Coming Soon! An Unauthorized Tribute to Wade Starr, Jr., the Son of Clayton County
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
I am down here in Brazil for a while, but this internet still amazes me. I see where my friend Wade Starr was booted out of his managerial position with the Clayton County government. I understand politics, I think, and I understand Commission Chairman Jeff Turner’s desire to have his own person in charge of helping him run the day-to-day operations of Clayton County. Plus, there may have been some bad blood between him and Wade. This is understandable. This is the way politics works, be it in Washington, D. C., the State Capitol, or in Clayco. To the winner goes the spoils, and if a person lives by the metaphorical sword, then the person eventually will die by that same sword. Be that as it may, I think a kind tribute to Wade Starr, Jr., the man, and his many accomplishments on behalf of the people of Clayton County are in order.
Wade Starr, Jr., The Son of Clayton County
No man (or woman) is perfect. I know that I am not. Victor Hill is not perfect, but the good people of Clayton County re-elected him, and I am glad. Wade Starr is not perfect, and he will, I am sure, be the first person to tell you this. But, he has lived an exemplary life for many young people of Clayton County to emulate. The young people of Clayton County would do well to follow the example of this man who was born in a clinic in Forest Park in 1952 and lived in a humble house off Whiteline Street in Jonesboro, a house initially without indoor plumbing. No, he’s not a Grady Baby. The Starrs perhaps could not afford Grady Hospital…or perhaps they just preferred a midwife in Forest Park. But, I know one thing… Wade Starr, Jr., was born on the good soil of Clayton County. He lives and breathes the good air of Clayton County. When opportunities for upward mobility for young black professionals came knocking at his door, Wade Starr, as a young, educated African American professional, could have moved afar of Clayton County or could have simply moved next door to DeKalb or Fulton, but he chose to stick it out in Clayton County where there was only one black person in any position of leadership in the school system. Yes, just one. Eddie White was the Assistant Principal at Babb Jr. High School. There were absolutely no black person in any position of leadership in the Clayton County government. There was only one black person elected in the entire Clayton County in the early to mid-1980s, Mrs. Eula Ponds Perry, on the Jonesboro City Council. Mrs. Perry’s daughter was married to Wade’s older brother, Terry Starr. Despite the very limited and meager opportunities for young professional African Americans in Clayton County, Wade Starr chose to remain in Clayton County and to try to make a difference for his people and for his county. He tried to make a difference for all of the people of Clayton County, and I think that he did.
Stay tuned, and I will try to tell Wade’s story as it relates to Clayton County in the next few days. This story will simply come from my memory and my interaction with Wade through the years. It’s an unauthorized account of his Clayco narrative. Usually, this means that the story will be mean and nasty. Not in this case, though. It will be a kind and compassionate account of a young man who was part of the first class of African Americans in Clayton County to graduate from Jonesboro High School. Only 19 of about 65 who first matriculated to Jonesboro High School made it. Those were very tough times for young black people in Clayton County. Young people need to know about the story of Wade Starr, Jr. He was a graduate of Jonesboro Colored Elementary School. Yes, this was the official name of the school. Don’t forget that up until about the mid-1980s, the Ku Klux Klan regularly handed out literature in their sacerdotal robes in downtown Jonesboro, on Highway 85 in Riverdale in front of the Krispy Kreme, and on what is now called the corner of Mt. Zion Boulevard and Tara Boulevard next to Dunkin’ Donuts. In the day, Clayton County was a site to behold. Klan leader Stephenson made his home in Clayco, and blacks were simply not welcomed in restaurants like Butch’s in downtown Jonesboro.
It’s easy for newcomers to Clayco to forget how far the County has come as far as blatant racial discrimination is concerned. Back in the day, it was a rough place for black people to live. This is the environment which shaped the life of Wade Starr. This is the political milieu out of which Wade Starr, the politico, emerged. This is the benighted political condition over which he prevailed. It is a good story, an inspiring story. It is a story that needs to be told.