Friday, February 27, 2015

Wilton Hugh Thomas, longtime L5P fixture known as 'Wolf,' has died

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 10:23 AM

Wilton Hugh Wolf Thomas
  • Calvin Kimbrough
  • Wilton Hugh 'Wolf' Thomas
On one of your many visits to Little Five Points or trips along Ponce de Leon Avenue, you might have encountered the man with a blonde mane, black tank top, and tight jean shorts. Sometimes he carried a guitar. Or he'd be selling magazines and laughing with a friend. You might not have ever known his name, but he was a familiar face, and one of Atlanta's recognizable street personalities.

To those who knew him, he was a friendly, kind-hearted musician who spent most of his life living on the streets and helping other homeless men and women navigate the city and find food and shelter. His name was Wilton Hugh Thomas, but he was known by most as "Wolf."

On Tuesday, the Winter Haven, Fla., native died at Grady Memorial Hospital. According to Pastor Paul Turner of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, where Thomas was a longtime member, he was 72.

Thomas came to the city from Vidalia around 1963, and first worked at Morrison's Cafeteria in Hapeville, according to an audio interview conducted by Bill Horrisberger. He joined the other hippies in Atlanta on "The Strip," selling copies of the Great Speckled Bird, the famed and unabashedly liberal alternative newspaper, among other publications. Wolf recalled seeing the Allman Brothers Band and other musical acts play in Piedmont Park during that period, telling Horrisberger it was the "best time of my life."

Steve Wise, who worked at the Great Speckled Bird from 1968 to 1976 — "sometimes on the paid staff, usually not" — remembers Thomas as a prolific vendor of the newspapers, selling hundreds of copies week after week. Thomas was rivaled only by Tom "Birdman" Millican, Wise recalls.

"When the paper came out Thursday morning, we had a good-natured competition to be the first to get down to Georgia State's cafeteria, where at lunchtime you could sell 60 to 75 papers in an hour — a very high rate," Wise says. "He was a very quiet guy, didn't talk much, but always friendly."

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Bankhead Highway Bridge, the Westside's beautiful span to nowhere, could be razed with bond package cash

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 10:20 AM

Bankhead Highway Bridge

The list of road repairs, bridge replacements, and "school flashers" on the city's list of potential projects eligible for funding from the upcoming $250 million bond package is long. On the list is the proposed demolition of the iconic and dilapidated Bankhead Highway Bridge on the Westside.

Razing the span won't affect vehicular or pedestrian traffic — the bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic for around 20 years since one side was partially razed to make room for a parking lot. But it will wipe away what's left of a literal and symbolic link that gave people who lived in West Atlanta and along Bankhead Highway (now known as Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway) access to Marietta Street shops.

Plans pitched over the years to build restaurants on top of the bridge boasting grand skyline views have gone nowhere. More recently it's served as a place for homeless men and women to sleep. Last year, the bridge was one of several routes proposed as a possible transit bridge for a streetcar route from Georgia Tech to Hollowell Parkway.

According to the city, the Bankhead bridge made it on the list of eligible projects because: the Georgia Department of Transportation has recommended its approval because it is beyond salvation; the span has been closed for around 20 years; and that most recent sufficiency rating analysis conducted by GDOT was conducted approximately five years ago — and the city's bridge engineer "believes it was under 20." Finally, the city says, debris falling onto the railroad tracks underneath have caused problems for the railroad and the homeless.

As we reported last week, city officials are still soliciting input about which projects should get a slice of the $250 million bond package that voters will decide on March 17. If you're interested in seeing the bridge go bye-bye, keeping it around, or recommending other projects that haven't earned a nod from city officials, you should attend a meeting, visit the bond package website, or contact your Atlanta City Council representative.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cabbagetown photographer Oraien Catledge, 1928-2015

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 12:29 PM

ORAIEN CATLEDGE: The photographer holds up one of his images of Cabbagetown as he knew it more than 20 years ago.
  • Joeff Davis
  • ORAIEN CATLEDGE: The photographer holds up one of his images of Cabbagetown as he knew it more than 20 years ago.
Sad news came yesterday when word spread that photographer Oraien Catledge had died. Catledge was best known for photographing Cabbagetown in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and the descendants of the Appalachian workforce once employed by the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill. Catledge died from complications related to congestive heart failure on the morning of Tuesday, January 27. He was 86 years old.

