On Saturday, November 4, 2017, the GLEAMNS Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site hosted the Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony for the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Statue. There were between 800 and 1,000 people gathered Saturday at the Benjamin E. Mays Historical Site for the unveiling of a statue of Mays and to remember his lifelong fight for equality.
At the Mays Site we were very excited that the time had arrived for honoring Dr. Benjamin E. Mays and his legacy in such a magnificent way in his home county of Greenwood, SC! And what a historic occasion this was! Appropriately, because Dr. Mays is the most distinguished citizen from Greenwood, SC, this was the FIRST life-size statue placed in Greenwood County! The seven foot bronze statue of the legendary Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, created by Jon Hair of Jon Hair Monumental Sculptures of St. Petersburg, FL, is now the crown jewel at the Mays Historic Site and it will inspire generations of people for years to come!
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. of Cleveland, OH, Morehouse '56, minister, theologian, author and protégé of Dr. Mays, delivered a powerful the keynote address. The Rev. Otis Moss, who studied at Morehouse College during part of Mays’ 27 years as college president, spoke to the crowd about what he learned from Mays’ mentorship. “We thank God for the life of Benjamin Elijah Mays, a prophet of freedom,” said the 82-year-old pastor emeritus, who credits Mays with shaping his worldview. “He fought for freedom with every fiber of his being all of his life.”
The day before the statue dedication, on Friday, November 3, 2017, there was be a Panel Discussion about the life and legacy of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays as part of the Fine Arts and Lecture Series (FALS) at Lander University – co-sponsored by the Lander University Department of History and Philosophy. The panel scholars include Dr. Vernon Burton, Clemson Univ. History Professor and author of the Foreword in the first reprinting of Dr. Mays' autobiography (Born to Rebel); Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., mentee of Dr. Mays, pastor, theologian, orator, author, activist; Dr. John Herbert Roper, Sr., History Professor at Coastal Carolina University and author of the biography, The Magnificent Mays; Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter, Professor of Religion and Dean of the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, and Dr. Zachery Williams, Associate Professor of African American History at the University of Akron and author of In Search of the Talented Tenth: Howard University Intellectuals and the Dilemmas of Race in Academia, 1926-1970. It was a provocative discussion and set the tone for the weekend long celebration of the life of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.
On Sunday, November 5, 2017, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. preached a powerful sermon entitled “Our Hidden Victories” at Dr. Mays's home church, Old Mt. Zion Baptist, in his childhood community of Epworth. Dr. Moss encouraged those in attendance with these words: “It has not been revealed what you shall be”. In his sermon he referenced South Carolinian Robert Smalls who was an enslaved African American who, during and after the American Civil War, gained freedom and became a ship's pilot, sea captain, and politician. And Wilma Rudolph who was an American sprinter from Clarksville, Tennessee, who became a world-record-holding Olympic champion and international sports icon in track and field following her successes in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games – this success came after childhood battles with diseases. And he referenced the struggles of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays while on his path to achieving greatness. This was a very special service and inspired all who were in attendance!