Important leader should be honored

 

I want to bring attention to a heroic individual whose time has come to be recognized -- the late Rev. Charles Spencer Hamilton, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church for 40 years. I ask the Augusta Commission to rename Harrison Street in his honor. The designated street is adjacent to the church and parallel to 12th Street.

The Rev. Hamilton was a brave and outstanding civil rights leader and city councilman for many years. He also campaigned for mayor twice.

The Rev. Hamilton served as president of the local chapter of the NAACP during a time when it was dangerous to say the letters "NAACP" in public.

A few black teachers were accused of being members of the Communist Party by a member of the Richmond County Board of Education in 1958. Attorney Eugene Cook was called in to investigate the matter and found out the teachers were members of the NAACP. Some board members demanded that the teachers be dismissed. However, the Rev. Hamilton interceded on behalf of the teachers, and they were not fired.

He continued to collect NAACP dues from trusted teachers, but wouldn't issue membership cards or keep membership rolls.

In 1963, he filed a suit testing the constitutionality of an act from 1872 that called for racially separated schools in Richmond County. He led the fight to integrate public venues -- parks, playgrounds and the municipal golf course -- and private accommodations.

He provided leadership for Paine College students who protested and marched to denounce segregated lunch counters and buses.

He was in the forefront before, during and after Augusta's 1970 riot. He called for calmness the night before the riot in a meeting at Tabernacle Baptist Church, and the next day in front of the Richmond County municipal building.

He also filed a suit to integrate the city police department.

I am sure the citizens -- as well as the religious, business and political leaders -- would be willing to pay homage to this great leader who made life better for all of us in Augusta.

Tracy E. Williams Jr.

Augusta

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