The 2023 Black History Month banners will proudly feature prominent “Firsts” from Perry’s African American community! Individual banners may be viewed on various streets throughout the downtown district and will be displayed from February 1, 2023 through February 28, 2023. A new Black History Month banner design will also be displayed along General Courtney Hodges Boulevard during Black History Month!
Honoring The Past. Inspiring the Future.
Join us as the City of Perry celebrates Black History Month by recognizing distinguished African Americans who have made an impact in their hometown of Perry, Georgia. The mission of the City of Perry's Black History Month celebration is to connect all citizens with knowledge and reflection on the varied accomplishments of our African American community. It is our vision to create an atmosphere where heritage is shared, celebrated and preserved through stories, facts and impactful contributions that African Americans have had on the overall development to the City of Perry.
If I were to write all of the reasons that I am grateful for all the participants in the Black History memoratorium on a little piece of paper, they would fill the entire room. On behalf of the City of Perry, I am blessed and grateful for your help and support for this historical event. I doubt I would have been able to complete a project of this magnitude without you doing your part. Your willingness and cooperation is a big part of why this project was so successful. I am looking forward to everyone getting an opportunity to see the completed work. I am honored to be a part of building such a phenomenal foundation for the history of Perry.
In my experience, it is the community and citizens that make our city a beautiful place to live. Each and every person that contributed to the Perry African American history project deserves credit. Everyone worked together to get the project completed and I want to thank you collectively and individually. I am sincerely honored to be a part of such a momentous event for your community. Let's continue to partner to build a fantastic foundation for our beautiful city.
Phyllis Bynum-Grace, City of Perry Councilwoman
Prominent Firsts From Perry’s African American Community
Mrs. Bynum-Grace has served as a City Council Member for nearly 25 years for Post 1, District 1. During this time, she has conceived and fostered the installation of four neighborhoods in predominately minority populated neighborhoods lacking park space, insisted that city staff meet with residents on-site to resolve communication and correct misunderstandings, and established effective communication processes between police departments and minority neighborhoods, resulting in the end of hostility towards police and a significant increase in information resulting in a decrease in overall crime rate. In 2002 she served as Mayor Pro Tem. Mrs. Bynum-Grace spearheaded the development of Legacy Park, a tribute to Perry’s veterans of past and present. Mrs. Bynum-Grace was a school nurse with the Houston County School System, a member of the School Nursing Association, a board member of Kid’s Journey, Safe Kids of Houston County, and the director of Camp Can Do, a summer camp for children with disabilities. A servant of the community, she actively participates in community wide clean up events and collection drives for food, clothing and housewares for residents in need.
Dr. Alvin D. Chapman is a dentist at Wes Park Family Dental and was Perry’s first African-American dentist.
Leon Collins was born and raised in Perry, Georgia where his roots run deep. Leon started singing in church and school choirs at the age of 5 and continued to sing while in high school. By the mid-60s Leon had become a front man and sang lead vocals with the Vangaurds and the Ambitions. He broke out on his own and performed at Georgia Southwestern, Fort Valley State College, as well as other colleges and universities. In the late 60’s, after a short military stay, Leon moved to Boston and recorded his first 2 songs, “Somebody Help Me” and “Sad Day Tonight”. His single “I Just Wanna Say I Love You” has been popular on the UK Northern and Modern Soul scenes over the years. He was signed by Elf Records and has also had recordings with Audio Forty and Checker Records.
Samuel Collins built Ebony Court and Ebony Guest House for black tourists and tenants, later adding a trailer park.
James Davis’s roots run deep in Perry, Georgia. Musicians have been in his family since the days of slavery. James was a renowned musician known by many as the “Drum Beat Man”. He was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame and was highlighted in The Living Blues Magazine. He recorded numerous lp’s and cd’s.
