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WABE’s Week In Review: Vivian Laid To Rest, Lewis’ Death Raises Political Issues, COVID-19 Hurts Most Vulnerable

Civil rights icon John Lewis stands in front of John Lewis Freedom Parkway moments after its new name was unveiled Aug. 22, 2018, in Atlanta. Over the next several days, ceremonies honoring Lewis will be held in Alabama and Washington, D.C., before his funeral Thursday at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Civil rights icon John Lewis stands in front of John Lewis Freedom Parkway moments after its new name was unveiled Aug. 22, 2018, in Atlanta. Over the next several days, ceremonies honoring Lewis will be held in Alabama and Washington, D.C., before his funeral Thursday at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Credit Brinley Hineman / Associated Press file

John Lewis, the longtime congressman and civil rights icon, died last Friday at 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. A memorial service is taking place in Troy, Alabama, and his body is lying in state there Saturday and Sunday. Then there will be ceremonies next week in Washington, D.C. Finally, he will be brought back to Atlanta, where he will lie in state Wednesday with funeral services at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Thursday.

Lewis’ death forced the state’s Democratic Party to choose a new nominee for the November ballot in short order. Georgia law required it be done by the late afternoon of the next business day. WABE’s Emma Hurt reported members nearly unanimously chose state Sen. Nikema Williams. Like Lewis, she grew up in rural Alabama. She’s also the first black woman to chair the Democratic Party of Georgia.

In this Nov. 20, 2019, file photo, Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, and state Sen. Nikema Williams, chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, speak with reporters. Williams has been selected to replace Rep. John Lewis on the ballot in November. (Ron Harris/Associated Press file)
In this Nov. 20, 2019, file photo, Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, and state Sen. Nikema Williams, chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, speak with reporters. Williams has been selected to replace U.S. Rep. John Lewis on the ballot in November. (Ron Harris/Associated Press file)

The question now becomes who, if anyone, fills the seat for the remainder of Lewis’ term. Gov. Brian Kemp has to call a special election for that to happen. The “Political Breakfast” podcast guys talked about that and disagreed firmly on what should be done.  

The life and work of the Rev. C.T. Vivian, who organized and led monumental civil rights movements, was honored. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
The life and work of the Rev. C.T. Vivian, who organized and led monumental civil rights movements, was honored. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

Civil rights icon C.T. Vivian died just hours before Lewis on July 17 at age 95.  Ceremonies were held for Vivian at the Capitol in Atlanta before he was laid to rest Thursday at Providence Missionary Baptist Church.

WABE’s Lily Oppenheimer brought us a report on his funeral and those remembering the man who led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 by former President Barack Obama. For decades, Vivian led monumental civil rights movements, including organizing Freedom Rides and challenging segregationists in Alabama in the ’60s to register Black voters.

‘The Only Choice Is What You Give Your Life For …’ 

“Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam spoke with former Atlanta Mayor and Ambassador Andrew Young just days after the deaths of both men. Young was himself a key civil rights figure who helped lead the movement with Lewis and Vivian. Young remembers the conversations the men had about society, their mission and their deaths.

The Crushing COVID-19 Economy … 

Local economic experts say until Georgia is able to control COVID-19 outbreaks, jobs — and the economy in general — will likely not come back. That’s as first-time unemployment claims in Georgia were at more than 122,000 last week. While that is 16,000 fewer than the previous week, unemployment claims remain in record territory.

Georgia Power building
Georgia Power’s disconnection moratorium ended on July 15. (Wikimedia Commons)

Turning Off The Lights … 

The pandemic economy has especially hurt so many of the most vulnerable. Those who can’t pay their power bills in Georgia are again at risk of having their lights turned off. In the early months of the pandemic, many utilities put a moratorium on disconnections. But those moratoriums are being lifted — even as the pandemic rages on, and the hottest days of the summer are upon us. WABE’s Molly Samuel told us a powerful story of a mother of four about to be cut off. 

Losing Their Homes … 

A key deadline in eviction cases came and went this week. And Atlanta housing advocates worry tenants didn’t know. WABE’s Stephannie Stokes reported this week that it could have a huge impact on whether people stay in their homes.

 Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta operating at full capacity, its CEO reports. (Al Such/WABE)
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta is operating at full capacity, its CEO reports. (Al Such/WABE)

Grady At Capacity … 

An influx of COVID-19 patients has Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta operating at full capacity, according to its CEO John Haupert. Grady is the state’s largest hospital and is one of many hospitals asking Congress for more federal aid as Georgia — like many states — is seeing a surge this month in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. WABE’s Sam Whitehead reported COVID-19 hospitalizations in Georgia have more than doubled in the last month. New cases have also been rising at record levels in recent days.