There aren't too many true statesmen left. But Helen Blocker-Adams became one on Tuesday.
In endorsing Deke Copenhaver for mayor in the Dec. 6 runoff, Blocker-Adams proved she is beholden to no one - and that she has the community's best interests at heart, not just her own.
The African-American firebrand, who finished a breathtakingly close third to Copenhaver and interim Mayor Willie Mays in the Nov. 8 election, was under crushing pressure not to "break ranks" and endorse the white Copenhaver. The race hustlers in town - while diminishing in number - maintain that the black vote should be both monolithic and monochrome.
They didn't count on Helen.
"This isn't a black and white thing," she said. "This is a people and issues thing. I'm endorsing change."
Indeed, as political newcomers offering a youthful, optimistic outlook, both Blocker-Adams and Copenhaver represented a marked change from the moribund status quo. It only made sense for Blocker-Adams to jump on Copenhaver's bandwagon after Nov. 8 - just as fourth- place finisher and former commissioner Tommy Boyles did last week.
The stars are aligning for change in Augusta.
"There is a sense of change in the air," she said.
"People really are ready to come together," said Copenhaver, who shook hands with Blocker-Adams in front of a banner calling for racial unity. "There is just a groundswell. It truly is history in the making. We are one community."
"This is Augusta," said Ben Johnson, a Blocker-Adams adviser, noting the diverse crowd at the press conference Tuesday.
Yet, this was a tremendously difficult decision for Blocker-Adams. She says the 15-day process of deciding whether to endorse Copenhaver was more grueling than the campaign itself - and, in fact, the most stressful time in her life. We live in a time, and a city, in which, sadly, black leaders who reach out to whites are often derided as "Uncle Toms" and worse.
In truth, however, they are statesmen.
Contrary to hurting her, we believe her courageous stand for unity will only ingratiate Blocker-Adams to a change-hungry electorate. After missing the runoff by less than 3 percentage points, Blocker-Adams was already the toast of the town. Now, her decision to endorse Deke Copenhaver - when she believed there might be a personal price to pay - should only increase her political capital and lift her up in voters' eyes.
Many believed Helen Blocker-Adams - not the best-known or best-financed candidate - was one who believed in progress for all through racial unity, and that she would have led that way.
Even without winning, she has proved them right.
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