City Freedom Walk, Plaza and Park honor Jervays
BY BEVERLY SMALLS, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
“To create goodwill between the races and work for the advancement of our community and nation,”
Excerpt from Tom Jervay’s weekly 1940s editorial page
The Jervay’s Cape Fear Journal editorial page standard format listed a variety of municipal needs that could promote better living for all people. The statements in, “Our Program”, could be labeled as visionary.
-Improved paving of streets in those sections by Negroes.
-Obtain better lighting…especially on those streets around Williston School.
-Playgrounds in the north and south sides of the city.
-Naturally approachable beach front for members of our race.
-A large hospital to replace Community Hospital.
-Construction of a road to Seabreeze connecting with Carolina Beach.
-Improved library facilities.
Through the 1940s standard weekly listing was longer, and it continued to grow, the purpose was to advance basic human rights; city and county progress.
A 1305 North Fourth St. Thomas and Willie E. Jervay Freedom Walk, Plaza and Park were officially named and plaqued Friday, March 20. Members of the City of Wilmington Commission on African-American History were flanked by administrative staff and elected officials to honor the works of the region’s late power couple of journalism.
Signage now marks a broad walkway and meditation style green space adjacent to the City’s 1898 Memorial Grounds. Commission Chairman, Atiba Johnson, City Councilman Earl Sheridan, and Mayor Bill Saffo emphasized sustained efforts to honor citizens that helped to shape cultural histories and Port City progress decades ago.
Jervay connections to late Twentieth Century events were emphasized by a pardoned Wilmington Ten survivor, the Rev.. Dr. Ben Chavis His 1970s mentor and fellow community organizer, the Rev. Kojo Nantambu also attended and graciously thanked City officials and family members for the living memorial.
It was Tom Jervay’s timely communication with the Associated press that propelled a series of local race related incidents and arrests into the national news spotlight. The publishers paid a high price for advocating a fair trial for that group of ten citizen activists.
Their newspaper, then named The Wilmington Journal, a historic business with upstairs residence, and extensive collection storage was partially destroyed by a bomb. The Jervays adjusted through adversity and continued publication based on a motto to report the news without fear of favor. His wife and partner, Willie was referred to as a strong devoted foot soldier by area residents.
Personal boldness complemented by charitable deeds and civic organizing were attributes that their daughter and business heir, Mary Alice Thatch spoke of prior to the unveiling of the standing plaque signage.
“Daddy loved Wilmington and was very grateful for his success and attributed that to the people of Wilmington, “she said.
“So today I can truly say, “Thank you,” and I know he and mama are in heaven smiling and very thankful for this honor.”
Tom Jervay, Sr. passed away in 1993. His wife continued publishing The Wilmington Journal with the assistance of family. She died in 2012. Two children Tom Jr., and Katherine “Kitty” Jervay Tate are also deceased.