UPDATE: The funeral for Mr. Thomas Livsey will be held on Saturday, Nov. 16, 11 a.m., New Bethel AME, 8350 Rockbridge Road, S.W. (Highway 124), Lithonia. Internment will follow the service at New Bethel. Tri-Cities Funeral Home in Lithonia is handling the funeral arrangements.
GWINNETT COUNTY, GA—The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners is paying tribute to community stalwart Thomas Livsey, Sr., a descendant of the historic settlement in Gwinnett known as The Promised Land. Livsey, the “unofficial mayor” of The Promised Land, passed away on Dec. 6, officials said. He was 93.
Board of Commissioners Chair Gwinnett Nicole Love Hendrickson issued the following statement, saying that Mr. Livsey leaves a legacy that will endure for generations:
“In the gentle embrace of memories, we pay tribute to a life well-lived — a legacy woven into the very fabric of Gwinnett.
“Today, our hearts are heavy as we mourn the passing of true giant, Mr. Thomas Livsey — an esteemed patriarch and enduring community leader.
“Mr. Livsey’s impact as a positive force and guiding light resonates in the collective spirit of our community. His legacy is an everlasting presence, a testament to a legacy that will endure for generations.”
The Promised Land settlement is located off of Highway 124 in what is now Snellville, Ga. Livsey’s father, Robert, purchased the 100-acre settlement in 1920 with $2,500 that he had saved from working for the railroad. He was among the first blacks to own a considerable portion of land in the area.
The former slave plantation was part of 1,000 acres that Thomas Macguire, a prominent Irish immigrant, owned until 1886, following the Civil War. After that time, renters lived on the property for more than 30 years and descendants of Macquire’s slaves began buying up the land.
Robert Livsey turned the land he purchased into a thriving farm and eventually The Promised Land became a self-contained black community. Other families, such as Thomas Anderson, joined the Livseys in establishing a farm and opening the first black-owned grocery store in the Promised Land. Barbershops and other businesses followed.
In 2016, Gwinnett County government purchased the Big House and about 1.5 acres of surrounding land from Thomas Livsey for about $160,000 to preserve the property as an historic site. The acquisition was made ahead of Gwinnett turning 200 years old and its planned bicentennial celebration.
Prominent Atlanta Attorney Dwight Thomas, who has represented a number of high-profile clients and is the grandson of Thomas Anderson, said the family will provide information concerning Thomas Livsey’s funeral. Attorney Thomas is remembering his mother as well during this time.
“My mother, Lois Anderson Thomas, passed away on Dec. 5, 2016. They both were 93 years old,” said Attorney Thomas.