Sunday, July 25, 2010

August 28, 1922- October 8, 2002

ATHENS, Ga. — The Rev. Joseph D. Mathis was born Aug. 28, 1922, in Cordele, Ga., to Elnora Huggins and A.C. Mathis. He was reared in the home of his maternal grandparents, Lula Taylor Huggins and the Rev. Harrison Huggins Sr. Mathis moved to Greenville during the Great Depression.

Joseph discovered a talent for the game at Sterling High. With the help of friends and by the grace of God, Mathis attended Benedict College and Allen University, where he starred at halfback and earned a degree in History.

Upon graduation, Mathis was named football coach and physical education teacher at Sterling. This job would allow him to use athletics to help other young people build productive lives and find their way out of poverty just as he had.

He married Kittie Mae Avery in 1948. That union produced two daughters, Janice and Davida. Mrs. Mathis died in 1991.

Soon after moving to Greenville, Mathis joined Israel CME Church, where he served as Sunday School Superintendent and on the Steward Board. In 1961, he entered the ministry. He pastored Young Laymen in the Nicholtown community for 31 years. He pastored Mount Olive CME Church for 10 years.

In 1970, Mathis joined the faculty of Greenville High as Assistant Principal. In later years, he worked as a Guidance Counselor at League Junior High and as Job Placement Counselor at Enoree and Donaldson vocational centers.

Mathis earned a Master's Degree in Social Studies at Atlanta University. His Masters Thesis, "Race Relations in Greenville, South Carolina: 1868-1900", has been extensively excerpted in The Greenville News.

Mathis skillfully helped to build a political infrastructure in Greenville's predominantly black neighborhoods that would allow residents to elect representatives of their choice for the first time. In 1979, Mathis was elected to City Council, where he worked to improve public transportation, to include minority contractors in public work, to bring Municipal Stadium and the Braves to Greenville, to improve police pay and to annex Verdae Place to the City of Greenville.

His survivors include Davida Mathis, and her husband, Thaddeus Allen, and their daughter, Avery Leigh Allen. He is also survived by Janice Mathis, and her husband, Harry K. Johnson, and their children, Corey and Danae.

Funeral services for the Rev. Mathis will be Saturday, Oct. 12, 2002, at 10 a.m., at Israel Metropolitan CME Church, on Calhoun St. in Greenville. The family hour is from 7 to 8 tonight, at Watkins Garrett and Woods Mortuary on Augusta St.

Published in The Greenville News: 10-11-2002