A Reunion For Old And New Friends

November 12th, 2009

shaking handsTheir reunion was unlike any other. Graduates from the Macon, Georgia class of 1959 gathered together in 2009, even though many of them never had an opportunity to meet during their high school days.

Schools in the 1950’s, like most other public locations, were segregated in Georgia. Kids were forced to attend different schools depending on the color of their skin, and those with white skin were further separated by gender. Fifty years later these people who were not allowed to associate with each other were finally able to connect.

It all began with the personal journey of a man named Tom Johnson. He grew up in Macon and enjoyed a very successful career which included serving as the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and president of CNN. Tom’s life changed drastically over the years, but he still felt the desire to reconnect with his roots.

In 2005 Johnson returned to Macon with his son, Wyatt. As the pair drove around town, a father recounted high school stories to his son. He talked about how students attended one of three schools: Ballard-Hudson, Lanier or Miller. Wyatt looked over at his father and said: “Dad, think about how many friends you missed getting to know.”

Johnson did spend time thinking about the people he never got the chance to meet. He decided to do something about it.

The first step was to find people who graduated from all three schools. Johnson wrote to each person and proposed they all get together for a luncheon. He explained that even though they were kept apart during their youth, they didn’t have to be separated anymore. People listened, and his classmates received the message with open hearts. A reunion date was set for October.

More than 200 former Macon students traveled hundreds of miles to reunite with people who went to high school with them, and others that should have. People greeted old friends and made new ones as the celebration began. It was an unprecedented event; former students coming together to make up for the time they had lost during the days of segregation. For this group, however, even that wasn’t enough.

The attendees agreed to plan an annual reunion. During the year each one would do what they could to break down barriers and bring people together regardless of their race,  gender or any other factors. People created a list of 59 things the class of 59 could do to help make this world a better place.

One of their first goals centered around one person who refused to attend the luncheon. Johnson reached out to everyone he could and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Among the replies, however, was one full of hatred and anger. It came from a graduate of the all-white school, and it helped prove the fact that even in 2009 we are still dealing with racial issues.

When word of this hateful response got around to the revelers, their response was a little surprising. It would have been easy to react with anger, but they chose another path. They discussed ideas on how to help their classmate understand that no matter what color anyone is, we are all just people sharing our lives on this planet. With a little luck and a lot of patience the group hopes to have this person join them at their next reunion.

At PeopleFinders, we felt this story was worth sharing. We believe in the simple truth that people are people, no matter what color, race or gender they may be. Our goal is always to help people find and connect with each other, and it warms our hearts to hear of an event that restarted old friendships and kindled new ones.

We can all join the Macon class of 1959 in attempting to make our world a better place for everyone. Do what you can, celebrate the humanity we all share and thank you for reading the PeopleFinders People Search blog.

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