Photograph in government building will honor late Rev. John Wesley Holland

November 06, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

The late Rev. John Wesley Holland, a local civil rights activist who fought to end segregation in the county and the rest of the state, will not be forgotten. The Community Action Council of Howard County Inc. will see to that.

The council is unveiling a portrait of the minister today that will hang in the lobby of the George Howard government building in Ellicott City. The 11 1/2 -by-14 picture of the Cooksville native will be the only portrait of a black person in the building. (A plaque for Benjamin Banneker, a black astronomer and mathematician, also is displayed there.)

"He [Mr. Holland] was such a caring and generous person, and did so much for people in Howard County, not only the African-American community, but everyone," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said.

Two years ago when the Community Action Council named a humanitarian award after Mr. Holland, Mr. Ecker suggested that a portrait of him should hang in the government building, too.

The sepia-tone portrait is an enlargement of a family photograph. The Community Action Council chose not to have a portrait of him painted because he would have opposed such expense.

"He never would've wanted Community Action Council to pay that kind of money," said Dorothy L. Moore, executive director of the low-income service group.

The unveiling excited his family.

"We are elated. We are so proud that a native son of Howard County is being honored in this manner," said one of Mr. Holland's four children, Josephine Holland Dotson, 57. "We are just happy that the . . . people of Howard County think enough of our father's memory to honor him in this manner."

Mr. Holland was born in Cooksville on Feb. 3, 1910, and later married Agnes O. Smith. They had four children.

The segregation he encountered in the county sparked his fight for civil rights.

"He used to go to Ellicott City to pay his taxes and there was a sign that said 'colored' on one bathroom and 'white' on the other," Ms. Dotson said. "That bothered him."

During the 1950s, Mr. Holland worked to gain public accommodations for blacks at restaurants and other public places across the state. In the late 1950s, he became president of the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He held that position for 10 years.

He was also vice president of the state conference of the NAACP.

Mr. Holland also became the chief minister at Full Gospel Baptist Church near his Cooksville home. The small country church was founded in the 1940s, originally as Full Gospel Tabernacle.

Though poor himself, Mr. Holland would help feed the hungry and dig in his pockets to give to the needy. He made money by doing carpentry.

In the late 1970s, the Cooksville community selected him to represent low-income residents on the Community Action Council's board of directors.

In 1979, Howard County Sen. James Clark Jr. appointed Mr. Holland to the five-member state ethics commission.

On Nov. 25, 1987, Mr. Holland died.

"In his 77 years here on earth, his main objective was helping people," Ms. Dotson said. "He was just a Good Samaritan."

Though he had little contact with him, Mr. Ecker agreed that Mr. Holland was a giving man. And because Mr. Holland gave so much to the county, the county executive felt it was important that the minister be remembered.

"One reason we have to have something is so we don't lose track of what he did and the contributions he made," Mr. Ecker said.

"His motto was 'May the work I've done, speak for me,' " said Ms. Dotson, referring to her father's favorite gospel song.

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