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Posted: October 15, 2013 3:26 p.m.

A life that has taken many paths

Five years ago, my husband and I moved to Covington. My only knowledge of Covington was that the TV drama "In the Heat of the Night" was filmed here. I watched that show at every opportunity; I even came to an auction of articles from the show once.

During the summer when we moved into our home here, I almost wanted to move because of the flies — large black flies. We live near Highway 162. There is a blinking light at Highway 81 and Salem Road, and there are two gas stations. One day while stopping for gas, I mentioned the flies to the store clerk. She said, "You are in the country, and the flies are cow flies.’’

I have come to love the country and its flies.

I am married to a great guy with a long last name. I have one adult son and one brother. I am a grandmother, and I have three stepsons. My husband and I have a dog named Spike, three parrots and fish. Each morning, I feel like I am feeding a zoo.

Now, about my writing for The Covington News: I have always wanted to write, and I have been given an extraordinary opportunity. My aim is to offer interesting thoughts on many issues, but also to share things from my life that might well resonate with you.

As a child, I grew up in Montgomery, Ala., and Chicago, Ill., attending elementary schools in both states. In Alabama, I wasn’t allowed to visit the libraries or the city zoo. In Chicago, I was allowed to visit any and everything.

In Chicago, we lived in an apartment. In Alabama, my parents owned a single-family home in Montgomery. That house was located in a community built for Negro veterans who served in WWII.

As a child, I was a witness to history beginning at a very young age. We lived in Montgomery during the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. One of the first mass meetings was held at our family church, Holt Street Baptist. After the meeting, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. picked me up. I can remember his hands were soft.

For several years, my family moved from the South to the North and back. When we relocated to Alabama, my parents had to remind me that life was different there. I was never called "the N-word" in the North. I wanted to leave Alabama, but my parents needed to stay. My social and educational life was forever changed.

After I graduated from high school, I attended Alabama State College, located in Montgomery, during the summer of 1964. As a new student, I knew our campus was different from the University of Alabama, so I got busy organizing students and leading protests. Our campus was smaller. We didn’t have nice buildings or access to the same fields of study as U of A.

As a student, I was suspended several times for advocating change. I had my supporters, one being Dr. G. Garrett Hardy, a sociology professor. After meeting him, I knew I would get a degree in sociology, and I did. I hold a Bachelor of Arts, (B.A.) 1968.

During the Selma-to-Montgomery March of 1965, I led students from around America and Canada. I went to jail for my rights and was almost killed three times. Dr. Hardy, reminded my other professors how important my actions as a student leader were so they wouldn’t fail me for not attending my classes. Of course, I had to pass those courses, and I did. I just wasn’t in class most of the time.

I graduated from college on a Sunday and was on a bus to Michigan the following Wednesday. My parents thought it was best that I moved; my strong civil rights stands had put me in danger. Only recently, I learned that my younger brother had not been allowed to talk about me to anyone, for fear he could give my whereabouts away to the wrong person.

I stayed in Michigan for a while, and then I moved back to Alabama. But I was still concerned about my safety. So, I decided to leave again, this time for Texas. When my plane stopped in Georgia, I got off and stayed in Atlanta.

I moved to Paschals Hotel, where I met the future mayor, Maynard Jackson. I volunteered on his campaign and began to make contacts that led to my role as the first black woman to be Special Markets Representative for the Pepsi bottling company of Atlanta.

When the bottling company was sold, I worked with Economic Opportunity Atlanta (EOA). In that role, I started a free health clinic in the Techwood public housing development, along with other social services programs.

Years later, I was employed by Senior Citizens Services as Meals-On-Wheels coordinator for the city for Atlanta. I also worked for the city, through the office of then-Mayor Bill Campbell, helping residents find work via the First Source Jobs Program.

After many years of living in the Metro Atlanta area, I moved back to Montgomery to take care of our failing mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease. There, I began working for the soon-to-be Gov. Don Siegelman. When he was elected, I was appointed to his transition team and then was hired as an administrative assistant.

I was working in the Alabama State capitol, where in 1965 I had been arrested for demonstrating for my rights. In 2000, I even ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Montgomery.

In 2005, I moved to back to Georgia, to Conyers, with my mother. And years after her death, I married for the first time — at age 60 — and moved with my husband to Covington.

My life has taken me down many paths. I look forward to sharing some of my perspectives with you. I may sometimes write things with which you disagree or consider provocative. Your comments will always be welcome, be they be brutally honest or just plain rip-roaringly funny.

 

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Dorothy Frazier Piedrahita welcomes reader comments. She can be reached at ufrazier2001@yahoo.com.

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