An Oxford, Miss. native, Catledge was born in 1928. He moved to Atlanta in 1969 while working as a regional consultant for the American Association for the Blind. After learning about Cabbagetown while watching a local news story, he spent most of his weekends there over a period of almost 20 years.

At the time of his death, Catledge had not been actively shooting photography for several years. However, in the twilight of his life, he still enjoyed looking at his work, and was able to look at his photos and recall the subject matter and circumstances in precise detail. “The value of Catledge’s photography was established when he completed his body of his work — Cabbagetown,” says attorney Mark Baker, who oversaw Catledge's affairs later in life. “He sympathetically and empathetically captured a time in Atlanta’s history that saw a transition from the mill work ethic to what you might now call the ‘bourgeoisification’ of Cabbagetown. He documented the indigenous people, many of whom had lost their livelihood when the mill shut down, but they retained a strong sense of community and family,” Baker adds. “He never judged these people, who were often in dire circumstances, and he documented this transitional period with compassion and a nonjudgmental flair.”

Catledge's photos are chronicled in two books. The first, Cabbagetown: Photographs by Oraien E. Catledge, published by the University of Texas Press in 1985. In 2010, University Press of Mississippi published Oraien Catledge: Photographs.

Oraien is survived by his wife Sue, his brother Charles, his son Philip, and three grandchildren.

Read more about Catledge in CL's feature story, "Photographer Oraien Catledge remembers Cabbagetown" from Nov. 23, 2009.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

R.I.P., Herman J. Russell, influential construction and development mogul

Posted By on Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 7:27 PM

Herman J. Russell
  • H.J. Russell and Company
  • Herman J. Russell
Herman J. Russell, one of Atlanta's most important business figures, known best for his role in starting one of the country's largest minority-owned companies, passed away this morning following a brief illness at the age of 83.

The Summerhill native owned several businesses throughout his career, starting at age 16 when he purchased a dilapidated home for $125. He most notably founded H.J. Russell & Company, a local construction firm that helped build many of the city's most important structures, in 1952. He also was a key member of the Civil Rights movement and broke down barriers for minority entrepreneurs.

"As the founder of one of America's most successful construction and real estate businesses, Mr. Russell shattered countless barriers and created greater opportunities for all, but especially for African-Americans," Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. "When history catches its breath, Mr. Russell's life work will place him among the most significant heroes of the Civil Rights Movement because of his unwavering contributions and commitment to the progress of this city and nation. Few men have done more to make Atlanta a place where people of all races and backgrounds can bring and build their dreams."

H.J. Russell & Company's portfolio is massive. It includes public projects such as the Georgia Dome, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Philips Arena, and Turner Field. His company helped erect much of the city's skyline such as Coca-Cola's headquarters, 191 Peachtree Tower, Atlanta City Hall, and the Georgia-Pacific building, among others.

H.J. Russell & Company also assisted in the construction of the Atlanta Police headquarters, Fulton County Jail, nearly a dozen Atlanta Public Schools buildings, Atlanta History Center, Atlanta Symphony Hall, the Carter Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and many other structures. And that's just what his firm did in Atlanta — not to mention what the construction magnate built across the nation.

Russell retired from H.J. Russell & Company in 2003, at which point his son, Michael, succeeded him in running the business. Michael Russell continues to run his father's company, along with his two siblings, Jerome and Donata.

“As a son, I’m honored to carry on the family business and community activities my father started with my brother Jerome and sister Donata," current H.J. Russell & Company CEO Michael Russell said in a statement. "His life inspires us to continue to strive to help others and be the best we can be.”

