The Rev. Paul McDaniel came to Chattanooga more than five decades ago to change souls, and he not only did that but also changed hearts and minds alike.
The former longtime pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church was honored by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission Wednesday with its Jocelyn D. Wurzburg Civil Rights Legacy Award.
McDaniel, now 87, arrived in Chattanooga several years after lunch-counter sit-ins had been staged and Jim Crow laws had largely been struck down, but he quickly understood there was still work to do in the field of civil rights for black Chattanoogans.
Through the years, he not only served on the state Human Rights Commission, but he also was the plaintiff in a suit that went to the United States Supreme Court that allowed clergy members to be elected to office. Once he won the suit, he served on the Hamilton County Commission for 20 years, from the body's formation in 1978 through 1998, including five stints as chairman and four as vice chairman.
No elected official is so honored without the respect of, friendship with and ability to work with his colleagues.
However, McDaniel once said his goal only has been to speak for people who couldn't speak for themselves.
"I wanted to let the people know someone would speak for them," he said in 2006. "I did it unashamedly and without excuse."