Reverend Lewis Graves: "Man of Courage"
Courage is defined by Webster several different ways, with the primary definition cited as "The mental and moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty." Additionally, Webster offers forth the following definitions on the word courage: "To hold one's own against opposition, interference or temptation and; "Firmness of character and determination to achieve one's end."
By any definition of the word, Rev. Lewis Washington Graves was a man of courage. A lifelong resident of Caswell County, Rev. Graves was civic and community minded and outspoken on critical important issues.
While many others were content to live with the status quo of "separate but equal," Rev. Lewis Graves was keenly aware that just like in many other places, in Caswell County, separate meant not equal. He took a stand and added his name to those of other petitioners to file suit in the federal court to desegregate the Caswell County public schools.
As a result of his support for the lawsuit, Rev. Graves and others were confronted with harsh world and acts. Despite the late-night bombing of yard and driveway, being shun by some neighbors and community members and being harassed by those who opposed school desegregation, Rev. Lew Graves remained firm of mind and will.
The lawsuit was successful and several black students (Brown, Mims, Graves and Smith) were later admitted to Bartlett Yancey High and Elementary Schools, Cobb and Pelham in compliance with a mandate from Judge Stanley of Greensboro, NC.
As outspoken on major issues, so was Rev. Graves on issues that affected his neighborhood and church community. For years and years, it had been the practice to allow vendors to set up stands on church and surrounding property during homecoming at Graves Chapel Baptist Church. Homecoming was a very popular event at Graves Chapel Church and people came from all over. Many came to participate in the religious celebration; however, others came only to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere outside the church area. Despite the event's popularity, Rev. Graves and other church trustee members were outraged at the tainting of the property and sought to eliminate the vendors from Homecoming. It was a long and hard struggle, as many vendors were reluctant to give up an opportunity to make a profit. Numerous trips were made to the then Sheriff John Henry Gunn's office, oftentimes on foot to solicit support for banning vendor stands. Eventually their efforts prevailed and homecoming at Graves Chapel Baptist Church became what it is today -- a joyous religious celebration!
Rev. Lewis W. Graves serves as an example of how taking a courageous stand, whether regarding a big issue or small one, can make a difference.
Submitted by Doris Graves Liggins, daughter of Lewis W. Graves.