A Message to Councilwoman Juanita Freeman Wilson

December 2018, Front Page

Councilwoman Juanita Wilson
Refuses any advice from Dr. Marshall, who has worked with the Americus city council since 1991 along with her father.

Rev. R. L. Freeman
Along with Dr. Marshall and Rev. Whetstone asked Americus city council to name Hwy 19, MLK, Jr. Blvd. in 1991.

Staff Reports


Dr. Marshall reports that on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, he met with two experienced and well-informed consultants, County Commissioner Thomas Jordan, John Wilson, Reverend Matt Wright, and Councilwoman Wilson. Dr. Marshall reports that he was shocked and disappointed by what Councilwoman Wilson offered to him as her reason for inaction in moving a meaningful agenda forward, by stating, “[Dr. Marshall,] You don’t tell us who to hire” [referring to Dr. Marshall’s repeated requests to replace controversial City Attorney Jimmy Skipper]. Councilwoman Wilson further threatened, “If you continue to put me in your newspaper I will fight back every time.”

Marshall then commented that I thought about my long-term activism with the Americus City Council as far back as when we were just asking for U.S. Highway 19 through Americus to be named M.L.K., Jr., Boulevard.

In 1991, at a city council workshop meeting Dr. Marshall joined Reverend Gasper Whetstone and Reverend R.L. Freeman, Juanita Wilson’s father, in urging the street naming. I personally witnessed verbal abuse by the late City Councilman Rusty Reddish toward these two ministers who cared more for the cause rather than the insults being hurled at them. After his tirade, Reddish ran out of the meeting and I was not able to speak for those preachers who accepted the insults gracefully.”

Dr. Marshall was also informed that Mrs. Wilson has said, “She did not want people to think that John Marshall was telling them [the Black council members] what to do.” “I was terribly hurt after working all of
these years to produce a Black majority on the Americus City Council, to be disrespected and unappreciated by her, but more importantly, for the Black community to suffer even further because she is protesting my advice. Voters elected her to work with community leaders like me,” says Dr. Marshall. He also reflected “…about the fact that I was there for her late father, Pastor Emeritus R.L. Freeman of Bethesda Baptist Church. As an activist who has risked his reputation, health, wealth, and life for our Sumter County community which left me devastated, personally and for our beloved community.”

Councilman Nelson Brown has assured me that he will vote to remove Attorney Skipper if the vote comes up. But Councilmen Kelvin Pless and Daryl Dowdell have not returned my telephone calls to them since they were featured in the September and November editions of the Observer. It would appear that those Councilpersons also think that people will perceive them as doing what I want them to do, according to Marshall. They can’t be talking about Black people because I have been working in this community and advising elected officials and others for the past 25 years. So, they obviously are concerned about White people thinking of their actions as being influenced by Marshall rather than for the benefit of our community. In other words, the concerns of White folks are more important than productive ideas promoting the interests of those people
who elected them to office.”

Dr. Marshall concluded, “I have paid my dues in Sumter County and I love this community enough to sacrifice so much for progress here. We have four Blacks on the city council and as of December 2018, they have removed a city manager and nothing else of any significance. The voters did not put them there to sit for a year and not do their jobs but to wait on the Whites on the Council to lead them. So, I don’t care how angry
Juanita Wilson gets, I will continue to inform our citizens of what is lacking, what can be done and what isn’t being done, such as: putting strong Blacks on the various boards, resolving the lawsuit filed by Rev. Matt Wright and Craig Walker. They are not leading the effort to acquire a company interested in coming to Americus. Wilson said in the Wednesday meeting that “they [the mayor and the whites] are dragging their feet.” “She fails to realize that she and the three Black men are the leaders and they can bring the jobs here with their majority vote. The mayor can only break a tie and the other two Whites don’t have the numbers,” Marshall explains.

“I have given a stern warning to them that a city attorney like Jimmy Skipper will set them up and find ways to divide and conquer their Black majority and thereby lessening their effectiveness. I have suggested two experienced attorneys in governmental law who would be an even-handed guide to them in the position but they would rather go down the drain with Skipper than to make a strategic affirmative choice of a capable and competent city attorney who would have their backs. A new attorney would guide them with the vital decisions that are yet to be made in the interest and benefit to our community that they were elected to serve in the first place,” said Marshall.