A.J. McClung came to Columbus in 1943 with a background in athletic instruction and coaching. He was hired in 1954 as the executive director for the Brookhaven Boulevard YMCA, later renamed after Mr. McClung to honor his extraordinary achievements in Columbus. He was elected to city council where he served for over 28 years after playing a crucial role in the consolidation of the city and county governments and was appointed as mayor pro tem. He briefly served as the only Black mayor in a major southern city after a plane crash took the life of Mayor J.R. Allen in 1973. He was also the guiding force behind making Columbus the permanent site for the Tuskegee-Morehouse football games.
Dr. Delmar Edwards was the first Black male accepted to the University of Arkansas Medical School, and after a residency in North Carolina he was hired by the Tuskegee Veterans Administration. It was there, in 1964, that Dr. Andy Roddenbery and Dr. Abe Conger met Dr. Edwards. They were so impressed by him that they convinced him to move to Columbus and arranged operating privileges at the Medical Center, where Dr. Edwards became Columbus’s first African American surgeon. He eventually became the Chairman for the Department of Surgery. He broke several Columbus racial barriers, including induction as the first African American in the Columbus Rotary Club.
Following World War II, Edwin Edward Farley was the first real estate developer to build high quality housing suburbs in Columbus specifically marketed to middle class African Americans, many of whom were either active or retired members of the U.S. Army. One neighborhood developed by Mr. Farley, Carver Heights, uniquely features streets named for historically Black colleges and universities as well as African American leaders.
When racial segregation was the order of the day, Lizzie Mae Lunsford and her husband Watson owned thriving businesses that provided goods and services to African American customers. In 1941, they built an enormous, beautiful home on Lawyers Lane. It was there that she entertained and housed well known African American celebrities, such as Jackie Robinson and Louis Armstrong, who came to or through Columbus where no suitable restaurants or hotels would allow their entry. She also completely funded the downtown USO (United Service Organization) for African American soldiers to have a welcoming place to stay while in Columbus. The court case challenging discriminatory voting laws in Georgia Democratic primaries was taking place in Macon, Georgia. Mrs. Lunsford insisted on attending the courtroom every day while the case was being heard, despite death threats she received from the Ku Klux Klan.
Historic Columbus Foundation-Web Blog posts under History Spotlight
Dr. Delmar Edwards and E.E. Farley- Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s series 100 People to Remember with artwork by Don Coker
A.J.McClung and Lizzie Mae Lunsford-Black America Series: Columbus Georgia by Judith Grant