An assemblage of family members, friends, classmates, colleagues, fraternity brothers, Masonic brothers and fellow congregants gathered in the First Missionary Baptist Church sanctuary Friday evening to express appreciation to a dear, departed friend.
Ira Loomis Flowers was remembered for his lasting impact on the community. Flowers’ roles as educator, youth athletics coach, civil rights advocate, role model for young people and community icon were celebrated as he lay in state.
Due in large part to his leadership, his fearlessness and his ability to build consensus in the midst of conflict, Flowers was affectionately known as “the Tower of Power.”
Flowers managed to achieve an historic feat early during his late teens. In 1970, when integration was being implemented in the Thomasville City School System, Flowers successfully waged a campaign of meetings, protests and demonstrations that resulted in the changing of Thomasville High School’s colors.
THS’ colors of red and black — in place for several decades — were changed to red and gold. Douglass High School — historic, all-black high school in the city school system during segregation — had blue and gold as colors. Thanks to young Flowers’s persistence, THS kept red as its primary color and adopted gold as its secondary color in a nod to Douglass’ proud traditions of academic and athletic excellence. It is notable that Thomasville High School’s colors remain red and gold today.
As music played softly and reverently, loved ones took turns reflecting on how knowing Flowers positively impacted their lives socially, mentally, physically, emotionally, even financially. Several individuals who achieved success athletically, academically and professionally, either directly or indirectly as a result of Flowers’ efforts, shared stories of how he helped them believe that a better, brighter future was possible. Everyone laughed together, prayed together and greeted each other in love and in peace.
The Rev. Jeremy G. Rich, First Missionary Baptist Church pastor, said of Flowers: “Flowers was a champion of young people, especially the marginalized. His efforts with the YMCA, the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Kappa League, Stillman College and the Masonic lodge are unparalleled. I am proud to acknowledge that he was a longtime member of this church. Thomasville has lost an icon, whose efforts made this community and the world a better place. I pray for each of us who were inspired by his life to become developers of the beloved community.”
Michael Bryant, field representative for Congressman Sanford Bishop and president of the 100 Black Men of Brooks, Grady and Thomas Counties Inc., said: “Ira Flowers will be forever remembered as one who stood up for what he knew was right and he, certainly, stood up for our youth. We will remember Flowers as a very strong man who lived out the phrase that was coined just for him — ‘the Tower of Power.’ Ira was a man who looked out for all of our young men. I can recall the countless times that he would go above and beyond to ensure that those who wanted a higher education would have access to a higher education. Flowers was one of the founding members of our 100 Black Men of Brooks, Grady and Thomas Counties Inc., which was recently organized. However, he had long been on the scene advocating for those who were less fortunate.”
Said Lucinda Brown, Thomas County NAACP branch president, “Ira was all about equality and justice and dignity. He wanted everybody to be treated fairly. He worked hard throughout this community to try to make things right. He will truly, truly be missed.”
Mark E. Mitchell, Thomas County State Court judge, said, “I knew (Mr.) Flowers in a different context. When I was running for public office in 2012, Flowers helped me a great deal. In fact, I would probably not even be in office today were it not for his assistance. Ira was a patriot. He believed in democracy, he believed in our system of government, and he was a true leader in this community. He will be sorely missed. He was my friend. To his family, I say sincerely that I am deeply sorry for your loss.”
Said Bishop, Second District congressman, “Ira Flowers was my friend. He was a public servant. I could not allow this event to take place without coming here to pay my respects to Ira and his family. The world is truly a better place because Ira Flowers passed this way.”
Bishop read a special condolence letter written to Flowers’ family. The letter, in honor of Flowers’ life, will be entered in U.S. Congress archives.