City commissioners paid homage to Black leaders in Rome during their meeting Monday night with proclamations of appreciation and a presentation about the Five Points business community.
Marilyn Jones Arrington recalled the leadership of her father R.M. Jones. His business at Atlanta Life Insurance played a role in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to advance the civil rights movement.
Viola Lyons Brown remembered the efforts of her father, Dr. Mack Lyons, the first Black pharmacist in Rome and the owner of Lyons Drug Store. The business opened in the 500 block of Broad Street, but relocated to Five Points area “which was the Mecca of Black businesses in Rome,” she said.
Stressing the significance of a thriving Black medical community, Esther Vaughn said the Samaritan Hospital was at the heart of that thriving business district.
As with business, there was also faith.
Rev. Suzie Twyman highlighted the role of the Holsey Temple CME Church which was established in 1907. The original church burned in 1935 but was rebuilt around five years later. The church, now known as Holsey Sinai CME, is currently located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The condemnation of land for an urban renewal project which took place in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was devastating to the Black enterprises in the area.
Selena Tilly, archivist for the Rome Area History Museum, told the group she wants to make sure the history of the Five Points community is never forgotten.
Proclamations to honor other notable Black figures in Rome’s recent history were also given. Among those honored were J.L Finley, long time city employee J.T. Searcy and the late Evon Billups.
A special proclamation was made by Bishop Norris K. Allen to honor Commissioner Bill Collins, the city’s first Black mayor and a leader in the promotion of Black History observances in Rome.
Rezoning and CARES Act funds
The commission approved a rezoning request from JFB Development for land on East Third Street and East Eighth Avenue. The land was rezoned for urban-mixed-use development to convert an old parking lot into 18 additional townhomes.
The commission also gave unanimous approval to an annexation request from Commissioner Wendy Davis for a lot at 22 Norwood Street in the Riverside community.
Commissioners approved an amendment to the Community Development Block Grant program, formally accepting a second CARES Act package in the amount of $255,497. Those funds will be used to create an emergency rental and utility payment program for low/moderate income residents of the city who have lost income directly related to COVID-19.