I was honored to be at the ceremony dedicating a mural to one of Fitzgerald’s most accomplished native sons, Morris Berthold Abram (19 June 1918-16 March 2000). Mr. Abram was an attorney and tireless civil rights advocate who notably argued the case before the Supreme Court that ended the county unit system in Georgia that gave rural votes equal value with urban votes. The system was a juggernaut which allowed discrimination at the voting booth and gave undue power to local political bosses. The decision essentially ended voter segregation by upholding the principle of “one man, one vote”. I remember very well that many people in my hometown didn’t have a great opinion of Abram for his “meddling” in local affairs, but as a teenager I read his autobiography, The Day is Short, and developed a great respect for the man. Among Abram’s numerous accomplishments: He was appointed first general counsel to the Peace Corps by President Kennedy and served on various commissions under four more presidents; president of the American Jewish Committee; president of Brandeis University; chairman of the United Negro College Fund. My friend Richard Owens fondly recalled: Morris was George H. W. Bush’s ambassador in Geneva when I started my UN job there in 1991. It was phenomenal to have a Ben Hill-Irwin connection to a man of such stature and courage. His dinner table was famous for encouraging often-spirited debates among people from very different backgrounds and perspectives.
Penson Kaminsky, a lifelong friend of my family and scion of one of Fitzgerald’s oldest Jewish family’s, gave the invocation.
The dedication was done in conjunction with Georgia Cities Week and I must say that I was very proud of my hometown for the great job they did honoring Mr. Abram.
Fitzgerald mayor Jim Puckett presented a proclamation to Ruth Abram, daughter of Morris Abram, who was in Fitzgerald with her son, Noah Abram Teitelbaum. Ruth has been an advocate for numerous good causes and is quite accomplished in her own right. She conceived and directed the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, one of New York City’s most visited museums, and has been a tireless advocate for women’s history and scholarship. She’s also the author of Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America 1835-1920. She recalled her father’s time in Fitzgerald, and the challenges of a poor immigrant Jewish family in early-20th-century South Georgia. It was quite moving, with Noah giving voice to his grandfather’s words.
Noah Abram Teitelbaum and Ruth Abram unveiling the plaque detailing Morris Abram’s work and accomplishments.
I had a great time talking to mural artist Dylan Ross, whose work you may already know. Dylan has quickly become one of Georgia’s most sought after muralists.
Clark Stancil, of the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, designed the mural using archival images.