H.J. Russell & Company is currently involved with the construction of the $1.3 billion Atlanta Falcons stadium development. In addition, his company continues to manage concessions at several American airports, including services at Hartsfield-Jackson.

"[H.J. Russell] left his mark on our city’s skyline as one of the builders and developers who constructed some of our region’s iconic structures," Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said in a statement. "The firm he built continues to shape what this city will look like for decades to come."

Before he died, Russell held board seats for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Trust Bank, Georgia Power Company, Wachovia Bank, the Georgia Ports Authority, and other influential organizations. He released his autobiography, Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire, last April.

Numerous local leaders expressed their condolences and spoke about his legacy today. Here's a few of their responses:

Russell is also survived by his wife, Sylvia, two stepsons, and eight grandchildren. Details about his funeral arrangements are pending.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

R.I.P., Marco the Fulton County Sheriff's K-9 patrol dog

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Marco Henry
  • Fulton County Sheriff's Office
  • Marco Henry
The Fulton County Sheriff's Office is mourning one of its most beloved deputies. K-9 Deputy Marco Henry, a Belgian Malinois patrol dog, was euthanized Wednesday morning after a veterinarian discovered inoperable cancer. He was six years old.

Marco, the department's first and only all-patrol canine, was assigned to Sgt. Corey Henry, commander of the K-9 unit. Marco was acquired from Germany and taught to detect illegal drugs, search for suspects, and tracking lost or missing people. Henry adopted Marco in 2009 and, after training him for 13 weeks, they began to work together.

Marco was considered a well-respected and handsome patrol dog who was known for his intelligence, persistence, and exceptional training skills. He worked with other law enforcement agencies regularly and impressed them with his talents, according to the county.

The deputy and dog earned numerous awards for their work. Marco also accompanied Henry to schools to educate students about the K-9 Unit.

"He gave 110 percent every day on the job and was a loved member of Sgt. Henry's family with whom he live," spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan said in a statement.

The Sheriff's Office has two other K-9 patrol dogs trained for explosives ordinance disposal and are a part of the FCSO Bomb Unit. But Flanagan says Marco's death has shocked the department he will be missed by all. To remember Marco and leave condolences for Henry, the Sheriff's Office has uploaded pictures of him on its Facebook page.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Man dies following fall from Turner Field's upper deck (Update)

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 9:15 AM

A Turner Field attendee died last night after tragically falling from the stadium's upper deck.

Braves spokeswoman Beth Marshall confirmed to CL that a spectator had fallen during the rain-delayed Atlanta Braves-Philadelphia Phillies game. According to Atlanta Police, the man plummeted nearly 65 feet from an upper-level platform to the player's parking area outside the stadium around 9 p.m.

The victim, 30-year-old Conyers resident Ronald Homer, was later transported to Atlanta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

"At this time there is no indication of foul play and the fall appears accidental," APD spokesman John Chafee tells CL.

Last night's accident wasn't the first of its kind. Back in 2008, 25-year-old Cummings resident Justin Hayes died after falling 150 feet from Turner's upper deck.

UPDATE, 10:04 a.m.: The Associated Press this morning talked to Connie Homer, the victim's mother, who said her son was a lifelong Braves fan, Rockdale High School graduate, and currently a landscape worker. She added:

"He said 'I love you mom, and I said 'I love you too' and that was it," his mother said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday morning.

"He was big hearted, just a great guy, very respectful," she said. "It didn't matter if they were winning, losing or what - he's been a Braves fan forever."

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Robert Maloof, Manuel's Tavern partner, passes away

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Robert Maloof, a partner and one of the driving forces behind Manuel's Tavern, has died.

Brian Maloof, Manuel's current owner announced his death today in a lengthy Facebook post. He described his uncle as the "the caring, softer side" of the pub where Democrats and journalists for years have gathered. In addition, he also credits Robert with handling the restaurant's daily operations as his late brother, Manuel, pursued a political career in DeKalb County.

