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Congressman Johnson announces 2014 winners of CBCF scholarships

Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) announced the winners of the 2014 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Spouses Education Scholarships. The five winners hail from across the Fourth Congressional Dis



Atlanta says farewell to H.J. Russell, business icon and civil rights leader


Atlanta is mourning the loss of Herman J. Russell, a trailblazer who broke racial barriers and earned a reputation not only as one of Atlanta’s most successful business leaders but one of America’s icons.


Mr. Russell passed away on Nov. 15 after a brief illness. He was 83, one month shy of turning 84.

“He made his transition in a peaceful way,” Michael Russell, his youngest son said in a statement released by the family.  “We know he’s at rest.” 

Mr. Russell was the founder and retired CEO of H.J. Russell & Co., a construction and real estate company he founded in 1957 and grew into one of the largest minority-owned companies in the country. After Mr. Russell retired in 2003, he named his son, Michael, as CEO of the company.


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called H.J. Russell one of the greatest heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, a pioneer who paved the way for African Americans.

“No words can express the depth of our sorrow and nothing will ever fill the void created by the passing of Mr. Herman J. Russell,” Reed said in a statement. “As the founder of one of America’s most successful construction and...

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Mrs. Willie L. Johnson, mother of Dr. Melvin Johnson

Johnson lady

On Common Ground News extends condolences to Dr. Melvin Johnson, chairman of the DeKalb Board of Education, who lost his mother, Mrs. Willie L. Johnson.


Mrs. Johnson passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Oct. 8. She was 98.


“She lived a beautiful life. Every Friday, I went to have breakfast with her in Crawfordville and she was just a delight,” said Dr. Johnson. “She had a wonderful spirit. We will miss her.”


Mrs. Johnson, who was a homemaker, had five daughters and four sons, Dr. Johnson said. Her funeral will be held at Friendship Baptist Church in Crawfordville, Georgia.


Harry West, former ARC director, dies

Harry W

1941 – 2014

Harry West, former executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission (1973 to 2000), died Monday, July 14 at Emory University Hospital from a serious lung infection.



Mr. West was the longest-serving executive director in ARC’s history and is credited with building stronger ties among community leaders and fostering a regional approach to tackling metro Atlanta’s most challenging issues. He was 72.


"Harry West's legacy to the Atlanta Regional Commission and to the Atlanta region is immeasurable,” said Doug Hooker, current ARC executive director. “He developed programs and created a sense of regional connectedness, which still reverberate positively today. More importantly, he had a vision, a dedication, and a high set of standards, which will continue to propel metro Atlanta far into the future."


Among his many accomplishments, Mr. West aggressively pursued efforts to ensure adequate water resources for the Atlanta region, as well as protection for the Chattahoochee River corridor. He conceived and launched the Regional Leadership Institute in 1991, which has graduated some 1,500 leaders from the immersion program on key regional issues.  Mr. West also launched the annual LINK city visits program (Leadership, Involvement, Knowledge and Networking) to learn how others...

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DeKalb’s longest-serving police chief passes at 83


Some knew him as a police chief, others as a public safety director. In both capacity’s, Stone Mountain’s Robert “Bobby” Burgess, Sr. was a well-respected public servant who will always be remembered for his 45 years of serving DeKalb County. He died June 6 of natural causes. He was 83.


Said DeKalb’s Interim CEO Lee May in a statement: “Bobby Burgess was a good man whose life was guided by a deep and abiding faith and a commitment to public service. His incredible 45 years in DeKalb County spanned five decade. He will be greatly missed by all of us.” 


Former CEO Vernon Jones thanked Bobby Burgess for his service, saying Burgess was a mentor.


“Another one of Georgia’s tallest pines has fallen. As the Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County, I had the honor to serve with Bobby Burgess during his final years as a public servant. He was my police chief, my public safety director, and a mentor,” said Jones. “He (Bobby) was a policeman’s policeman and a police chief’s chief.  Bobby Burgess was a great American and I thanked him for his service by having the DeKalb County Police Headquarters named the Bobby Burgess...

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Mourning Maya


Atlantans reflect on celebrated poet

April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014 

Admirers in Atlanta mourned the death of Maya Angelou, one of America’s great literary giants. Angelou died May 28 at her home in Winston-Salem, NC. She was 86.


The accomplished poet and author was honored by President Barack Obama in 2011 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award, the country’s highest civilian honor.


This week, she was championed by local leaders as a champion for Mankind.


“Maya Angelou is hailed as one of the most influential voices in modern literature, film and stage. She will be remembered not only for her wit and wisdom, but also her compassion and grace,” said Dr. Jabari Simama, president of Georgia Piedmont Technical College. “We are all living in a better world because she chose to share her wisdom and to maker herself accessible to us. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends in their time of grief.”  


In a prepared statement, the King Center said:


“Our nation and world have lost one of the great Renaissance women of this, or any age, Maya Angelou. Our hearts go out to her son, Guy...

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Local “mother to many” remembered for reaching out to youth


Brenda “Bre” Minkoff had a giving heart – so much so that she often took in kids who needed a helping hand.


