The Good Book tells us in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” It also says in Zachariah 4:9, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” These two verses have motivated James R. Gorham throughout his life. He never forgot the vision and continues to appreciate the humble beginnings of his life.
Meet Brigadier General James Roy Gorham, known by most as J. R. and affectionately known as that curly-haired little boy from the tobacco fields of Falkland, NC. Read on and learn how the sharecropper’s son rose from a boy priming tobacco in his parent’s tobacco field to becoming the first African American Brigadier General in the North Carolina National Guard. J. R. shares, “I was born to Roy and Madie Gorham in 1956. I have five older sisters, so I had six mammas. Since I was the first boy born after five girls, I was the apple of their eyes. I was fortunate to have been born into a loving family, even though we lived in a four-bedroom shack. That shack had holes in the floors and in the walls, we had plastic around our windows in the winter, and we even had an outhouse. That shack had no running water, so I had to draw water from a well. On the weekends, I had to draw 80 buckets of water just so mama could wash the clothes because we had one of those washing machines with rollers so it took a lot of water to do the laundry. I didn’t have any expectations to do anything in particular with my life back then because we were actually po’ with one “o” and we could not afford the “r” that’s just how poor we were. Looking back on it, we were only poor in resources, but in the things that really mattered in life we had an abundance.”
Growing up in an authoritative household can seem daunting to many teenagers, and J. R. was no different. So when the day came to forgo working in his father’s tobacco field and living under his strict rules, J. R. took it by joining the United States Army.
“I didn’t join the army out of any patriotic duty. I joined to get out of that tobacco field and to get from under my daddy’s thumb. I just wanted to live my life. My best friend until this very day, Rick Streeter, and I got our money together and sent in our initial deposit so we could attend NC A&T State University in 1974, but that didn’t happen. Instead of us going to school, we played hooky. After we messed around all day, we went down to the recruiting office to listen to that spill so we could get a note to return to school. When I tell you that the recruiting officer painted a wonderful picture of us seeing the world, we bought it; hook, line and sinker, and we signed up that day!”
He is best described as a God-fearing man who loves being a husband and father. Those who don’t know him would probably say Stony is arrogant, but he says that’s far from the truth. “If anything, I try to motivate and encourage people to chase after their dreams and to live life to the fullest and with purpose. Life is already challenging, so I try to offer the advice I want someone to give me during times of adversary,” he shares.
Stony Murphy of Pensacola, FL, reflects on what he was told as a child, how he was treated as a black sheep and would fail in life. He has stood on that skepticism and, in turn, used it as a source of inspiration. He credits his mother, Gloria Murphy, for being an excellent example for him to live by. Stony shares that her strong will and determination to raise him while being a single black woman helped him learn that anything is possible, just as long as he believed in himself.
Duriya Caldwell is the face and founder of The Black Pearl Nail Academy. Based in Memphis, TN, her company offers full-service manicures and education to individuals seeking to learn the discipline of manicuring. Duriya says it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old; if you are looking to gain your manicuring license, The Black Pearl Nail Academy is the place to come.
Duriya is a current resident of Memphis. She is a proud HBCU graduate and has a masters in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Duriya’s love for nails began when she was only twelve years of age. “I started doing nails using the fake nails that were included in my easter basket. They were the stick on nails, but that is how I started. I played with my mom and sister’s polish, and it grew from there,” she says.
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