Lynchburg, VA - He was a major civil rights leader in Lynchburg. From Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King Junior to the election of President Obama, Garnell Stamps knew history. Many in the community are mourning his loss as Garnell passed away Friday morning at age 79.
A few weeks ago, Stamps was admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital for heart problems. He was later transferred to Bedford Memorial where he passed away and his loss is being felt by many.
"I think he's at peace- and I think that's the best way to be," said Carl Hutcherson who first met Garnell Stamps more than 60 years ago when Stamps was the coach of his high school football team. It was then Hutcherson knew the difference Stamps would make in his life.
"He was a school employee who put his life on the line during the civil rights movement. He could have very easily could've been fired," said Hutcherson.
Hutcherson saw through the years a man who would influence so many--paving the way for those that have come after him.
"He always stood for what he believed in and I think that over the years he had a very strong voice," said Hutcherson.
One of the things Hutcherson will remember most about his mentor and friend is his desire to see young people achieve.
Walter Fore has also been a close friend of Stamps for decades.They walked through the Civil Rights Movement together
"He'd remind you of Martin Luther King. His concern was for the entire people- black, white, red, and yellow," said Fore.
Fore also remembers Stamps as one of the few standing up in the school systems during the time of segregation.
"He was the only school teacher that had the nerve to challenge the civil rights movement during this time. A lot of them wouldn't dare to go out of their safety zone cause they knew that if they did they could be fired," said Fore.
Stamps was always politically involved in the city. He is remembered as a man who was at the polls every election day, from dawn to dusk, a man who cared about his community and history.
"Everybody can dream. You can dream that you can be the leader of the free world.," said Stamps in 2008.
Both men shared the vast knowledge Stamps had about local and national history. They said he was like an encyclopedia of knowledge, and so much of what he said never got written down. The hope is that lots of that information can be found in his notes and recorded for future generations. Stamps' funeral arrangements are pending.