Several “living legacies of DeKalb County” were recognized Feb. 14 as part of DeKalb County’s Black History Month commemoration, according to a press release.

“In DeKalb County, we are fortunate to have everyday history makers whose acts and ideas changed the course of our future through improvements to our social, educational and economic landscape to reinforce a better community,” states the resolution acknowledging the accomplishments of the honorees.

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond, far left, with the DeKalb Board of Commissioners and the residents honored as part of Black History Month. (DeKalb County)

Those recognized included and their bios as provided by DeKalb County:

  • Flat Rock Archives president Johnny Waits, who was recognized by CEO Michael Thurmond for his decades-long effort to preserve the history and legacy of the Flat Rock community’s former slaves and their descendants.
  • Pamela Speaks, an educator whose governance spans beyond the classroom and into policy and reform. Speaks is a former member of the DeKalb Board of Education and currently serves on the DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals. Speaks was honored by District 1 Commissioner Nancy Jester.
  • The Mt. Zion Community on LaVista Road was recognized by District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader for perseverance in the face of tremendous development pressure. The community began as a small African-American enclave in the 1800s by landowners such as the Nelms, Rowe and Stokes families. The area also is the location of the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in DeKalb. The legacy of the Mt. Zion community is permanently memorialized in land dedicated as Frazier Rowe Park, a permanent tribute to the vitality of this community.
  • Henry “Hank” Thomas, who was acknowledged by District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson for his role in the Civil Rights Movement, risking his life by joining the first and second Freedom Rider groups at barely 20 years old. Additionally, Thomas broke the ceiling for equality by rising from a $1.30 per hour McDonald’s employee to a multiple franchise owner.
  • Lois Curtis, recognized by District 4 Commissioner Steve Bradshaw for fighting for social change in the case of Olmstead v. LC, which is considered one of the most important civil rights judgments for people with disabilities in United States history.
  • Thomas Coleman, who was honored by District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson for his more than 45 years of public service, including 25 years of service as a distinguished Vietnam veteran and U.S. Air Force officer and more than 20 years serving in local and state governments. Additionally, Coleman serves as the vice chairman of the board of directors at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, a member of the Board of Juvenile Justice for the State of Georgia and a Commissioner for the DeKalb Housing Authority.
  • Mary Elizabeth Brown Wilson, who was recognized by Super District 6 Commissioner Kathie Gannon for being the first African-American mayor for the city of Decatur, and for her pioneering efforts in social justice and public service.
  • Priscilla Davenport, recognized by Super District 7 Commissioner Gregory Adams for being the first employee of the first African-American-owned bank in DeKalb County, and for her advocacy for equal access to education and sustainable neighborhood initiatives.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.