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Lee: The Glory of Covington
Pastor Eric Lee
Pastor Eric Lee

His name is Almond James Turner: lifelong resident of Covington; 1968 graduate of the historic, segregated R.L. Cousins School;  husband to his childhood sweetheart Anita; father of three amazing children who serve Newton County; grandfather to 10 beautiful children; 45 years of service with the Covington Police; first African American Assistant Chief of Police; and 23 years on the Newton County Board of Education.  Almond was an outstanding officer, citizen, servant-leader, family man, deacon and friend.  He epitomizes the “Glory of Covington.”  

When we tragically lost Almond in November, the Newton County community united to celebrate the life and legacy of our native son with the dignity typically reserved for heads of state.  Resolutions and commendations came from national, state and local officials.  Innocently, a prayer vigil was organized.  Ironically, it was staged in the shadows of the Confederate memorial which is the anchor and sacred center of the Covington Square.  This memorial was erected in 1906 to honor men who died fighting for the right to oppose, oppress and own men like Almond James Turner.  The Glory of Covington was celebrated beside the contradiction of Covington.    

We all live with contradictions.  Did you know that Newton County was settled at the expense, execution and expulsion of the Creek Indians?  Did you know that Dried Indian Creek earned its name as the lynching site of a Native American chieftain?  

The Glory of Covington is a book written by William Bailey Williford in 1988.  Williford sought to chronicle the aesthetic beauty of the geography and architectural charm of Covington’s antebellum era.  He wrote in the foreword concerning the scope of his book, “It is…a fragment of the whole — albeit the most fascinating and remarkable portion.”  I thank Williford for his honesty.  He proves that the American story is commonly taught in glorified fragments.  On our nation’s 244th birthday, it’s time that a more comprehensive narrative be shared that is no less “fascinating and remarkable.”  Fourth of July is a fascinating fragment but we mustn’t ignore the entire narrative that includes the contradictions and inconvenient facts of history.  Maybe one day Christianity and patriotism will compel America to confess its sins that facilitated the bondage of 4 million African people and displaced 60,000 Native Americans on the Trail of Tears; maybe one day the significance of Juneteenth (June 19) will matter as much as Independence Day (July 4).

Covington’s Confederate monument has been the ultimate contradiction for families like  Almond Turner’s.  The center of our town should contain symbols, ideals and images that are inclusive of all its citizens and acknowledge the collective essence of our beloved community. This is a contradiction that Covington can correct.  It’s time to replace the treasonous and racist tribute to men who are the patron saints of a disgraceful lost cause.  Then together we can discover the enduring “Glory of Covington”.

This editorial was inspired and encouraged by my friend for the past 20 years, Judge Horace James Johnson Jr.  Our loss is heaven’s gain.

The Rev. Dr. Eric Wendel Lee Sr. is the pastor of Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers.