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'The Mayor Of Linden' Remembered As Dedicated Neighborhood Advocate

Lumpkin family
Clarence Lumpkin was born in 1924 and settled in the Columbus neighborhood of Linden following his service in World War II.

Linden might be the only Columbus neighborhood with a mayor, even if it was an unofficial officeholder.

Clarence Lumpkin, the long-time Linden activist who employed tactics commonly used during the Civil Rights movement, died last week at the age of 94. His funeral service is Wednesday.

“The impact he had in South Linden was unbelievable,” says former Columbus mayor Michael Coleman, who gave Lumpkin his nickname after the two developed a friendship during Coleman’s early years in city government.

“(He worked on) fighting crime, developing housing opportunities, construction opportunities,” Coleman says. “Not much happened in Linden unless Clarence Lumpkin had a hand in it, and it couldn’t happen because he was the only one who could get it done. Lumpkin and Linden are actually almost synonymous to each other.”

Lumpkin was also a plaintiff in "Penick v. Board of Education," the landmark federal court case that led to the desegregation of Columbus Public Schools in 1978. He joined a WOSU-TV panel in 2011 to talk about the case.


Following the Wednesday morning funeral service at the Bethel AME Church on Cleveland Avenue, the procession will drive by many of the places Lumpkin worked to build or preserve: Columbus Fire Station 18, St. Stephen’s Community House, and Linden-McKinley STEM Academy.

Lumpkin was born in 1924 and grew up in the segregated Southern states of Florida and Georgia. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II before settling in Columbus, the hometown of his wife Willa. He spent most of his career at Swan Cleaners and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, but neighborhood activism was his passion.

Coleman says Lumpkin’s upbringing as an African-American in the South informed his activism.

“He’d take a bullhorn, and he’d have 500 or 600 people with him walking down the street, telling whatever gangs were there, ‘Get out of Linden. Get out of here.’ And we’d march behind him and beside him, using the tactics of the old Civil Rights days of peaceful demonstration to achieve a certain end," Coleman says.

Following the funeral service at Bethel AME Church, Lumpkin will be buried at Eastlawn Cemetery, just east of his adopted neighborhood.