As he made things official during a small Tuesday morning ceremony, the governor charged Mosley to follow his moral compass while considering such changes — which could be put on the table as soon as next week.
Mosley, who has pastored Athens’ Mount Pleasant Baptist Church since 1974, said he plans to take a measured approach but will do all he can “to move the ball forward.”
“Certainly, there are mounting problems that have been brought before us. But we’ve got to handle them one at a time,” Mosley said. “We’ve got to be patient. I don’t want to be the man who prayed, ‘Lord, give me patience, but give it to me right now.’”
In addition to the massive mountainside carving of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, Stone Mountain Park is home to streets, buildings, flags and many other smaller attractions that pay tribute to the Confederacy. The mountain was also the birthplace of the second Ku Klux Klan.
Demands for change are nothing new.
But last summer’s nationwide protests over police killings of Black men and systemic racism — as well as white supremacists, militia groups and others frequently using the mountain as a rallying point — reignited the debate.
A grassroots group called the Stone Mountain Action Coalition has for months pushed for a comprehensive transformation of the park to make it more welcoming to diverse visitors.
The group said this week it was encouraged by Mosley’s appointment.
“It is our hope,” the group said in an emailed statement, “that the appointment ... is the first of many changes at this public park that will result in the immediate and complete removal of symbols, monuments, flags, street, place and building names, events and activities that honor and celebrate the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan.”
Georgia law mandates that the memorial association maintain a tribute to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain Park, and otherwise makes it difficult to remove or alter such monuments. Memorial association leaders, including now-former board chair Ray Stallings Smith III, have long been resistant to any significant modifications.
That could be changing.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
The memorial association board hasn’t met since November, when it tasked CEO Bill Stephens with exploring options that would “bring Stone Mountain Park into the 21st century.”
The board is now scheduled to meet Monday afternoon. A recently posted agenda for the meeting includes time for Stephens to deliver “remarks and [a] presentation.”
Few specifics have been confirmed publicly, but state Rep. Billy Mitchell, a Democrat whose district includes Stone Mountain Park, said he expects “some of their goals and some of their aspirations” to be outlined during the meeting.
“Reverend Mosley is a good man who is not afraid to take on challenging situations,” Stephens said in a statement provided to the AJC. “The decisions made in the next few months are crucial to the future of the park. We look forward to working with him as we take on the hard issues and tough choices ahead.”
Any proposals brought forth by Stephens would require approval by the full board.
DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond was appointed to the memorial association’s board in 2017. He left after about a year but, as a native of Athens, has known Mosley for more than four decades.
Thurmond said he has “great confidence” in Mosley as a person, and is hopeful that his appointment “is a signal that the governor and the board is ready to move in a more inclusive direction.”
At the same time, Thurmond was disappointed that another memorial association board member — Gregory Levett Sr., the well-known funeral home operator across metro Atlanta — was denied another term.
Levett had been the most outspoken supporter of changes at Stone Mountain Park and backed many of the proposals brought forth by the Stone Mountain Action Coalition. He told the AJC that he believes that was “100%” what precipitated the call last week telling him his services were no longer needed.
Levett is Black as is his replacement, East Metro CID executive director Christopher Sanders. The latter was sworn in alongside Mosley on Tuesday.
“He’s going to need the board of directors’ support,” Levett said of the new chair. “He can’t do nothing if they don’t support him. And if they keep that same attitude, nothing’s going to change.”
Kemp, meanwhile, said Mosley would “bring a lot of cohesion to the association and, really, to the state.”
“It’s important that we really look to our future and move forward in the right way,” the governor said. “And he’ll be the right leader to do that.”
TIMELINE: History of Stone Mountain and Stone Mountain Park
More about Rev. Abraham Mosley:
Mosley is a native of Sparta, a small town about 100 miles southeast of Atlanta. A father of four, grandfather of eight and well-known community advocate, he has pastored Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens since 1974. He was first appointed to the board of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association in 2019.
Story so far:
The conversation over Confederate imagery at Stone Mountain Park reignited last summer amid protests over systemic racism and police killings of Black Americans. Activists have pushed the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to make dramatic changes at the park, including changing street names, removing Confederate flags and addressing the massive mountainside carving of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Officials previously said “additions” are more likely than subtractions, but significant proposals could be revealed at the memorial association’s April 26 meeting.