By Norma Adams-Wade
When does a life make its greatest impact?
Consider Martin Luther King Jr., Botham Jean, George Floyd, and the Biblical Abel.
Who would disagree that the value of these four lives increased more after they died than while they lived?
All four were murdered – for different reasons.
Dr. King Jr. became a martyr – murdered because of his cause. Jean and Floyd became known across the nation because of their wrongful deaths more than how they lived. But after their deaths, their names became prominently etched in history. If you don’t know their story, take some time and research how they died.
Abel is referred to about a dozen times or more in Biblical scriptures. One particular reference captures how his little-known life became an eternal memory after he died. He gained favor with God who, in turn, immortalized his name and legacy so that it ever speaks to future generations: Hebrews 11:4 (KJV) “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
But there are numerous other candidates – gleaned from a wide swath of careers –who passed from life to immortality after their time on earth ended. Among the multitude, consider the following individuals. Aside from their loved ones and friends, access whether you believe their lives had more significance before or after they died.
Arguably, some made their mark both in life and death. Among them, consider former presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt ; Yeshua the Messiah; entertainers Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Harry Belafonte, Marilyn Monroe; athletes Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Kobe Bryant ; politician and civil rights leader John Lewis; operatic and spiritual singer Marian Anderson; businessmen John H. Johnson, Earl Graves Sr.; faith leader Billy Graham; scientist Albert Einstein, Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman – to name a few.
There are many whose lives were stolen from them, and because of the way they died, their notoriety surged. Too many in this group were victims of racial conflicts and viewpoints. You will recognize many of the names: Travon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, 1910 lynching victim Allen Brooks.
And then that perpetually swelling group of African-Americans killed by police or while in police custody: Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Eric Garner.
It’s dangerous to start naming names. The many heroines, heroes, artists and inventors known only as “anonymous” certainly must be included for their uncredited talents and contributions.
The question remains: When is your life more valuable? George Floyd alive was written off as troubled, maybe even a nuisance. After death, he changed the world. You decide.
Norma Adams-Wade, is a proud Dallas native, University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate and retired Dallas Morning News senior staff writer. She is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and was its first southwest regional director. She became The News’ first Black full-time reporter in 1974. firstname.lastname@example.org