From this day forth, April 29th will forever be known as “Dr. Richard T. Colson Day” in the city of Atlanta. A 50th-anniversary celebration of his ownership of the Saf-T-Lock locksmith shop located in Gordon Plaza on MLK, Jr. Drive quickly turned into a mutual admiration society event.

Colson’s impact on the community, not only as a business owner but as a teacher within the Atlanta Public School system, was universally applauded by family, friends, local politicians and local clergy in attendance.

Scheduled for a noon start, there was a slight delay with Colson having to either hug or speak with dozens of well-wishers upon entering the outdoor space.

The celebration was hosted by Atlanta City Councilwoman Andrea L. Boone, a long-time mentee of Colson’s after having grown up nearby and because of the relationship he had with her parents.

“This is the 50th anniversary and we just wanted to celebrate Mr. Colson,” said Boone who represents the city’s 10th District “He has touched so many lives in the city of Atlanta.”

Colson, who is nicknamed the “Mayor of Gordon Plaza” walked into the iVillage at the H.E. Holmes MARTA station like a politician with a lot of people to greet.

The gold tie and pinstripe suit (with a matching Dallas Cowboys mask) he wore was evidence of the importance of the occasion. A long-time business owner in the southwest Atlanta community, Colson had either mentored or taught a large majority of the people in attendance.

The rest of the people were either old friends, people from his church, Union Baptist Church, or former visitors to his weekly bible study classes that were held inside of his store.

To say he had an impact on people is an understatement. Fulton County Commissioner Khadejah Abdur-Rahman, who represents District 6, was also mentored by Colson and took the microphone during the celebration to say a few words.

Similar to Boone, her parents were friends with Colson so she had the opportunity to receive his wise words more often than most.

“Colson and I go way back,” she said. I think I have the honor of knowing him before I was born.” That statement had Colson shaking his head in agreeance. “If I ever had to look in the dictionary for a Christian soldier Richard T. Colson’s picture would be there.”

The celebration, which had nearly 40 people in attendance, was co-sponsored by the City of Atlanta and private businesses like Halpern Enterprises, Inc., which has done business with Colson for 50 years.

Halpern Enterprises Inc. Chairman Jack Halpern along with members of his family was on hand to present Colson with a plaque commemorating their decades-long relationship.

It would be the first of many awards and gifts Colson would receive on this day.

Halpern told a story of when the two first started doing business together the rent on Colson’s shop was just over $100 per month. Thinking back to those times made Colson, who was at a table with his wife, daughter, son and other family members, laugh out loud.

A pair of former students took to the podium to thank Colson for taking time out to teach them during their youth. One from his Kennedy Middle School days used Psalm 37:23 – ”The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in his way” to describe Colson’s impact on her life.

A North Carolina native, Colson graduated from Johnson C. Smith University before earning a Master’s Degree from Georgia State University.

He opened Saf-T-Lock to help people within his community and there were a number of stories told at the event of Colson coming to the rescue of a locked out person here or an impossible to open church door there.

Union Baptist Church Pastor Reginal Wilborn, who gave the invocation before the start of the celebration, added about Colson, a close friend, “We have come here to gather in celebration of Richard T. Colson. May he continue to share in the gifts the Lord has come to give him.”

Colson, who is retiring from running the shop on a full-time basis, was presented with three proclamations commemorating his life of service to the community.

The City of Atlanta, Fulton County Solicitor General’s Office and Atlanta City Council all recognized his impact on lives, both young and old, in southwest Atlanta.

When it was Colson’s time to speak he was brief but poignant, ever the teacher in front of his class. “My brothers and sisters it is indeed a pleasure and honor to stand before you today. I really, really regret leaving this neighborhood, but I am so glad, my soul feels good today, because here I am standing in front of so many people who believe in God. I thank you so much.”

He closed by reciting a couple of lines of a famous 19th Century poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How do I love thee?”  “My brothers and sisters, I shall love thee even more after death,” said Colson of the final line of the poem to much applause.

Richard T. Colson (center) alongside Fulton County Commissioner Khadija Abdur-Rahman (right) and a family member, holds one of the three proclamations he received Thursday, April 29, 2021, (Photo credit: Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

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