Austin Callaway was only sixteen years old when he was drug out of a jail cell into the streets to be murdered by a white lynching mob in 1940.
He was an African American accused of assaulting a white woman, so without a fair trial, without a legitimate, honest investigation from the LaGrange Police Department, Callaway died a brutal, unjust death.
Ever since, “[The] trash of racism has been swept under the rug,’ City Councilman W.T. Edmondson explained to the crowd that filled Warren Temple United Methodist Church.
On Thursday, January 26, LaGrange community leaders, including Chief of Police Lou Dekmar, Mayor Jim Thornton, and many others, stood before the black community inside the church, filled to the brim, to apologize for a past crime that has continued to threaten the racial relationships of the present.
As Francis Johnson, of the NAACP, explained the white person’s reality of the 1940s was nowhere near true reality. The white person’s definition of an all-caring God seemed to exclude anyone with dark skin.
However, January 26 marked a new outlook, a new reality, and a new definition of God. “We have now come a long way,” said Edmondson. “We can now start the healing process.” He gives praise to Chief Dekmar for his willingness to look at La-Grange’s history – and all of its ugly mistakes – in order to change the future.
Ernest Ward, the community’s local NAACP leader, recognizes the new efforts that LaGrange is making to “confront history,” as explained by LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander.
“[This is] a sincere, intentional step,” Ward went on to say. Now, “equal access is ensured to all people.”
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’ Esther 4:14 (NIV) A relative of Callaway’s addressed the crowd with this verse, praising La-Grange’s hard work to make a present-day difference in remembrance of a past horror, but she addressed Callaway too. “[Austin], your family has been afforded the respect to sit before law enforcement, media, [etc.],” in order to bring true justice.
Equality finally holds authentic meaning for a 2017 resident of LaGrange, Georgia – black or white.
For such a time as this, may we as a community continue to turn apologetic words into heartfelt actions as broken relationships mend and racial trust begins.
Peyton Hanners Staff Writer