A collective sense of this being a befitting honor for Clarence D. Lumpkin settled in the air as dignitaries took turns heaping praises on the man of the hour.
The event was over a year in the making.
But it was all worth it for many who gathered last week to honor the legacy of a leader who has given a lot to the community he loves so much. A longtime activist, Lumpkin’s decades of service to his community affectionately earned him the moniker “Mayor” of Linden.
Now, it has also earned him the honor of being named after an important public building in the same community he has lived in for over 40 years.
The clambake was to officially rename the Linden Station Post Office after Lumpkin “to recognize not only his work to keep the post office open, but his lifetime of service to the Linden community,” said Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi, in a statement.
And Tiberi has worked on this for a while.
In Washington, he intervened against federal government decision in 2009 to close the Linden Post Office, arguing that “Linden residents may be disproportionately affected by the possible closure.”
Back home, Lumpkin teamed up with him in the fight to keep the post office open.
Their effort paid off.
In September 2009, the Linden Station Post Office was officially dropped from the roster of doomed post office stations slated for possible closure by the United States Postal Service.
For many, it was job accomplished.
And it was. But for Tiberi, there was more. In his eyes, it was also a good time to recognize Lumpkin for his decades of service to the Linden community and the City of Columbus. He wrote and introduced a bill to rename the Linden Post Office after Lumpkin.
The bill was signed into law on July 27, 2010.
And last week, the official plaque renaming the post office was unveiled before the Lumpkin family, a shoal of friends and well wishers as Lumpkin himself savored the moment gleefully with his wife of 62 years Willa beaming with smile.
A parade of government officials including Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy and City Councilwoman Charleta Tavares praised his decades of service to the community.
“I don’t know how many post offices that are named after African-Americans, but I do know this one is named after me,” said Lumpkin, to a thunderous applause from the mostly Black audience.
Incidentally, it was Lumpkin’s’ birthday too. And President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle sent a birthday shout-out all the way from the White House.
“If the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise, tomorrow, I will be 86 years old,” said Lumpkin.
And he reflected on that.
“All I can say is Thank you Lord. God is good.”
Evidently, God has been pretty good to Lumpkin, but the overwhelming feeling in the room was that he has been equally good to the Linden community.
“Clarence Lumpkin has exceeded the bar of what it means to serve and make the lives of people better,” Tiberi told the Call & Post. Lumpkin, said Tiberi, “has been a pillar of the community.”
He is called the “Mayor” of Linden because “he took care of the community,” said Tavares. “He gave up his time, energy, and personal effort to help the people of Linden and the Columbus community.”
“He made such an incredible contribution to the Linden community and Columbus,” said Coleman, who also noted the importance of honoring him now.
“It’s important to recognize people’s achievement while they are here to witness it,” said Coleman. “Do it while they are here. Let them know how much we appreciate them.”
Lumpkin’s daughter sounded a similar note.
“It’s a great honor that everybody recognized who he is,” said Linda Kent. But for her, it is even a greater honor knowing “that he gets to see it before he passes on.”
“He has made such an impact in the community,” she said. “I’m so proud of my father.”
Kedada Bethel is too.
“We are extremely proud of him,” said Bethel, Lumpkin’s granddaughter. “For what he has done for the community, this is a befitting honor.”
Doug Lumpkin, Jr., his grandson said “it is a great blessing and honor when someone is recognized for his work in the community.”
Lumpkin’s son, Douglas E. Lumpkin, who is the Director of Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, told the Call & Post that “dad made a commitment to the community that no one in this room doubts.”
“When it came to community, dad was authentic,” he said.