What’s in a name? Why everything, but mainly the great history that is tied to even greater people.
In Statesboro, we have four names honored in one place: Moore, Jones, Love and Douglas. Just drive by what was once called the “Blitch Street Recreational Center” on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and you will see a new building and, next to it, new markers with new names. Yet the names are very familiar to those who have lived in Bulloch County for at least 50 years.
Luetta Leverette Moore
As you pass by the center, you will observe a marker that bears the name of one of Bulloch County’s most distinguished humanitarians, the gracious Mrs. Luetta Leverette Moore. Beginning her work in 1956 at the request of Max Lockwood, then Statesboro’s recreation director, Mrs. Moore unselfishly gave up her studies at Savannah State College to assume the position as the center’s director with the understanding that she would be “in charge.” And she was.
She worked untiringly for a combined 29 years as the center’s director and as a member of Georgia’s Advisory Board for Recreation. As director, she implemented and planned activities for our youth such as beauty pageants (which she believed built character), water shows, a golf clinic, a day camp and many team sports. Because of her unfailing devotion to the county’s youth, the baseball field also bears her name.
When asked about what prompted her to set her life goals, she said: “I didn’t consider myself pretty, so I turned to books.” Yet I can remember the warm, beautiful face who greeted me as I paid for a swim in the center’s pool.
Mrs. Moore will always be remembered for her dedication to our youth, along with her community activities, which included substitute teaching, attending church, chairing committees such as United Way, the Altamaha Action Authority and her all-time favorite, the Garden Club.
She lived by these words: “Don’t believe you’re better than anyone else, but always believe that you are as good as anyone.” If she did it, we can, too.
The Rev. Patrick Jones
Next, we only have to look a few yards over to the left to see the beautiful building in the middle of the center. It bears two names: the Jones-Love Multicultural Center.
“Jones” is in honor of the late Rev. Patrick Jones, a Portal native who lived to be 83 years old. He became a community activist, pastor of three churches and the first president and organizer of the Bulloch County chapter of the NAACP. He served this chapter diligently for 15 years.
Intelligent, outspoken, handsome and polite, the Rev. Jones helped to move the African-American population forward in race relations, especially in the right to vote. As a 1948 graduate of all-black Statesboro Industrial High School, he appreciated the rewards and benefits of an education, and he used his knowledge to help others. He pulled the community together with his political wisdom and great sense of fair play.
Because he was an insurance salesman, working for the Afro-American Insurance Company, he had the opportunity to talk to many black farmers and laborers in Bulloch County about their rights as American citizens and homeowners. Because he was a man of God, he was able to use the pulpit to further unite those who needed solace and leadership in both business and social affairs. Because he worked in the community as a farmer and laborer at JP Stevens Company and Howard Lumber Company, he understood the needs of his community.
He loved singing, he loved the people he served, and he loved to dress in a suit, which further highlighted his integrity and his dignity as both a man of God and a man willing to fight for the rights of God’s people.
Roosevelt ‘Sam’ Love
I know that you’ve heard the question, what’s “Love” got to do with it? Well, in Bulloch County in the 1970s, the answer was everything, and the person was none other than Roosevelt “Sam” Love. As president of the NAACP, he was in the middle of everything, from getting black police officers, county commissioners and postal workers hired to integrating Fair Road Park. His own daughter was one of the first black girls to play baseball there.
He filed many complaints of discrimination on behalf of local residents, going as high as U.S. District Court. Because he boldly and persistently stood up for what was right, the black community no longer had to quietly endure unfair practices. Mr. Love was also among the first 20 black families whose children integrated Bulloch County’s schools before forced integration. Under his leadership, the NAACP met constantly with the Bulloch County Board of Education on behalf of the black community, discussing the best avenue for both races.
At the young of 81, Mr. Love is now retired, spending his days watching his favorite television shows, “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza” and “Rifleman,” with his wife of 30 years, Janice Elizabeth Richardson Love. However, he has left a legacy of hard work. Many remember him as the owner of Love’s BP gas station (in front of Shoney’s), Love’s Shell station and, lastly, Love’s Muffler Shop. Unafraid to venture out, his business savvy led to many other black-owned franchises in Bulloch County, a legacy that can still be seen today.
When asked what words of wisdom he has for today’s youth, Mr. Love says: “Get your education. If you get a good education, you have more of a chance for success.” And these words come from a man who did not have the chance to attend high school. He gives his sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Secret Simmons, who taught six different grades in one, much credit for his education.
Zadie Lundy Douglas
Looking for the Zadie Lundy Douglas Little League Field? Well, just make a left at the marker, and you are there.
Just as our youth play hard on the field today, Mrs. Douglas played just as hard in real life. She lived to be 90 years old, taught school for 44 of them and played piano for Original First African Baptist Church for 50 years (including giving music lessons). She also birthed five children (burying one) and celebrated 66 years of marriage, outliving her spouse.
She graduated from Statesboro Industrial High, later attending Morris Brown College in Atlanta and Savannah State College, where she was a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She taught at several Bulloch County schools — New Sandridge, Edward Johnson in Brooklet, William James Elementary, Julia P. Bryant and Mattie Lively — until she retired in 1984.
She performed for several local churches: Tabernacle Baptist, Mount Pisgah Primitive Baptist, Thomas Grove Baptist and Bethel Primitive Baptist. Whether it was a psalm or a gospel spiritual, she could sing it and play it, using both the “National Baptist Hymnal” and the “All American Hymnal.” “Amazing Grace” was her favorite song.
Mrs. Douglas wore many hats, both figuratively and literally: wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, pianist, singer, choir director, deaconess, community activist and a deserving recipient of many awards. The most prestigious was the Martin Luther King Jr. Honoree Award, which culminated in her and her spouse leading the 1998 Martin Luther King Jr. Parade as grand marshals for their meritorious community service.
Sophisticated in demeanor and stylish in her dress, Mrs. Douglas was indeed a “princess,” which is what her name mans, and she carried this same royal attitude into the classroom, saying that she believed in “helping children learn in a loving and caring environment.”
When you are out driving, please take time to go down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, formerly Blitch Street, where you will see the building and the markers bearing the names of those who gave so much for us. Read them and remember, Moore, Jones, Love and Douglas. They all have left an enduring legacy.
Dr. Enola G. Mosley an English teacher at Statesboro High School.