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Posted: April 2, 2013 4:55 p.m.
Updated: April 3, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Last week’s unveiling of the statues of Larry Doby and Bernard Baruch, and the attendant ceremonies which were held, amounted to a tripleheader: well-conceived, well-planned and well-executed. The hundreds of people who turned out Friday at the Camden Archives to witness the event were indeed buoyed by a ceremony that truly reflected the theme for the day: reconciliation.

The seed for the idea came from Camden residents John and Ann Rainey, who commissioned the statuary and worked with the city in planning an appropriate unveiling. As with her other work, sculptor Mariah Kirby-Smith crafted the pieces with skill and empathy, with Baruch sitting on his trademark park bench and Doby signing a baseball for him. Both men were Camden natives: Baruch, the Jewish son of a Confederate surgeon, who made millions on Wall Street by age 30, and Doby, the baseball Hall of Famer who broke the color line in the American League only three months after Jackie Robinson had become the first African-American to play the Major Leagues.

The ceremony was exquisite. Built around the themes of racial reconciliation and celebration of the diversity of our city, it featured speakers who knew not to ramble on for too long. Sen. Tim Scott, the only black member of the U. S. Senate, proved himself to be quick on his feet, and his remarks showed none of the insincerity that sometimes is heard from Washington politicians. Businesswoman Darla Moore spoke movingly of South Carolina, and Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Jim Rice was both humorous and admiring in his remarks about Doby. Rainey followed with an excellent presentation on the reconciliation theme.

As the statues were unveiled a musical ensemble played Dixie, a song that unfortunately is seldom heard because it was kidnapped by racists; the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a stirring Civil War-era masterpiece; We Shall Overcome, the familiar theme song of the civil rights movement; and Tis A Gift To Be Simple, a melodic and meaningful tune. People lingered and chatted and admired the sculptures and the ambience of the day.

Friday’s "Reconciliation" ceremony was a masterpiece, and we hope its theme will live on in the daily lives of Camden citizens. In the last year, the city has chosen to honor four people through statuary – one of them white, one Native American, one Jewish and one African-American. Our neighbors to the north, many of whom still look down their noses at the "backward South," might have a thing or two to learn about the spirit of reconciliation from their neighbor to the south.


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