BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The city of Birmingham stopped Sunday to honor a civil rights hero from Birmingham.
City leaders gathered this afternoon on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day to honor the life of a man known to his friends as "The Colonel."
He's hard to miss in a crowd, especially at city hall where you can see him once every few weeks at a council meeting, but even if you noticed Colonel Stone Johnson because of his height, you'd be missing the tallest part of his tale, his history as a civil rights figure in Birmingham.
"Some of the things I don't wanna reflect on," Johnson said Sunday.
Johnsno was a bodyguard to Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and MLK during the unrest of the early 60's. He's even credited with preventing a church bombing by removing a bucket of dynamite placed at Bethel Baptist Church by the KKK.
Sunday, Johnson watched the street where he lives be renamed in his honor, and stopped to share some of his wisdom gained from decades of pursuing civil rights.
"My folks was taught inferiority, your folk was taught 'I should respect inferiority,' when neither one was true," Johnson said. "Somebody been teaching them false. So you can't be mad with a fellow that nasty because folks taught him that nasty. Things ain't bad as they used to be, but it ain't good as it ought to be. Right now, you still got folks carrying hate in their heart."
"It honored a great man who is bold in body, strong in body, sharp in mind, and bold and courageous in spirit," said J.D. Jackson, a friend of Johnson's.
"I believe we should honor people while they yet live, and Colonel has done such a wonderful job for all of us, that has put the magic in Birmingham," City Councilor Carole Smitherman said.
The plan originally was to just dedicate the block that Colonel Johnson lives on in his honor, but city planners decided his legacy is so large he deserves 2 city blocks worth of street named in his honor.