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5/22/07-Mineola

Cemetery A Reminder Of A Segregated Past

Framed by brick and iron railings, the front entrance of Mineola City Cemetery leads visitors into a lush, landscaped cemetery, predominantly white.

This is the rear entrance to the Mineola City Cemetery where black visitors must go to visit their loved ones. A tattered cemetery sign leads these guests into an area with overgrown bushes and weeds.

"I cried... I cried," says Mineola resident Margaret Cantrell after visiting the cemetery for the first time.

Resident Cathy Leeman adds, "It was very upsetting to know that there's only the front entrance and the back entrance [blacks] come in to."

Leeman recently attended a funeral here for Kadarious McGill, a black teenager who drowned on a private pond last month.

The grass is cut now, but Cantrell says before Kadarius' funeral it was overgrown with weeds knee-deep. Some weeds can still be seen around the tombstones on that side.

"I couldn't let [Kadarius'] mother stand in weeds that deep. So I went over to the white side and I asked if he would come over and mow and he said he couldn't do that," says Cantrell.

And then there's a fence dividing the adjacent cemeteries. 

"That's my main question," says Leeman "Why is [the fence] still here?"

The Mineola City Cemetery Association, Incorporated answered that question for one resident back in 2000.  In the response letter KLTV 7 obtained, it said the back part of the cemetery, where blacks are predominantly buried, is run by a separate group called the Mineola Colored Cemetery Association.

In a written response to KLTV 7 Thursday after declining our request for an interview, the association says the cemeteries are "two different entities."  And that "anyone is welcome to purchase a lot" on their side.

Billy Tuck just buried his mother on the opposite side last week.

"How long has it been that way?" asks KLTV 7 Reporter Christine Nelson.  "Ever since I've been big enough to know. And I'm 64 years old," says Tuck.  Nelson asks, "And people accept that here?"  Tucks replies, "I suppose they do, up until now."

"Just take the fence down and make a statement. Have the guts to make a statement for 2007," Cantrell pleas.

With the separate entrance and dividing line an eerie reminder of a segregated past, decades later more walls have yet to come down.

Cathy Leeman has since written a letter about the issue in the Mineola paper and says she's heard back from some in the community.

Margaret Cantrell says she will be organizing a prayer effort next month asking for the fence to come down.

Repeated attempts to reach the group we were told runs the predominantly black side were unsuccessful.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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