Lavada Dillard was 16 years old when she, along with a group of about 60 other black Main High School students, marched down to Broad Street on April 28, 1963.
They staged a series of non-violent sit-ins at various businesses in protest and members of the group were jailed for five days.
In the 50 years since, Dillard has been an active member of the community, helping keep Rome’s civil rights history alive and working to involve youth in social change.
The Rome City Commission issued a proclamation at its regular meeting recognizing Dillard for her work and also presented her with the key to the city.
“Lavada Dillard is so distinguished and a great woman,” Commissioner Bill Collins said.
“Rome is a significant town and there is something significant it can do and serve the world,” Dillard said.
In receiving the key to the city, Dillard said it reminded her of when Ethel Hyer was given a similar honor.
Hyer served as the president of the Rome chapter of the NAACP in the late 1960s and early 1970s and Dillard recalled that she drove Hyer to the polls as a volunteer after the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
“She was one of the ones to lead the Civil Rights Movement in Rome,” Dillard said. “I thank you for this tonight.”
The night was a part of the City Commission’s recognition of Black History Month.
In other action, the board unanimously approved a Unified Land Development Code amendment, which removes the stipulation that churches and other religious facilities need to have access from an arterial street.
The Rome-Floyd County Planning Commission had recommended approving the change.