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NAACP to bestow highest award to jailed Clayton official

The Clayton branch of the NAACP will bestow its highest award this weekend to a former county senior services director now in prison for theft and bribery.

Mary Byrd, an NAACP lifetime member, is receiving the NAACP Presidential Freedom Award for her years of service to the community and the civil rights organization, said Synamon Baldwin, president of the Clayton NAACP branch.

"She's done so much for so many over the years and we recognize and know that," Baldwin said Monday. "We all have fallen short of the glory of God."

Byrd began serving a two-year sentence in August. An internal audit of the senior services agency showed that tens of thousands of dollars were missing from the department Byrd ran. The money was taken from accounts intended to feed needy seniors and to provide financial help to grandparents who unexpectedly have to raise their grand children. Byrd, according to an investigation by Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson’s office, forged the signature of an employee authorized to write checks. Money from the department was diverted to an account Byrd controlled and was used on personal expenses. The money was taken during a time when the recession was at its height and social services were in high demand.

Byrd's husband and family will receive the award at the civil rights organization's Freedom Fund dinner on Sunday.

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Baldwin concedes the choice was a controversial one but the chapter's membership was overwhelmingly in favor of the selection.

It isn't the first time the Clayton NAACP has bestowed the award to a controversial figure. Sheriff Victor Hill was last year's recipient. Hill received the award the same year he was cleared of 27 felony charges that threatened to end his career.

"We pick people we know who stand for and support the work of the NAACP and the community in spite of," Baldwin said.


About the Author

Tammy Joyner covers local government in Clayton, Fayette and Henry counties.

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