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Final Farewell to Yet Another Native Son, Activist, Icon Michael Langford

Michael Langford
October 7, 1958 – November 16, 2021

Tributes, praises, anecdotes (some humorous) prayers, proclamations and salutations flowed through southwest Atlanta’s West Hunter Street Baptist Church on Wednesday, December 1 for Atlanta native and social, civil and spiritual icon Michael Langford.

The younger brother of the late Atlanta councilmember and Georgia State Senator Arthur Langford, Jr. was called to his eternal rest November 16. Published report indicate Langford suffered from sarcoidosis, a respiratory ailment with origin unknown. The disease which principally attacks the lungs has afflicted many to include comedian Bernie Mac and Tracy Parker, son of Atlanta resident Patsy Collier-Lamar and stepson to this writer.

But those who participated in protests for the poor, downtrodden, dispossessed and treks with other members of the United Youth Adult Conference through the Atlanta woods during the 1979-1981 missing and murdered children’ cases with the 63-year-old 1970 graduate of the former Luther Judson Price high school of Atlanta said his malady never slowed him down. It seemed that Langford could pass everything except a protest, a literal or figurative fight or an opportunity to speak, preach or pray. To some, the one-time resident of the city’s Joyland community of southeast Atlanta reminded them of an Alabama preacher and pastor named Vernon Jones. The man Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. succeeded as pastor of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church would often be heard extolling his congregants or anyone close enough to lend an ear “if you see a good fight, get in it.”

Langford got in his fair share which included political races. He is credited with having a strong hand with determining the outcomes of Atlanta’s mayoral campaigns since the 1973 election of Maynard Jackson as the first black chief executive of a major southeastern city. “I got a note from a campaign staffer with Mike’s phone number telling me that you better use him if you intend to be elected,” spoke Andre Dickens, another native son and Mays High School graduate who on November 30th became the ATL’s 61st Mayor, seventh of African descent and seventh born in Atlanta since Allison Nelson, who took office in 1855. “I thought I was hiring a sign man, someone to put yard signs in yards. He provided me a list of 25 people to call. Those I reached with my pitch asked me first what Michael thought about it. I knew then I had brought on way more than a sign man. I also received a lot of bible scriptures over email and the telephone and even some links to whole sermons. He became my intercessor. I realized you can’t win a thing without someone like Mike. I am mayor-elect because of Michael Langford.”

Langford was remembered as reaching far beyond his native borders. In 2003, he traveled with an entourage of legal, civic and political figures to Las Vegas, Nevada to investigate reports of a 14-year-old Atlanta runaway who was scheduled to testify against a man alleged a pimp who had forced her to the streets. He also talked with a California-based organization or runaway and abused kids and young adults called West Care. It’s president and CEO Dick Steinberg told West Hunter congregants that he initially balked at Langford’s appeal for the organization to open an office in Georgia. “But then, one of Langford’s entourage, former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, pulled Steinberg aside and offered the organization some assurances. “I told Paul I’ll agree to expand to Georgia if Michael became the Vice President of our Georgia operation.” West Care opened in Georgia in 2003 and appointed former Georgia State Senator Eugene Walker as chair. “In 20 years, I learned a lot from Michael,” he said. “I knew he was prayed up. He had health problems but it didn’t stop him from doing his work. He prayed all the time and prepared himself to go home to his heavenly father.” Walker then turned to Langford’s mother, Mrs. Florence Langford. “Mother Langford, I believe Michael was vested by the Lord. Michael was ready to go home. Did you see the smile on his face in that casket? He knew he had done what the Lord commanded him to do. Now it’s on us to continue his great work.”

Homegoing arrangements provided by Willie A. Watkins Mortuary of Atlanta.

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