A decade and a half ago, the Rev. Ike Mack and his church left their Pio Nono Avenue home on a hill in Unionville and migrated south and east across Interstate 75 to Houston Avenue.
They moved into the old Mikado Baptist sanctuary, across from the Church’s Chicken, in the heart of an economically depressed district. The same month in 1994, Macon police, hoping to crack down on crime in the area, opened a precinct office up the street.
But over the years, crime hasn’t been the only issue for business owners, residents and congregants at Mack’s Unionville Missionary Baptist Church. The street itself, Houston Avenue, has become a political and governmental hot potato. Efforts to begin long-overdue improvements to the corridor’s buckled pavement stalled.
Then Mack, 48, got involved along with others.
“I strong-armed them” into making the road improvements a reality, he said.
Better street surfaces and curbs are now, slowly, heading Houston Avenue’s way.
“The sidewalks are a great improvement,” Mack said. “There are a lot of people that do not have cars, that walk back and forth. ... We got sidewalks in there. They were not gonna do that, but I demanded that it be done. I demanded it to the point of saying that if it was not done, somebody was gonna lose a seat on the county commissioners’ board.”
Mack’s active role in the community has helped earn him this year’s Earl T. Shinhoster Award from the Macon branch of the NAACP. The award, given yearly since 2001, honors the national organization’s former interim executive director, who died in a car wreck in 2000.
Al Tillman, president of the Macon NAACP branch, said Mack has “done so much for this community. He should have been honored years ago.”
Mack, a Cochran native who has been the church’s pastor since 1986, calls himself a “no-nonsense person. I am definitely bold in my convictions.”
He said the NAACP honor comes as a humbling surprise.
“God made land, but he’s always stationed a man for the land,” Mack said. “I happen to be the man for the land in south Macon.”
Down the road at Fincher’s Barbecue, a Houston Avenue institution, vice president Doug Fincher III said Mack is one of a kind.
“Once you meet him, you won’t forget him. He’s charismatic,” Fincher said. “He played a major part in helping us get this road started. ... He’s a good guy. They’ve got stuff going on at that church all the time for the youth in the area.”
Mack’s church has “adopted” nearby Bruce Elementary and Rice Elementary over in Bloomfield.
“Revitalizing south Macon,” Mack said, “that’s my ultimate mission.”
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.