In Memoriam || Thomas Livsey: A Legacy of Community, History, and Resilience

thomas livsey

Honoring the Proud African American Leader Who Preserved the Ragsdale Family History

As the pages of history turn, we often come across individuals whose profound impact leaves an indelible mark on our lives. For me, one such person was Thomas Livsey, a distant relative and esteemed community leader of Gwinnett County who played a pivotal role in my journey of self-discovery of my ancestry. As I was running for Georgia State Senate in District 9 in 2018, I first met Thomas Livsey, and a deep connection was forged as Thomas shared the rich history of the Ragsdale family, my mother’s lineage — Beverly Ragsdale. It was a meeting that left me amazed at the depth of Thomas Livsey’s knowledge of my family, the New Bethel cemetery where generations of my mother’s family are buried, his unwavering pride in his African American heritage, and his relentless efforts to preserve the history and dignity of our shared family. Now, as we bid farewell to this extraordinary individual, we pay tribute to the impactful relationship that has helped shape my understanding of the Ragsdale roots and the profound influence that Thomas Livsey had on my life’s ancestry discovery journey.

In Memoriam: Thomas Livsey (1930-2023)

It is with deep sadness and profound respect that we bid farewell to a remarkable individual, Thomas Livsey, a true giant in our community. Thomas Livsey, a proud African American man and an unwavering advocate for the preservation of history and dignity, passed away on December 5, 2023, at the age of 93. His legacy as a community leader, historian, and the champion of his family’s heritage will forever be etched in the collective spirit of Gwinnett County.

Thomas Livsey’s story is one of resilience, determination, and a lifelong commitment to his roots. Born and raised in the Promised Land area of Gwinnett County, Livsey dedicated his life to transforming this region into a thriving center of Black life. His efforts extended far beyond his own family, impacting the entire community and the region at large.

As the unofficial Mayor of the Promised Land/Centerville, Thomas Livsey left an indelible mark on the landscape. Under his guidance, the area flourished with numerous businesses, including a grocery store, laundromat, restaurant, and other enterprises. Livsey’s vision was not only to build a prosperous community but also to ensure that future generations would be aware of the rich history that lay beneath it.

One of Livsey’s most significant achievements was the preservation of the Big House, the original home built by slaveowner Thomas McGuire in the 1820s. Thomas Livsey’s father, Robert Livsey, purchased the Big House and the surrounding land in the early 1920s, using savings from his railroad job. Recognizing the historical significance of the property, Thomas Livsey sold the Big House to Gwinnett County in 2017, with the hope that it would serve as a testament to his family’s story.

Thomas Livsey’s commitment to preserving his family’s heritage did not come without challenges. Recent controversies surrounding the county’s approach to acquiring additional Livsey family properties near the Big House shed light on the ongoing struggle for equitable treatment. Despite facing adversity, Livsey and his family stood strong, refusing to let their story be silenced or whitewashed. Their resilience serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving diverse narratives and honoring the contributions of African Americans throughout history.

Beyond his role as a community leader, Thomas Livsey was a loving family man. Married to his devoted wife, Dorethia Livsey, for 68 years, he leaves behind a legacy of unity and strength. Livsey’s dedication to his family’s values and the pride he instilled in his descendants will continue to inspire generations to come.

As we reflect on the life and impact of Thomas Livsey, we honor his unwavering passion for preserving history and his commitment to building a thriving community. His legacy will endure as a testament to the resilience and determination of African Americans in Gwinnett County.

Today, we pay tribute not only to Thomas Livsey but also to the countless individuals like him who have fought tirelessly to maintain the dignity and history of their families and communities. Let us carry forward his torch, ensuring that the stories of all African American families, including the Ragsdale family, are celebrated and preserved with the respect they deserve.

Thomas Livsey, your legacy will forever be etched in the fabric of our community. May you rest in power, knowing that your impact will endure for generations to come.

Mr. Thomas Livsey Homegoing Service Details

Praise be to God!

Mr. Thomas Livsey’s homegoing celebration takes place on Saturday, December 16, 2023, 11:00 a.m. at New Bethel AME Church, 8350 Rockbridge Road, SW, Lithonia, Georgia 30058. Internment at New Bethel Cemetery – Lithonia.

Watch Thomas Livsey’s Homegoing Service Streaming Live on Saturday, December 16, 2023, 11:00 a.m.

Job well done thy faithful servant!

About Cheryle Moses

A creative, storyteller and lover of truth.

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