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Leaving behind a proud legacy

What will be your legacy?

I’ve been thinking about legacy a lot since last week when I learned Rev. Charles W. Grant died. As I reached out to Clayton County officials and residents to get reaction to his death, each comment was more flattering and memorable than the last.

Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley called him a “gentle and quiet giant.” District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson and commission Chairman Jeff Turner called him an “icon.” Everyone I talked to described him as an asset to the community and its environs.

I met Rev. Grant a few times over the years, covering this event or that, and I could share my own experiences but it is his legacy that speaks volumes and will be what people remember. Tracy Lawson also said Rev. Grant loved people no matter their race, creed or nationality. The Clayton County Community Service Authority, of which Rev. Grant was executive director for half a century, released a statement saying he made sure everyone was treated with dignity and respect, no matter their skin color.

To me, that means he treated all people equally and fairly without regard to what they looked like. How many of us can say that about ourselves?

I wonder why fair treatment was important to him? Is it because he was a black man in the South and was sensitive to inequality? He was born in 1927 and would have been a child during the Great Depression, a teen during WWII and coming into his own at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Rev. Grant married his sweetheart and remained with her for more than 65 years. Having been married for more than half that time, I can tell you, longevity in a marriage is no small feat. It requires patience, understanding, generosity of spirit and a strong sense of humor — the same traits that carry over into relationships with others.

Did all those historic events play a role in his attitude toward his fellow man? In the end, the reasons don’t matter. What matters is that Rev. Grant will be remembered for his good works and faith in God. The Bible says that faith without works is dead and that a man cannot profit if he says he has faith but does not have works. In other words, man cannot be saved through faith alone.

I’ve been a reporter for more than 25 years and have written about hundreds of people. I know that one minute of scandal will follow a person to his grave faster than 100 years of good deeds. Some people will forever be known by the scandal their actions generated, despite their attempts to make up for it through public service or charitable works. As Tevye so eloquently put it in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Good news will stay and bad news will refuse to leave.”

What do your deeds say about you? When you pass on, what will be written about you? What will your neighbors and friends remember about you? Are you leaving the legacy your children and grandchildren will be proud to brag about to their children and grandchildren? Are you doing what you ought to do to support your community?

Are you happy with your public persona? Rev. Grant may or may not have been well-known outside the metro Atlanta area but he left his mark where it mattered — among his peers in his community. Thousands of impoverished families in Clayton, Henry and Fayette counties were able to improve their situations because of Rev. Grant and his philosophies toward all people.

Was he a great man? Maybe. Was he a humble man? Probably. Was he a man who made a difference? Absolutely.

Will people say the same about you?