As the walls of segregation began to tumble, more African Americans were able to participate in the United States like they had never done before. The same could be said for Lowndes County where African-American citizens made an impact on the local and national stage.
Ruth Kimball Council was a educator in Valdosta before being elected to the Valdosta City Council in 1974. She was the first black citizen elected to the Council and held terms of office from 1974-1976 and 1976-1980. Council would pave the way for future black politicians in Valdosta.
Willie Housel was the first African-American man elected to the Valdosta city council, in 1985. He was influenced by other African-American leaders like Joe Rivers.
That same year, 1985, Alvin Payton, Sr. was elected the first African American Lowndes County Commissioner. He served in District 1 until 1992.
Much like his father, Alvin Payton, Jr. was sworn in to the Valdosta city council on January 5, 2006 creating the first “majority-minority” council in Valdosta’s history.
The future of Lowndes County’s African American community seems limitless. Despite beginnings in slavery or servitude, Black individuals persevered to overcome the many obstacles placed before them. One of the last official walls came down starting in 1979 when busing was finally integrated the Valdosta City School’s elementary system. Challenges remain for the African American community, but it is the hope shared by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “dream” and the sacrifices of their ancestors that motivate the next generation of African American leaders.