A face-to-face meeting between spiritual and civic leaders in Montgomery has eased tension and promoted fellowship regarding a perceived lack of support for the dedication of a historical minority graveyard.
Pastor Herbert Collins, of Brownwood Baptist Church, expressed outrage last weekend when neither the mayor nor any City Council members attended the dedication ceremony recognizing Montgomery Memorial Cemetery as a Historic Texas Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission.
Montgomery Memorial Cemetery was dedicated as a Historic Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission.
“It is a shame our elected officials have chosen to ignore such an important event,” Collins said at the dedication ceremony. “If we cannot get their support, perhaps we should consider this at election time.”
The historical black cemetery dates back to 1863 and is the oldest minority cemetery to be designated by THC, Collins said.
Mayor Travis Mabry said the invitation to the event was left on a commercial answering machine that is not frequently checked. The message was received the Tuesday prior to the event, but he was scheduled to be out of town on a previously arranged family commitment that could not be changed. Mabry left it up to individual City Council members to determine whether they would attend – none did.
Collins’ frustration about lack of representation at the dedication was not directed solely at city hall. He estimated attendance at the event at 12-14 people.
T.J. Wilkerson, president of the Montgomery Memorial Cemetery Association, was disappointed at the turnout but said Mabry had a personal history of supporting the cemetery. He said the mayor and his wife had been involved in previous cleanup activities at the cemetery and that the land for the cemetery had been donated by Mabry’s ancestors.
“We should have had ministers from area churches, community leaders and more residents from the community,” Collins said. “This isn’t about race; this is about civic pride. We need to get more people involved.”
Mabry met with Collins Friday at the cemetery – assuring him the designation as a Historic Texas Cemetery was important to the community.
“This is another example of Montgomery’s involvement in Texas history,” Mabry said. “History and tradition are important elements in this community.”
Collins would like to see a more active demonstration of involvement from the entire community – both black and white.
“The more we know each other, the better it will be for all of us,” he said. “If we foster a closeness in the community, it will lead to a fellowship that will benefit all of us.”