"There would be no Manuel's Tavern if there was no Robert," Brian Maloof writes. "Manuel, my father, asked Robert to work with him at Manuel's in 1957. Manuel and Robert were the odd couple of business owners ... During my father's political career Robert ran Manuel's full time, keeping the business going while giving Manuel the opportunity to become the public servant he wanted to be."

It's worth checking out Brian Maloof's full letter about his uncle's death, which we've posted after the jump:

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

R.I.P. Kingsley the Goat Farm turkey

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2013 at 2:17 PM

What a turkey.
Kingsley the Goat Farm turkey has gone off to the big Goat Farm in the sky. I remember the first time I saw Kingsley - his gobble scared the hell out of me. I actually only found out his real name this weekend.

I heard the news last night when Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis paid tribute to the bird during the band's concert at the arts center, saying, "This next one goes out to Kingsley the turkey who died today."


Then the band played "2 Trees" (I'm pretty sure).

Rest in peace Kingsley.

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: Sources (my husband) say Foals played "Milk & Black Spiders" in Kingsley's honor.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Funeral arrangements for Lillian Miles Lewis announced

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 10:38 AM

As we previously reported, Lillian Miles Lewis, the wife Congressman John Lewis, D-Atlanta, died on Monday.

The Congressman has spent the past several days mourning his wife's passing and was understandably absent during a particularly busy week in Washington D.C., one marked by both a contentious vote on the fiscal cliff bill and a new Congress taking office.

Brenda Jones, Rep. Lewis' communications director, offered funeral details in an email this morning, saying that:

The services for Mrs. Lillian Miles Lewis, wife of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, will be held at 11:00 AM on Monday January 7, 2013, in Ebenezer Baptist Church, 407 Auburn Avenue in Atlanta 30312.

Rep. Lewis and his wife were married there 44 years ago.

Condolences may be expressed in any form an individual may desire.

Some condolence suggestions include flowers, which may be sent to the Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home or directly to the Ebenezer Baptist Church after Sunday. Donations to the American Kidney Fund can be made on behalf of Mrs. Lewis, while written condolences may be sent to Rep. John Lewis and his son John Miles Lewis at 2015 Wallace Road, Atlanta, Georgia 30331.

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Monday, December 31, 2012

Lillian Miles Lewis, wife of Congressman John Lewis, has died

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Lillian Miles Lewis, the "devoted wife" of Congressman John Lewis, D-Atlanta, has died, the civil rights icon's office said today in a statement.

According to a 2003 Atlanta Magazine profile, Lewis and the Los Angeles native, a librarian at Atlanta University, were introduced by a friend at a New Year's Eve party in 1967. Less than one year later, the two married and settled into a home in southwest Atlanta.

In 1986, she told the Atlanta Journal that she never imagined her husband would one day be heading to Washington, D.C.

"When I married John, my best friend said, `You are so dumb going into this marriage that you don't even know how much money he earns,'" Lewis told the paper. "The U.S. Congress? No, capital N-O, exclamation point, so forth and so forth."

The AJC's Daniel Malloy points to a poignant paragraph from Lewis' memoir "Walking With the Wind" about the role his wife played in convincing him to run an unsuccessful congressional bid in the late 1970s.

"She had always been very involved in politics, much more than I. She had been a delegate (supporting Shirley Chisholm) to the Democratic National Convention in '72, and she was constantly active in a variety of local circles and organizations. She was outgoing, involved, intelligent and great in front of an audience - she could make a speech. She also knew how to organize, how to chair a meeting, the nitty-gritty stuff. When she finally said, 'Let's do it. Let's go for it,' that was enough. We were in," Lewis wrote.

Lewis later directed Atlanta University's Institute for International Affairs and Development and served as the manager of external affairs after the school merged with Clark College, becoming Clark Atlanta University.

Information regarding funeral arrangements will be released as they become available, a spokeswoman said in a statement. As condolences come in, we'll add them after the jump.

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