Editor’s Note (Dec. 2020): Rest in Peace, Miss Judy
As we greet our new Charlotteans of the Year, we say goodbye to a past honoree
The Charlotteans of the Year issue is among my favorites each year, and I’ve been honored to play some role in the program since it debuted in 2014. As with the Best of the Best Awards in May and the Top Doctors list in July, honoring the city’s leaders felt heavier than usual this year.
Leadership was rare in 2020, and each new obstacle brought division, complex moments reduced to binary arguments. One thing I love about this year’s Charlotteans of the Year is that each operates in nuance: An activist enacts revolutionary change within the system’s channels. Charlotte’s director of planning finds that immediate actions bring long-term growth. Neither high-profile sports star we included sees himself as an activist, though both used their enormous platforms to advocate for change this year.
This fall, we lost another bold leader in Charlotte: Judy Williams, a pillar in this city. After her goddaughter was murdered, she founded Mothers of Murdered Offspring in 1993. Over 27 years, she honored hundreds of families with vigils and constant support. After a battle with lung cancer, Williams died Saturday, October 10. Her legacy also speaks to nuance: She validated the anger of those left behind but looked for positive ways to channel it. In 2017, Williams told Adam Rhew, then an editor here, that she’s “the comforter. I’m here to help you to get through this. God has trained me over the years in how to help people who need to know that somebody cares.”
One year before, magazine staffers walked the streets of uptown during the protests after Keith Lamont Scott’s death. (In an upcoming story, writer Chuck McShane writes on how pivotal this moment was in Charlotte’s recent history.) Our art director, Jane Fields, captured audio of Williams as she addressed a crowd at Marshall Park. Her words speak to the complex emotions that accompany a loss like Scott’s, and how many of our discussions this year are just continuations of what’s transpired before. I’ll let her words close this column:
“We gotta learn how to listen. This is about doing something for Mr. Scott. And we need to pray for his family. He had children. … Anybody pray for the children? Ain’t nothing more important to Mr. Scott than his family. We forgot about his family. We’ve got caught up in everything else. … Let’s get our focus together. … Let’s not forget why we’re here: This man lost his life yesterday. His family is without him. …
“Last night, we had all of this rioting. Anybody take up a collection for the family? While they were busy looting Walmart, did you take up a collection for the family? What have you done for the family? They don’t care about this violence, they got to bury their loved one. We want to ask you before the rain comes down, we want to do a tribute to Mr. Scott. I know there’s a minister here somewhere. Everybody join hands.”