Board honors those who served
In the Civil Rights Digital Library archives, a WSB-TV newsfilm clip preserves the scene of a burning building on Broad Street and the march of hundreds of black high school students who had walked out of class on Sept. 15, 1971.
It was the culmination of weeks of racial unrest that included riots, firebombings and armed law enforcement officers stationed around the city. The protests ultimately resulted in promises to establish a biracial committee, to place African-Americans on the city’s urban renewal and zoning boards and to hire more black police officers and firefighters.
Eddie Chubb was there.
The first African-American hired by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, Chubb was already in uniform when the clashes came. And, on Tuesday, he was one of seven pillars of the community honored by the Floyd County Commission in recognition of African-American History Month.
“He was instrumental in the riots in 1971 ... He stopped one of his fellow officers from pulling out a shotgun and riding on the hood of the car during the walk-out,” County Manager Jamie McCord read as Chubb walked to the front of the commission meeting room to applause from the crowd.
After seven years at the jail, “keeping harmony with the inmates and his fellow officers,” Chubb started his own appliance business and still runs it on a part-time basis.
The honorees last week came from different walks of life, but shared a commitment to the betterment of their community:
Bonny Askew served on the Rome City Commission from 1982 to 1984, just the second African-American to hold a seat on that board. A co-chairman of the Human Relations Council formed to improve race relations, he also was a tireless supporter of youth sports and scouting in Floyd County. He remains an active member of the HRC successor, One Community United.
Bill Collins became Rome’s first African-American mayor this year after serving 23 years on the City Commission. He has decades of involvement in community and economic development work, and has used the business he owns with his wife, Faith — Collins Auto Clean Up — to effect positive change.
“They have a track record of hiring many employees who are trying to get back into society after incarceration,” McCord read.
Terrence Hight Sr. started coaching youth sports at the age of 20, incorporating lessons on manners, self-respect, life skills and confidence in the games. Active in the 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia, his mentorship is based on the organization’s motto, “What They See Is What They Will Be.”
John and Laney Stevenson were recognized together as a couple that dedicated their retirement years to their community and church. They helped found the Family Prayer Breakfast, an integral part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Rome. Among her many volunteer activities, Laney Stevenson served on the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth. John Stevenson is the founder of the Godfather Ministry for elementary school-age boys.
The County Commission also recognized Predetha Thomas, founder of the Rome Girls Club, who died in 1998 at the age of 83. Her daughter, Henrice Berrien, accepted the award. Thomas dedicated her life to educating children and won numerous honors for helping youth in need. She was one of the first six Romans named a Heart of the Community at the inaugural celebration in 1987.