Street Renaming Honors Valdosta Public Servant

On Saturday, May 14 at 10 a.m., Valdosta citizens will gather for a ceremony to officially rename Laurel Avenue, which runs from the entrance to the west end of Sunset Hill Cemetery, to "Melvin Nelson Way." The Valdosta City Council unanimously approved the street renaming, which was originally proposed by Councilman Sonny Vickers, at the March 24 City Council meeting.

Nelson worked at Sunset Hill Cemetery for 44 years, serving for many of those years as the Cemetery Supervisor. With the help of local residents, Nelson discovered numerous unmarked slave graves, and his efforts played a large part in the construction and dedication of the Sunset Hill Cemetery's Unknown Slaves Memorial in 1996.

Nelson was a respected member of the Valdosta and Lowndes County communities and was a friend to all who visited Sunset Hill. His faithfulness as a public servant and his outstanding local contribution to the establishment of the Unknown Slaves Memorial are the reasons why friends and family members requested the street be named in his memory.

Several Valdosta leaders will be present at the event, including Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Payton, Jr., City Councilman Sonny Vickers, and current Sunset Hill Cemetery Supervisor Mark Coppage.

The public is invited to the street renaming event at Sunset Hill Cemetery and to the reception following, which will take place in the Valdosta City Hall Annex Multi-Purpose Room (located at 300 N. Lee Street). For more information, contact Rachel Bradley at 229-630-7252 or