“We could wake up in the morning and you never knew who would be at the door. Teens would tell us others told them to come to us and we would just say OK, that’s fine. We just did it,” said Michael Minkoff, Benda’s husband. “Brenda never turned away a child. She gave them the love, affection, stable home life and everything else a mother would do.”


Mrs. Minkoff passed on May 24 at 11:41 p.m. at Eastside Medical Center after a nearly three-year battle with lymphoma. Mr. Minkoff says he and other family members were at his wife’s bedside when she died. Mrs. Minkoff was 68.

Mrs. Minoff worked as an administrative assistant for some of the largest accounting firms in Atlanta throughout the 80’s and 90’s until she retired and put all her focus on helping troubled youths.


“I know she has a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face looking down on us. From day one, Brenda’s been my whole world. She was my strength, my sunshine and just...

Read more: Local “mother to many” remembered for reaching out to youth

Local florist builds legacy of giving and educating


Whether he was donating flowers to churches and local seniors or putting together the floral arrangements for the inaugurations of Presidents Regan and Bush, florist and business owner James LaGree Bussey II was always giving back and building on his legacy for generations after him. He died on Monday, May 12.

“Flowers can do so much. Through flowers, we were able to uplift people’s spirits and help so many other black people set up not only florist businesses, but all sorts of businesses in the community,” said Alice White-Bussey, who founded Bussey Florist with her husband. “My husband was a pioneer and community activist that was decades before his time. He will be greatly missed because he got along with and was loved deeply by both sides of the family.”
Mr. Bussey and his wife set up their first flower shop more than 50 years ago and never looked back.

Through the power of flowers, the Busseys were able to travel to Brussels, Belgium, the Netherlands, London, England, all the Caribbean islands, Brazil and the Ivory Coast to spread their wealth of knowledge in business and show people how to set up floral arrangements for large gatherings and parties.  

Read more: Local florist builds legacy of giving and educating

Father Luke Knot



Monastery of the Holy Spirit’s founding monk dies at 102 

CONYERS—Father Luke Marion Knot, the last survivor of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit’s 21 founders, has passed. He died peacefully after a period of declining health in the monastery infirmary in the company of his brothers on Jan. 9. The burial service took place on Jan. 13 in the monastery church. Scot Ward Funeral Services was in charge of arrangements.

Father Knot was the last surviving member of the monastery’s founding monks who came to Conyers in 1944 to build a Trappist monastery. He spent 76 years in different roles in his religious life. He was a priest for 66 of those 76 years. Father Luke was the oldest monk of the worldwide Cistercian Order (OCSO). Monk-cross

In a story On Common Ground News published on Knot turning 100, he said he knew at the age of 14 that he wanted to follow the path of religion.

“My family gave me a good Catholic foundation, but as I grew up, I had questions they didn’t have the answers to. I had a vision that this is where I needed to be and I followed that vision,” Knot said as he...

Read more: Father Luke Knot

Christian Growth Cathedral Co-pastor Jennifer Kenney


Conyers Christian Growth Cathedral International is mourning the death of Jennifer Kenney, co-pastor of Conyers Christian Growth Cathedral International. Mrs. Kenney, wife of Pastor David Kenney, passed suddenly on Friday, Dec. 27. She was 54.

Church members say Mrs. Kenney was affectionately known as “Mother Kenney.” 

Mrs. Kenney was a native of Guyana, South America. The Kenneys met while they were both ushering at Brooklyn Tabernacle Deliverance Center in Brooklyn, New York. They married in 1994. They traveled together extensively on missionary trips to Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, according to the church’s web site. Mrs. Kenney was director of Eye on Your Child Learning Center, a subsidiary of Christian Growth Cathedral.

Members say Mrs. Kenney was a highly anointed woman of God who operated in the prophetic and was a true intercessor. Those close to her say she lived by this statement: “God will make all grace abound and His grace is sufficient.”

Along with her husband, Mrs. Kenney is survived by their children, Tiffany, Jonathan, Aaron, and Candace.
Levett Funeral Home, Inc., 1041 Bryant Street, Conyers, handled the funeral arrangements. 


Rockdale centenarian dies at 103


Arthur “Buck” Brown, one of Rockdale County’s oldest residents who turned 103 on Christmas Day, has passed. He died at 2 a.m. on Dec. 27 at Rockdale Medical Center with family members at his bedside.
Mr. Brown outlived all eight of his siblings and his parents.

He was born in 1910 in Locust Grove, Georgia to Claude and Lena Brown, who were sharecroppers. The oldest of three boys and six girls, Brown’s birth was recorded in an old family bible on Christmas Day. There were no birth certificates for blacks back then, relatives say.

At his 102nd birthday celebration in Lithonia, Mr. Brown credited his trust in the Lord for why he was on this earth more than a century.

“My secret to long life is hard work, prayer and trusting the Lord,” said Mr. Brown,” who was a longtime deacon at Double Springs Baptist Church in Conyers.
Up until he experienced some kidney problems last year, Mr. Brown worked at the Conyers Underwood Chicken Farm, feeding chickens, mowing pastures and other chores—work he had done for more than 70 years.
“When he passed people on the way to work, they would say ‘Oh, there goes Mr. Buck speeding through,’” said...

Read more: Rockdale centenarian dies at 103

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