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Spotlight Features

Congressman Johnson announces 2014 winners of CBCF scholarships

Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) announced the winners of the 2014 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Spouses Education Scholarships. The five winners hail from across the Fourth Congressional Dis

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Obituaries

Al Venable: Lithonia’s first black mayor remembered as ‘unsung hero’

Al obit

Allison “Al” Edward Venable, the city of Lithonia’s first black mayor, is being remembered as an unsung hero. He died on Jan. 12 of natural causes. He was 75.

Whether marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or planning programs at his church, Mr. Venable didn’t mind working behind the scenes to make things happen. That wasn’t easy considering that in 1973, he became the first black member of the Lithonia City Council. In 1984, he became the first black mayor of Lithonia. His political work extended beyond the city limits. Mr. Venable also served as president of the Georgia Municipal Association for the Fourth District.

“He was a wonderful person. When we were fighting the medical waste incinerator in the city, he never backed down. He told us to keep fighting and the city would have our backs. He always had your back,” said Sandi Morris, a long-time Lithonia resident and retired teacher.

Mr. Venable served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then worked for Lithonia Lighting for more than 40 years.

When he wasn’t standing up for justice or sharing his knowledge of Lithonia, Mr. Venable enjoyed sharing his musical talents. He grew up playing the...

Read more: Al Venable: Lithonia’s first black mayor remembered as ‘unsung hero’

Rockdale trail blazer John Willie Walker remembered

John Walker photo

Longtime educator John Willie Walker, who made history in Rockdale County as a trailblazer and was known for his civic work in Atlanta, died Friday, Jan. 2. He was 81.

Mr. Walker’s passing was recognized by Atlanta City Councilmember C.T. Martin, who said Mr. Walker was one of the greatest educators in the community, touching the lives of many youths through a wide array of civic organizations in which he was involved.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of John Walker’s passing. He was one of the greatest educators in our community,” said Martin. “He had a true passion for the profession and he realized the rewards were greater career could offer. He was also a man who supported so many community causes in Adamsville over the years. Yet his greatest contribution will be the knowledge and the ever quest for greater knowledge that he instilled in so many of our youth.”
Affectionately known as “Sonny,” Mr. Walker was born Aug. 20, 1933 in rural Jefferson, Georgia. He attended the public schools in Atlanta, finishing Booker T. Washington High School in 1952. He served in the U.S. Army for two years prior to attending college.

On an academic scholarship, he...

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Lucille Smith Lamar, long- time Rockdale nurse passes

Smith Lamar
Feb. 10, 1925 – Dec. 16, 2014

Lucile Smith Lamar, a longtime resident of Rockdale County, passed away on Dec. 16 after a long illness. She was 89.

For over three decades, Mrs. Lamar worked with Dr. Joseph Brown, the man known in Rockdale as the "baby doctor." Mrs. Lamar left a legacy as a licensed practical nurse who offered a comforting voice and steady hands for expectant women.

"She was a mild-mannered person who was well-liked and well-respected by the community. She was a gentle woman who always wanted to help people," said her daughter, Josephine Lamar of Lithonia.

Mrs. Lamar was raised in Washington, GA and moved to Rockdale after marrying Jodie Lamar, who preceded her in death. She went to work for Dr. Brown around 1943 after moving to Rockdale from Washington, GA.

Her grandson, Joey Lamar, recounted how his grandmother took great pride in her work and sometimes dealing with derogatory remarks.      

"There were times when she was called the "N" word and she did not let it faze her one bit. She told me that she had a lot of responsibility as a nurse. She often deposited the money for the office so she knew...

Read more: Lucille Smith Lamar, long- time Rockdale nurse passes

Lithonia mourns former City Councilwoman Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell

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The City of Lithonia is mourning the death of Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell, who served more than three decades on the Lithonia City Council. She died on Dec. 3 after being ill. She was 93.  

 

“Libby was one of the most fun, loving, and entertaining people from my childhood and adult life,” said long-time Lithonia resident Kay Siler. “She spoke her mind and I cherished her for that.”

 

Sandi Morris, who has been active in the Lithonia community, said the former city council woman served on the council for 35 years and was always straight to the point on issues in Lithonia.

 

“She spoke her mind and you loved her for it. She was somebody who really loved her city. I would stop by her house for a minute and end up talking to her for hours about Lithonia and local politics,” said Morris, adding that she will especially miss her during the holiday season. “Every year, she would invite me over to watch and help her with Christmas decorations. “Libby” was loved by all and the city will definitely miss her one-of-a kind personality and wit.”

Lithonia City Council member Darold Honore, who also served as mayor...

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Atlanta says farewell to H.J. Russell, business icon and civil rights leader

hj

Atlanta is mourning the loss of Herman J. Russell, a trailblazer who broke racial barriers and earned a reputation not only as one of Atlanta’s most successful business leaders but one of America’s icons.

 

Mr. Russell passed away on Nov. 15 after a brief illness. He was 83, one month shy of turning 84.

“He made his transition in a peaceful way,” Michael Russell, his youngest son said in a statement released by the family.  “We know he’s at rest.” 

Mr. Russell was the founder and retired CEO of H.J. Russell & Co., a construction and real estate company he founded in 1957 and grew into one of the largest minority-owned companies in the country. After Mr. Russell retired in 2003, he named his son, Michael, as CEO of the company.

