Originally created 10/01/00

Character, not color

Some prominent black leaders in our community have circled the wagons around former Augusta Fire Chief Ronnie Few, who is awaiting confirmation as fire chief for Washington, D.C., and whose confirmation may be denied if an indictment is made by the Augusta District Attorney's Office.

The black leaders who traveled to D.C. last week to testify on Few's behalf in front of the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee went to considerable lengths to insist that Few's problems are not of his own making, but are the result of a racist conspiracy in Augusta. They particularly singled out our work on the editorial page of this newspaper.

This page has been critical of Few, but has also complimented him for the good work he did while he was Augusta's fire chief.

In fact, let's review a brief history of just a few public officials criticized by this editorial page:

In 1972 The Chronicle supported Bill Anderson for sheriff. He was elected by a landslide. By 1974 his department was engaged in the worst sort of corrupt practices, and The Chronicle turned against this white Republican. So did voters in 1976.

In 1980 J.B. Dykes was elected, though not with the help of a Chronicle endorsement. In 1983, the district attorney and the newspaper discovered that this white sheriff was engaged in obstruction of justice. The issue: payoffs for ticket-fixing.

In 1983-1984, the editorial page exposed white Columbia County Sheriff Tom Whitfield for abusing his office. The voters threw him out.

The Chronicle vigorously opposed white district attorney Sam Sibley's re-election in 1988. (One reason was because he wouldn't pursue a grand jury investigation against Whitfield.)

Beginning in the late 1990s, The Chronicle has been critical of Fire Chief Few, and not without cause. However, while newspapers can bring to light unethical or illegal practices, it's important to remember that the judicial arm of democracy has its own duty, which it is now pursuing. Few's fate is in the hands of District Attorney Danny Craig and the special grand jury - a multi-race panel.

For these few black leaders to claim Few is being persecuted because of his race just isn't true. That dog won't hunt. If the grand jury indicts, Few will have to answer publicly for whatever charges are brought against him.

Playing the race card is the easy way out. It's a lot tougher to be colorblind when examining the actions of Augusta's leadership. But as Martin Luther King Jr., said: "I look to the day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

This newspaper is focusing on character in its scrutiny of Ronnie Few. Are his defenders also focusing on character, or is it color?


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