SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — A longtime Social Circle civil rights activist will be laid to rest Thursday, Jan. 28, within two weeks of having a new bridge in his hometown named in his honor.
Services for Robert “Bobby” Howard, who died Thursday, Jan. 21, at age 80, are set for noon at Lakewood Memorial Cemetery at 325 Hickory Drive in Social Circle. Visitation is set for Wednesday, Jan. 27, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Young Levett Funeral Home at 3106 West St. SW in Covington.
Howard was an activist locally and regionally during the Civil Rights Era.
He later was among the most active and visible members of a biracial group called the Moore's Ford Memorial Committee that sought to bring attention and reopen the case of the 1946 Moore’s Ford lynchings in Walton County.
On Jan. 16, members of Howard’s family and Social Circle city officials unveiled a sign bearing his name on a new South Cherokee Road bridge. The Robert “Bobby” Howard Bridge spans the CSX railroad tracks outside downtown Social Circle along old Georgia Hwy. 11, the Walton Tribune reported.
Howard has battled Alzheimer’s disease for a number of years and his wife, Rachel, accepted the honor on his behalf, the Tribune reported.
“He used to cross the old bridge here every day to take a lunch to his father down at the mill,” Mrs. Howard said at the ceremony that was streamed live. “Then he later crossed it every day to go work at the mill himself.”
A 2006 Associated Press article noted Howard’s mother’s home was firebombed because of his involvement in the Moore’s Ford committee.
The 1946 incident brought national attention to the area after a white mob killed four Black area residents at the Moore's Ford Bridge over the Apalachee River in Walton County.
President Harry S. Truman sent FBI agents to investigate the murders and issued an executive order establishing the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which release a series of recommendations including federal anti-lynching legislation and helped lead to the Civil Rights Era.
Federal attorneys were unable to gain indictments and closed the case. Former Gov. Roy Barnes and the FBI ordered the case reopened in the 2000s but state and federal officials closed the case in December 2017.
Howard, who was called “the spiritual head of the movement,” said he received numerous death threats because of his work to find the killers of the four, which included a World War II veteran.