COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)—Thursday May 25, friends and family members of a late Columbus trailblazer gathered at the south end of the 2nd Avenue Bridge to take part in a memorial service, dedicating another piece of Columbus to members that make up this town’s rich history.
The late Judge Albert Thompson, Sr., can be described as father, representative, mentor, friend, fraternity brother, and the first of many titles here in Muscogee County and Georgia. Members of the community gathered to dedicate the 2nd Avenue Bridge, now newly renamed Judge Albert Thompson Bridge, to Judge Thompson’s legacy.
He began his law practice in Columbus, Ga. in 1974. Representative Calvin Smyre’s career started under Judge Thompson in his law office. Thursday, he hosted the Dedication Ceremony with the Columbus Legislative Delegation.
“Albert Thompson was a staple. He was one of the first in many categories. And I remember when he was only African American lawyer and then he went to the bar head in Columbus and was the first African American chairman in Georgia, House of Representatives. And he’s been a bridge in our community. So we thought this is appropriate, the Columbus delegation is to name this bridge in his honor,” Rep. Smyre says.
Thompson served seven terms in the Georgia State House before being appointed Chair of the Special Judiciary Committee of the General Assembly in 1974, making him the House’s first African American Committee Chairman. His daughter, Eloise Norris, spoke on how fitting it is to name this bridge after her father.
“Daddy was a bridge, as Sanford read the poem, and I have to say that he used is his public service to provide passage over obstacles to close the gap between racial inequalities, civil injustice, economic inequities and practices in everyone regardless of status,” she explains.
Several prominent figures attended the dedication ceremony. Among them, Congressman Sanford Bishop, Smyre’s successor in the Georgia House, Teddy Reese, and Mayor Skip Henderson. All were impacted by Thompson’s character and nature.
“I had a chance to meet him and I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t really realize what a civil rights icon and what a trailblazer he was. I knew him as this incredibly bright and good guy… we had a chance to work together. I just knew him as a very principled guy that he believed that it was always the right time to do the right thing,” Henderson said.
In January of 1981, Thompson became the first African American appointed to the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit as Superior Court Judge. He retired in 1991 as Administrative Law Judge with the State Board of Worker’s Compensation. Now, Thompson is buried in the Riverdale Cemetery in Columbus.
Congressman Sanford Bishop recited a poem at the reception saying, “I could not craft the words better than those of Will Allen Dromgoole as we dedicate this bridge, the poem that he wrote The Bridge Builder, and it goes like this…”
“An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;Will Allen Dromgoole, recited by Congressman Sanford Bishop
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!'”
The man who blazed new trails, now permanently bridging the gap between Columbus’ history and future progress.