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The Legacy of Councilman Rufus Stewart Celebrating City of McDonough 200 Years

Updated: May 25

"I'm Not Looking For A Name, My Momma Named me Rufus Stewart Long Time Ago! She Gave Me A Name! I Do It Because I Love The Community!- Councilman Rufus Stewart

written & interview by Michael Brown

   Game Changers Magazine: It's always good to sit down with a jem of the community, an asset of the community in all the great things you’ve done in the community.  You have a park named after you, you work with the youth of the community, you serve on the deacon board at Shiloh Baptist church, you’re also a city councilman of the city of McDonough.  Tell us who Rufus Stewart is and how you got started on this journey.

RS:  Rufus Stewart on that journey its been a long journey, actually I got started in the ninth grade at the Henry County Senior High School. Mrs. Reese was my language arts teacher, we were in class one day and she asked what I wanted to be and to write a paper telling what I wanted to be; I politely said I want to be the president and she said are you sure and I said yes.

She was in charge of student council advisor and I wasn’t on that board, but Shirley Fletcher and myself volunteered to be a voice for our students. We took that journey on and from that journey I was interested in leadership.  I was VP of the tri high why Christian club in the school.  In 1989 I ran for justice of peace, which I lost and the next four years came around and city council time and I ran and won.  Mr. Edward head (bless his soul) told me when you win city council its going be up to you to say when it's over and believe it or not this November marks 35 years I still serve with pride, I take this very seriously, I look at my neighbors and the community, I want to make a difference in our community and our young people.

Game Changers Magazine: You talk about being in your church (Shiloh Baptist Church) and they’ve transitioned into using your platforms working with the youth, tell us what that transition was like building a youth center for Shiloh and it connecting with your vision to reach the youth in the community

RS: I started with youth as a Boy Scout troop master; I study the youth and see how I can help them better themselves, I simply show up as an example.  I had a meeting at city hall with Mayor Vincent when the city council made a motion to make the park with my name Rufus Stewart Park.  I do it because I love what I do for the children & the community.  I’m always looking to reach back and make sure no one is left behind.

Game Changers Magazine: Located in Blacksville GA, this region has a stereotype of troubled youth and resources are dumped here with different organizations, but you’ve actually lived and grown up there.  Tell us about this park

RS:  Simply Street called Blacksville, my aunt lived next door to the precinct, we stayed right in that area in a two-room house.  I never knew I’d be standing in that same neighborhood.  I see people all the time, I go sit and have conversations with them, I go to the basketball court and talk with the young people.  I ask myself the same question, “What do you want to be in life?”

councilman Rufus Stewart, city of McDonough we’re celebrating 200 years of the city of McDonough.

Game Changers Magazine: You were talking about serving in the community; give us some of the history & experiences of Phillips drive, Simpson Street and that area.

RS: I really grew up on Carver road, I used to be portrayed as a preacher, we were family & friends, and we respected one another and controlled our manners & issues.  On Phillips Drive every Sunday afternoon we’d play baseball, football, whatever.  On Carver road, I became a businessman, Stewart candy shop.  Mr. John Glen & Mr. Nellis taught me how to do income tax & be a businessman.

When I look at Blacksville a lot of good things came from there.  Teachers would talk to parents, it was do your homework, chores, and then you play.  Good people who struggled through to make it good.   The neighborhoods now don’t know their own towns; they tend to spend time in other towns.

Game Changers Magazine:  You are here serving district 1 closest to downtown McDonough square.  You’ve seen how McDonough has changed; tell us about how it’s changed from then until now

RS:  Back then I worked at Hamilton Furniture, I’d come to work and watch people and learn from them.  I looked at McDonough as it was and said to myself one day I will help McDonough.  I was learning by talking to other races, I listened and learned what things were needed and I was a man of few words, but much action.

Game Changers Magazine:  You are a man of action, I remember you pulling for community organizations, pushing for the city of McDonough to partner with these organizations, you were pivotal in the basketball programs, Streets of gentlemen who is now celebrating 9 years.  You stepped up putting your resources to help these programs thrive.  How important is it for you to shine light on other community organizations and see that partnership to make McDonough a better place.

RS:  That is very important to me, when I go to conferences in other cities & states, I pay attention to what other cities do to thrive & grow and bring that back to our city.  Our seniors and young people have what they need.  Last year I felt so great to see over 200 kids playing basketball, we all partnered together to see that happen; it took the whole council to do it.

Game Changers Magazine:  Celebrating over 200 years of McDonough with councilman Stewart.

Bi-centennial year in the city of McDonough reflection forward what does it look like:

RS:  I was reminded of a song:  Lord I thank you for my journey, it's been a journey to be a part of that 200 years; becoming city council in 1989 and I just saw a lot that I wanted to do and am still doing in the city of McDonough.  I tell young people now, it's not where you came from, it’s where you’re headed.  I never would’ve thought 34 years ago I’d be a part of this council. We just celebrated 52 years of graduation at the Henry County Senior HS.   I never take my position lightly, when I go places, I go to learn to enhance our community.  I partnered with Mayor Copeland, Richard Craig, now Sandra Vincent and we talk teamwork and we’re doing it for our city.

Game Changers Magazine:  You talked about Revered Lee one of the pillars of our community, marching through Blacksville during civil rights time; what did that mean to partner with him

RS:  He was a community man. I learned a lot from him.  He preached on Sunday and was a community man, giving me a chance to serve as a Superintendent of Sunday school at Shiloh.  Rev Lee left a legacy of good stuff there.  He was also involved with young people, to make sure they had what they needed.  I always say if I could help somebody as I travel along life’s journey then only then my living shall not be in vain and that’s what I do everyday.  I try to reach back to those that don’t have, to those who didn’t make it, and bring them forward.

Game Changers Magazine::  Thank you for tuning in to Game changers media network, councilman Rufus Stewart, city of McDonough we’re celebrating 200 years of the city of McDonough.  We thank you Councilman Stewart. 

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