With a mighty tug on a miniature Liberty Bell, 8-year-old Hannah Hanby and her brothers and sisters remembered Georgia’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence in downtown Augusta.
After each chime sounded in honor of Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton, Hannah’s father, James Hanby Sr., smiled – happy he had brought youthful energy to the city’s third annual Fourth of July ceremony at the Signers’ Monument, which covers the remains of Hall and Walton. Gwinnett was buried in Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery, but the location of his grave has been forgotten.
“Independence Day represents America’s beginning,” Hannah Hanby said. “We should remember those who led the way.”
More than 50 people gathered along Greene Street on Thursday, not only to pause and pay respect to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, but also to celebrate and call for the preservation of Augusta’s Signers’ Monument, dedicated July 4, 1848.
“At 165 years of age, the monument is showing its age, and it is my fervent hope that the citizens here and in the state of Georgia would seize the opportunity to rededicate not only this monument, but themselves to the principle laid down by these noble forefathers,” said James Hanby Sr., who also celebrated his 42nd birthday Thursday.
Hanby, a Hephzibah High School graduate who’s now a magistrate judge in Wilmington, Del., returns to Augusta each Fourth of July for a birthday celebration with family and friends. Hanby’s grandfather served in the Army at Fort Gordon, and his grandmother shares an Independence Day birthday.
“On this annual reoccurrence of our freedom, we would do well again to hear again some of the words that flowed from the pen of Thomas Jefferson,” said Hanby, passing the honor to U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., to read a segment of the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Barrow read.
Barrow said the ceremony was a true testament of Augusta’s history.
“No other city in this country can claim to have the buried remains of two signers of the Declaration of Independence,” Barrow said. “We have a lot to be proud of.”
Richmond County Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. said he hoped the pride would continue .
“Those men who signed this document signed their own death warrant. They were traitors of Great Britain,” Blanchard said. “We must remember the sacrifice these brave and bold men gave for our freedom.”