The Eugene Brown Veterans Memorial honoring Black Americans native to Hall County who were killed in World War II and the Korean War was unveiled to the public at Butler Park Thursday. Engraved on the memorial is a list of names — those who gave their lives in the line of duty, during a chapter of U.S. history when they weren’t granted full equality under the law.
American Legion Post 7 Chaplain Minister Devin Pandy was the first to speak to a crowd of more than two dozen gathered to recognize the historic significance of the monument, which Pandy described in detail.
“For generations, segregation kept White and Black Gainesville separate and unequal in life and in death, but today, Gainesvillians are seeing to it that our past is not only not repeated — but also not forgotten,” Pandy said. “Now, maybe, one of these days, we will no longer have the need to recognize African Americans as the first Black American to accomplish something. Maybe, from here on out, we will all be seen as, referred to and equality acknowledged, simply, as Americans.”
“Maybe, one day, we won’t have to have a ‘Black side of town,’ like Gainesville southside,” he said. “… Perhaps, one day, we will stop honoring those that fought against this country to maintain slavery, and begin honoring those who gave their lives for this country, so that every one of us could live free, even if they themselves did not.”
The memorial is named for Eugene Brown, the first Black American killed in World War II, according to Past Post 521 Commander Johnny Varner.
“This is in line with Black History Month,” Varner said. “These particular service members served during the time of segregation … we thought it’d be befitting as to keep their history alive and well as far as the Black American history here in the community. This will be phase one. We’re looking to start what we call the Eugene Brown Veterans Steering Committee to continue to add to this area for those that have served in the past, and the one who are serving now.”
Commissioner Jeff Stowe described the new memorial at Butler Park as a symbol of progress in the community, commending those involved in making it happen — including Varner, Newtown Florist and the E.E. Butler Steering Committee.
“This wasn’t my vision … they came up with a vision, after we had started working on the park, of how we could honor those that were part of this community, that went to war and died for this country but didn’t get some of the recognition they deserved … I think it’s a great tribute and honor, and there’s no better place that we could’ve put this than here at this park.”
(c) 2023 The Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.