By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
High-powered attorney acknowledges others' roles
Native son W. Ray Persons encourages Eleven Black Men
Persons - photo by Pat Watkins / Coastal Courier


Listen to a clip of the Rev. Henry Blair's solo during the banquet.

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video

persons speaks

Watch the first few minutes of W. Ray Person's speech at the banquet

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video

W. Ray Persons remembers how his next-door, Azalea Street neighbor Charlie Richardson and Sunday school teacher, Carolyn Smith Carter, pushed him to get into then Armstrong State College in Savannah in the early 1970s.
And how that led to scholarships to Ohio State University, where he earned his law degree in 1975, which led to a practice in Hinesville until then U.S. Rep. Lindsay Thomas snatched the young attorney up to be an aide in Washington and how that led to the wood-paneled boardrooms of the Atlanta legal community.
The litigation partner of King and Spalding LLP in Atlanta was the keynote speaker at the 14th annual Eleven Black Men of Liberty County scholarship banquet Saturday night in Club Stewart.
"So many of the people who are in this room, and so many who have gone before, made it possible for me to be what I am today," Persons said. "And that is part of what inspires me to talk to young people."
That is also the point of the Eleven Black Men, according to its current President Charles Frasier.
"It was a great success," the Hinesville City Council member said. "We sold all the tickets we had and the speaker was great. The young men could connect with him because he grew up right here on Azalea Street. And many of us in the crowd could too because we grew up with him."
The organization enrolls young blacks when they are in middle school or early high school and shepherds them through secondary education. The adults in the organization serve as role models and provide educational and social support and experiences for the youth.
The "transcenders," as they are called, this year are Jahmal Baker, Louis Bowden, Ryan Brewton, Brandon Brown, Shakur Cook, Quran Chatman, Khiry Frasier, Tevin Kelly, Jermaine Mitchell, Nicholas Parham, Anthony Price, Delvin Smith and Phillip Williams.
Frasier said Persons' talk was not just rhetoric.
"Even my son, when he was in school in Atlanta, (Persons) talked with him about his future," Frasier said.
Saturday's banquet wasn't a homecoming for just Persons. Pedro Bryant, another Hinesville native, who was the first president of the Eleven Black Men was also recognized during introductions. He is now is an officer with a Louisville, KY, bank.
He said the organization was started by 11 men in 1991 because of a need they saw among young blacks.
"It was our desire to select a group of young men and give them guidance, mentor them and provide assistance to them and, hopefully when they have completed high school, to give them scholarship opportunities to make boys into men.
As for Persons, he said he was inspired to go beyond the sharecropper/mill worker traditions of his family in a time when schools in Liberty County were still segregated after hearing a state lawmaker, Bill Lee Hill, give a speech in 1969.
"Here was a professional who looked like me," Persons said.
After expressing an interest to push his education and career farther than his family means, he got support from the community.
"I can remember Sam Harris saying to us one day in biology class, 'It's not where you're from, it's where you are going....'"
"I had a lot of encouragement from my teachers and I had a lot of encouragement from the people at my Sunday school."
Sign up for our e-newsletters