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Walk participants relive history of Albany civil rights movement

ALBANY — As police cars shadowed a group of mostly black marchers on Monday, the scene could have been similar to many from nearly six decades ago, except instead of waiting to escort the group to jail, the law enforcement officers’ duty was to ensure the marchers safely reached their destination.

The fifth annual The Walk, held on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, was marked by the Albany Freedom Singers chanting songs from that bygone era, education for the young and reminiscence by those who were there.

The walk, in which about 250 took part, included stops at the Charles Sherrod Civil Rights Park, Albany’s bus station and ended at Freedom Alley, the former site of the Albany jail and now the downtown Government Annex.

“As I walked the walk I saw 60 years ago,” event organizer Henry Mathis said during an interview afterwards, “I saw the police escorting us there to a point where the old jail stood 60 years ago, (and) when we got here many of us were arrested.

“I came from a family who believed in standing up for justice. I was taught to take a stand, even if to stand was a detriment to your health and your welfare.”

During the stop at the bus station, one of the Freedom Singers recounted how those who marched back then didn’t do it for one day, but day after day. Those who participated were not sure they would return home, and many were threatened with the loss of their job by white employers if they participated in civil rights activities. Those threats often were carried out.

Churches had their mortgage notes called by banks, Mathis told the group.

Civil rights pioneer C.T. Johnson, who was scheduled to speak, was unable to attend after undergoing emergency surgery.

While some things have changed for the better, King’s vision has not been fully realized, said Dougherty County Administrator Michael McCoy, who filled in for Johnson.

“History now shows us that since the days that brother Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for justice in the ’50s and ’60s, many laws have changed, giving equal access,” McCoy said. “Some would even argue that times have changed so much for the better since Dr. King that there is no more racism. That there is no more social injustice. They would declare that this is a new day.”

While true, that is not the entire picture, he said.

“Dr. King dreamed of the day when everyone would prosper economically, yet here we are 50 years later, and people of color still lag behind our white brothers and sisters in the areas of education, employment, wages and income, and home ownership,” McCoy said. “Today, people of color still disproportionately populate our nation’s jails and prisons because they are arrested and prosecuted at an alarmingly higher rate. And today, our black families continue to amass only a fraction of the wealth amassed by white families in America.”

King was called by God, McCoy said, to lead a movement for freedom. During his era, some who fought for that freedom died, were jailed and were attacked in the streets by police dogs and with fire hoses.

“For this dream, people were spat on and called everything but children of God,” he said. “He led the charge and raised awareness to the injustices of his day. He woke up our communities and made us realize that we were so much better than we were being treated, and he also gave us permission to do something about it.”

Finally, McCoy challenged those in attendance to continue working toward that dream in the face of setbacks.

“So today, as we remember his big beautiful dream, I challenge you to dream on, think big, but most importantly be deliberate in your actions to change the things that don’t serve our world,” McCoy said. “We were given this legacy of a dream, not so that we would simply hold it as a cavalier idea and pass his historic speech from generation to generation.

“We were given the dream so that we would make it live, and in doing so make our world better in the sight of man, and we make it best in the sight of God. Thank you, Dr. King, for your dream. Today we promise to make it live again and again and again.”

Fatal shooting of 34-year-old man under investigation

ALBANY — A 34-year-old Dougherty County man fatally shot on Saturday evening was the county’s first slaying of 2020.

Thomas Isiah Harrold was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting on East Park Court, Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said. Harrold was shot at least once.

The fatal shooting occurred at about 5 p.m.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday morning, Fowler said.

“It’s still under investigation,” he said. “This is our first homicide for the year.”

Attempts to reach the Dougherty County Police Department for additional information were unsuccessful.

Is there an ABAC doctor in the house?

TIFTON — The path to becoming a doctor, dentist, lawyer, veterinarian or pharmacist just took a sharp turn and leads right through the center of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

That’s particularly true now that ABAC offers 12 different bachelor’s degrees that prepare graduates for immediate entry into professional schools in medicine, law, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, dentistry and others.

“Our faculty is committed to helping our students while they’re enrolled at ABAC and beyond,” Matthew Anderson, dean of the ABAC School of Arts and Sciences, said. “We work very hard at preparing our graduates for life after ABAC.”

Recent ABAC graduates Pedro Escobar from Tifton and Kyle Posey from Irwinville began attending the Mercer University School of Medicine in the fall of 2019. Escobar is receiving the Nathan Deal Scholarship, which covers his tuition.

“ABAC provided me with several opportunities, friendships and overall was a contributor and stepping-stone to my success,” Escobar said.

Posey was equally impressed with his ABAC preparation for medical school, giving credit to all his professors and to his advisor, Marvin Holtz.

“Many of my higher biological science classes helped me get where I am today and helped with my understanding and studying for the Medical School Admission Test,” Posey said.

Escobar and Posey both received their bachelor’s degrees in biology from ABAC, and Escobar also received his associate’s degree in nursing.

“We are very successful in preparing students for professional schools, graduate schools, and careers in science,” Joseph Falcone, professor of chemistry and physics in the ABAC School of Arts and Sciences, said. “ABAC is the place for a high-quality education at a sound price.”

Dr. Tracy Nolan, a 1997 ABAC alumnus and a Mercer University Medical School graduate, would certainly agree. In 2015, she became the first female general surgeon at Tift Regional Medical Center. Nolan was the guest speaker at the 2018 ABAC fall commencement ceremony.

“I started college right here at ABAC,” Nolan told the graduates. “You need to start climbing the ladder of success. Develop connections. Let people know they can count on you. Be confident in your ability to get the job done.”

