News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Athelyne Banks was a delight, an inspiration

Events in Decatur on Tuesday left our community sad and a bit shaken. Two of the city's foremost citizens, both in their 90s, died.

In September, Athelyne Banks, 98, and John Caddell, 95, were dance partners at the Minority Awards Banquet where each received recognition for their community involvement.

While that awful gulf of segregation separated them for much of their lives, they shared the common desire to help and to make life better for those of us they leave behind.

She had no children, but Miss Banks lived the black culture belief that it takes an entire village to raise a child. She spent all of her adult life doing that.

That both died on the same day is coincidental, yet that they did, as icons of Decatur and growing up in different environments, is reason to linger on the question of perhaps there is deeper meaning.

An editorial in Wednesday's newspaper recalled some of the ways Mr. Caddell served humanity. Miss Banks also has a resume of community service, both as a professional educator and a volunteer.

Funeral service for Coretta Scott King was Tuesday, the day Miss Banks died. The things President Bush and three former presidents said of her can also be said of Miss Banks. She was always a lady. She was a leader. She possessed a spirit that created an aura of dignity.

She believed passionately in public education and spent 42 years helping people get a handle on the ABCs of life. Without education and spiritual instruction, she knew, youngsters had no chance to share in the fruits of the civil rights revolution Mrs. King's husband launched in 1955.

People who did not know Miss Banks missed knowing a great lady. People listened when she spoke.

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