Mattie Jones will succeed the late Rev. Louis Coleman as head of Louisville's Justice Resource Center.
Jones, 75, of Louisville was close friends with Coleman, and will serve as interim director until the center's executive board selects a permanent director.
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She said the Justice Resource Center will continue Coleman's civil rights work.
“There's only one thing for me to do,” she said. “It is to keep focus on the program and to keep focus on what the Justice Resource Center stands for. We want to keep focus on doing the will of Reverend Coleman so his living won't be in vain.”
Coleman, a prominent civil rights activist, died Saturday, after suffering from a string of seizures.
Board member the Rev. James Tennyson of Louisville said a new director was selected just three days after Coleman's death in order to quash rumors that the center would fold.
“We wanted to wait till after [Coleman's] funeral but due to other circumstances and other talk we decided it was best to go ahead and put everything at rest,” he said. “This is his legacy, and if we let it die then all he has done would be in vain.”
It's not clear when the board will begin its search for a permanent director.
Jones, who has been referred to as an African-American matriarch, helped launch Kentucky's civil rights movement.
She has participated in Frankfort sit-ins, and was arrested 27 times in Louisville for protesting, she said.
After the civil rights movement, Jones spent 15 years as the executive director of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression.
“I've come from the back of the bus to the front of the bus and to being able to purchase a home where I want,” she said, recalling what it was like to grow up in a segregated country.
She has nine children, 29 grandchildren, seven great grand-children, and says that despite her age, she “thinks she can make it.”
The Justice Resource Center has a number of projects under way.
Jones is currently focusing on moving the center to its new location, at 1600 South 28th Street in Louisville.
Other projects include lobbying for better education for underprivileged children and continuing the gun buyback program Coleman launched. The program gives residents a reward in exchange for weapons, in an effort to reduce street violence.