Friends, community leaders remember Walter B. Simmons

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 11:28 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Many in the Savannah community are mourning the loss of a legend, Walter B. Simmons.

Walter B. Simmons
Walter B. Simmons(WTOC)

After hearing from his close friends and colleagues, his list of accomplishments doesn’t give the full picture of who he was.

People say he was a selfless leader, a mentor and a pioneer for change during some of the darkest times.

He left a legacy they will never forget.

Walter B. Simmons
Walter B. Simmons(WTOC)

In the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club, the name Walter B. Simmons is a big deal.

“Let me first say that Walter Simmons was an icon,” said James Green, a friend of Simmons.

Simmons and James Green grew up just a few houses down from the Boys and Girls Club.

“Everyday, everyday...there’s not a day that went by that he never talked about the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club.”

Green serves on the board, just like Simmons did.

That was just one of many titles he held. Simmons was also the first Black principal of 37th Street Elementary School.

He was a World War II Veteran.

Simmons was honored in the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame and a member of the Beta Phi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity - the same fraternity shared by Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

Walter B. Simmons
Walter B. Simmons(WTOC)

“I would never call him Walter. He was always Mr. Simmons or 49,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

49 was Simmons’ high school football number.

Simmons and Mayor Johnson were neighbors for more than 25 years.

“He just held everything down, anchored everything...so that corner is gonna be a lot lonelier.”

While people use the words “legend” and “icon” to describe him, his friend of more than 50 years said he deserves more than that.

“We’re going to have to find a word that supersedes those words to describe him,” said former state representative Diana Harvey Johnson.

The respect Simmons got from the community, Diana Harvey Johnson said was rightfully earned.

“He said you can accomplish a lot in life, if you don’t try to take credit for it.”

While people hold on to his wisdom and friendship, they also remember some of their last moments.

“I walked to the ambulance door and saw him and just put my thumb up to him and he put his hand back up to me and I did not know the next time I saw the ambulance there it was because he transitioned,” said Mayor Johnson.

The name “Walter B. Simmons” is one they will never forget.

Walter B. Simmons
Walter B. Simmons(WTOC)

“Right before he passed we had this little joke. On his 94th birthday, we were talking and he said ‘well, James you know my nickname is 49. He said, but now, I’m changing my nickname to 94,’” said Green.

Simmons’ funeral arrangements will be open to the public.

The service is this Friday at 11 a.m. at St. James AME Church on East Broad Street.

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