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Black community honors those who came before
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What: A service celebrating black members of the community who have made a difference

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: St. John Baptist Church, 741 E.E. Butler Parkway, Gainesville

How much: Free to attend; $10 for a brick honoring someone who contributed to the Hall County area

Starting today, all the memories come back.

On a small piece of land near St. John Baptist Church on E.E. Butler Parkway in Gainesville, the bricks commemorating the service of 108 African-American community members go back into place. At a 2 p.m. service today, 10 more names will be added.

“I think this is a great big deal,” said Myrtle Figueras, a Gainesville City Council member who helped re-establish the site. “What the significance to me and everyone we’ve done it for is that we took the bricks up when we built the church in 2005 and 2006 and are just getting back around to getting them reinstalled.”

Excess space was left after the Georgia Department of Transportation widened the road, and although the county owned property rights, the city often maintained the land. In 1998, the Gainesville City Council, Hall County Board of Commissioners, Georgia Department of Transportation, Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department and Hall County Parks and Leisure services placed a marker to recognize John W. Morrow Jr.

Morrow was the first black member of the Gainesville City Council and then the first black mayor of Gainesville.

Under his feet lay the bricks with names of African-Americans who contributed to building up the city to “denote the fact that Mayor Morrow stands on the backs of those who came before him, served with him and those who will come after him,” Figueras wrote in this year’s ceremony invitation to community members.

“Now we’ll go back and recognize them, think about them and commemorate them,” Figueras said.

Included in the 108 names are E.E. Butler, a black physician for whom Butler High School and E.E. Butler Parkway are named; Frances J.  Meadows, a financial aid counselor at Gainesville Junior College and first black member of the Hall County commission, after whom the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center is named; Beulah Oliver Rucker, educator and organizer of the Beulah Rucker Industrial School; and Ruby Wilkins, a community organizer and first president of the Newtown Florist Club.

Dozens of other educators, business owners, doctors and community leaders are recognized.

The bricks were placed in installments in 1998, 2000 and 2002. Anyone in the community can suggest a new honoree who contributed to the Gainesville-Hall County area and pay $10.

“The key to all of this is that they must all be dead,” Figueras said with a laugh.

“We’d never get through recognizing everyone who is alive who has made an impact. I’ve also asked black churches to put the list in their libraries so children know who these people are.”

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