Municipal officials unveiled street signs recognizing civil rights icon and businessman Russell Graddy over the weekend.
“Mr. Russell ‘G’ Graddy Way” signs hang above the street in a two-block section of 10th Avenue from East 18th Street to Madison Avenue.
Graddy, 88, owns Mr. G’s Restaurant on the corner of East 18th Street and 10th Avenue.
“I truly thank you,” said Graddy in a brief speech in front of his restaurant to roughly 100 people on Saturday afternoon. “I will never stop being grateful for what you’ve all done for me today.”
Speakers described Graddy as “humble.” Indeed, when councilwoman Lilisa Mimms contacted him for a list of his accomplishments to include in the street naming resolution, he made no mention of his role in the civil rights movement.
Instead, Graddy focused on his successful business career.
Graddy was born in Wrightsville, Georgia. He moved to Paterson at 15. He served in the U.S. Army in Korea and worked for the Wright Aeronautical in Wood-Ridge. He has opened a number of successful businesses.
In 1963, Graddy stayed in the same motel as Martin Luther King, Jr., when the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place. The march was where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
In 1968, Graddy invited King to visit Paterson.
“You’ve made a way for some many people. Today, we’re making a way for you,” said mayor Andre Sayegh. “We’re proud to celebrate our own.”
Graddy helped many black families move to Paterson to escape poverty and racism in the Deep South, said councilwoman Ruby Cotton.
“You’ve helped so many people in the city,” said Cotton.
The city should “never forget people like” Graddy, said Mimms, who sponsored the resolution passed in March naming the two blocks after Graddy.
“I believe in giving flowers while you can smell them,” said Mimms. She said she wanted to give him a “sweat-less victory.”