Presidential Medal of Freedom for Benjamin Mays '20?

Georgia senators Max Cleland and Zell Miller recently announced plans to introduce a U.S. Senate resolution urging President Bush to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Benjamin Mays ’20. Mays, a child of freed slaves, was a noted human rights advocate and president of Morehouse College. He also influenced a generation of civil rights leaders.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. described Mays as “my spiritual mentor and my intellectual father.”

“As time goes on, Dr. Mays continues to stand out as an incredible example of faith and belief in America and the American dream,” Cleland, a Democrat, told The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently. “Plus, he was a civil and human rights leader and a public theologian. He just was an incredible human being.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom honors those who have made “especially meritorious” contributions to national security, world peace or cultural, public or private endeavors. If the Senate approves the measure, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) would introduce it in the House. If approved there, it would then go to Bush for his signature. In 1984, then-President Reagan failed to grant Mays the Presidential Medal of Freedom, despite intense lobbying and unanimous approval by Congress. Mays died March 28, 1984, two days after the White House ceremony honoring 14 other honorees.

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