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What You Need to Know About the Legacy and Legend of Lincoln Cemetery

Cemeteries have long been a place of mystery and intrigue, with their rows upon rows of headstones and carefully tended graves. The solemnness of the cemetery and the stillness of the atmosphere often contributes to the litany of unnerving graveyards stories about what happens after dark.

But that is not at all the case with Lincoln Cemetery, one of Atlanta’s oldest and most prestigious burial grounds for many of the city’s most prominent figures throughout its 100 year history.

“We are [home] for historical political leaders, but even of as of late, for celebrities … unfortunately, we buried at one of the babies. Her name is Princess and she perished in the fire at Wendy’s restaurant during the unrest that followed the [police involved] Rashad Brooks shooting at that restaurant,” explains Lincoln Cemetery owner and CEO Shanda Frost.

The spectacularly beautiful facility with its immaculately manicured grounds recently held burials for more Atlanta contemporaries including relatives of T.I., Andre 3,000, Lil Nas X and Judge Glenda Hatchett.

But beyond the graves lies a world of secrets waiting to be uncovered.

Lincoln at one point was home to a fashionable social venue, the Lincoln Country Club, a hot spot country for Atlanta’s well-heeled Black residents.

Lincoln Country Club was planned and developed in 1930 by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, Florida’s first black millionaire. Lincoln accommodated black golfers who were not allowed to play on Atlanta’s segregated municipal golf courses. In addition to a nine-hole golf course, Lincoln Country Club included a clubhouse, dance pavilion, swimming pool, and a tennis court.

“Cemeteries are really for the living,” explained Frost, adding that in many cases friends and family return frequently to celebrate family occasions, birthdays and anniversaries with their loved ones buried at Lincoln.

Frost, formerly a movie director and producer, recently relocated with her husband to Atlanta after inheriting the facility less than a year ago.

“I grew up around this business,” explains Frost whose grandparents acquired the cemetery in the late 60s after it had fallen into disrepair and at risk of going into receivership. “It’s always been kind of in my background to a degree … and within a couple of days of my dad’s passing, my husband and I looked at each other, and we were like, ‘This is too big for us to try to divest or to ignore, or just to let it go.’ It was like, either, we’re going to go and take it by both hands and we’re going to really, really put our all into it.” Within 48 hours the decision was made to quit their day jobs and relocate to Atlanta to take on the challenge and grow the business into a flourishing staple of the community while honoring its cultural significance.

“I think there’s a lot of legacy in this place. I think it’s something that’s so much larger than me, and frankly, larger than my family,” said Frost. “It is its own institution. And I do feel very much like the steward of that something, someone who protects it. … I see Lincoln as very much the center very much Lincoln. It’s such an important piece of not just this area in this community, but Atlanta as a whole,” concludes Frost.

The newly initiated owner brings a sense of great pride coupled with an unconventional desire to offer more to individuals and residents in and outside of the cemetery grounds.

Throw a party celebrating Lincoln Cemetery’s 100th anniversary, drawing inspiration from its history as a country club. At present Frost is planning expansion and improvement projects and even organizing a community celebration picnic on the grounds to commemorate its centennial anniversary and promote a sense of community with residents and businesses in the area.

“I want to do a revamp of our chapel and our front lobby, and just really give a fresh face forward to say, ‘Hey, guys, it’s been a minute, come back and visit Lincoln,” said Frost.

Preservation of cultural and historical sites Like Lincoln Cemetery helps prevent the loss of diversity in communities and remains key to maintaining family traditions and local customs that are at risk of disappearing. By preserving them, we ensure they are not lost forever and can continue enriching our world. As one member of Lincoln’s extended family of burial site owners explained, “While this is the final resting place for the dead, it doesn’t have to be dead to the living.”

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©2019 Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine

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