Originally created 09/27/00

Augustans back Few in capital



Ronnie Few might have left behind his job as Augusta's fire chief, but his local supporters want to ensure his move goes well.

Chief Few, who is awaiting an appointment to become chief of the District of Columbia fire department, will see and hear from a contingent of Augusta supporters today when a handful of area leaders - including three Augusta commissioners - who have traveled to the nation's capital speak on his behalf.

But at least one commissioner who is in Washington today denied the trip and then did not respond to phone calls from The Augusta Chronicle seeking comment.

Contacted Tuesday afternoon, Marion Williams said he was not aware of any Augusta commissioners who were attending Chief Few's hearing.

"I'll look into it, and I'll get back to you," Mr. Williams said.

Later, it was revealed that Mr. Williams, Lee Beard and Willie Mays were traveling together to Washington on Tuesday. Mr. Williams did not return a page to the newspaper's number but responded to one to a cell phone moments later.

However, Mr. Williams was unable to answer questions, saying he was in a "bad zone" and that he could not hear.

Several additional pages with The Chronicle's phone number were sent but never returned.

The three commissioners made the trip to Washington to speak on behalf of Chief Few during a judiciary committee hearing that precedes his appointment to the chief's position there.

Mr. Mays and Mr. Beard could not be reached at their office and home, respectively.

District of Columbia Council Member Harold Brazil confirmed that the three commissioners were scheduled to speak on behalf of Chief Few.

While the commissioners were on their way to Washington, a group of more than 50 representatives from city neighborhood organizations and area churches gathered outside the Greene Street building to speak out against the racism they say has infiltrated city policy and is perpetuated by The Chronicle's news stories and editorials.

The Rev. Larry Hudson, who helped organize the morning conference in downtown Augusta, confirmed that he is among a handful of residents who planned to attend the judiciary hearing for Chief Few today.

"Whenever a minority gets a leadership position, everything that falls under his or her control is under suspect," said the Rev. Hudson, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. "I stand today to say it's time for us to stand up and speak up."

Those comments and others came in the wake of an announcement from the district attorney's office that the fire department was being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation after information provided by a Richmond County special grand jury established probable cause to believe an employee or employees had committed crimes.

Those who turned out in a show of support for the call to end Augusta's racial divide included representatives from neighborhood groups, area churches and members of the Augusta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Chief Few's supporters said Tuesday that other city officials also should be held accountable for the investigations, including Mayor Bob Young and City Administrator Randy Oliver.

The Rev. Bobby Hankerson, pastor of Hammond Grove Baptist Church, expressed concern that no negotiations were made to keep Chief Few from leaving Augusta.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.