Godfather's giveaways might be moved

Augusta civic center complex General Manager Monty Jones is in talks with James Brown's daughter about moving the annual Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas toy giveaways to the arena named in his honor.


Deanna Brown Thomas , the president of the Brown Family Childrens Foundation, said she's considering it, trying to decide what her father would have done had he been extended the offer.

In the two years since his death, the giveaways have been where Mr. Brown always held them, and he had emotional attachments to both places.

Dyess Park, where he handed out turkeys, is in the neighborhood he grew up in and along the boulevard named for him. The Imperial Theatre -- where he made his final public appearance at his 15th toy giveaway three days before his Christmas 2006 death -- was where he rehearsed before tours and where he held the funeral of his third wife, Adrienne .

The Godfather of Soul was moved, though, when the civic center was renamed for him two months before his death. The spacious arena would spare people from standing in line in the cold.

"It's hard to say what he would say," Mrs. Brown Thomas said. "We've got to sit down, mull over it ..."

FINDING MERRY CHRISTMAS: Back in 1960, The Augusta Chronicle featured a holiday story on the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Christmas , who had named their oldest daughter Merry.

Merry Christmas was in the fifth grade at John Milledge Elementary when the newspaper interviewed her for a holiday feature.

Merry, 10, said she didn't mind the teasing that came with her name. Besides, she said, it was easy to sign Christmas cards.

Where is Merry today? Merry Christmas Peel now works in the Augusta State University Department of Math/Computer Science and has done so for 19 years.

"I had a wonderful time growing up with the name 'Merry Christmas,' " she wrote in an e-mail. "I remember getting the most applause at graduation. People didn't want me to change my name when I was married!"

HOLIDAY SHOPPER? One of the odd calls fielded in The Chronicle newsroom on Christmas Eve was from a gentleman who wanted to know whether the Xmart was opening any time soon.

Early this month, a federal court hearing was canceled. The city attorneys and those representing the folks who want to open the adult video and paraphernalia store have been fighting it out in court.

The Augusta Commission, faced with an angry crowd of residents in 2002, voted to reverse the decision of the city's zoning board and deny Augusta Video's zoning exception that would have allowed it to open at its chosen Gordon Highway spot.

The short answer for the caller -- it's doubtful the grand opening will be anytime soon. Check back next Christmas.

GAME DAY: Who says video games are just for the youngsters?

That's not the case at Venus Cain' s house, where the Richmond County school board member spent part of the Christmas holiday jamming to the video game Rock Band.

While relatives were in town for the holiday, she grabbed the bass guitar and rocked out to the classics. Family members take the game seriously, she said. No one wants to be booed off the stage.

REMEMBERING JED: One of the saddest things about 23-year-old Justin "Jed" Elmore 's funeral Monday was his unsmiling, stone-faced photo on the programs. It was also on memorial T-shirts worn by mourners and in his newspaper obituary.

It was his most recent arrest mug shot, the one that news outlets have been using, courtesy of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

Mr. Elmore, shot by police Dec. 14 in an incident still under investigation, had a lengthy record of arrests for minor crimes, including possession of drugs with intent to sell, traffic offenses and running from police. His last conscious moments were spent in confrontation with deputies. There, in that picture he's being remembered by, he stares into a deputy's camera.

SUPREMACISTS, NOT RACISTS: He might be part of a national organization that's been labeled a hate group, but Bobby Price says he's no racist.

The chairman of the Augusta chapter of the New Black Panthers Party says he wants to embolden poor blacks to emerge from the shadow of slavery and Jim Crow, and unlike the group's leaders in other parts of the country, he doesn't see where insulting whites and Jewish people fits into that.

"I'm about opposing racism, and if I take flak from those who think that's too soft, I'm OK with that," Mr. Price said.

He and the chapter's six other members raised the ire of Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength on Monday when, carrying shotguns and assault rifles, they led a march through Cherry Tree Crossing housing project to protest the fatal police shooting of Justin Elmore. The sheriff dispatched deputies in riot gear, and Mr. Price, wanting to avoid a confrontation, had his people put away their guns and quickly wrapped up the demonstration.

They aren't part of the late Huey P. Newton 's leftist civil rights organization, but rather followers of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, a militant black supremacist group that splintered from the Nation of Islam in the late 1980s.

Nationally, the group has a terrible reputation. Its leaders spew anti-Semitic, racist vitriol. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers it a hate group, and the Huey P. Newton Foundation has called it illegitimate and denounced its hatred of whites. Its late national chairman, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, once said, "There are no good crackers, and if you find one, kill him before he changes."

"I don't personally feel that," Mr. Price said after being read the quote. "I understand that some offensive things have been said about whites and others, but that doesn't define who we are."

To him, black supremacy doesn't mean blacks are better than other races, he said. It's about teaching young blacks that their history goes back further than their ancestors' arrival in slave ships, that blacks founded the first human civilizations, he said.

Regardless, the protest Monday wasn't about race, Mr. Price said. One of the deputies involved in the shooting is black.

"It's not about the color of the person's skin," he said. "We see it as a police-brutality issue."

We thank staffers Johnny Edwards, Greg Gelpi, Billy Kirby and Sandy Hodson for today's column.