It was in the year 2020 that many giants of Atlanta’s modern history gathered their wings. From Civil Rights activists to career politicians to trendsetters, these men, who were also sons, fathers, and devoted spouses, spent their lives making strides for the lives of others, in such a way that their impact carries forward today.

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery (1921 – 2020)
Civil Rights leader The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery died in his Atlanta home at 98-years-old on March 27 of natural causes. He is remembered for helping to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, heading the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, and participating in the Selma to Montgomery March. He also founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and served as its president from 1977 to 1997. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, courtesy of former President Barack Obama, Lowery’s legacy lives on through Joseph & Evelyn Lowery Institute, which is led by his daughter Cheryl.

The Rev. C.T. Vivian (1924 – 2020)
The Rev. C.T. Vivian died on July 17, in his Atlanta home from natural causes. At the 95-years-old, he died two weeks away from his 96th birthday and on the same day as John Lewis. Vivian was the first non-elected Black man to lie in state at the Georgia State Capitol. Vivian is remembered for participating in the Nashville Student Movement, founding the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference and Freedom Rides, and serving as the national director of affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama in 2013.

George Napper Jr. (1939 – 2020)
Recognized as Atlanta’s first Black chief of police, George Napper Jr. died at 81-years-old, on October 3, after suffering from Kennedy’s disease, a neuromuscular disorder for 30 years. He was also the first head of Georgia’s Department of Children and Youth Services. Napper became chief of police in 1978 and served until 1982. He subsequently became Atlanta’s director of public safety. During his tenure, he restructured the department’s police zones, established field investigation units for each zone, created a White Collar Crime Unit and the Special Investigations Section, and prioritized calls for service. He was also chief of police during the Atlanta Child Murders that were never solved.

Winston Minor (1948 – 2020)
Former Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Chief Winston Minor died on November 20 at 75-years-old. Appointed in 1995, he served Atlanta Fire for 30 years until 2003. Minor is also the founder of Troops to Firefighters, a non-profit dedicated to connecting veterans and their families with firefighting and 9-1-1 jobs. The Atlanta City Council said in a statement, “Winston Minor was a respected and admired pillar of Atlanta. As fire chief, he served with great professionalism and cared deeply about the welfare of the people of our city. He had a strong influence on those around him and his leadership will continue to live on in the department and the community.”

John Lewis (1940 – 2020)
A national treasure, Rep. John Lewis died on July 17 at 80-years-old, after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He died serving as a U.S. Congressman for Georgia’s 5th District, a position he held since 1987. Lewis is remembered as a Civil Rights leader who participated in the Nashville Student Movement, one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, founding member and former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). His death was a shot heard around the world and his funeral was attended by some of the most influential people in America, including former President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former President George W. Bush, and former President Jimmy Carter.

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