Hundreds gather in White Hall to honor Mants’ memory

Published 11:37 am Thursday, December 22, 2011

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

Family, friends and many who worked with the late Bob Mants, 68, in the Civil Rights movement gathered at the Jackson-Steele Community Center in White Hall not to mourn his death, but to celebrate his life last Saturday.

The memorial service held in his honor was called the “Celebration of Life Get-Together.”

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Frank Smith director of the African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C. brought greetings from the nation’s capital and President Barack Obama.

He said Mants helped him with the Civil Rights portion of the museum in Washington.

Felicia Jones and Dorothy Doss listed proclamations and resolutions and other communications in his honor.

Arthur Nelson, president of the Alpha Upsilon Lambda chapter in Montgomery where Martin Luther King Jr. was also a member, asked the crowd, “Do you know a man?”

He asked if they knew a man “who stepped into a leadership role as a teenager… who worked all his life helping others…who spent his life doing community service… who always looked out for others… who rode the neighborhood checking on the community … who helped people…?”

Nelson called Mants “the salt of the earth” who “never lost his saltiness because his life was seasoned with lives of so many.”

He told the children and family they had much for which to be proud. He said Mants resides in the company of international and national leaders, as well as “mover and shakers of this earth.”

Among others who spoke were his closest friends Alvin Benn, C.J. Jones, George Paris Jr., Frank Holloway, Clifford Jackson Sr., Jimmy Harris Sr. and Wendell Paris Sr.

“I loved my friend, my confidant, my brother, my daddy,” said his son Kumasi.

He asked those who thought they were his son, daughter, his brother his friend to raise their hands.

He also said his father was “an ordinary man, who did ordinary things extraordinarily.”

At age 16, Mants 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 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.

The result of his work in Lowndes County 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.