Rev. Charles Grant hard at work behind his desk in January 1995. (File Photo)
FOREST PARK — Clayton County residents and officials are mourning the passing of a “gentle and quiet giant” but lauding the legacy Rev. Charles W. Grant has left behind.
Grant, 87, died Thursday after a short illness, just days past his March 18 birthday. He was executive director of Clayton County Community Services Authority for 50 years. He and his wife, Patsy, made Forest Park their home for 65 of their 66 years together.
Information on funeral services was incomplete at press time.
Beechie Yates, comptroller with the Authority, issued a statement about Grant’s death.
“Rev. Grant devoted almost 50 years of his life to ensuring that the less-privileged had a decent life,” the statement reads. “He made sure people were treated with dignity and respect regardless of color and ethnicity. He was one of the pioneers of community action that worked tirelessly to eradicate poverty in Clayton County and beyond. He always said his mission and goal was ‘helping people to help themselves.’”
Clayton County commission Chairman Jeff Turner said Grant was “very supportive” of him on a personal level. Turner made a statement Friday on behalf of the board.
“The Board of Commissioners was saddened to hear of the passing of Rev. Charles Grant,” he said. “He was truly an icon and champion for the citizens of Clayton County. He will be greatly missed.”
Turner said Grant will long be remembered for his community involvement.
“When it came to community engagement, there couldn’t have been a better person selected for the job he was doing,” he said. “A lot of people benefited because of the person he was.”
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said she can’t say enough about the man she also called an icon.
“He is an icon in the community who will be irreplaceable,” she said. “He was a leader who led by example with humility and grace. There’s only one Rev. Charles Grant and I can’t say enough about him. He loved people of all races, creeds and nationalities. He has truly left a legacy.”
Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley called Grant “a gentle and quiet giant.”
“Rev. Grant was a pillar of this community who can never be duplicated or replaced,” she said. “I loved and respected him for all of the work he did in our community. I will miss him dearly.”
Just as Grant supported Turner in his own community endeavors, former Forest Park Mayor Pro Tem and activist Sparkle Adams said Grant encouraged her involvement in politics.
“He was truly the inspiration behind my political aspirations,” she said. “He pioneered many first African-American historical (moments) in Clayton County. Although he didn’t speak very loud, his point was crystal clear. I will truly miss him.”
Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart called Grant’s efforts “tireless.”
“Rev. Grant’s tireless work over several decades has left an indelible mark on our community,” he said. “His idea that men are created equal was not novel but (was) an idea that requires persistent vigilance to protect. He will surely be missed.”
Forest Park councilwomen Linda Lord and Latresa Akins recognized the contributions Grant made not only to the city but to Clayton County and beyond.
“He invited me to tour the community services facility and I was overwhelmed by the good things going on inside that building,” Lord said. “He was so gracious, sweet and kind. If you were a woman, he was going to hug your neck. He was a Christian but he also walked the walk and talked the talk.
“The work he did didn’t stay inside that building,” she continued. “He was a great person and my condolences go out to his family. This is not an easy time for them.”
Akins also expressed condolences to the Grant family.
“All who knew him, knew that he was a great man and that he contributed so much to the city of Forest Park,” said Akins. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
Lawson said Grant epitomized what the Bible teaches about selfless love for others.
“The Bible teaches that Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourselves,’” she said. “Rev. Grant lived that.”
The Authority serves residents in Clayton, Henry and Fayette counties, providing Meals on Wheels, assistance with rent, food, utility bills and legal services; day care and Head Start programs.
But Grant’s contributions extend far beyond the Authority, as was evidenced in the re-naming of a portion of Aviation Boulevard near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for him in 2004 — while he was still around to enjoy the accolades.
In accepting that honor 10 years ago, Grant was light-hearted but appreciative of the attention shown at the dedication ceremony.
“It’s my first street sign,” he said, “and it’s the first time I’ve ever been nervous. I’m deeply proud, deeply honored, humbled that the commissioners gave us this type of recognition.”
Grant was past president of Clayton County Ministerial Alliance and former vice-president of the 100 Black Men of South Metro Inc. He was active in the community, the NACCP and was a civil rights advocate.
In a photo tribute to Grant on the Authority website, there is expressed hope that others will pick up where he left off: “His journey is not in vain. He has made room for you to join him on setting benchmarks against poverty.”