James Mapp Was An Honorable And Noble Man - And Response

Monday, June 22, 2015

The executive board and members of the Chattanooga Hamilton County Chapter of the NAACP are deeply saddened  at the passing away of the legendary Civil Rights activist Mr. James R. Mapp. We want to expresses our sincere condolences to his wife, Mrs. Betty Mapp, his children and family.  

This year marks the NAACP 75th Diamond Year of Service to the Chattanooga and Hamilton County area.  Mr.  Mapp served as president and in other leadership roles on the local and state level  for almost all of those years and almost all of his life.  

Mr. Mapp was a honorable and noble man. His infectious smile and calm Godly spirit will stay with all of us forever.  Every minority in this city have benefited greatly from the works and deeds of Mr. Mapp.  

At the request of the Chattanooga Hamilton County branch of the NAACP, the Key to the City was bestowed upon Mr. James R. Mapp, June 6, by Mayor Andy Berke.  A Proclamation declaring June 6, as "James R. Mapp Day" was also bestowed by Mayor Andy Berke.  Councilman Yusef Hakkem and Russell Gilbert presented the Key to the City and the Proclamation to Mr. Mapp.  The Human Service State Building was named in his honor, thanks to Dr. Brown and the Tennessee legislatures. UTC recently purchased  the State Building and according to Steve Angle, president of UTC, a dedication ceremony of the building  is being  planned in his honor. 

There are many civil right cases and lawsuits filed by Mr. Mapp and it would take a lifetime to recite.  However, there are some cases that changed the face of Chattanooga and they deserve to be recaptured and remembered.   Mr. Mapp walked with Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights movement here in Chattanooga.  During that time, the school system and local government refused to let Dr. King speak at Howard High School.  Dr. Martin Luther King mentions Lookout Mountain in his I Have a Dream Speech, when he state "Let Freedom Ring from the top of Lookout Mountain..." . Mr. Mapp and nine others (five blacks and five whites) were appointed to serve on a biracial committee to help end racist business practices here in Chattanooga and to resolve any civil unrest  that came as a result of the unfair and inequitable practices of our local government.  Because of this committee, Chattanooga was able to avoid a lot of volatile race riots and outbreaks of violence. 

After the Supreme Court Ruling on the  Brown vs. the Board of Education,  the city of Chattanooga refused to desegregate our public schools.  Mr. Mapp fought against the local government in a lawsuit  that lasted more than 20 years. His life was threatened repeatedly and his house was bombed. His lawsuit ultimately lead to the desegregation of our schools here in Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  

Mr. Mapp was also the NAACP President during the Civil Rights movement when students from Howard High School  lead a sit-in at the Kresses 5 and Dime Store. These students were arrested and charged with felonies. It was Mr.  Mapp and the attorney working with him that bonded the children out of jail and got their records expunged of the felonies.  This is the only place recorded in history that a Civil Rights movement was lead by children. In 2012 this event was commemorated by the first Civil Right movement marking on the city of Chattanooga. The bronze plaque is located at Market and MLK Boulevard where Kresses once stood, compliments of Alton Park Development Corporation and Cornerstones Inc. 

Mr. Mapp has fought for equal pay, better housing , fair hiring practices in city and county government on all levels. He has called for more African American police officers, the desegregation of Howard High School  which has never been desegregated, a middle school for Alton Park, renovations for predominately African American schools that have not had renovation  in more than 50 years. Mr. Mapp was  a big supporter of Ban the Box and worked with the Criminal Justice Committee Chair Eric and his committee to seek justice for those individuals that need a second chance.   Mr. Mapp has requested that the city and county change it policies on how judges are elected. He stated that the at large voting policies were not fair and that the current at large voting system would almost ensure that a black judge would never have a fair chance of being elected.  Mr. Mapp stated that  judges should be voted by districts and that policies and laws should be changed to accomplish this goal. Most of the advancements for colored people under Mr. Mapp watch went under the radar.  Mr. Mapp preferred diplomacy whenever possible and believed in utilizing the courts to resolve inequities  and inequalities when diplomacy failed.  

Mr. Mapp was a blessing for the NAACP and Chattanooga Hamilton County.  It was an honor to know him and to work with him. 

Elenora Woods B, D.D.S.
NAACP President
Chattanooga Hamilton County Chapter 

* * * 

I mourn the loss of my good and dear friend, James R. Mapp, a great Chattanoogan, citizen, and a force for making America a place of honor for all Americans. 

I first met James Mapp in 1945 while I was a student at Howard High School which  was segregated at  that time.  Mr. Mapp realized the importance and impact that unifying the citizens of Chattanooga would have on settling civil unrest and placed himself and his family in harms way when his own children were put at risk in desegregating the Chattanooga public school system for all Chattanoogans. 

During the early sixties, I served with James Mapp on the 10 member, bi-racial committee, appointed by Mayor Ralph Kelley, which met weekly in the board room of the Hamilton National Bank. The board members supported each other and we all did our part in cultivating the vision of a unified city.  Working behind the scenes, we coordinated the peaceful desegregation of movie theatres, restaurants, businesses and Institutions.   

James Map was and is an inspirational, positive role model who led by example.  His work, character and astute principles were a driving force in peacefully breaking down the barriers in the city of Chattanooga; for example in 1963 I enrolled in the University of Chattanooga as the first Afro-American student , without incident. 

I believe the greatest asset in any city is to have intelligence personified walking its streets:
For The City of Chattanooga, James Mapp was that person. 

Dr. Horace Jerome Traylor


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