As we celebrate Black History Month in February, I want to bring attention to a great leader and man of God -- the late Rev. Nathaniel Thomas Young Sr.
He was a graduate of Morehouse College and the Morehouse School of Divinity. He began his pastorate of Thankful Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1945. During his tenure, the membership grew, and many programs and activities were put into practice that were an asset to the church and its membership. Much improvement was made on the building and grounds.
The Rev. Young pastored Thankful for 46 years, and retired Sept. 1, 1991. He died Feb. 22, 2001, at age 91.
The Rev. Young was a visiting minister for 30 years at the Richmond County Correctional Center. He baptized many of the inmates who became Christians while incarcerated, and two became ministers of local churches. His missionary service at the prison kept many of the men from returning to prison.
He served on a committee to seek a high-school building for black students, which led to the establishment of Lucy C. Laney High School. He was very active with the black Boy Scouts, and worked with Dr. Thomas W. Josey to obtain a camp for the boys. He worked with the YMCA; was president of the Lincoln League for several years; and was chairman of the Black Community Chest for three years.
IN 1963, HE REQUESTED the Augusta City Council desegregate the public facilities and remove of the "color signs" at the Municipal Building. After much debate, the council honored his request. As a result of this action, many blacks were jubilant, and the news spread in the various neighborhoods like wildfire.
In 1968, the Rev. Young was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education from the Second Ward. One of the first issues he presented to the board was the employment of lunchroom managers in the black schools.
Teachers were taken out of classes to supervise the lunchrooms at the black schools while white schools had supervisors. After much discussion, a proposal was passed to hire the managers. From then on, the Rev. Young was known on the board as the member who took the black teachers out of the kitchen.
The Rev. Young persuaded the superintendent to allow black principals access to the lounge, or coffee room, and payroll department at the board main office. Before, black principals were allowed to go only to the receptionist's desk.
The Rev. Young served on many board committees, and was a member of the CSRA Involvement Council for Quality Education. He became the group's first black vice president and, in his last meeting, he was honored by being asked to preside at the regular board meeting.
THROUGH THE YEARS he was recognized for outstanding service by many civic and religious organizations with citations, certificates and plaques.
The Rev. Young was quite a gentleman and displayed humility, compassion, civility and kindness in all his relationships. As one white board member once said, "When Rev. Young finished talking to you, you thought you had been talking to God. I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve on the board with him because he taught us -- white board members -- a lot. And he definitely is one of God's true disciples."
(The writer is retired from a 38-year career as an Richmond County teacher and administrator, most recently as principal of Tubman Middle School for 15 years.)