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‘Towering figure’: Augusta leaders reflect on life of former Mayor Mays

Published: Nov. 22, 2020 at 3:10 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Residents of the CSRA are reflecting on the life of former Augusta Mayor Willie Mays after several city leaders announced his passing.

For people like Commissioner-elect Jordan Johnson, he wasn’t just a councilman or mayor but a mentor.

“As a young man aspiring to be effective in serving the community, there was no one you wanted to go to other than Willie Mays,” said Jordan Johnson, commissioner-elect for Augusta District 1.

The name of Mays still towers over Ninth and Greene streets at the public defender’s office named after him. Inside, a portrait commemorated for him only a year ago. Johnson said the recognition he received even before his passing was much deserved.

“Willie Mays lead Augusta during the time where African-Americans were kinda trying to find our way,” said Johnson. “We have this idea that unity is grand. Well, Willie exemplified that. He personified what it meant to be able to get things done in this city.”

He said Mays earned his influence in Augusta for all the right reasons.

“He was not a feared man. His power didn’t come from intimidation. His power came from him listening to people. And getting an understanding of where they were coming from,” he said.

Based on how widely well received he was in the community, Mays leaves some big shoes to fill for the next generation of leaders in Augusta.

Johnson also took to Facebook, writing: “His life and his work touched the lives of many, including myself. We all owe Willie Mays a debt of gratitude for his example and for the trail that he blazed for us to follow.”

Received news that former Augusta Councilman, Commissioner, and Mayor, Willie Mays has died. Willie Mays was 28 years...

Posted by Jordan Johnson on Sunday, November 22, 2020

“His ability to listen and empathize in act, oh man, it’s just unheard of today,” said Johnson. “And I hope to be able to have just a drop of that leadership ability while I’m serving the same district that he served. You know, walking the same streets that he walked.”

Mays served the city of Augusta for nearly 30 years in three different positions.

On Saturday, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. tweeted his condolences to Mays’ family, saying “#RipSuperman.”

The mayor also released a statement:

It is with a heavy heart and tremendous sadness that we have learned of the passing of my good friend, mentor and our former Mayor, Willie Mays, III. As we process the magnitude of this loss, on behalf of my family and the entire Augusta, Georgia Commission, we extend our condolences to his wife Ray and his entire family.

Mayor Mays was a trailblazer and titan in Augusta coming from a family dedicated to serving the people. Following in his late-mother’s footsteps, Carrie J. Mays, the first woman to serve on the Augusta City Council, Willie would serve as a council member in the city of Augusta and then continue that crucial service as a commissioner post-consolidation. He broke color barriers and changed the face of Augusta politics, inspiring generations after him to join the ranks of public service.

In the book of Matthew, it is said that the greatest among us are those who serve. My friend Willie, aka “Superman”, was one of the greatest among us and was a stranger to none that had the blessing of crossing his path. An outspoken advocate for citizens, a dedicated heart of service and friend to many. May his spirit, the profound impact he made upon the City of Augusta and his legacy be a guide and reminder to us all.

Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr.

Commissioner Ben Hasan also shared a post via Facebook. It says: “Georgia, Carolina and this country has lost a true pioneer. Willie May’s legacy and hard work will forever be edge into this city and the state of Georgia.”

Posted by Ben Hasan on Sunday, November 22, 2020

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