Autrilla Watkins-Scott recently discovered an overlooked surprise in her latest book. While flipping through the pictures buried within the last few pages, she stopped at page 200 to take a long look at the letter she received from former President William Jefferson Clinton, whom she mentions in her writing. What she’d realize is that the letter from the young boy she used to babysit was instead a letter from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. “How that got there, it’s a miracle to me,” said the 81-year-old Long Beach resident. “I looked at the book so much I didn’t even read the letter. I couldn’t believe that myself.”
I Remember When: A Town Named Hope, Arkansas was published last November and has been selling itself, said Scott. Within the pages, she reflects on her childhood growing up in that town and documents her life. She did a book-signing for the American Business Women’s Association just a few days ago and will be making another appearance to help celebrate National Library Week at the Signal Hill Public Library on Wednesday, April 11.
While Scott is better known for babysitting the young Billy Blythe, she has established a name for herself within the central area Long Beach community through her various projects and neighborhood renovation efforts. Along with photos of her family and President Clinton, countless awards from the City, State and White House line the walls of the Hill Street home in which she’s resided for the past 38 years.
“We can’t be selfish when we want to do something in the community,” Scott said. “It isn’t about me. It’s about whatever you see there is a need to be.” It is with this selfless tenacity that she was honored with Autrilla Scott Lane, an alley project she took on for five years as part of her involvement with the Neighborhood Leadership Long Beach program.
The alley was cleaned up and paved from Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Orange Avenue and now serves as a safe route for kids to walk to school. Her friends would jokingly ask if she was still working on the “alley rally” to which she would finally said no, as she reflected on one of her prouder achievements. “In my last days anything I do, I’m [going to] try to do something for everybody,” she said.
The mother of two credits her 30 years of working at the Veterans Affairs as a vocational nurse as the spark that continues to ignite her desire to give back to the community and others. She also rekindled a passion for writing at the start of her retirement in 1991 and soon developed a lasting friendship with her writing coach– the late Manazar Gamboa. She defines herself as a poetry writer first and foremost.
With her second book off to a successful start, Scott already has two more goals lined up. One continues her community involvement and has her working with city officials on placing images of the six black councilmembers who have served the sixth district of Long Beach. This is a second suggestion and final project for Scott after a prior attempt turned out to be not what she’d envisioned. “Let’s put them up there all along the wall and teach young adults that they can be a part of the city of Long Beach,” she said.
Publishing a third book with a collection of her many poems is another goal she’s added to her plate of ambitions. Gamboa once described her as someone who writes from the soul, which is demonstrated in her 2003 book of short stories, Stories From the Past. The author has also mastered grant writing and said she has managed to earn every grant for which she has applied.
In four days Scott will throw her annual Easter egg hunt. Dozens of kids from the neighborhood will gather on her front lawn for Easter baskets and balloon animals in a tradition she will continue for as long as she can. Every year she sets out with the same goal– to have all the neighbors come together so they can interact and see other kids of different races at an early age. Her family and she endured strictly enforced housing codes, and she now takes the opportunity to unite future generations. “It’s a way for me to get the children in the neighborhood to respect each other,” she said. “Let’s learn to respect each other as a people. That’s what I believe in.”
Scott will be at the Signal Hill Public Library, 1770 E. Hill St., on Wednesday, April 11 from 6pm to 7pm for a book signing.