The mayor says his city is segregated — so he’s boycotting city council meetings

Camilla (Ga.) Mayor Rufus Davis
Camilla (Ga.) Mayor Rufus Davis Screenshot

Rufus Davis was elected mayor of Camilla, Ga., a town of just over 5,000 residents, nearly 70 percent of whom are black, according to census estimates, in 2015.

Now, he and a newly-elected city councilman have threatened to sit out of city council meetings until what they view as “segregationist practices” are addressed, according to a news release from his office.

This is the shape of the alleged “segregation” in Camilla, Davis wrote in the release:

  • African Americans cannot be buried next to white people in the city-owned cemetery
  • All City Hall employees are white, except three, including the custodian
  • Over 97 percent of African Americans who apply for jobs inside City Hall have been rejected
  • The town employs no African American police officers
  • 99 percent of all white students attend the historically all-white private school in town
  • 99 percent of all African American students attend the public schools in town
  • The city is hyper-gerrymandered

Since his election, Davis, who is black, says his role in the town’s government has shriveled to the point of being merely a figurehead, presiding over meetings and sitting on boards, while the town’s white city manager consolidates power and “all but eliminates the voice of the voters,” according to the release.

“In my two years as mayor, every single recommendation that I have ever made, which is my role as mayor, has been rejected, except three,” Davis told WAOK in a radio interview. “Happened in my first year, when people were trying to recall the city council members due to these issues, and they conceded on two to three issues.”

According to the Albany Herald, the Camilla City Council approved an amended city charter this week that Davis’ release claims allows the city manager, Bennett Adams, “to appoint all members to all of the City’s boards, all commissions, all committees, chairs, officers and the City Attorney.”

He told WAOK that before his tenure as mayor began, the dead body of a biracial man was exhumed from the city’s cemetery when it was found that he was half-black. The body was then buried on “the black side of the cemetery,” which is separated from the white side “by a fence.”

“This has been enforced in practice for decades, though not in policy,” Davis told WAOK.

Bennett refuted three of Davis’ claims of segregation, the Herald reported, saying that seven of 22 City Hall employees are black, that he delegates the selection of applicants to City Hall jobs to department heads and that in his 6 1/2-year tenure as city manager, no African American has tried to buy a plot in the city’s cemetery.

He told the Herald that the school statistics Davis cited in his release were due only to the choices of the individual families in town, and that he would “love to have three or four” black police officers, “but that is an issue everywhere.”

Davis is also concerned about the $40,000 increase in the city manager’s pay the amended charter calls for, as well as an increase in the city manager’s vacation time, according to WCTV.

Camilla sits in southern Georgia, about 30 miles north of the state’s border with Florida.

In the 1940s, Esther Brown, a white Jewish woman living in Merriam, Kan., led a legal fight to force the small South Park district in Johnson County to allow black students to attend a new school built with a $90,000 bond issue. In the city of Mer