Close to 100 people were in attendance for the Austin Green Team’s annual memorial recognition ceremony last Saturday.
The memorial brick garden at Laramie and Washington has dozens of names of community leaders, activists and residents who have died, but have left a lasting impact on the community.
The names of honorees are engraved on bricks that are placed in the memorial by family members at the special ceremony. This year’s honorees included a long-time community activist and, for the first time, two names on one brick, which honored a pastor and his wife who served Austin in marriage and the pulpit for nearly a half century.
George Lawson, vice president of the Austin Green Team, once again did the honors in hosting the event.
Justin “J.D.” McCarthy was there with his family as his father, Justin McCarthy, was being honored. The elder McCarthy died this spring and was involved in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He lived in a home on Washington Boulevard not too far from where his brick will lay.
J.D. McCarthy, who works in the motion picture industry, was there with his sister, who brought dirt from her home in California to place in the section where her father’s brick will go.
J.D. McCarthy talked about how much his dad loved Austin.
“My dad fought the ‘panic peddlers’ when they tried to chase the Caucasian people out when African Americans moved in,” he said. “My dad was big in the civil rights movement back in 1950s and ’60s, and he was the first president of the Organization For A Better Austin in 1968. He was a part of this community for over 70 years, [and] he certainly believed in the words of Martin Luther King: not to judge a man by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. This is what he instilled in his children, and that is what I instill in my son and what my sisters instill in their children. That is the legacy my dad left us.”
The other honorees included Fr. John McCarville, Stonewall “Stoney” Dunagan, Albert Sullivan, Norris Boston, James Colvin Sr. and Evelyn Johnson.
Honorees, the Rev. Shelvin Hall and his wife, Lucy, received a distinct honor of being the first recipients to share engraved names on one brick. The Halls died in May of 2007 nearly two weeks apart. The Halls were pastor and first lady of Friendship Baptist Church in Austin.
Their daughter, Shelvin Louise Hall, a justice with the Illinois Appellate Court, noted the bond her parents shared in life and death.
“My parents could not be apart from one another. They made their transition within 20 days of one another. It’s fitting that they are sharing this honor together,” said Hall, whose sister Priscilla Hall is a New York state Supreme Court justice, making them the first ever African-American sister judges in the country.
Lawson summed up the memorial ceremony and honorees by saying, “Every time you come to this park, there’s a story behind every name.”