There was laughter, singing and a standing ovation to celebrate the homegoing of a longtime fighter for justice, Edward Bailey. At Mandell United Methodist Church this past Monday, residents, community activists, politicians, young people and police officials all came together to pay their respects to one of this community’s most respected gentleman.
Rev. Gregory S. Livingston officiated, his humble demeanor, giving way to a powerful and elegant eulogy. One of Mr. Bailey’s sons summarized by telling those assembled, “At 65, my father started a self-movement (SACCC) but he left a way of life. He left a committed life for his fellow man, and he was a good loving man.”
Longtime SACCC and Austin Green Team member, George Lawson reflected on his long relationship with Bailey and how even when they disagreed, the respect Bailey showed for everyone and the love residents had for him could not be measured.
Ald. Ed Smith (28th Ward) said Bailey was a man of action who made sure that things happened. Smith later recalled, “Whenever Ed Bailey came to City Council, I always made sure he got in. He was so very instrumental in my life and I feel so honored to be a part of this community, and to have shared in Ed’s life.” In just about a month, Smith said he will be a new grandfather of twins, and that as we grow older and lose loved ones, God often blesses us with new life.
Mandell Church trustee Bilbo Jones spoke about being Ed Bailey’s Sunday School teacher. “When Ed met me I wasn’t wearing a suit because I was always working, and I am still working, so I don’t have on a suit today. Ed was my friend and I enjoyed our relationship, even when we disagreed.”
Rev. Gaston McKinnon added, “Ed Bailey was a doer. He didn’t believe in talking; he got things done.”
SACCC Executive Director Bob Vondrasek’s voice was filled with emotion. “Ed was my second father. He was always there for me. When I lost my mother or had personal problems, Ed was there to help me through. Soon a sign will be going up on Van Buren Street that will say ‘Bailey.’ Maybe it should read: ‘Ed Bailey, won’t you please come home.'”
Cong. Danny Davis (7th Dist.), who read from scripture during the services, explained how this week had been hard on him, having lost two first cousins. But nothing could stop him from getting back for the homegoing celebration for Bailey.
Rev. Livingston has been at Mandell for little over a year. The young pastor has himself been on the front lines in the fight for justice even before coming to the West Side. In his eulogy, Pastor Livingston explained that Bailey gave him a history lesson upon his arrival to Mandell Church.
“This past February we instituted here at the church Edward Bailey Sunday. And our recipient of the Edward Bailey Lifetime Achievement Award went to Bob Vondrasek. Mr. Bailey was a prolific man and a voracious reader. When the family notified us he had passed, the family let me go into the room, and he was lying on the bed. On one side was Mr. Bailey’s reading glasses and on the other side was the book, A Better Day Coming. He left a message for us. Elce Redmond told me this is the second time he read this book. He didn’t die, his body just wore out. Bailey was not about talk, he was about the walk.”
“Mr. Bailey told me one time, ‘Reverend, I didn’t get the opportunities for education that someone of my generation was able to get. So I left Augusta, Ga. and went to Harlem. I didn’t even know I was in the Renaissance. When I was in Harlem, I met a different kind of black man. What they taught us in the South was how to work. When I got to Harlem, I ran into Africans and Jamaicans who came there for knowledge. It was at that point in my life I said I would sacrifice in order to gain knowledge.’ And that is what he dedicated his life to.”
Rev. Livingston read Mr. Bailey’s speech from Feb. 2005 and said the speech was his own eulogy. When Janice Murray sang “Precious Lord” the entire congregation swelled with “Amen.”
Many well known individuals attended the standing-room-only service: James Deanes of CPS, Teresa Welch, Rev. Elizabeth Bynum, Lillian Drummond, Elce Redmond, Cook Count commissioners Collins & Steele, 15th District Commander Alonzo Wysinger, Ald. Chandler and clergy from various West Side churches.
Ed Bailey, 91, was born July 17, 1914, in Augusta, Ga., and he is survived by four children, Edward E. Bailey, James and Vincent Coakley, and Patricia Dobynes; 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Priscilla Jones Bailey, in 1956 and his second wife, Roberta, in 1995. Bailey founded SACCC in 1976 and his activism is legendary in the Austin community.
Burial took place on Nov. 29 with mourners meeting for a processional to Oak Ridge Cemetery. A.A. Rayner & Sons, 5911 W. Madison, handled the arrangements.