When I came to Fairhill to get interviews about the death of an esteemed resident, I must admit I was a little nervous. James Hall, affectionately known as “The Mayor” or “Bus,” meant a lot to those who grew up in the area. I expected a backlash as I was an outsider wanting to speak to people of the neighborhood.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Do you want to speak to Bus’s wife?” a resident immediately asked me.
“Absolutely,” I replied.
From my experiences, people generally do not want to talk to media mere days after a shocking death. His widow, Juanita Johnson, 54, was more than willing. I had to know why.
“People need to know this story,” the widow said. “Bus was a caring person who helped anybody he could to the best of his ability.”
His impact was clear. Fairhill resident Lamont Jefferson said that Hall got up at 6 a.m. to sweep the streets and ask elderly residents if they needed any help. Hall also built a park at the corner of York and Reese streets for children to play in.
“It’s really sad to see him go,” Jefferson said. “Something really needs to be done about this.”
Hall was shot while sitting on the steps of one of the block’s elderly residents. The assailant was aiming for another individual and Hall was caught in the crossfire. As the intended target was not hit, people in the neighborhood are fearful of another attack.
Police have been on patrol in the neighborhood around the clock following this incident. Though not willing to go on record, they claim they are doing all they can to make the residents feel more at ease. To Jefferson, however, it is a little too late.
“These kids really need something to do,” he said.
A resident of Fifth and York streets for over 25 years, 44-year-old Jefferson said he offered jobs to kids at a nearby McDonald’s he manages. Despite his efforts, he said things remain the same.
Johnson was more optimistic. “Of course, I hate to see Bus go, but maybe this can be the beginning of some change.”