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GUEST COLUMN: Black History Month: Rome’s African-American servant leaders

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Pam Terrell Walker, a native of Rome, is a paralegal in Calhoun. Readers may email her at pamtwalker@gmail.com.

It is particularly fitting, during Black History Month, that we pay tribute to the contributions of African-Americans to our community through their service on the Rome City and Floyd County Commissions. The late Mr. Napoleon Fielder. The late Mr. Samuel “Sam” Burrell. Mr. Milton Slack. Mr. Bill Collins. These great men, all natives of Rome, were not particularly concerned with a career in politics. They had a passion for service to the community.

The late Mr. Napoleon Fielder

A lifelong resident of Rome Mr. Fielder was an icon of the community.

He became the first black member of the Rome City Commission upon his appointment in 1980. He replaced then Chairman H.F. “Ted” Hunter, who resigned.

Prior to the appointment, Mr. Fielder served on the Rome-Floyd County Recreation Authority, including a stint as chairman. He served on the board of directors for the Rome Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Floyd Mental Health Association. Mr. Fielder came to the commission after working as a supervisor with the Floyd County Correctional Institution, and as a kitchen supervisor with Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital.

Mr. Fielder received numerous awards from the community and the Democratic party. Having served as a member of the Georgia Municipal Association, a senior citizens building was named in his honor. He passed away Feb. 21, 2008, and has been greatly missed.

The late Mr. Samuel T. “Sam” Burrell Sr.

Mr. Burrell was for many years an educator and administrator with the Rome City Schools. He was, I believe, principal at Main High School in 1966, until it closed in 1970. He then served as principal at West Rome Junior High School until he retired. This is where many Romans were first introduced to him.

Appointed to the Floyd County Commission in 1992, in 1994 he was the first African-American to be elected to the Floyd County Commission. Kind and caring, he was a servant leader. Mr. Burrell made an impact on the community of Rome and Floyd County through his service as administrator, county commissioner and community leader. He passed away May 7, 2015, and has been truly missed.

Mr. Milton Slack

Currently in his third term on the Rome City Commission, native Roman Mr. Milton Slack has served since 2008. In the 60s and 70s, Mr. Slack was involved in United Way. When he retired from Sears, several people approached him about serving on the Rome City Commission and so he decided he would.

Mr. Slack attended Mary T. Banks Elementary School where Ms. Banks was his first grade teacher. Mr. Burrell was the principal at Mary T. Banks Elementary when Mr. Slack was in the seventh grade.

He states that Mr. Burrell gave him his start.

Currently, Mr. Slack’s focus is on new business for Rome, and affordable housing. As a native of Rome, he knows the people.

Mr. Bill Collins

Native Roman Mr. Bill Collins is currently serving Rome as mayor pro tem. A local businessman, and member of Rome’s Chamber of Commerce, he became interested in economic development. He was subsequently approached by the City Planning Committee to work with zoning issues. He talked it over with his wife, and prayed about it. He then agreed to serve in that capacity. It was a 90-day appointment and the vote approving his appointment was unanimous. He decided to run for office and was the top vote getter.

Mr. Collins wants all the citizens of Rome to get a fair shake. Mr. Collins’ wife, Faith Collins, is chairwoman of the Rome City Schools Board of Education. Committed to serving the citizens of Rome, Mr. Collins deems it a privilege to serve.

THEY WANTED TO SERVE and serve they did. These great men mentioned today are natives of Rome. Here they spent their formative years. Here they went to school. Actively involved in the community, they know the people in the area. The citizens of Rome are very fortunate to have these exceptional community leaders.

Thank you Mr. Slack, and Mr. Collins for your continued service to the citizens of Rome. Additionally, we fondly remember and appreciate the late Mr. Napoleon Fielder, and the late Mr. Samuel “Sam” T. Burrell Sr., who have gone before us. Servant leaders one and all.

The Black History Month series will continue next week. Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, and welcomes your email to her at pamtwalker@gmail.com