Raymond Tatum’s newsstand sits at the corner of Decatur and Peachtree streets in downtown Atlanta. Initially, it was the colorful apparel blowing in the breeze that caught my attention but it was one of Ray’s stories about his mother that inspired me to create this portrait and post. As Ray reflected on his childhood he spoke about his mother, Lena Jones Tatum, with great admiration. Lena was a strong and determined woman. She separated from her husband and in 1954 she moved from Florida to Atlanta with her six young children in search of a better life. She worked hard as a housekeeper and after a year and a half she was able to purchase a house in Southeast Atlanta for $5,000. Ray recalls that their home was always immaculate despite the fact that the property flooded every time it rained. Ray’s mother would say,”It’s not where you live but how you live,” a motto that Ray continues to live by. All six children graduated from high school and when Ray, the youngest, finished, Lena returned to school and earned her high school diploma. An emotional Ray said, “She gave me everything I needed, I just didn’t see it at the time.” After high school, Ray made a hasty decision to join the army. Although his mother showed up at the induction center with the offer to assist him with furthering his education if he stayed home, he declined her offer. Ray served in South Vietnam for only four months before he stepped on a land mine and lost his left foot. He was discharged in 1969 with a purple heart. In gratitude for his mother, Ray hopes to create a family business in her honor.
Ray, on this Memorial weekend, we honor you for your service.
Ray was inspired to create a company called Gittin’ Off Zero. He sells his apparel at his newsstand and online at http://gittinoffzero.com/home.html