It’s more than just a street sign — it’s a sign of the times, and of how they’ve changed. Martin Street in Live Oak is now Martin-Mayhue Street, in honor of Earnest Mayhue, a local civil rights pioneer who passed away in 2001. The street was recently renamed by proclamation of the Live Oak City Council.

Mayhue was one of a number of local men and women who fought for human dignity when doing so meant taking your life in your hands.

“They didn’t back up,” Live Oak Mayor Sonny Nobles said at a ceremony unveiling the sign. “They had a mission, they had a goal. And we appreciate that.”

Suwannee County NAACP President Samuel Beasley, one of the men to whom Nobles was referring, was also on hand for the unveiling. “Mr. Mayhue was a man who worked tirelessly to improve his city,” Beasley told a small crowd of neighborhood residents and elected officials. “It’s a pleasure that now we can all come together as one.”

Mayhue, who served as NAACP president for 20 years, spearheaded the drive to introduce single-member voting districts to Suwannee County. A federal court made single-member districts the law of the land here in 1984. Beasley said this opened the doors of political office to those previously excluded.

A Nov. 7 referendum called for a return to county-wide voting, but Beasley said the NAACP will file a federal suit to enforce the previous decision.

Mayhue also led the fight against job discrimination in Suwannee County and worked to get city roads paved in the African-American community.

Born in 1921, Mayhue served in World War II as a member of the famed Red Ball Express, a trucking operation which supplied ammunition and rations to American troops during their march to Germany after D-Day.

A long-time deacon at the African Baptist Church, Mayhue was married for 59 years to the late Edna Blake Mayhue.

Robert Bridges can be reached by calling 386-362-1734 ext. 134 or by e-mail at robert.bridges@gaflnews.com.

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