Dr. Lazunia Frierson is a native of Houston County. She was born in Perry and attended schools in Perry through second grade. Her family then moved to Warner Robins. She is a proud graduate of Northside High School, and she returned to her alma mater to teach English and coach ninth grade and JV cheerleading. After teaching at Northside, she became an assistant principal at Lindsey Elementary School and later was named principal of Linwood Elementary School. In 2013, she was promoted to a position at the Houston County School District’s main office as the Executive Director of Elementary Operations, serving for six years before being named the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, a position that she held for two years. As of October 2021, Dr. Frierson has served as the Assistant Superintendent of District and School Effectiveness in the Houston County School District. She was the first Black female to hold each of these District office positions. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education in English from Valdosta State University. She earned a Master of Education and an Education Specialist in Administration and Supervision from Georgia College and State University. In October 2022, she earned a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Valdosta State University. Dr. Frierson enjoys spending time with her family, reading books, and learning about ways to live a healthy lifestyle. Most of all, she is passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of students in her school district.
Judge Randy Howard was appointed to the Perry Municipal Court in October 2022. He is a 1983 graduate of Morehouse College where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. He attended the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University where he obtained his Juris Doctorate in 1987.
Judge Randy Howard has been a practicing attorney in Georgia over thirty years. His legal career began with the law firm Mathis & Jordan as a law clerk. Several years later, he became an assistant district attorney with the Dublin Judicial Circuit.
Thereafter, his legal employment included working as a staff attorney for State Farm Insurance Company and Managing Attorney for Progressive Insurance Company.
After spending approximately twenty years as an insurance defense attorney for State Farm and Progressive, Judge Howard started his own law office where he handled both criminal and civil cases. Two years later, Judge Howard was employed by Bibb County school District as Chief Legal Counsel. As Hieg Legal Counsel, his duties included providing legal advice to the Board of Education and Bibb county School District, attending board meetings, presiding over student discipline matters, reviewing and reviewing board policies, updating school officials with current law impacting educational issues and managing and overseeing litigation.
Judge Howard lives in Macon, Georgia. He is married to Lilian Howard, and the couple has been married over twenty six years. He enjoys traveling and spending holidays with his family and friends. He has spent his adult life working with young men and women coaching little league baseball at Macon Little League located in Macon, Georgia.
Hervia Ingram was a member of Perry City Council from 1985 to 1997 and served as Mayor Pro-Tem several times during his tenure. He served in the Houston County School System as a teacher and department chair from 1959 to 1984. He became the Director of Continuing Education at Houston Vocational Center in 1984 following graduate study in agribusiness and adult education, and he served as the Assistant to the Executive Director of the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority from 1990 to 1992. He has been a member of the Houston County Board of Elections and the Board of Tax Equalization, the Perry Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Board, the Middle Georgia APDC, the local Red Cross Advisory Board, and the Three Rivers Health Care Advisory Board. The House of Representatives adopted a resolution in 2000 commending Hervia for his exceptional public service career.
James H. Kinchen is a native of Elko, Georgia and a graduate of Houston High School. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Fort Valley State College and a Master’s and Specialist degrees from the University of Georgia. He began his teaching career as the first African American teacher at Perry High School in 1969 where he taught Mathematics and coached several sports for 21 years. He won more than 200 games as Head Coach for Girls Basketball. He was named Teacher of the Year twice and selected Star Teacher on three occasions.
He joined the administrative staff at Houston County High School as the first assistant principal in 1990. Mr. Kinchen was Bonaire Middle School first principal when it opened in 1996. He joined the Central Office Staff in 1999 as Executive Director for Secondary Operations. He was the first African American Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instructions in Houston County. He retired as Assistant Superintendent for School Operations after 40 years of service. After retirement he spent three years working as a consultant for improving failing schools in Alabama.
Mr. Kinchen served on the Board of Directors for United Way of Central Georgia, Crime Stoppers, 21st Century Partnership, Noonday Optimist Club and others. He is married to Virginia, a retired educator and musician. He is a deacon at Spring Creek Baptist Church.
