A Baton Rouge state senator wants a statue in honor of the late civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. T.J. Jemison Sr. to be placed in the Capitol Complex.
Private funds will be raised to pay for the statue, which would be placed in A.Z. Young Park in the shadows of the State Capitol. The park next door to the Pentagon Barracks is named after another Louisiana civil rights leader.
Democratic State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb’s Senate Bill 57 seeking to honor Jemison easily cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday.
“He was a pillar in Baton Rouge, in the state of Louisiana, in the nation and in the world,” Dorsey-Colomb said.
A native of Selma, Alabama, Jemison was a long-time president of the National Baptist Convention USA — the largest black Baptist organization in the United States. He was known as the architect of the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott to protest racially segregated seating on city buses. During the two-week boycott, African-American public transit riders got around town using volunteers driving their personal vehicles in a free-ride network set up by Jemison, which was an important part of keeping this and similar protests viable.
Jemison’s nonviolent protest model was used two years later in Montgomery, Alabama. He also was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“In times of racial dissent in Baton Rouge, the Rev. Jemison was the voice of calm,” Dorsey-Colomb said of her former pastor at Mt. Zion First Baptist Church on East Boulevard.
Dorsey-Colomb said the Baton Rouge Area Foundation will be the conduit through which donations will be made.
Jemison died at age 95 in 2013.
Jemison’s son, Theodore Judson Jemison Jr., told the panel that back in the turbulent 1960s, a few “people decided to stand together to get this state moving forward together and make race relations better” and his father was one of them.
“My Dad and (then) Gov. John McKeithen became great friends through the years,” Jemison said.
Upon McKeithen’s death in 1999, it was the Rev. Jemison whom the McKeithen family called upon “to speak over him” because they were “true friends,” his son said.
Dorsey-Colomb said she looked up the meaning of Jemison’s first name, Theodore.
“It means God’s gift,” she said. “He was God’s gift to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the nation and the world.”
SB57 gained unanimous approval from the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee and now advances to the Senate floor for a vote.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the State Capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.