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J. W. Lemon

Postal worker and Georgia NAACP president James Windel Lemon was born on November 9, 1919 in Locust Grove, Georgia to Maggie Richie and James E. Lemon. Both of his parents were sharecroppers; as a result, Lemon and his five siblings worked the farm at a very young age. Lemon was accidentally shot by hunters in November of 1925, and lost his left eye. In 1935, his father went to work in the cotton mills when the dust bowl impacted their farming community. Lemon attended Shoal Creek Elementary School and graduated from Henry County Training School in McDonough, Georgia in 1939.

After graduation, Lemon went to Atlanta and worked for his Uncle George in a pressing plant. Soon after, under the National Youth Administration, he attended Forsyth State Teacher’s College in Forsyth, Georgia, where he studied to be a plumber. The cost to attend the school was ten dollars per month. In 1940, while attending the school, he met his future wife and they got married that same year. After leaving school, Lemon tried to get work in Detroit, Michigan, but was unsuccessful. He returned home to live with his parents in Georgia.

During the 1940s, Lemon became the founder and youngest chapter president of the Henry County NAACP, and found himself under regular threat by the Ku Klux Klan. He was actively involved in advocating for an improved education system in Henry County and successfully achieved the group’s goal of better training for teachers in African American schools. Lemon was also heavily involved in fighting for the rights of African American farmers and helped them purchase land through the Federal Home Loans Administration. In addition, Lemon was instrumental in persuading then-Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge in enacting civil rights legislation during the 1970s. During this time, Lemon worked for the U.S. military at an Army Depot credit union, where he remained until 1945.

Lemon next worked for the mail department at the railroad at Terminal Station in Atlanta, a branch of the United States Post Office. He worked there for twenty-one years, after which he left to work directly for the U.S. Post Office, where he remained for another twenty years. Lemon was involved in supporting Jimmy Carter’s run for the U.S. Presidency in the mid-1970s. Lemon retired from the U.S. Postal Service as a clerk and mail handler.

Lemon pass away on November 17, 2011 at the age of 92.

Lemon is the devoted husband of Mrs. Gladys Lemon, his wife of sixty-one years, the father of three sons, James, Jr., Kenneth and Wayman.

Lemon was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 11, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.157

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/11/2006

Last Name

Lemon

Maker Category
Middle Name

W.

Schools

Locust Grove Elementary School

First Name

J.

Birth City, State, Country

Locust Grove

HM ID

LEM01

Favorite Season

None

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Detroit, Michigan

Favorite Quote

I'll Let No One Separate Me From The Grace Of God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

11/9/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Pork)

Death Date

11/17/2011

Short Description

Community activist and postal worker J. W. Lemon (1919 - 2011 ) was the founder of the Henry County, Georgia Chapter of the NAACP. He helped Georgia farmers to purchase land through the Federal Home Loans Administration. He was also instrumental in the Civil Rights legislation of the 1970s.

Employment

United States Postal Service

Favorite Color

White

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of J.W. Lemon's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - J.W. Lemon lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - J.W. Lemon describes his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - J.W. Lemon talks about his paternal grandfather's land

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - J.W. Lemon describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - J.W. Lemon describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - J.W. Lemon describes his parents' sharecropping

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - J.W. Lemon describes his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - J.W. Lemon remembers working on his family's farm with his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - J.W. Lemon remember his childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - J.W. Lemon recalls his childhood interactions with white people

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - J.W. Lemon lists the schools he attended

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - J.W. Lemon remembers his teachers at Shoal Creek Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - J.W. Lemon remembers his walk to Henry County Training School and its facilities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - J.W. Lemon remembers attending a National Youth Administration school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - J.W. Lemon recalls Christmas with his family

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - J.W. Lemon remembers Shoal Creek Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - J.W. Lemon remembers his interactions with the King family

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - J.W. Lemon describes African Americans' educational opportunities during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - J.W. Lemon remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - J.W. Lemon recalls his marriage to Gladys Prince Lemon

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - J.W. Lemon recalls working at Georgia's Conley Army Depot

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - J.W. Lemon remembers forming a credit union at Conley Army Depot

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - J.W. Lemon remembers the change of leadership at Conley Army Depot

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - J.W. Lemon remembers working on the railroad for the U.S. Postal Service

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - J.W. Lemon remembers meeting A. Philip Randolph

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - J.W. Lemon recalls interviewing for a position on the McDonough Board of Education

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - J.W. Lemon describes the conditions of the schools in McDonough, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - J.W. Lemon remembers his presidency of the NAACP's Henry County chapter

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - J.W. Lemon remembers postal workers tampering with the NAACP's mail

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - J.W. Lemon remembers receiving threats from the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - J.W. Lemon remembers those who protected him from the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - J.W. Lemon remembers helping sharecroppers access government subsidies

