Honoring a heroPublished 11:00pm Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Troy street renamed after local civil rights champion
Written by Trent Thompkins, intern with The Messenger
It was an emotional day for Eddie Warren at Troy’s City Hall meeting Thursday evening. Family and friends showed up by the dozens to support his mother, Johnnie Mae Warren, as a street was renamed in her honor.
Dr. Eddie Warren was all smiles as he accepted the official street sign while shaking hands with Troy Mayor, Jason Reeves.
“The fact that people took the time to appreciate all she did…that’s wonderful,” Warren said. “All these years she worked hard and helped people, so it means so much for them to come back and say ‘Thank you.’”
Warren was an esteemed civil rights activist in the mid 80’s who helped solidify Troy’s integration during an era when such a thing was uncommon.
“Troy was a much less turbulent city during the time than other surrounding cities because she helped paved the way for it to be,” said former state representative, Steve Flowers. “We were best friends. I think many times people didn’t run against me because they knew she was on my side,” Flowers laughed as he thought of his friend.
Warren and the late Alphonsa Byrd were the first two African-American’s elected to hold a position as a council members in Troy. Warren was also the first female on the council. She accomplished a lot in her time as a council member, serving two consecutive terms from 1985 to 1992.
“She’s just the sweetest person and has the biggest heart,” former Troy mayor Jimmy Lunsford said. “She always strived to help people.”
Lunsford recalled the time Warren moved to establish a cool, air-conditioned break room for the Public Works Department.
“If she had to pick one of her simplest, yet biggest accomplishments, I think it would be that one,” Lunsford said.
Warren, who will turn 96 on July 6, could not be in attendance at the ceremony, but her voice carried through from her friends and family.
“I wish she could be here, but I know she is in spirit,” council member, Charlie Dunn said. “She is a special lady.”
Council member Greg Meeks said his family shared close ties with Warren because his father, Charles, served on the council with her.
Meeks said Warren always went above and beyond the call of duty, noting that she once offered to sit up with his grandmother at night when she was sick.
Johnnie Mae Warren was known to be a champion for equal rights for everyone and worked hard to facilitate side-by-side community involvement between blacks and whites.
Council President Johnny Witherington said he remembers the long walk the black community had to make to take part in Troy’s government and that Warren was a huge reason that racial gaps were bridged in the city.
“One of the reasons [our government] has been so strong is because of her family,” Witherington shared. “She made things happen in Troy, Ala. because she loved me and you.”
Warren was known to go house-to-house and even car-to-car to register people to vote. Councilwoman Dejerilyn King Henderson said Warren was instrumental in helping thousands of people exercise their right to vote.
“She was an inspiration to me spiritually and physically,” Henderson shared.
Johnnie Mae Warren Avenue will run along the former Walters Street from South Knox Street to Boyd Street.