By Pamela Whitlow
LaFayette Mainstreet, Executive Director DeAnna Hand is on the move and very excited about updating and beautifying the city. She partnered with the City of LaFayette after Mainstreet of Alabama came to town less than two weeks ago and gave great ideas on how to make the historic buildings look updated.
Mrs. Hand didn’t waste any time on getting started. She took the Honor of Portrait wall idea and the old McClendon building and got the ball rolling. The wall added some honor portraits of the lives and legacies of LaFayette citizens in honor of Black History Month.
The first “Portraits of Honor” on the top windows of the once known McClendon building, were placed Saturday and will be rotating monthly. Their purpose is to honor the lives and legacies of LaFayette citizens who impacted the town and created history.
February portraits that went up and include the celebration of Black History Month include:
Arthur Mitchell was born in LaFayette, Alabama in 1883. He was an African American farmer, businessman, and politician. He was the first Afro American politician to be elected to the House Representative as a Democrat. In 1897 he joined Tuskegee Institute. He financed his education by working for millionaire Booker T. Washington. After Tuskegee, he joined Columbia University to study Law. He later went to Harvard University. He graduated and got his practicing license.
Joe Louis- whose given last name was Barrow, was born in rural Chambers County and lived there until early adolescence. Louis was world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949 and his exploits were a great source of pride to black Americans. But his exploits in the ring — particularly his first-round knockout of German Max Schmeling in June 1938 — managed to excite many others in the country.
Ms. Essie Handy – Essie Handy came to La Fayette in 1925. She was an educator and active in civic and religious activities. In 1940 their oldest son, Ralph, died from tuberculosis and was buried in the only cemetery in La Fayette for African-Americans at the time. Mrs. Handy went throughout the community asking for contributions to purchase land for a new African-American cemetery. In 1949 she had her son’s body exhumed and transferred to the new community cemetery bearing her name. In 1945 she became the first African-American to vote in Chambers County and she was recognized as a Civil Rights leader in the area. Mrs. Handy met with President Lyndon B. Johnson and was invited to his Inauguration in 1965. Mrs. Handy privately operated the cemetery until her death in 1977. Subsequently, the cemetery was deeded to the City of Lafayette who recognized Mrs. Handy for her achievements and impact on the community.
Gaine Davis Sr. and friends at ABC Feeds Company LaFayette, AL. He is father to Bell Todd. He was a devoted worker and friend to the community.
Captain Robert Finley – Finley was born June 12, 1953 in Chambers County, Alabama. He attended the Chambers County School System and graduated from Lafayette High School. To pursue his career in law enforcement he attended and graduated from Jacksonville Police Academy. Mr. Finley was a police officer with the City of LaFayette Police Department from February 6, 1978 until April 1, 1992. He then became a Deputy with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department where he obtained the rank of Captain until his retirement. He became a LaFayette City Council Member in October of 1996 and served there until he became the first African-American Mayor of LaFayette and served two terms from October 2000 until November 2008.
Samuel Seroyer – LaFayette Business Owner, Community Leader, and Advocate for ALL People, Educated in Chambers County, State of Alabama Licensed EMT, Provided the 1st Emergency Ambulance Service for Chambers County Hospital, Founding Member of the Chambers County Sportsman Club.
Eddie Gresham – Serviceman, LaFayette Business Owner, Owned Gresham Shoe Shop. Mr. Gresham worked tirelessly to provide for his family here in LaFayette and was able to send his son, Eddie Gresham, to college. He was a well-respected man and kind to all.