For weeks, people added to a small memorial to civil right leader John Lewis at his namesake elementary school in Brookhaven. Now DeKalb County School District has removed the memorial and placed “one of the patriotic arrangements” inside the school, a spokesperson said.

Brookhaven resident Lissie Stahlman, 67, started the memorial two days after Lewis’s death on July 17. She placed a potted mum and a photo at the elementary school sign at the entrance of the parking lot and posted about the memorial, which garnered more people to add their own tributes to Lewis.

It is unclear exactly when the items were removed. DCSD said the memorial was removed on July 30, the day of Lewis’s funeral, but memorial items remained at the school’s entrance until at least Aug. 4.

Laminated signs and hand-drawn artwork were posted on the entrance sign of John R. Lewis Elementary School to honor the Civil Rights leader. (Erin Schilling)

Lewis represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District — which includes southern Brookhaven — for 33 years until his death and was known as the “conscious of Congress.” He marched in the Civil Rights Movement and dedicated his life to voting rights.

The memorial has children’s drawings, photos of Lewis, flowers, handmade signs and yard signs with “Black Lives Matter” and “Be Kind” in bold lettering.

One of the arrangements is now in the school’s front lobby, according to DCSD.

“The school’s leadership is honored that the community chose to show their love and respect for the school’s namesake in such a symbolic way,” DCSD said in a statement.

John R. Lewis Elementary, located at 2630 Skyland Drive, opened in October 2019 with Lewis present to help cut the ribbon.

In lieu of the memorial, Stahlman said she’s going to help the school fill a public lending library at the front of the school, which is a small, covered bookcase for anyone to come drop off or pick up books. The library is dedicated to Lewis as well.

“That’s very appropriate because of how he was kept out of the libraries in his town when he was a child,” Stahlman said.

Stahlman said she went back to the memorial every day or two to water the flowers and check the memorial. She said she was surprised to find all the items gone when she went to the school on Aug. 6 and said she has talked to the school’s administration about it.

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