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Local NAACP leader dies

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Rev. John Stewart Jr., the president of the Gwinnett branch of the NAACP and a community leader who was known for his work with youth, died Saturday at age 49.

Stewart was a proactive man who tried to give everyone an equal opportunity to achieve, said his friend Herman Pennamon, Georgia Power's community relations manager.

"His death came too, too early," Pennamon said. "Gwinnett County has lost a great leader."

Stewart tried to change the way people saw the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and worked to bring everyone together, Pennamon said.

Stewart also worked with youth, teaching them they are the future, Pennamon said.

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway also remembers Stewart's work with children.

"He recognized our future is our youth," Conway said. "He did a lot to help children and get them on the right path. He was always promising something to help children."

Conway said Stewart worked tirelessly in seeking rights for everyone and seeing that everyone was "treated right."

"The community is going to miss John a lot," Conway said. "I'm going to miss him."

State Rep. Melvin Everson, R-Snellville, said Stewart was "a man of integrity, one that led with conviction and sought justice for all involved."

Under Stewart's leadership, Gwinnett County got a new perspective, Everson said. He worked to see that other voices were heard and that the county received diverse views on various issues, Everson said.

Stewart graduated in the 2005-06 class of the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute, which "trains and empowers local citizens and community leaders to promote positive changes in their neighborhoods and communities," according to the GNLI Web site.

One of his classmates, Susan Baxley, worked with Stewart in promoting awareness of the importance of minority blood drives.

"You could just tell he was so involved in trying to make the world a better place," Baxley said.

Funeral arrangements, which have not been finalized, are being handled by Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home Gwinnett Chapel.