Son fights for father's legacy - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Son fights for father's legacy

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - In the 1970s, racism and discrimination were still common, even in city government. One city worker decided he was tired of working for less money than his white counterparts, and he sued the city of Albany.

Johnnie Johnson was fired because of that, but the lawsuit paved the way for better hiring practices for years to come.

When you see two coffee pots you probably think decaf or regular. But in the 1970s, if you worked for the city of Albany, it meant black or white.

One man fought to change that, now his family wants his efforts recognized. When Johnnie Johnson walked off the job in 1972, 260 other black employees followed him.

"Certainly during that time it took courage to do what he did and it has made some definite changes," said Dr. Willie Adams, Albany Mayor.

Johnson sued the city, and won, helping black employees receive better treatment, pay and positions.

"We have judges that had not ben previously sitting on the bench and, of course, you have me sitting here in this seat, but if it had not been for the action of some courageous people like that, I'm not sure how long it would have taken to bring about those changes," said Adams.

Now, Johnson's son Yaz wants his father's sacrifice recognized. "Because of him being tired of blacks being treated unequal, he decided to take that stand," said Pastor Yaz Johnson.

He wants the Albany Law Enforcement Center named in memory of his father. Anything less, he says, would be an insult to his legacy.

"I don't want a street named after him. What he did was bigger than a street. It was bigger than a park. It was bigger than a lollipop in the road. It was bigger than that. It was a major change," said Johnson.

And for a major change, Johnson believes a major honor should be made.

"So I, his son, want to keep that legacy alive and also inform the younger generation as well as remind those who are in those positions that they're in that if it had not been for my father doing what he did, they wouldn't be in the position that they are in today," said Johnson.

A position like the Mayor of Albany. "He was litigating not only on behalf of his present generation, but generations to come, and I think that was a very courageous thing he did," Adams said.

The city will consider the request by the family at a work session later this month.


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