Opinions,discussions and common ground on the Democracy of the United States and Macon County "Democracy is the cause of Humanity."--John L. O'Sullivan

Friday, March 11, 2005

David Livingston

At about 11 a.m., Wednesday, those of us on the Macon County Board lost a friend and colleague. David Livingston's passing also deprived the people of Decatur and Macon County of a fine public servant and public-spirited citizen. It is easy, though, for us to overlook the fact that David Livingston had a distinguished career of public service long before he took a seat on this board.

Reflecting upon David Livingston's life and his dedicated service to the cause of civil rights, we might ask ourselves, what kind of country was David born into 69 years ago? How close did it come to fulfilling Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence that "all mean are created equal"? It was pretty far off the mark.

In the world David Livingston grew up in segregation was openly practiced in Decatur and in the South. If he traveled through the South, he couldn't stop and use a restroom in a gas station. If he wanted a drink of water, he had to find a fountain labeled "colored." Opportunities were limited for him because of his race. At Nelson Park beach, he was not allowed to swim because of the color of his skin. We were a nation where racism was practiced openly and thoughtlessly. If you doubt this, try to remember the last time you saw a "minstrel" show or other degrading stereotypes passed off as entertainment.

But David Livingston and countless others like him changed this. They made America, they made Decatur, a better place through the commitment of their activism. People who didn't live through those times might assume that the civil rights movement involved only Martin Luther King Jr. and a few preachers, running around holding marches and demonstrations. The civil rights revolution was made and won by thousands, if not millions, of David Livingstons. Many risked their lives; some lost their lives; others faced community and institutional hostility. That they not only persevered but achieved is something all of us should be grateful for. While we are a long way from fulfilling Jefferson's statement as a nation, we are considerably closer than we were when David Livingston entered this world.

Today, I mourn the passing of a friend and colleague. Today, I mourn the passing of a great American, David Livingston.