 

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called H.J. Russell one of the greatest heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, a pioneer who paved the way for African Americans.

“No words can express the depth of our sorrow and nothing will ever fill the void created by the passing of Mr. Herman J. Russell,” Reed said in a statement. “As the founder of one of America’s most successful construction and...

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Mrs. Willie L. Johnson, mother of Dr. Melvin Johnson

Johnson lady

On Common Ground News extends condolences to Dr. Melvin Johnson, chairman of the DeKalb Board of Education, who lost his mother, Mrs. Willie L. Johnson.

 

Mrs. Johnson passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Oct. 8. She was 98.

 

“She lived a beautiful life. Every Friday, I went to have breakfast with her in Crawfordville and she was just a delight,” said Dr. Johnson. “She had a wonderful spirit. We will miss her.”

 

Mrs. Johnson, who was a homemaker, had five daughters and four sons, Dr. Johnson said. Her funeral will be held at Friendship Baptist Church in Crawfordville, Georgia.

...

Harry West, former ARC director, dies

Harry W

1941 – 2014

Harry West, former executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission (1973 to 2000), died Monday, July 14 at Emory University Hospital from a serious lung infection.

 

 

Mr. West was the longest-serving executive director in ARC’s history and is credited with building stronger ties among community leaders and fostering a regional approach to tackling metro Atlanta’s most challenging issues. He was 72.

 

"Harry West's legacy to the Atlanta Regional Commission and to the Atlanta region is immeasurable,” said Doug Hooker, current ARC executive director. “He developed programs and created a sense of regional connectedness, which still reverberate positively today. More importantly, he had a vision, a dedication, and a high set of standards, which will continue to propel metro Atlanta far into the future."

 

Among his many accomplishments, Mr. West aggressively pursued efforts to ensure adequate water resources for the Atlanta region, as well as protection for the Chattahoochee River corridor. He conceived and launched the Regional Leadership Institute in 1991, which has graduated some 1,500 leaders from the immersion program on key regional issues.  Mr. West also launched the annual LINK city visits program (Leadership, Involvement, Knowledge and Networking) to learn how others...

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DeKalb’s longest-serving police chief passes at 83

bobby7

Some knew him as a police chief, others as a public safety director. In both capacity’s, Stone Mountain’s Robert “Bobby” Burgess, Sr. was a well-respected public servant who will always be remembered for his 45 years of serving DeKalb County. He died June 6 of natural causes. He was 83.

 

Said DeKalb’s Interim CEO Lee May in a statement: “Bobby Burgess was a good man whose life was guided by a deep and abiding faith and a commitment to public service. His incredible 45 years in DeKalb County spanned five decade. He will be greatly missed by all of us.” 

 

Former CEO Vernon Jones thanked Bobby Burgess for his service, saying Burgess was a mentor.

 

“Another one of Georgia’s tallest pines has fallen. As the Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County, I had the honor to serve with Bobby Burgess during his final years as a public servant. He was my police chief, my public safety director, and a mentor,” said Jones. “He (Bobby) was a policeman’s policeman and a police chief’s chief.  Bobby Burgess was a great American and I thanked him for his service by having the DeKalb County Police Headquarters named the Bobby Burgess...

Read more: DeKalb’s longest-serving police chief passes at 83

Mourning Maya

MayaMaya

Atlantans reflect on celebrated poet

April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014 

Admirers in Atlanta mourned the death of Maya Angelou, one of America’s great literary giants. Angelou died May 28 at her home in Winston-Salem, NC. She was 86.

 

The accomplished poet and author was honored by President Barack Obama in 2011 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award, the country’s highest civilian honor.

 

This week, she was championed by local leaders as a champion for Mankind.

 

“Maya Angelou is hailed as one of the most influential voices in modern literature, film and stage. She will be remembered not only for her wit and wisdom, but also her compassion and grace,” said Dr. Jabari Simama, president of Georgia Piedmont Technical College. “We are all living in a better world because she chose to share her wisdom and to maker herself accessible to us. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends in their time of grief.”  

 

In a prepared statement, the King Center said:

 

“Our nation and world have lost one of the great Renaissance women of this, or any age, Maya Angelou. Our hearts go out to her son, Guy...

Read more: Mourning Maya

Local “mother to many” remembered for reaching out to youth

Bre

Brenda “Bre” Minkoff had a giving heart – so much so that she often took in kids who needed a helping hand.

 

“We could wake up in the morning and you never knew who would be at the door. Teens would tell us others told them to come to us and we would just say OK, that’s fine. We just did it,” said Michael Minkoff, Benda’s husband. “Brenda never turned away a child. She gave them the love, affection, stable home life and everything else a mother would do.”

 

Mrs. Minkoff passed on May 24 at 11:41 p.m. at Eastside Medical Center after a nearly three-year battle with lymphoma. Mr. Minkoff says he and other family members were at his wife’s bedside when she died. Mrs. Minkoff was 68.

Mrs. Minoff worked as an administrative assistant for some of the largest accounting firms in Atlanta throughout the 80’s and 90’s until she retired and put all her focus on helping troubled youths.

 

“I know she has a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face looking down on us. From day one, Brenda’s been my whole world. She was my strength, my sunshine and just...

Read more: Local “mother to many” remembered for reaching out to youth

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