Falcone said ABAC alumnus Kelly Delgado from Tifton is also enrolled at the Mercer University School of Medicine. ABAC alumni Jeremy Paradice from Moultrie and Abby Unger from Douglas have both gained early admission to the Mercer University School of Medicine, and Elias Moreno from Moultrie is a medical student at Kansas City University.

ABAC graduates Shelby McCoy Flowers from Moultrie, Julia Patterson from Sylvester, and Christian Edwards from Moultrie are enrolled in the new Moultrie campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

PCOM and ABAC recently announced an agreement that allows students seeking careers as pharmacists to earn doctoral degrees a year early at PCOM Georgia. The Suwanee campus is the home of the PCOM School of Pharmacy.

ABAC graduate Sabrina Harris from Albany is taking the pharmacy route and has been granted early admission to the South University pharmacy program.

Many ABAC students have a love for animals, and a few of them transfer that affection into a career in veterinary medicine. Dr. Thomas Turcotte is a former ABAC Ambassador who attended the School of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University. A 2012 ABAC graduate, he is now a veterinarian at Harrodsburg Animal Hospital in Harrodsburg, Ky.

ABAC graduate Michelle Moncrief from Donalsonville is attending St. George’s University Veterinary Medicine program, and Morgan Russ from Deland, Fla., is enrolled at the Ross University Veterinary School. Brooke Clark from Stockbridge is in Harrogate, Tenn., at the Lincoln Memorial University Veterinary Medicine program.

Do you have a toothache? In a few years, you can turn that bad bicuspid over to ABAC alumnus Jose Daniel Vargas from Moultrie, who is enrolled at Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine.

ABAC graduates attending law school include Alexus Holton from Griffin, Hannah Green from Hiram, and Savannah Hartley from Glenwood, all attending the Mercer University School of Law. ABAC History and Government graduate Hannah Robinson from Statesboro is attending the Michigan State University Law School, where she is receiving a scholarship that covers most of her tuition.

Other ABAC graduates headed to professional schools include Grant Hudson from Chula, a former vocalist in the Voices of ABAC, who has gained early admission to the Palmer College of Chiropractic Medicine. Miranda Somers from Macon, another ABAC bachelor’s degree in biology graduate, is enrolled at the South University Physician’s Assistant program.

Megan Shannon from Dublin is pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Georgia Southern University, and Amanda Mohammed from Snellville attends Emory University, which offers one of the top public health programs in the nation. A rural community development graduate from ABAC, Mohammed is aiming for a master’s degree in public health.

So the next time you go to your friendly neighborhood doctor, lawyer, dentist, pharmacist, or veterinarian, ask them where they went to college. ABAC alumni are everywhere.

Community unites during annual H.E.A.R.T. King Day Breakfast

ALBANY — As South Carolina pastor Joseph Howard offered a stirring rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during Monday’s annual H.E.A.R.T. MLK Day Commemorative Breakfast, his intonation and cadence eerily like the fallen civil rights leader’s, it wasn’t difficult imagining King delivering the same words in what became his most famous oratory.

Howard’s voice rose with the power that King evoked when he delivered that speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, and the crowd at Mt. Zion Baptist Church Monday rose as one, many filled with the same spirit that King inspired all those years ago, his words still chill-inspiring and mesmerizing.

So it was Monday morning, as the Hands Extended Across Reaching Together organization, founded by employees of the Albany Procter & Gamble Paper Products Co., celebrated its 40th year of following the example set by King by helping the community’s less fortunate.

Albany Mayor Bo Dorough read a proclamation making Monday H.E.A.R.T. MLK Day in Albany, former P&G Albany Plant Manager Werhner Washington gave a stirring keynote address and the communitywide MLK Mass Choir — with powerful lead vocals by Bishop J. Nathan Paige — roused the crowd with a musical selection that again drew the crowd to its feet in celebration.

Before feeding a crowd estimated at “more than 1,500,” H.E.A.R.T. President Anne Johnson gave a brief history of the organization, best known perhaps for its “Shoes From the Heart” program through which it has donated more than 5,500 pairs of new athletic shoes to kids in the Dougherty County School System.

Washington urged the crowd to “use your platform and your gifts to do good.”

“Too many of our kids don’t have positive adult influences in their lives,” Washington, who now is retired, said. “We need the men in our community to teach young boys to dress for success, to never call women ‘B’s’ and ‘H’es,’ and that it’s never OK to use the ‘N-word,’ even if you are an African-American. And we need for our women to teach these young girls who are looking for love in all the wrong places that they first must learn to love themselves, that they are deserving to be treated like queens, not as playthings.”

Washington offered examples from the community — of small businessmen working to bring a robotics showcase to Albany, of an Albany State University professor who took students to China, of Boy Scout leaders who inspire youngsters in their charge, of a youth football coach who devotes time to his young players, and of former Albany State professor Brenda Hodges Tiller, who inspired Washington’s wife in her teaching career.

Washington jokingly said, “Mrs. Tiller was tough. They had a nickname for her, and I’m not going to say what it was, but it starts with a ‘K’ and rhymes with Tiller.”

The former P&G official also used his wife, Patsy, as an example of people he knew who used the gifts that they were given.

“I asked my wife once, ‘You are an amazing teacher, why don’t you apply to be a department head or a dean?’” Washington said. “She said to me, ‘No, that’s not my gift.’”

Many in the large crowd later took part in the Civil Rights Walk re-enactment and performed community services to celebrate the impact of King on the national holiday that commemorates the works of the slain civil rights leader.