter programs, personnel, as well as the Manual of Procedures were completed. The Constitution and By-Laws, and Rituals were circulated in their revised formats, and a membership directory–the most comprehensive and detailed ever published by The Links, or any similar group–was completed and distributed to each Links member. Guidelines for conducting National Assemblies, for selecting Honorary Members, and for identifying recipients of national awards have also been standardized.
Link Purnell’s husband Clifton A. Purnell, long-time athletic director at Capitol Senior High School in Baton Rouge, proceeded her in death. She had one son, Clifton, Jr., and two grandchildren. Link Purnell’s hobbies were reading, traveling, and music. She also enjoys playing her organ and working with her block club. After the death of her husband, Link Purnell was joined in Baton Rouge by her sister Link Christine Brogdon Gilchrist, a Psychologist who retired from teaching in Detroit. The two women launched Link Christine’s idea for a Service Center at Bethel A.M.E. Church. Open on Saturdays, the Center serves hot meals, has a food pantry, a clothing center and offers counseling services for people of all ages. After the untimely death of Link Gilchrist in 1990, the Center was renamed “The Scott-Gilchrist Quality of Life Center” and Link Purnell became the Director. Each week, she took her turn cooking for the approximately 250 people who come. In a March 1991, a feature article in the Louisiana Woman, the writer (Judy Pennington) noted that the Center was in essence “a microcosm of Link Purnell’s lifelong work, manifested in a small community that helps the larger (community) make sense of itself.”
Link Purnell died at the age of 97 on Monday, October 21. 2013. Her vibrant and unfaltering dedication to friendship and service was adored members around the country.