Brenda King has been employed with the City of Perry for 35 years and has served as the Director of Administration for the past 16 years. A Fort Valley State Alumni, Brenda was the first African American woman Department Head for the City of Perry. Under her leadership, the Perry Finance Department has been recognized annually by the National Government Financial Officers Association for its excellence in financial reporting achievement. This recognition is only given to agencies that demonstrate sound and comprehensive financial reporting. To be recognized every year under her leadership illustrates Ms. King’s effective financial expertise, dedication and foresight to lead a team of dynamic professionals. She is an active member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated, Crossroads Civitan and the Fort Valley State National Alumni Association. She attends the Green Grove Baptist Church.
Pastor Josh B. Kirvin, Sr. is a native of Warner Robins, Georgia and was educated in the public schools of Houston County. He received his B.A. degree from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. He has done graduate studies at Georgia State University and continues to receive additional educational and professional training.
At an early age he accepted Christ as his personal Savior, was baptized, licensed and ordained to preach the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. He has served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Garmon Street since December of 1980, the church he affectionately calls the greatest church in the world. Pastor Kirvin is the father of three children: Shanele Kirvin-Moultrie, Josh Kirvin, Jr., and Jana Kirvin. He is also blessed with a Son-In-Law, Gregory Moultrie and grandchildren, Jaidyn Shanele Kirvin, Gavin Gregory Moultrie, Josh B. Kirvin, III (Tre'), Lauryn Mitchum, Gracelin Olivia Moultrie, Jace B. Kirvin, Barack Jayson Kirvin, and Jersye Caaxi Sanford.
Pastor Kirvin has been blessed with the favor of God upon his life. He has preached throughout the United States and abroad. He has served on many and varied boards and committees throughout the state of Georgia. He continues to be requested for sundry assignments, which ultimately brings glory to God and blessing to the body of Christ. Why? FAVOR!!
Pastor Kirvin says, “To those persons reading this, I have purposely omitted much of the ‘filler’ which often makes up one’s biographical sketch. I am of the opinion that the anointing to preach God’s Word and the character I display will tell you more about me than what you read. It is my prayer that you will find me being that which God has called me to be and doing that which HE has called me to do.”
“I am saved and I love the Lord and the Lord’s people.”
It is my prayer that my past, present and future are embodied in the following: If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or a song, if I can show somebody how they’re traveling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a good man ought, if I can bring back beauty to a world up wrought, if I can spread love’s message as the Master taught, then my living shall not be in vain.
Fenika Miller is an accomplished professional and community leader with over three decades of experience in both private and governmental sectors. Currently, Fenika serves as a voter engagement and political organizer in twenty-six counties across middle and south Georgia. Introduced to service at a young age, Fenika is actively involved in the community. She is an inspirational leader who is able to inspire action and build coalitions of people from diverse backgrounds to implement positive social change. Fenika believes that opportunities belong to all of us, and that when equipped with the right skills, each of us possesses the ability to lead change. Her advocacy centers on economic stability, educational opportunity, and access to healthcare and housing. In 2012, she founded a nonprofit service organization committed to raising civic and policy awareness among women, girls, and community stakeholders, as well as, to encourage diverse voices in decision-making positions. Her vision is to live in a state and community where every woman and girl has the opportunity to lead, succeed, govern, and prosper in every area of their lives. Respected as a credible voice in the community, Fenika earns a seat at the table wherever she serves. Fenika holds an MBA from Wesleyan College and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from THE Fort Valley State University. She is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Robins, Acting Chair of the Development Authority of Warner Robins, and is a business mentor for SCORE-Middle GA. In 2020, Fenika opened Succeed Cowork, an inclusive co-working community and entrepreneur incubator for women of color. Fenika Miller was the first African-American from Perry to declare votes.
John Moody was hired by Perry City Council in March 1966 as Perry’s first black policeman. He had been a county agent for Houston County and had worked in the maintenance department of the Houston County Board of Education before being hired as a policeman. He resigned in 1967 because of ill health.
