He's been gone since 2011, but the memory of John Saxon "Piccolo" Pierce lives on.

In his younger days, Pierce marched with civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson and W.W. Law.

He marched on Selma in 1965, heard King's "I Have a Dream" speech firsthand in Washington, D.C., and spent months in local jails for his efforts.

In his later years, Pierce sat outside the Chatham County Courthouse, sharing stories of the civil rights movement with passersby for a contribution. While some never knew the extent of his achievements, he was honored for them with an invitation to President Jimmy Carter's inauguration.

In 2007, both the Savannah City Council and the Chatham County Commission honored him with John Saxon "Piccolo" Pierce Day.

But when he died at 80, it seemed as if his message would be silenced.

In response, Pierce's family and the Savannah Branch NAACP will present Piccolo Day, with an invitation to the community to come out for a picnic Sept. 2 at Daffin Park.

Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the picnic will be held to remember Pierce's life and causes - while also offering a good time to attendees.

Participants are invited to set up grills and food tables.


What: Piccolo Day, a community-wide picnic to celebrate the life and legacy of John Saxon "Piccolo" Pierce

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 2

Where: Daffin Park

Cost: Free

Info: 912-233-1293 or 912-233-4161

"We had it last year, too," says Louise Williams, Pierce's sister. "This will be our fourth year. We're making it like a picnic where everybody can come.

"We're having it especially on Labor Day because that brings people together. People usually have cookouts and things, and I figured that would be a good time to do this.

"I am planning on continuing doing this for the rest of my life," she says. "It will be held every year on Labor Day."

Williams remembers her brother telling stories about the civil rights movement.

"What made him special to me was that he was always for the people," she says.

"He was older than I am, but he would tell me stories about when he went to Washington when King was there. He'd tell me stories from way back and I used to sit down and listen to them.

"He went to Selma on Bloody Sunday," Williams says. "He always said like in a joke, 'Louise, if they threw your brother in jail, I went right back. They can't stop your brother.'"

The subject was serious, but at times, Pierce made his message light.

"In the end, he'd make me laugh," Williams says. "That's my most fond memory of him.

"There's a lot of things that reminds me of him. I just figured, 'Let's keep this up.' He's gone, but it's my job to make sure he's not forgotten.

"I'm hoping that as many people show up as possible," she says. "It is a tribute to my brother."