Paducah is truly blessed.
We are perfectly placed in the country, located hours away from thriving metropolitan areas like Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and Louisville. Flowing along our banks are the Tennessee and the Ohio rivers. Rich river trade has been a mainstay here.
But what makes Paducah so special is the atmosphere surrounding the people who live here, that prevails every single day. This atmosphere is one that honors God and is evident in the lives of people He has placed in our community. It is an atmosphere of peace and the desire to reason together for the comfort and security of all its citizens.
The Rev. W.G. Harvey, though not a native son, wasted no time drawing together concerned citizens and interacting with the people in leadership positions to reason together with them. This work saved Paducah from so much of the violence and strife that was prevalent in the early '60s in other places just a breath away from us. He helped Paducah navigate through a time when other cities were being torn apart by violence and fear of the unknown.
This was a time in our country's history when hateful signs and hateful laws were being addressed by those who lived with labels. These labels told nothing of the state of our hearts. The character of this city was going to be defined during these years, and Pastor Harvey was driven to work for peace and understanding through conversations and intelligent actions.
He was joined by others in our city who understood how debilitating the labels "colored only" and "white only" were to our city. These labels had no place in the future of Paducah. Men and women of this city responded in honor to the spirit of God.
I was moved here by my father and mother in 1972, from Newbern, Tennessee. Not long after arriving, at the age of 12, Pastor Harvey baptized me. He helped me take the first steps necessary for a boy to become a God-fearing man. From his work in this city, I was given a safe haven in which to grow and thrive.
In 2000, I was elected to the Paducah Board of Commissioners. I was always cognizant of the path that Pastor Harvey had blazed, and I never had to deal with the barriers that so many Americans of African descent had to overcome. I saw the shadows of many men and women before me who had trod that path.
My journey to the Paducah City Commission was about the issues and not the color of my skin. I will ever be grateful to him for that. He was one of the leaders in the movement of human dignity that made me absolutely sure I could reach any goal I set for myself. I was completely positive that Paducah, Kentucky, was where I wanted to raise my children. My entire family has been strengthened by the atmosphere he cultivated.
Paducah is truly blessed, blessed by the people living here and their loyalty to the guidelines of our Creator. Pastor Harvey, I will truly miss your presence.
Vistation for Rev. Harvey will be from 3 to 7 p.m. today at New Greater Love Missionary Baptist Church, followed by the funeral at 7 p.m.