The election of Houston G. Porter, Jr to the Houston County Commission in 1980 was transformational. He made history in being the first Black elected official in Houston County since Reconstruction (1865-1877), over 100 years ago. Additionally, history was made, as he was the first Black in Houston County’s history to be elected from a majority white district since Reconstruction. Houston Porter served as Chairman and Vice Chairman during his terms from 1980-1992. Houston Porter says that words are inadequate to express the gratitude that he felt for the confidence accorded him by the citizens of Houston County during his terms of holding elective office. It gave him a great deal of pleasure to know that he played a small but pivotal role in generating a paradigm shift in thinking, which effectively swung the political pendulum during the election of 1980. This election had a pioneering effect on Blacks seeking election office throughout Houston County and its municipalities. The election of 1980 generated an indelible impression on the spirit of Black people in Houston County, creating a thirst for those seeking elective office. Today it is a common place to see Blacks vying for and holding elective offices throughout Houston Count.
Debra Pressword is a native of Perry-Houston County, GA. She joined the Houston County Board of Elections team October 2005. Before receiving the job of Elections Supervisor, she worked as Registration Clerk and Absentee Lead in Houston County. She believes communication is the most important trait of any operation. She is especially passionate about the voters and ensuring that they receive what is needed to make their voting experience pleasant.
Mr. Ragin taught science and coached at the high school level from 1953 through 1964, becoming the first black head coach and athletic director in Houston County. In 1964, Ragin became the first principal at King’s Chapel Elementary and remained there until his retirement in 1980. He taught the values he believes in – self-reliance, self-improvement, devotion, drive, discipline, temperance, hard work, thrift and personal responsibility. He taught that these values are established through education – the pathway that drives his basic optimism about life – and a faith in free will and individual confidence.
James Ragin was born in Peach County, but lived his adult life in Perry. For years, he owned the only dry cleaners in Perry. He collected, cleaned, and pressed the clothes himself. His sons were capable of helping.
Willie Frank Ragin was a life-long civic leader in the community. Willie Frank helped secure recreational facilities in communities and, through his efforts, bridged a gap between black and white communities. He was president of the Adult Training Union and a leader for many years. Mr. Ragin was a WW1 Veteran, painter, an employee of Robins Air Force Base, the post commander of the Felton-Pennymon Post of the American Legion, a trustee of the “colored” schools from 1961 to 1966 and the treasurer for the Houston County delegates to the State Republican Committee in Atlanta.
He spent many years as an educator at the Perry Houston County Training School. During his 25 year tenure he set high expectations for teachers and students, although facilities, supplies – and even teachers – were sometimes hard to obtain. He inspired his students to dress for success and have confidence in their abilities. Mr. Redmond supported involvement in extracurricular activities and coach the high school basketball team. Mr. Redmond worked with the Board of Education to establish the twelfth grade at the Training School from which the first class of seniors graduated in 1951. Mr. Redmond was a scout leader for Boy Scout Troop #97.
The Richardson Funeral Home in the Old Field Community has been a staple since 1970. Established by Ruby and Rayfield Richardson, they served the community with dignity. Prior to their establishment in Perry, in 1958, they entered into the mortuary industry opening the R.N.T. Funeral Home with partners, Charlie Nelson and Daniel Thomas (the latter partnership was bought out by Tilmon Wilson). In 1985, the partnership of R. N.T. Funeral Home dissolved, and the name was changed to Richardson & Son Funeral Home.
Deborah Roberts is an award-winning ABC News Correspondent for 20/20, Nightline, Good Morning America and World News Tonight with David Muir. A media veteran, Roberts is a highly respected journalist who has traveled the world in her reporting. Roberts’ long form reports on 20/20 have consistently produced extraordinary narratives such as the intimate profiles of first lady Michelle Obama, first daughter Ivanka Trump and an in-depth investigation into abuse within the Amish Community. She has reported from Africa on children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis and was part of the historic coverage of the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Roberts has been awarded multiple Emmy awards for her national and international coverage of world events. Roberts in the author of “Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom for Modern Times” a book written with her husband, Al Roker.
