Ceremony to honor African American veterans buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery

(Featured photo – Joyce Law affixes a medallion to Solomon Jenkins’ headstones at Cedar Grove Cemetery. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News)

Cemeteries are filled with stories.

 “What we’re trying to do is tell the fuller story, not only of individual lives but the city,” said Joyce Law, a retired teacher and historian.

On May 25, a ceremony will honor African American veterans buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery, specifically those who served from World War I through Vietnam.  

Law has recently been updating headstones of some more well-known Augustans interred at Cedar Grove with medallions indicating their military service.

 Solomon Jenkins is one of those veterans. Jenkins served during World War I and World War II. Originally from Cordele, Ga., he attended Howard University, but the war interrupted his studies. After World War I, he settled in the Augusta area, attending Paine College and graduating in 1922.

He served as chairman of the board of directors of Pilgrim Health and Life Insurance, and the Jenkins CME Memorial Church was named in his honor. A scholarship is given annually through the church.

But until recently, there was nothing on his gravestone to indicate his military service.

 There are many stories like that inside Cedar Grove, she said.

What’s remarkable about the African American veterans who served during the eras the May 25 ceremony will highlight is “minority veterans were willing to fight for the sake of democracy during a time when they did not have full civil rights,” she said.

Jenkins was a founding member of the Screen Ramsey American Legion Post 505 which will also be taking part in the May 25 event. Legion members will conduct a wreath laying ceremony at 2:30 p.m., followed by the medallion dedication at 3 p.m.

“First Lt. Robert Screen is buried at Cedar Grove. He was a medical doctor killed during World War II, and James Ramsey was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen,” said Law.

A cemetery clean-up is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to noon May 20 to prepare for the ceremony.

Besides putting medallions on veteran grave markers, Law has been involved in several cemetery projects. Law is a member of the group I Love Augusta which is carrying on the work started in honor of the bicentennials of Cedar Grove and Magnolia cemeteries. Both cemeteries had their first burials in 1818.

Another project at Cedar Grove has been the Negro Editors of The Augusta Chronicle heritage trail.

“That was the first one I selected. The Negro Editors of The Augusta Chronicle, without them, how much would we accurately know of the social history of the African Americans,” she said.

Seven of the nine editors are buried at Cedar Grove and their graves are highlighted with a blue placard.

The last of the editors is Charles L. Butler who is buried near members of his family who served during World War I and World War II.

The cemetery is rich in its history and not only for Augusta, she said.

 “Cedar Grove has a long list of Georgia firsts and also international first that are here. There are Incredible stories that are here,” she said.

She’s also working on a project at Summerville Fitten Street Cemetery which is the sister cemetery to Summerville Cemetery. Extensive work is underway there.

“It’s undergoing massive rehabilitation – removing overgrowth, identifying unmarked graves and repairs,” she said, adding that volunteers are always needed.

To learn more, email Law at

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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