However, the weather didn’t deter them from the purpose of the gathering, that being to remember a former Rex resident whose legacy reaches from this quaint, historic community just blocks from the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center all the way to the White House.
Members of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners joined other county officials as well as area state senators and representatives to unveil a memorial monument honoring the life and legacy of Melvinia Shields, the great-great-great grandmother of the nation’s first lady, Michelle Obama.
Those praising the ancestor of the first lady, who came to the area known as Rex when she was only six years old and spent more than 30 years there, shared the occasion with numerous descendents of Shields.
In addition to the monument being unveiled, Rachel Swarns, author of the newly-published book concerning the first lady’s ancestry entitled, “American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multicultural Ancestors of Michelle Obama,” was there to present a history and outline of her work as well as sign copies of the book.
Standing at the podium, Bell said the most important element of history is in it being remembered.
“I have had the grandest opportunity to get acquainted with a number of Melvinia’s ancestors who have shared many of her folkways and now stand with me to honor her memory and legacy.” Bell said.
The chairman completed his remarks by encouraging all in attendance to “use this time and this place to understand Melvinia’s family history and the wonderful legacy she left us, a legacy which reaches all the way to the White House.”
A slave from South Carolina, Shields came to Rex as a child.
Upon the death of her slave owner, Shields was “given” to the owner’s daughter and son-in-law after and spent the next 30 years in and around what is now the Rex community.
According to Swarns, Michelle Obama’s family sage is a “remarkable, quintessentially American story.”
“This is a story of going from slavery to the White House in just five generations,” she said.
Numerous Clayton officials stood at the monument when it was unveiled as the enthusiastic crowd assembled around to take photos of the memorable and historic event.