Augusta, GA (WJBF)- It’s been nearly a week since former Augusta mayor Willie Mays died. Today family, friends and his community came out to remember him.
Willie Mays was a beloved leader of Augusta. He spent more than 30 years in public service in Augusta-Richmond County and was well known for his compassion as owner and operator of W.H. Mays Mortuary.
“Everyone knows he cared. When someone really cares and is honest, you can tell and he presented that,” said James Johnson, an old friend of Mays’.
Mays’ body lay in honor at the Bell Auditorium for part of the day Friday. People there said the scene was quiet and beautiful.
“His casket is, oh, outstanding. The roses are everywhere,” Deadra Thompson a friend.
“He has a gold casket. He is lavished with so many roses today. It’s sad that we give so much attention to after you’re gone. We should have gave Mr. Mays his roses before he left,” said friend, Karen Hall.
Friends say Mays used his power as a leader to help his community.
“Well he uplifted a lot of people. And he stood for justice for African Americans in Augusta, GA at a time when we had no voices. And he and several other members of the board, they stood up for us,” Hall explained.
“He was a unifier. He had the right temperament, a calming temperament. And from a political side, people looked up to him for what he’s done in the past,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a friend of Mays’ since High School, got emotional when he talked about the kind of man Mays was.
“We stay true to who we are. By that I mean, be fore real. Be honest. Be caring. Be forgiving. Be understanding. If we just care and be honest and considerate of others and treat people the way that you want to be treated most of all. And that was Willie. That was Willie.”
“A beautiful smile every time I saw Willie Mays. A great personality. A family man,” said Thompson.
Thompson also says he was a great comfort to grieving families through his business.
“Me as a young lady coming up, my family used Mays Funeral home for several years and different family members in my family.”
All agree that this loss is felt deeply in Augusta.
“It will mean a lot. When I heard about it and I was driving down Peach Orchard Road, I automatically went in front of Willie’ Mays Funeral home and sat there because I was shocked,” Thompson said.
“We loved Willie and we know Willie loved the city and he loved all those who he cared for. I just want to say may the Lord be with him and his family and with the city,” said Johnson.
Mays’ funeral will take place on November 30 at 11 a.m. at W.H. Mays Mortuary. The family asks that due to COVID-19, people attend virtually by going to the mortuary Facebook page HERE and watching the live stream.