WARNER ROBINS -- When Warner Robins native Willie Talton was a kid, he used to catch the school bus on the corner of what is today South Davis Drive and Moody Road.
On Monday, a beautification site in that same spot was named in honor of the 70-year-old lawmaker and former chief deputy for the Houston County Sheriffs Office.
The site features shrubs, flowers and young trees and is located just two houses down from Taltons home on South Davis Drive. City, county and state leaders, along with members of Taltons family, gathered for the dedication and ribbon cutting.
Willie Talton has molded our community, Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen said. He goes across racial barriers, social-economic barriers. He goes across party lines. Hes a role model for many of us.
Shaheen lauded Talton for his efforts as a state lawmaker to help solve encroachment issues impacting Robins Air Force Base and for helping to land the planned $10 million Georgia Military and Veterans Education and Training Support Center, which is to be built in Warner Robins.
Talton was the first black Republican elected to the Georgia General Assembly since Reconstruction and one of the first two black police officers for the city of Warner Robins.
He served most of his long-term law enforcement career as the second-in-command at the sheriffs office under Sheriff Cullen Talton, no relation. Willie Talton also served as an interim Centerville police chief. He was sworn in as a state lawmaker on Jan. 10, 2005.
Talton is known in the community for offering advice and counsel from the front porch of his home or from many of the offices where hes worked.
Raise your hand if youve had a chance to sit on Talton porch, Shaheen asked the crowd at the dedication, and several hands went up in response. I want to see whos sat on Talton porch and gotten some golden nuggets of wisdom. ... All the worlds problems get solved just two doors up.
Jack Steed, a longtime community leader who serves on the Keep Warner Robins Beautiful board, described Talton as a role model and an all-weather friend.
Ive known you for over 30 years, and during that time, Ive never heard you make a disparaging remark about anyone or anything, Steed said. Youve always been a genuine optimist with a pleasant smile for everyone.
Steed said Talton has served the community above distinction and placed others before himself. He also shared that Taltons home has been awarded home-of-the-month multiple times through the years by Keep Warner Robins Beautiful.
Naming the beautification site after Talton is merely a token of our gratification, our affection and our admiration for you, Steed said.
We hope that this will bring you much pride and great satisfaction every time you see it, Steed continued. Thank you for all you have done for us.
Talton said he was most humbled by the honor and for all the opportunities the city of Warner Robins and the Houston County community afforded him even before the Civil Rights movement.
It means a lot to me -- especially about catching the bus here, Talton said before the ceremony. My grandchildren and my children can know -- and have a marker -- thats where their father and grandfather, you know, used to catch the bus and grew up and played at.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.