Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn: The Hero Who Changed Athens, Georgia, and the Nation

By Nicole Taylor

Early on, I was shown the lush goodness of my hometown — Athens, Georgia — and tasted the angry backwash flowing through the city. My home house is on the east side, right off the former Water Street corridor, among the simple, manicured, ranch homes, where you can faintly hear the University of Georgia’s Redcoat Band playing the fight song. The neighborhood was also ground zero for unrecognized acts of bravery and sacrifice that are rarely spoken.

I was raised next door to the late Mrs. Miriam Moore. An activist for the poor and forgotten enclaves “across the river,” Mimi was an accidental witness to an occurrence that still drips from the mouths of certain locals. In the summer of 1964, she was a dishwasher at Open House Restaurant (local hangout for the guys in white robes) and would later testified against the two fellows that cut Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn’s life short. The tales of gross murder and integration are intertwined, and hatred fueled a beautiful movement that deserves more than tiny footnotes.

This audio piece unclogs the drains and helps us float upstream.

Put on your headphones and listen. 

Music in this column was composed and performed by Odetta Hartman