Honor well deserved

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana was the first to observe that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

That is a philosophy one local man took to heart so completely that he has dedicated the past few years of his life to ensuring we don’t forget the lessons of one of the darkest eras of American history.

John Mattox founded the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing along with his late wife, Rosalind, in 1993. That museum has a mission to help educate the public, and Mattox has done such a good job fulfilling that mission that Heritage Ohio has honored him for his work.

Mattox has filled the former bank building on High Street in the village with examples of what he calls “Americana”— memorabilia and other artifacts designed to help visitors learn about the history of the Underground Railroad in Ohio. From letters to drinking vessels to shackles that held people captive on their way to and from the slave markets, the collection is extensive. Tours of the museum generally take several hours and, thanks to Mattox’s insightful guidance, the visitors leave the facility with a greater understanding of the local area’s role in helping escaped slaves reach freedom in pre-Civil War days.

Mattox aims to leave a legacy of understanding and learning tools for the future.

“The museum is a gift for the next generation,” Mattox said. “If we can teach and pass this on to the next generation, then it’s all worth it.”

Mattox was one of several people who were recently honored at Heritage Ohio’s seventh-annual Appalachia Heritage Luncheon in Columbus. Honorees were recognized for their work in community development and historic preservation.

During the event, Mattox was introduced by state Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta. Humble as always, Mattox thanked Thompson and several others for their support of the museum.

In February, Mattox plans to speak at both the Belmont Correctional Institution and the prison facility in Noble County for Black History Month. He said he is always willing to travel and speak to groups, bringing the inmates important lessons from the past.

We congratulate Mattox on receiving yet another award for his important work, and we look forward to learning more from the lessons he has to share.