Born in Perry, Georgia, Simmons attended Warner Robins High School, where he played football as a tight end and linebacker. In 1976, he was named lineman of the year, and first team All-State by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Prior to becoming a professional wrestler, Simmons was an American college and pro football player who was a defensive tackle in the National Football League (NFL), Canadian Football League (CFL) and United States Football League (USFL) for four seasons during the 1980s. He played college football for Florida State University, and was recognized as an All-American. He played professionally for the NFL's Cleveland Browns, the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders and the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits. Ronald Simmons (born May 15, 1958) is an American retired professional wrestler and football player. He performed for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) under his real name, and in the World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment (WWF/E) under both his real name and the ring names Faarooq Asaad (sometimes spelled Asad) and Faarooq (sometimes spelled Farooq). He is signed with WWE, working in their Legends program. In WCW, Simmons was a one-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion; as the first African American to win the title, he is recognized by WWE as the first black world champion in professional wrestling history and is a Hall of Fame inductee.
Tilford Winery in the central Georgia town of Kathleen, is named in honor of Tilford Taylor, the father of proprietor Robert Taylor. Taylor started making wine in the 90’s as a hobby, primarily for family and friends. He began with two 55 gallons of stainless steel drums, which allows the wine to last longer, up to 100 years without spoiling. Robert Taylor, owner of Tilford Farm and Winery was the recipient of Fort Valley State University’s 2015 Farm Family of the Year Award.
An educator to the children of Houston County, serving 40 years to the cause before retiring in June 1970. She was also a licensed embalmer. As a community columnist for the Houston Home Journal, she provided important links to old and new Perry in her weekly columns. She chronicled the happenings of the black communities and gave her special inspiration and advice to her faithful readers. She listed “personals” the travels of families to and fro visiting, death notices, happenings in the community, churches, etc.
Ms. Amanda Toomer purchased property on Carroll Street in 1905 and was the first black person to open a grocery store and pharmacy. She also purchased stock in the Georgia Southern Railroad and several acres of land. Under the business name of Toomer Brothers, two of her sons, Fred and Henry, opened a Grist Mill and a Sawmill business and made lumber and shingles. By 1915, she established the Toomer Brothers Mortuary. It was one of Perry’s oldest mortuary establishments and is listed on the historical registry. During the days of Toomer’s business, the bodies of the deceased would be displayed in the windows.
Dr. Luther Vance, Jr. is a native from Perry who began the practice of general medicine. While working as a pharmacist, Vance attended a post graduate school at Wayne State University, medical school at Meharry and received his M.D. degree in 1975. He returned to Perry and was the first black physician to set up practice in Houston County. Dr. Vance’s patients were from the town and communities all around. He set aside every Tuesday and Thursday night to go into the city jail and county correctional facility to see to the medical needs of the prisoners.
Annie Warren currently serves as Perry’s first black City Clerk, where she maintains campaign filings of elected officials including campaign contribution forms, financial disclosure forms, etc. She assists with agenda preparation, maintains all appointments to City boards, provides administrative support, and maintains financial reports of the Mayor and City Council. She was hired in 2007 as Secretary to the Mayor and Administrative Assistant to the City Manager and was promoted to City Clerk in 2015.
Fannie Pettie was one of the co-founders of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. She was a Life Member and held membership with Delta Alpha Zeta Chapter in Brooklyn, New York. She is credited with organizing Omicron Beta Chapter in Brooklyn.
Fannie Pettie was born in Perry, Georgia. She attended public schools in Savannah, Georgia and continued her formal training at Georgia State College. Later, she graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. Post-graduate studies in social work and in housing have been pursued at New York University.