Barney Simms: Former Civil Rights Activist And Community Leader Shot And Killed In Own Front Yard In Atlanta

A beloved former civil rights activist and Atlanta community leader was fatally shot in his front yard yesterday. Police say that the unknown shooters also stole his black Lexus which was later recovered.

Barney Simms, 70, was pronounced dead on the scene. He died of what appeared to be a single gunshot wound. Simms’ body was found by a neighbor in the bushes that separated the two properties. His front door was also discovered to be unlocked and open.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, witnesses heard gunshots around 4 p.m. Simms lived on Connally Drive in southwest Atlanta.

WSB-TV writes that neighbor Russell Rowden heard the shots.

“I live on the next street over. I was sitting in the back. I heard two shots that’s it, I didn’t know what they was.”

Neighbors say that Simms’ home had been burglarized four times in the past, and they had been encouraging him to get surveillance cameras installed on the property.

Councilman Andre Dickens expressed the collective shock of friends and neighbors over the shooting. All agreed that Simms was known for his generosity and loving nature.

“Barney is the type of person who would give the shirt of his back. He would give him the car keys, the wallet, whatever it is. Everyone knows this about Barney, he is a loving and generous person.”

Atlanta residents and political and community leaders have turned to social media and are expressing an outpouring of their respect and admiration for Barney Simms.

Simms leaves behind an impressive legacy of community and government service:

  • Executive with the Atlanta Housing Authority (retired)
  • Co-Chairman of the Board for the Walter and Andrew Young Family YMCA in Southwest Atlanta
  • Chairman for the Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services
  • Chairman of the Board for Atlanta Victim Assistance
  • Leader of Atlanta’s License Review Board
  • Educator at Perimeter College
  • Neighborhood Association President
  • The Antioch Urban Ministries

Councilman Dickens also echoed the cry of other community leaders that efforts needed to be undertaken to curtail the violence that plagues Atlanta.

“It’s time for us to really redouble our efforts in making sure we stop senseless violence throughout the metro region.”

Simms carried a passion for causes such as affordable housing and neighborhood development. Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was a pillar of the community. She said that he would just as easily put on a pair of jeans and a shirt to pick up trash in his neighborhood as he would put on a fine suit to meet with change leaders.

“I am simply heartbroken by the senseless killing of Barney Simms. As an active and gracious leader of the Bonnybrook community, there was no task, too big or too small, that he engaged in to make his neighborhood, and city, a better place.”

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Fox 5 reports that a large gathering of family, friends, and city leaders, including former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, quietly assembled outside of the Simms home on Saturday evening as investigators combed the area for evidence.

A small but growing makeshift shrine was started in the driveway as mourners struggled for peace and answers.

Brenda J. Muhammad, executive director of Atlanta Victim Assistance, spoke of the significance of Simms death as it relates to the city’s crime rate. Simms served as a chairman of the board for Atlanta Victim Assistance.

“It’s so, so sad that the chair (of) an organization that serves victims of crime, ultimately has become one. I hope his death is a clarion call that we’ve got to do something about the violence that plagues our community.”

Barney Simms was a member of the well-known Antioch Baptist Church North for more than 45 years.

No arrests have been made yet in the case, and the investigation continues to be ongoing. Police are processing his recovered vehicle, which was found in East Point shortly before midnight on Saturday, for evidence.

[Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images]