He will certainly be missed, but is a legend whose footprint will be felt for generations to come.
Tributes to James R. Mapp
"He's going to be sorely missed by the community at large and by myself. We got a lot of advice on what battles to fight and what battles were not worth fighting. He was somebody that we could look up to and admire, learn from, somebody who could lift us up on occasions when we felt like there was no hope for us as a people."
— Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Beck
"For decades, James R. Mapp has fought without pause for justice and equality. As a champion for our African American community, he stood with courage during some of the darkest days of our history. Mr. Mapp's impact on our city is immeasurable and his leadership, irreplaceable. I know his memory will be a blessing to the Mapp family, as well as to Chattanooga as a whole."
— Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke
"James Mapp lived a life of courage and resilience, continually striving to better his community, state and nation. Leaving behind a better world for future generations is often the guiding principle for public servants, and James successfully answered the call. His tireless work to promote equality has had a tremendous impact on the lives of countless individuals. I extend my deepest sympathies to all who loved James Mapp and join the entire Chattanooga community in remembering his remarkable life."
— U.S. Sen. Bob Corker
"He was not only one who fought for civil rights but fought for all of mankind. Certainly his voice will be missed."
— Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger
"He was a prolific and dedicated advocate for civil and human rights for many, many years. Tens of thousands of individuals have benefited from his perseverance, in school desegregation and many other civil rights violations. He will certainly be missed, but is a legend whose footprint will be felt for generations to come."
— State Rep. JoAnne Favors
"James Mapp was a gift to Chattanooga. His leadership cannot be put into words and he will be greatly missed. We were blessed to have him and Chattanooga is better thanks to his work."
— U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann
"He was a very great and gracious man who loved his city and stood for righteousness. He spoke to issues where there was wrong in order to make things better for the city he loved and for the people he represented. Mr. Mapp was a fierce, unwavering person when it came to things he believed in. He was brave, courageous, and withstood threats, bombings and advice to slow down from his peers, and he fought the fight that he knew needed to be fought — he stood up when he was needed to stand. He was somebody that I admired and emulated in my life."
— City Councilman Moses Freeman
"Chattanooga has lost a pillar of our community. James R. Mapp always stood strongly and courageously for justice and equality. Because of his leadership and sacrifice, he made this a better place to live. We must all work together to help make his dream of overcoming racial discrimination a reality."
— Terry Lee, chairman, Hamilton County Democratic Party
"I had the greatest respect for Mr. Mapp; he was a pioneer in the early civil rights movement. He's been a fine and upright man as long as I've known him. He was tenacious — he had principles and he was willing to stand up for those principles. And more than anyone else I know, he advanced the cause of civil rights in Chattanooga at a time when it was not popular."
— County Commissioner Warren Mackey
A leader in the long march to achieve civil rights for all Chattanooga's citizens is gone.
On Saturday, local leaders poured out praise for James R. Mapp, who died Friday at age 87.
Mapp served for decades as a leader in the Chattanooga and Tennessee NAACP, and is perhaps best-known as the man who pursued — and eventually won — a 26-year lawsuit to desegregate Chattanooga schools.
The Rev. Paul McDaniel, another widely respected leader and former pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church, said Chattanooga "has lost one of its premier citizens."
"Death has silenced one of the most forceful and fearless voices for social justice and civil rights advancement in this community and in this state," McDaniel said.
"He was a committed and courageous man who stood up, [who] spoke out against injustice experienced by people of color in the school system, in the job market and in other areas of discrimination. He actively led the way in securing a more just society for all."
In 2010, the state of Tennessee named its former Client Services Office building at 312 M.L. King Blvd. the James R. Mapp building in recognition of what his family in a news release called "his lifelong commitment to social and economic justice for people of color and his commitment to creating a better community for all."
Mapp's passing comes eight months after the loss of another civil rights giant in Chattanooga — the Rev. H.H. Wright, who was among 10 people who filed and won a federal lawsuit challenging the city's former commission government for electoral discrimination against minorities
Mapp had been known to be ailing, and just last week his family honored him with a family book signing and photo event in Nashville.
Born in 1927, the Milledgeville, Ga., native moved with his family to Chattanooga and attended local public schools. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and was the class president of the Howard High School class of 1947 before attending Tennessee A&I University.
Later, he owned insurance and real estate businesses, was a Scout leader and served in many capacities at Orchard Knob Missionary Baptist Church.
Mapp joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1940s and served continuously in various positions: president of the Chattanooga branch for 16 years in the 1960s and '70s, then again from 1987-95. He was state president for two and a half years and chairman of the Southeast Region for two more. He was elected again as the local NAACP president in 2013. That post is now held by Dr. Elenora Wood.
Local leaders used many superlatives to describe Mapp — "gracious," "dedicated," "principled," "courageous."
The common theme was tenacity.
"Mr. Mapp was a fierce, unwavering person when it came to things he believed in," said City Councilman Moses Freeman. "He was brave, courageous and withstood threats, bombings and advice to slow down from his peers. He fought the fight that he knew needed to be fought — he stood up when he was needed to stand."
In 1960, as lead plaintiff, Mapp filed a federal lawsuit against Chattanooga's city schools. That suit kept the school system under the watch of the federal courts for 26 years — the longest such case in the nation's history — and eventually led to the desegregation of Chattanooga classrooms.
Mapp and his family endured hate calls, threats and even a bombing of their home in 1970.
The Rev. Kevin Adams, pastor of Olivet Baptist, said it is important to remember the legacy of Mapp's work, especially in light of the recent hate-fueled killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
"James Mapp fought against that very thing: discrimination, injustice," Adams said. "I know how he would feel. That's the very thing he stood against."
Mapp was preceded in death by his first wife, Viola, in 1995. In 1996, he married Bettye Jean Mapp, who survives. His children are Brenda Mapp Hackett, Deborah Mapp Embry, Michaellee Duckworth, James Jonathan Mapp, Angela Mapp Fritts, Herbert Anthony Mapp, Alicia V. Mapp and Ivanetta Barksdale.
The family has said it will receive friends on Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. at Orchard Knob Missionary Baptist, 1734 E. Third St. There will be a viewing on Saturday at the church from 10-11 a.m., followed by a funeral service with pastor Carlos D. Williams officiating.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.
It's appropriate he died on Juneteenth because of his contributions. He's a legendary figure not just in Chattanooga but in the history of our region.