Distinguished Duo Leads City Group

Recent news of legendary civil rights figure, Johnnie Carr, and retired Air Force general, Charles ‘Chick’ Cleveland taking leadership of One Montgomery, Inc. inspires reflection on the lives of these two very special people. Both, Mrs. Carr and Gen. Cleveland, are well known to many readers of this column. The fact that they were chosen as co-chairs of One Montgomery is no surprise to those of us who know them.

For the readers who may not be familiar, One Montgomery is an organization spawned in racial conflict a decade ago. The organization’s mission statement: “One Montgomery is a widely diverse group of citizens whose purpose is to promote understanding and engender trust between people of different races in the community, through continuing discussion, education, social interaction, and enhanced personal relationships,” guides member activities. One Montgomery meets each Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. in the executive dining room of Jackson Hospital. These breakfast meetings are open to all.

Mrs. Carr, now in her eighth decade, maintains a full schedule of local and national meetings. She speaks at universities, churches and conventions throughout the region. Several months ago Mrs. Carr and her long time friend, Virginia Durr, another civil rights legend, traveled to the University of Virginia to participate in a seminar on civil rights history. Just a few weeks ago, she was at the Baptist Convention in New Orleans when President Clinton addressed delegates.

Johnnie Carr has played a key role in Montgomery’s civil rights history. She is a charter member of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). MIA was established in December 1955 in response to Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to surrender her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was its first president; Mrs. Carr is its current president. In April 1964, her son, Arlam Carr, Jr., represented by Fred Gray, Solomon Seay, Jr., and Charles Langford, became the primary litigant in the law suit to desegregate Montgomery public schools.

As president of MIA Mrs. Carr recently created a steering committee to work with the Alabama Historical Commission to establish a Civil Rights Museum at the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station.

When she and Mr. Arlam Carr, Sr., her husband of 52 years, are not traveling, you will find her each Tuesday morning in the executive dining room of Jackson Hospital at the One Montgomery breakfast. She has been a member of One Montgomery for many years.

Gen. Cleveland…friends call him ‘Chick,’ a nickname rooted in the Civil War battle at Chickamauga…at first glance may seem an unlikely One Montgomery co-chair. He could spend his time at the country club. However, this man, who in the early eighties commanded the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, is not ready for a final approach to the tennis court. He retired and served as head of the Montgomery Area United Way. He resigned that position to serve in former Governor Guy Hunt’s cabinet as Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources. He also sits on the board of directors of a number of community organizations.

In order to fully know Gen. Cleveland, one needs to know that his father, an infantry lieutenant, died while serving on active duty, leaving two young sons. His mother raised him and his brother in a single parent home near their grandfather’s New York farm. At a time when seventy five percent of the cadets attending West Point went there on congressional appointments, he credits his mother with the determination that got him and his brother appointments to the academy.

With character shaped and tempered in the kiln of his experience growing up poor in a single parent home, Chick Cleveland sculpted a life full of the right stuff. His 35 year military career includes service in England, where he served under the command of renowned Tuskegee Airman, Gen. Chappie James. Gen. Cleveland flew numerous combat missions in Korea where he shot down four enemy aircraft. He again experienced combat in South Vietnam while serving as executive assistant to Gen. William Westmoreland.

He retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of lieutenant general. At his retirement, he had logged more than 4,200 hours of flying time. He and Francis, his wife, have four children and 10 grandchildren.

Having been a member of One Montgomery since the early eighties, Gen. Cleveland knows Mrs. Carr well. These two individuals share one of those “enhanced personal relationships” referred to in One Montgomery’s mission statement. Each brings to this position a lifetime…together nearly 100 years of…commitment and work at creating harmony among people of different races. The Montgomery community is sure to benefit from their tenure.

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Originally Published: 4 October 1994, Montgomery Advertiser
© Copyright – 1994 – Major W. Cox and Montgomery Advertiser.

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