‘Celebration of life’ service planned for Bob Mants

Published 11:23 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bob Mants, a longtime civil rights leader, is pictured in an undated photo.

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

A celebration of Life Get-Together will be held for Civil Rights icon Robert “Bob” Mants Jr., 68, of White Hall at the Jackson-Steele Community Center in White Hall on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 11 a.m.

Mants died Wednesday, Dec. 7 in Atlanta, Ga.

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He was born on April 25, 1943 and raised in Georgia and was a 1961 graduate of East Point/South Fulton High School.

At the age of 16, he was the youngest member on the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (The Atlanta Student Movement).

In the 11th grade, he volunteered at the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He also attended Morehouse College.

In 1964 Mants was working for the SNCC in Americus, Ga. He met his wife, Joann, while working with the SNCC Southwest Georgia Project and went to work in Lowndes County in 1965.

He was instrumental in planning the Selma to Montgomery March in March of 1965 and was in the front ranks on “Bloody Sunday” as marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Two months after Bloody Sunday, Mants worked with an organization in Lowndes County, which was 81 percent black, had less than 30 black registered voters and had no black elected officials.

The result was the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, whose symbol, a black panther, became a national symbol of resistance to segregation and racial oppression.

Mants continued to work in Lowndes County until his death. He served as a member of the Lowndes County Commission for many years and was chairman of the non-profit Lowndes County Friends of the Historic Trail.

“First, Bob Mants was a great fighter for Civil Rights. But he was a great fighter for justice. His sudden death leaves a big vacuum in Lowndes County and across the country,” said State Sen. Henry “Hank” Sanders of Selma, who serves as the attorney for the Lowndes County Commission and the Lowndes County Board of Education.

“Some people fought in the 60’s, and they stopped fighting in the 70’s. Bob Mants fought in the 60’s, in the 70’s, in the 80’s, in the 90’s in the 2000’s, the 2010’s,” Sanders said. “He wasn’t just a foot soldier for justice, a foot soldier in the struggle, but he was a general, and we are going to miss him in all kinds of ways.”

“But each of us is just going to have to step up a little more ourselves and do a little more in his absence,” Sanders added.

Mants is survived by his wife of 45 years, Joann “Jo” Mants, three children, Katanga, Kadejah and Kumasi; seven grandchildren he affectionately called “Yele,” “Yewu,” Yeze,” “Yete,” “Yami,” “Mr. Bob” and “Aunt Puss;” three sisters, Dorothy, Roberta and Otelia; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and very close friends George Paris, C.J. Jones, Clifford Jackson, Frank Holloway, Frank Smith, Reggie Robinson, Jimmy Harris, Alvin Benn, Arthur Nelson and Wendall Paris.

He was preceded in death by his father Robert and mother Lizzie and sister Alma.

Martha Prescott-Norman Noonan will preside over the celebration of life get-together.

The Rev. Charles Sherrod will deliver the opening prayer for the celebration of life get-together. There will be a gathering of elders including his very close friends, songs by The Freedom Singers, acknowledgements by Dorothy Doss, a thank you from Katanga, Kadejah and Kumasi Mants and the seven grandchildren, and a benediction and blessing of food by Elder Clifford Jackson.

The Lowndes County Interpretive Center will be open after the food and fellowship.

Directions to the Jackson-Steele Community Center are from Selma take 80 East about 20 miles to County Road 23/Freedom Road, turn left and go two miles to Jackson-Steele Community Center on the right.

Katanga Mants and Bell Funeral Home in Hayneville provided information.