Tribute to R. Kelly Bryant, Jr.by Representative G. K. Butterfield
Posted on 2015-12-11
of north carolina
in the house of representatives
Friday, December 11, 2015
Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I rise and ask my Colleagues to join me
in paying tribute to R. Kelly Bryant, Jr., a friend and constituent who
passed away on December 6, 2015 at the blessed age of 98 years old. It
is worth noting that his date of death was the 150th Anniversary of the
Ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution which
legally abolished slavery in America.
Mr. Speaker, Kelly Bryant enjoyed a full life. He graduated from Hampton University, with a concentration in accounting. Following graduation, Mr. Bryant worked for historic North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company from the 1940's until his retirement in 1981. His true passion, however, was documenting the history of African American citizens in the City and County of Durham.
Mr. Bryant's contribution to the Durham Community is boundless. He worked tirelessly in many endeavors, including obtaining a historic marker at the site of the Royal Ice Cream sit-in in 1957, saving Geer Cemetery (one of Durham's oldest African American burial grounds) and the completion of a pedestrian bridge over the Durham Freeway, in order to connect black neighborhoods that were separated by the highway. The bridge was later named in honor of R. Kelly Bryant, Jr.
Mr. Bryant believed strongly in preserving Durham's African American history. He collected over 2,500 funeral programs, obituaries, and birth announcements. His archive is so valuable that the Durham County Library currently hosts the R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. Collection as an online exhibit.
In addition to his work as the local historian, Kelly Bryant was a leader in his community, serving the Durham Business and Professional Chain for 49 years; charter member of the Durham Human Relations Commission, served 37 years as a scoutmaster, and was a member of the Durham chapter of the NAACP. One of his greatest passions was his membership and active participation with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Jurisdictions, Inc.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Kelly Bryant also devoted his life to historic White Rock Baptist Church (founded in 1866) in Durham, North Carolina. He was very spiritual in all of his endeavors and embraced the teachings of our Heavenly Father. He served as a Church Trustee for 55 long years.
Mr. Bryant's work did not go unnoticed, he was recognized with many awards and honors, including certificate of acknowledgment and congratulations for his many activities from the North Carolina House of Representatives, NAACP ``Freedom Fund Dinner Award'', Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America for ``Distinguished Service to Boyhood'', the first African American recipient of the Bartlett Durham Award, and an appointment as the honorary grand master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Jurisdiction.
Finally R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. is survived by his son, R. Kelly Bryant, III; his daughter, Sandra Artelia Bryant-Yubwannie, of Durham, North Carolina; a sister Maggie Bryant (age 100) and five wonderful grandchildren, Keith Bryant, Korey Bryant, Mykel Bryant Moore, Yohanna Yubwannie and Raevin Bryant. Mr. Bryant was preceded in death by his spouse of 69 years, Artelia Melba Tennessee Bryant, who was his co- worker at North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and was the matriarch of their family. Mrs. Artelia Bryant was the descendant of the legendary Darden family of Wilson, North Carolina.
Mr. Speaker, I am so proud to pay tribute to such an outstanding American legend. His legacy will live on for generations.