About 30 family members, friends and associates congregated at City Hall to remember and honor the clergyman.
City Councilman Anthony Coleman presented the proclamation to Graves’ widow and co-pastor, the Rev. Cheryl Graves, outlining major events in her husband’s life.
“Rev. Graves loved the Lord, his family and humanity,” Coleman said, “and we are thankful for his presence in our community.”
Graves began his spiritual journey at Bluestone Baptist Church in his native Freeman, W. Va., where he also commenced “community, political and civil rights endeavors,” Coleman said.
Graves worked for the federal government in both the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Air Force, Coleman said, retiring from the latter as a senior master sergeant in 1990 “with many awards and decorations.”
In 1987, Graves was first called to the pastoral ministry and was an associate minister of Zion Baptist Church on Lemon Street in Marietta between 1992 and 1997.
“Graves served on numerous boards and organizations. He most recently served as past president of the Cobb County Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” Coleman said about the civil-rights organization.
Cheryl Graves said before the ceremony that her husband cofounded the Georgia SCLC and was on the board of the national SCLC, which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cofounded in 1957.
“The proclamation inspires us to keep going on in the SCLC and keep the dream alive, because Dr. King was one of the founding members,” she said.
Graves was also a member or director of the Masons, the Cobb Court Appointed Special Advocates, the Cobb Ministerial Alliance, the Cobb County Coalition for Social Change and Interdenominational Theological Center, the African-American Unity Summit and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner said at the ceremony she and Graves were neighbors for 30 years.
“I miss him. We were freedom fighters together,” she said. “I miss that, because the cause was always more important than us as individuals.”
Bonner said there was never “a division” between the NAACP and SCLC, “even when it may have been projected to seem so.”
“His vision and ours were always the same,” she said. “We knew we needed to work together, and we did. Rev. Graves was an NAACP-er before he moved to the SCLC. He was a warrior and civil rights fighter.”
In 1997, the same year he began leading Ebenezer Tabernacle on Sandy Plains Road in east Cobb, Graves pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which was represented at the ceremony by Vernon Frazier, immediate past president of the Marietta chapter.
He said Dwight Graves upheld the organization’s ideals and “transcended all” in everything he did.
“Brother Graves emulated everything excellent that Alpha stands for,” Frazier said. “He was a phenomenal spouse, a good father to his daughter and also contributed to his community. He was a learned man.”
The proclamation noted Graves majored in secondary education at Bluefield State College in West Virginia and earned a master’s degree in theology from Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center.
“It was an honor for him to be a member of our chapter and to celebrate this proclamation with you,” Frazier said. “He worked with the SCLC and all it stands for to help the weak and downtrodden and helping people that don’t have a voice.”
Wanda Graves, Graves’ younger sister, a Bramwell, W.Va., resident and an evangelist, called her brother, “my heart.”
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the accomplishments that he’s made and the love he had in his heart generally for people, all people of all walks of life,” she said. “I’m so proud of each of you being here to help us celebrate this event.”
Church deacon Burnett Cook said the pastor was also a friend.
“You could call him at any time of night. He would be there to assist you,” Cook said. “If you had a pastor like Pastor Graves, you would never leave the church.”
The Rev. James Hallman, vice president of the Cobb Ministerial Alliance, also called Graves a friend.
“We will miss him. He was a friend. We recognize him as one of our own. We’ll be missing him for a long time,” Hallman said.
SCLC member Dell Alford said before the ceremony she knew Graves since 2005.
“He would always greet you with ‘What’s going on?’ when he would call you,” she said. “At the end, he would always say, ‘Be blessed.’ That was his closing statement in his emails or talking to you on the phone.”
Graves had a way of recruiting volunteers for projects, Alford said.
“Whether you wanted to do it or not, by the time he finished talking to you, you would do it,” she said.
Alford said she also misses Graves.
“He was a very uplifting person,” she said. “He was so jovial and very high-spirited. If somebody needed a dime, he’d give his last dime.”
Speakers also included Cobb SCLC past president the Rev. O.J. Brown, Georgia SCLC president the Rev. Samuel Mosteller, Georgia SCLC chair John Guillory and national SCLC president Charles Steel.
Coleman also said Graves was a “bridge-builder.”
“He was good about bringing people together,” Coleman said.