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Atlantic Beach celebrates nation's new chapter

Charlene Taylor has lived in the Black Pearl, as Atlantic Beach is historically known, for 38 years - including during segregation, which meant walking to school as white kids were bused and using separate water fountains and bathrooms.

So watching Barack Obama take the oath of office as the 44th president of the U.S. brought her chills.

"We've never seen anybody get this close to the White House," Taylor said at Tuesday's inauguration party at the Atlantic Beach Community Center. "If he wants to lay down in the Lincoln bedroom, he can lay down in the Lincoln bedroom. If his kids want to roll around on the floor, they can roll around on the floor. It gives me chills just thinking about it."

On the ground developed in the 1930s by Conway entrepreneur George Tyson so blacks - particularly black maids who worked for wealthy white families - would have a beach, about 30 people joined in song and listened to local black speakers talk about the significance of Obama's inauguration.

"We can forgive, but we can never forget," said Bennie Swans, the night's moderator. "Never forget why Atlantic Beach was created. Never forget this day or this opportunity."

Cedric Galloway, 20, of Longs, knows the opportunity Obama's inauguration has provided for him and his 17-month-old daughter.

"It's a new beginning to me, a new start," he said. "It's more opportunity. I see my future clearly."

Galloway said he's the youngest in his family and has heard the stories of segregation told by his 65-year-old father and 59-year-old mother.

"Now I can teach my children the new basics of life. I'm honored to have him as the leader of our nation."

Framed pictures and T-shirts of Obama and his family were on sale and the center was decorated with red, white and blue flags and balloons.

Taylor said she wishes her parents were still alive to have witnessed how far the country has come in electing a black president.

"I think we need this change," she said, "and I believe that without a doubt, there's going to be a change."