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The world lost a champion last week when Carl B. Westmoreland died. His lifetime of work for Civil Rights and historic preservation is astounding. Ripley was blessed with his love for our little town.
His affections started out in the early 1940s, when Carl’s parents would drive out to Ripley from Lincoln Heights, and little Carl, about 5 years old, wearing Mickey Mouse glasses, sitting in the rumble seat of a Ford convertible, saw the Liberty Monument at the base of Main Street and listened to his dad read the names. One of the plaques, the east-facing side, reads: The Men Who Wrought for Liberty. Rev. John T. Rankin, Rev. James Gilliland, U.S. Senator Alexander Campbell, Col. James Poage, Thomas McCague, Thomas Collins, Dr. Alfred Beasley, Theodore Collins, Samuel Kirkpatrick, John Parker (colored), Dr. Greenleafe C. Norton — Decatur, Rev. Jesse Lockhart — Russelville, Rev. John B. Mahan — Sardinia. These were the leaders of a large host of men who co-operated in the Abolition Movement. To Carl, this was the first time he had seen a Black name mentioned and honored, and even as recently as last year, he reminded me how impactful that monument was to him and his family. Carl visited, loved, helped, worried about and praised Ripley. If you were fortunate enough to hear him speak, you knew the depth and breadth of his knowledge, experience and passion. It was always an honor when he dropped by or called, and it was our pleasure to find some historical fact that he needed during his lengthy stay as Senior Historian of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center or for some other project that needed his expertise. Carl’s work was worldwide, and to think Ripley was in his heart is very humbling.
Good-bye Carl, we will miss you.
FYI—The Ripley library now has RULH tickets to purchase for the May 21 alumni event at the front desk.