Judge rules graves relocation can proceed

More than 300 African-American graves will be dug up in College Park later this month and reburied in a Riverdale cemetery.

Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier dismissed Thursday the last of a string of lawsuits trying to halt the relocation.

The dismissal allows Stephens MDS, a rock and dirt company, to relocate the bodies buried in the Union Bethel AME Church Cemetery, which sits behind Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In December, the Clayton County Commission authorized Stephens MDS to move the graves from his College Park property to Carver Memorial Gardens on Upper Riverdale Road. The graveyard, which may contain the remains of some slaves, is in the middle of Stephens' construction landfill.

Following the approval, Betty Bowden and Anne Ruth Scandrett, who have ancestors buried in the cemetery, filed an appeal in Superior Court.

On Thursday, the judge ruled that the women's appeal was not within a 30-day appeal window required by Georgia law. The court previously ruled that the cemetery was abandoned and the county had the right to issue the permit.

Stephens workers rediscovered the graves while expanding the 200-acre landfill.

Stephens MDS spokesman Shawn Davis said work will begin following a public graveside ceremony to be scheduled later this month.

Bowden, 73, said Friday that she is still against the move, but "it is in the hands of God now."

Scandrett said that she had not had time to discuss the judge's decision with her family.

At the families' request, Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson also investigated the graveyard permit process and found no wrongdoing.

Civil rights activists from the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Action Network and other organizations have protested the relocation.