Linwood Cemetery cleanup honors historic resting places

The Rodney Davis Memorial at Linwood Cemetery
The Rodney Davis Memorial at Linwood Cemetery The Telegraph

On the second Saturday of each month, Yolanda Latimore manicures a portion of the 14 acres where she'll be laid to rest one day.

Inside Macon's Linwood Cemetery are her forebears. Her grandmother on her father's side was buried there in 1940.

Her aunts, amateur tennis player Hattie Louise Pitts and schoolteacher Gwendolyn McKnight, grew up on Grant Avenue just behind the historic cemetery where they've been buried for decades.

Latimore's father, Korean War veteran Monroe Jackson, died in 2012 at age 80. He is also buried in Linwood.

Latimore was working as a bail bondsman in Atlanta when her brother, Keith, was shot to death in 1999. His final resting place was that plot of land in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood.

His death was a driving force for her work to improve the area's cemeteries.

"I didn't know what it felt like to lose someone close," Latimore said. " It really struck a nerve. That gave me a vested interest in the cemetery."

In 2001, Latimore became a founding board member of the Macon Cemetery Preservation Commission, a nonprofit that works to restore neglected and abandoned cemeteries.

Since then, the group has held cleanups every second Saturday at Linwood Cemetery. February's cleanup is Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Latimore moved home to Macon shortly after her brother's death.

Along with her mother, Alice Jackson, and other Pleasant Hill residents, Latimore attended Community Resource and Development Committee meetings, expressing concern about the condition of the area. The group found a sympathetic ear in Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas, then a Macon City Council member.

"They assisted us by ... using city resources to come out and help with the cleanups," Latimore said.

While members of the group also have done a few cleanups in other cemeteries such as Cedar Ridge, the once-a-month cleanings have always been at Linwood.

Besides war hero Rodney Davis, Macon's only Medal of Honor recipient, Macon's first black doctor and dentist, as well as millionaire businessman Charles Douglass, are buried there, said K. Nelson Miller, president of the Macon Cemetery Preservation Commission.

But most of the plots weren't being preserved, she said.

"A lot of the people buried in there didn't have family in Macon. So there's no one there to take care of it," Miller said.

The group was given the deed to the property in 2006 after the death of its previous owner, and the commission now oversees the property.

Latimore and Miller will be joined Saturday by a small group of adult volunteers and JROTC students from Westside High School.

"You go in there and you see the history and you're grabbed," she said. "It's addictive."