From Boys to a Unique Blend of Men

by on November 27th, 2014
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Forty plus years ago in the city of Dothan, Alabama, a chain of friendship was formed. The links of the chain were thirty-four young men. The material that molded each link was chemistry, character, respect, compassion, love of God, family and community. Each link had a name. They were Willie Kirkland, Floyd Griffin, Jerry Peacock, Willie Anglin, David Kirkland, Billy Truett, Michael Jackson, Hiram Cleveland, Danny Clark, James Thompson, Stanley Davis, David Clark, Gary Potter, Greg Kimble, Charles Bowman, Verdell Barrington, Larry Graham, Tommy Turner, Jerry Long, Eliga Reynolds, David Hayes, Ricky Graham, Kenneth Bynum, Dennis McCleod, Elias Dabit and Larry Dawkins. Later in Texas the link added an extender to the chain in the persons of Carlton Patton, Joel Clouser, Clifford Hicks, Bruce Marquis, Frank Archie, William-Paul Thomas, Jonathan Coleman and Paul Johnson.

The links of this chain were securely fastened and bonded with an incredible chemical called brotherhood. The brothers that made up this chain called themselves the Boys. A group of African American young men, secure in their manhood, optimistic about life’s possibilities, proud of their heritage and responsible to the call of their ancestors to walk tall, make an imprint in the world and give something back to the community that gave them form.

At a time when African American men resisted the title of boys, these men embraced it. At a time when young men were seeking chains of gold, these men formed a chain of success. In a time when being Black and male could break the spirit and circumstance allowed only the strong to survive, the Boys, encouraged, motivated and supported each other. They embraced the guidance of their parents and teachers and the camaraderie of their brotherhood. They linked themselves to education and entrepreneurship. They were boys, they were Black, and they were proud. They were not a chain of foolish boys but a chain of a “unique blend of men.” Among their numbers are some wonderful stories of success. Success measured by more than the square footage of their homes, the names on their cars, the labels on their clothes, the degrees behind their names but by their character, their generosity and the legacy of their maturation.

Among the philanthropic bequests of the Boys are numerous scholarships awarded to boys and girls in honor of the links that had been broken by death. Among the links of the chain are movie producers, federal agents, ministers, entrepreneurs, policemen, postal workers, firemen, educators, professors, entertainers and musicians – all emanating from meager beginnings in Dothan, Alabama.

The chains of our history often overshadow the inner beauty of Black men. The Boys “not only like each but we love each other and are there for each other,” said chain link James Thompson, who now resides in Philadelphia. The Boys are an example to their community and to the world that Black men are adjectives – positive, beautiful, strong, intelligent, resilient, family and community oriented, generous, optimistic, inspiring, motivating and compassionate – boys fully grown and as their fortieth lapel pin is inscribed they are “The Boys, A Unique Blend of Men.”

Note: The chain of the boys is broken only by God’s call home.
Link in chain Eliga Reynolds was broken by death in 1979.
Link Hiram Cleveland was broken by death in 1995
Link Greg Kimble was broken by death in 2010.

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