Mourners Celebrate Jackson Mayor's Life

March 10, 2014

Mourning mixed with celebration and commemoration Saturday in Jackson for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, the civil rights activist who led the city to a new vision.

Lumumba died Feb. 25 at a hospital after experiencing chest pains. He was 66.

Many referred to Saturday's funeral at the Jackson Convention Complex as a celebration of Lumumba's life, while others, including acting Mayor Charles Tillman, defined Saturday's service as a home-going.

Local, state and national leaders were in attendance to pay their respects, including Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

"Today, we honor and celebrate the life of what some might call a radical. He was a progressive, but a gentle giant among men, leaders and visionaries," said Evers-Williams. "I am forever grateful for this giant who worked with organizations such as the Jackson Human Rights Coalition that helped to pressure this state to retry the man who committed the murder of my husband, Medgar Evers.

"That man was convicted, and I will forever be grateful to our mayor," she added.

Former Mississippi Gov. William Winter discussed his initial view of Lumumba, a perspective he said the late mayor changed drastically in his eight months of serving in the top position at City Hall.

"I must confess to you that this time last year, I was concerned (Lumumba) was going to divide the city," Winter said. "I could not have been more wrong."

Winter said Lumumba fostered a spirit of inclusiveness and reconciliation. "He has brought a fresh attitude to our city."

"The finest memorial that we can erect to him will be the creation of a community here in Jackson where everyone is treated with dignity and respect," said Winter.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson discussed his friendship with the mayor and the last time he had been in contact with Lumumba's office before his untimely death.

"Mayor Lumumba was too often called radical, revolutionary and an activist," said Thompson. "But to those who knew him, we also called him a radical, a revolutionary, an activist, for the right reasons.

"To care about your people is not a bad thing or a weakness."

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