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - J.W. Lemon recalls helping black farmers buy land through the Farmers Home Administration

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - J.W. Lemon remembers Eugene Talmadge

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - J.W. Lemon describes his interactions with Georgia's governors

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - J.W. Lemon remembers meeting President Harry S. Truman

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - J.W. Lemon remembers the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - J.W. Lemon recalls buying his home through the Farmers Home Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - J.W. Lemon recalls challenges to his NAACP chapter in Henry County, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - J.W. Lemon remembers holding voter registration drives

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - J.W. Lemon remembers meeting Thurgood Marshall

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - J.W. Lemon remembers the murder of Emmitt Till

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - J.W. Lemon recalls advocating to build senior housing in Atlanta, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - J.W. Lemon recalls advocating to build senior housing in Atlanta, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - J.W. Lemon remembers the trial of Herman Talmadge

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - J.W. Lemon recalls Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassinations

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - J.W. Lemon recalls being offered the position of postmaster in Locust Grove

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - J.W. Lemon reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - J.W. Lemon describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - J.W. Lemon shares advice for future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - J.W. Lemon talks about his wife

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

7$6

DATitle
J.W. Lemon recalls interviewing for a position on the McDonough Board of Education
J.W. Lemon recalls advocating to build senior housing in Atlanta, pt. 2
Transcript
So now in 1943, thirty-four people were killed in the riots in Detroit [Michigan] and six people killed in New York [New York], and is this the year that you start the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] here [Henry County, Georgia]?$$Nineteen forty-three [1943].$$Okay, so what prompted you to found the NAACP at that time?$$Well, my wife [Gladys Prince Lemon] went to school and she finished Washington High School [Booker T. Washington High School, Atlanta, Georgia]. She said not to get ahead but I got to jump ahead a little bit. She enrolled at Clark College [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia] and finished three years there, Clark College. She went to work for the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] and it's there that ex-president of Washington High School got in touch with me through the NAACP and asked me, they were trying to get somebody to take over and sign up to be the head of the schools, but they couldn't find a Negro school in Georgia, whereby we had a single Negro that was willing to take over and opper- and sign up as credit against the Georgia system for not operating schools whereby Negroes could attend. And I did. I signed up, went to McDonough [Georgia] before the board of education and I had something happened to me never happened before and I hope it never will happen again.$$Okay, what was that?$$The superintendent of the board of education gave me an interview. I accepted. Went in and had the interview at the board of education and when I finished with the interview, I asked them, said, "Do any member of the board have anything they want to ask me?" "No, no, no, superintendent, no, no, no. You asked for this interview, we granted it and so that's it, we're not going any further." First time I ever been in a meeting with white people and they didn't have a single question to ask a Negro, and it was a hot issue at that time, a real hot issue.$And how much did he give you, how much did he make sure that you got?$$In 1962, members of Morehouse College [Atlanta, Georgia] met and they was discussing Morehouse. Borders [William Holmes Borders] was talking about what he had did for the people around Atlanta [Georgia], and now he couldn't get a dime.$$And who is this you were talking about?$$William Holmes Borders. Couldn't get none of 'em to help him with nothing. So, I asked him, said, "Have you discussed with Senator Talmadge [Herman Talmadge]?" "No, no, you don't need no, he ain't do it, he ain't gonna do nothing but talk." I said, "Would you mind if I called him and talk with him?" He said, "No." I went in and picked up the phone and, if God had ever been with anybody, he was with me then. I picked up the phone and dialed the number, and was able to get Talmadge on the phone. I told him what I wanted, I told him what conditions Borders was facing at Wheat Street [Wheat Street Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia] and now he wanted to build a high rise and couldn't get a dime. He says, "Is he there?" I told him, "Yeah." "Put him on the phone." I put him on the phone, Borders talked with him, come back out on the little front porch there on the home. "You know he sound just like he gonna help me." I said, "Did he tell you he would help you?" He said, "Yeah." "Well he gonna do it. If he told you that he would help you, he'll do it." That was on a Wednesday. I told Borders to get his delegation together and be down to his house at Saturday, twelve o'clock. Borders got his delegation together, come back and ask me, said, "You going with us?" I said, "No, I'm not going with you." I said, "I done got your foot in the door," say, "you ought to be able to walk from there on in. That's as far as I'm going with you." So that year, everybody wanted to know how did Talmadge get to be the man they speak of at Wheat Street? And the word leaked out. He got the money to build that high rise tower [Wheat Street Towers, Atlanta, Georgia] and they've already started on it. And Lemon [HistoryMaker J. W. Lemon] was the one that got it for him. We got it started. It's still there, still flourishing and doing good (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yes, still flourishing. Yes.