The people’s representative. That’s what I always thought about Robert Ray when he served as a state representative. He cared about the people and he tried to do all that he could for his district. I would call him a champion for the community.
I met him of course, through my affiliation with a newspaper. He would frequently bring us peaches and pecans just to let us know he appreciated us. That’s what he always said when dropping that season’s offering at the office. I liked him the first time I ever met him as he was very warm and friendly; of course the peaches didn’t hurt either! As I got to know him a little better, I found him to be genuine, the real thing. So rare these days.
He was probably the first Democrat I ever voted for in an election. He was a good man who will be missed by not only family and friends but the entire communities he ever served.
When he left office, he had already convinced his replacement, the late Tony Sellier to run and that too was definitely the right choice. In a serious discussion once, though he told me the real reason he had decided to get out of politics.
For one, it had become too political. It was not easy to get anything done for the district without giving up pieces of your soul and having to make concessions here and there. That takes its toll on an honest and good man. When it got to the point, he just didn’t want to deal with all of that political insanity anymore, he decided it was time to get back to doing more farming.
I appreciated his candor and totally understood. It’s something I definitely would have a hard time with as well. Political games are not my thing. I admired him for that stance as well. It had gotten to the point you had to give up five or six things to others to even get one and it was just not worth it anymore.
A testimony to how much he was loved was the number of people in attendance at visitation and the funeral. I had the notion of getting there early and apparently everyone else did as well. Sadly, you see a lot of people that you only see at funerals. Joe Collins and I talked about this at the visitation but could not come up with a solution as to not let that be case. We are all so busy.
The accolades awarded to Robert are way too many to list but last year he was presented with the Roberta-Crawford County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.
He and his wife, Jennifer, still lived on the farm he grew up on. Robert continued to farm that land. He was just 12 years old when his dad gave him two acres of land and helped him plant and take care of it. It taught him responsibility for the crops. He served on many boards including being president of the Crawford County Farm Bureau at the age of 19.
His first dive into politics was getting elected as a county commissioner at the age of 22. He served for eight years and went on to be elected to the school board for two terms and finally the Georgia House of Representatives where he served for 24 years. He served Crawford but also parts of Peach, Monroe, Upson, Bibb and Lamar counties. That first time he ran, he said he knocked on every door in the county.
During those 24 years, he did a lot of good including building a high school, the community college, getting grants for Roberta to address water issues, and as he once said, “paved a lot of roads”. He was also successful in getting the phone companies to eliminate long distance fees within counties. He championed the farmers and fought for their interests.
He loved Crawford County and even though he had stepped down as a representative, continued to do what he could for the communities he served as well as the people he knew. When things got accomplished here, Robert always said he felt good.
At the visitation, there were some of his sayings posted on the screen, along with photos. It was a beautiful tribute. I especially agree with the one that chocolate goes with everything.
Of his farming, he said he felt a little bit like he was always on vacation. Because peaches are so labor intensive, he mostly farmed pecans on the close to 3500 acres he owned. He was a fourth generation farmer.
One story I remember him telling was the decision he had in whether to buy a car or a tractor at the age of 16. He had saved $1500 for the purchase. $1200 short for the tractor, he asked the bank to loan him the money so he could buy the tractor. He never looked back and always said that was the better purchase.
Robert, just genuinely loved people and though he has entered his heavenly home, the home he left on earth will seem more vacant without his warm smile and enthusiasm. People like Robert leave their footprints in the communities where they live and serve and he certainly did that.
Please remember Jennifer and the rest of the family in these days ahead and offer up prayers for them. It is an especially tough road you tread after the loss of a spouse and father.©2018
VICTORIA SIMMONS is an author, columnist, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org