By ARTHUR L. MACK
MOBILE — Eddie Irby, the president of the 92nd Division of the Buffalo Soldiers of WWII, went before the Mobile City Council on Tuesday to enlist the city’s aid in getting help with cleaning up Oaklawn Cemetery.
Irby, whose group was the subject of an article in the July 11 edition of the Call News, wanted to know what the city could do. His group, which has been instrumental in cleaning up the cemetery, is seeking help from the city with the clean-up effort.
But according to city council vice-president Levon Manzie, since Oaklawn is not owned by the city, it would be up to Irby’s organization — as well as those who have loved ones buried in the cemetery — to do the cleaning up.
“It would have to be a continued community effort,” Manzie said. “But I want to see it maintained as well.”
Councilwoman Bess Rich asked Irby if he had talked with the State Historical Commission about registering Oaklawn as a historical site. Irby said he had. Councilman Joel Daves asked Irby if he had thought about seeking tax-exempt status, feeling that it would be easier for Irby and his group to get funding for the facility’s clean-up. Irby said he would look into that.
Neil Bruyn, who along with his wife Fran Barber accompanied Irby during the presentation, told the Call News that of Oaklawn’s 22 acres, eight of those acres have veterans buried in them.
“We have 14 acres to go,” Bruyn said. “We’ve got the understanding there’s a World War II general buried there, and I’ll bet that in those 14 acres we will find at least 1,000 more veterans.”
Meanwhile, neighborhood activist Carolyn Blanks Mays addressed the city council about supporting a proposed airport at the Brookley Complex and a proposed stadium on the campus of the University of South Alabama. She was also concerned about Ladd-Peebles Stadium being torn down.
Mays said she felt the money proposed for those projects would be more suited to providing better wages for garbage collectors as well as better equipment, and she hinted an economic boycott would be coming if councilmembers approved financial support of South Alabama’s on-campus facility as well as approval for the Brookley airport.
“Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and during the time leading up to his assassination, was trying to help garbage collectors,” she said. “Why build a new stadium and a new airport? If you’re going to go ahead and vote for a new stadium, we’re going to make sure you don’t get the money for it. This is a serious fight; we don’t have any say-so in our community.”
Manzie told Mays about the community meeting scheduled at 6 p.m. on July 23 at Williamson High School and urged her to be there.
“No vote has been taken on the on-campus stadium,” he told her. “That’s why we’re having a community meeting for those living around Ladd-Peebles Stadium. We want to get their input.”