Whatever happened to ... Pleasant Garden Cemetery cleanup slowed, continuing

Whatever happened to ... Pleasant Garden Cemetery cleanup slowed, continuing

May 19th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

The grave of Otis Washington, who was known for his special hot sauce recipe, is among those shown in this 2012 file photo of Pleasant Garden cemetery, a historically black cemetery in Chattanooga.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Q. Whatever happened to the Pleasant Garden Cemetery cleanup?

A. It's still a work in progress. But it looks better today than it did 13 years ago when Orchard Knob Elementary School Principal LaFredrick Thirkill started a website -- www.darkfiber.com/tomb/johnson/ -- wrote a play and drew attention to the cemetery by highlighting its rich history.

The overgrown ruin was the burial site of Andrew and Leroy Wright, two of the four Chattanoogans involved in the Scottsboro Boys case; of Lionel Richie's great-grandfather, Lewis Brown, a pharmacy worker and cemetery caretaker; and of Ed Johnson, who was hanged on the Walnut Street Bridge in 1906.

Dozens of volunteers came when Thirkill showcased the cemetery's history until attention and work faded. But retired accountant David Young has visited almost daily for some 30 years to pull weeds and maintain the grounds.

"I just love going up there," said Young, who says he's 70 plus. "People don't understand that. I think the exercise improves my health as I'm aging."

By staff writer Yolanda Putman. Contact her at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431. To suggest a topic for Whatever Happened To, email news@timesfreepress.com.