One of Thomaston’s most revered citizens, Dr. Edwin L. Cliburn, passed away Saturday, February 1, 2014 at the age of 86.
Dr. Cliburn, a native of Newnan, served as Minister of Education of First Baptist Church of Macon from 1954 to 1957, and was then called to be Pastor of First Baptist Church of Thomaston, where he faithfully served for almost 24 years, from 1957 to 1981. He then served on the staff of the Georgia Baptist Convention for nine years. Since his retirement from the Georgia Baptist Convention, he served as interim pastor of 27 churches, and was currently the Treasurer of the Centennial Baptist Association, and was Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist Church of Thomaston.
Dr. Cliburn also served as Mayor of the City of Thomaston from 1996 through 1999. He was an avid historian and a member of the Upson County Historical Society. In 1999 he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Thomaston-Upson County Chamber of Commerce.
Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold was a longtime friend of Dr. Cliburn and mourned his passing.
“Dr. Cliburn came to the Thomaston First Baptist Church the same year I graduated from high school. Upon my college graduation and military service I returned to Thomaston and built an apartment building, which abutted his rear yard. Dr. Cliburn would take short cuts across the vacant lot next door to my building to get to the church. I first met him as he was walking to work one morning and the impression he made on me lasted a lifetime. I think he left many people with the same impression. One thing I know for sure, he gave me a lot of good advice, too much of which I ignored.
“He was a loving husband, a father, and a pastor and he knew his priorities. I’ve often thought how difficult a task that must be for any pastor.
“He was a great story teller and an eloquent speaker. His sermons have come to be legends of a sort, and I, for sure, would not have wanted to follow him as a speaker. He was a natural born leader, and as such, was led to seek the office of Mayor of our City. During his tenure he accomplished many things, but I will remember him as being a peacemaker.
Many years before becoming Mayor he was a key proponent in working with the black leadership in Thomaston and Upson County, thus helping enable our community to avoid the racial strife that gripped many parts of our state. I’m sure Dr. M. L. King, Jr. was one of those welcoming Dr. Cliburn into the eternal congregation and who heard the great voice say: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God”.
“Thomaston has lost an irreplaceable citizen.”
Funeral services for Dr. Cliburn are pending. Pasley-Fletcher Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. A full obituary will be published on The Thomaston Times website and on its Facebook page when it becomes available, and will be in the Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 edition of The Thomaston Times.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.