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James Dowdy Jr. – Journey And Family

Following is the text of 2003 Scholar James Dowdy Jr.’s address at the Byrnes Scholars 55th annual luncheon, June 9, 2018.

A journey is a progressing or traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time. Journeys can be marked with difficulties, successes, trials, and celebrations. My journey began with a childhood with a mom and dad who were addicted to drugs and alcohol. As a child, I hated that part of my life and wanted to be able to erase it or change it in some kind of way. Although that was my desire, things did not go according to my plans. However, in looking back, I would not change one aspect of my childhood. It has helped me to become the man that I am today.

At an early age, I discovered that I was very good at sports, especially baseball. My dream was to make it to the major leagues and play for the Atlanta Braves. Obviously, that did not happen. I wanted to be able to get my mom out of the impoverished conditions that surrounded us. I had some goals set. My mind was definitely made up that I would improve our living conditions once I was grown. When I was 15, my mom, Florrie Lee, passed and I was left with two choices: Be mad at God and take my anger out on everyone and everything around me, or take the present pain and let that fuel me to walk and live in a way that would be pleasing and desirable to my mom. Her name for me was “Champ” and I didn’t understand why she called me that, and I still don’t understand fully. However, I will draw from this point. No matter what fight I have found myself in on this journey, by God’s empowering grace, I have gained the victory … sometimes with tears. When I was at the point of quitting or giving up, God blessed me to persevere! My encouragement to you is that when you feel like quitting or giving up, DON’T! When you feel like throwing in the towel or stopping, DON’T! When life’s situations or circumstances become difficult, ask for help.

This is especially to the new Scholars:

Don’t try to go on your journey alone. Let people in so that they can help. Let your James F. Byrnes brothers and sisters provide you with the help and love that you need. Stay connected, especially after you graduate. As an example, look at Mrs. Lois Anderson and Dr. Bill Rowe (two of the early scholars from the late 1940s and 50s). Look at Ty Collier and Tyler Gailey (young blood). There are many other faithful ones, but I will not try to name those who are still connected and still going strong for this family. You don’t have to make it back to every event, but make it to as many as you can. The ongoing success of this family depends on us. This organization/family has played a big role in helping me to get where I am today. Although you may not know certain individuals intimately, from my experience, they will be there for you and support you in whatever capacity that they can. This journey called life is filled with many heartaches and disappointments. However, it can be filled with many victories and successes as well.

The next brief point is about Homecoming. By definition, a homecoming is a return to one’s home. What’s usually waiting at one’s home? FAMILY! To me, a family is a close-knit group of people who have each other’s back no matter what this journey brings. With my James F. Byrnes family, I have seen people who were diagnosed with cancer be lifted up in prayer and other support. I have seen countless gifts given just as a token of “I love you and I’m thinking about you.” Since becoming a part of this wonderful family, I have experienced laughter, warmth, and joy to name a few things. Hundreds of students applied, but only a few were chosen. It’s been wonderful and I’m so happy to have been chosen to be a part of it.

I will close with a poem entitled “I’ll Be There” written by yours truly and humor added by my precious wife, Sandy.

When the clouds turn dark and the skies are gray,
Pick up the phone and I’ll be there.

When you’ve just passed your final exam and your degree is on the way,
Pick up the phone and I’ll be there.

When you don’t think that you can make it another day,
Pick up the phone and I’ll be there.

When you’re celebrating your victory over cancer,
Pick up the phone and I’ll be there.

When you’re frustrated and can’t seem to find the answer,
Pick up the phone and I’ll be there.

When you’re celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary,
Pick up the phone and I’ll be there.

When you’re feeling down and out, call on me,
And I’ll be there.

When you need to borrow some money
You can try giving me a call, I may or may not be there.

No matter what this journey called life brings your way, whether happy or sad,
Call me, and I’ll be there! For this is the definition of “family.”

Happy Homecoming!

2024 Application Process Closed

The application process for 2024 is closed. Scholarship announcements will be posted to the website in early June. The application for 2025 will be available December 2024. Please check back then.

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In return for their generosity and support, Mom and Pop Byrnes asked only two things from us: become the very best people we could become in life, and make sure their legacy of family continues for those who come after us.

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to the James F. Byrnes Foundation to secure its ability to invite more deserving young women and men to join the Byrnes family, both now and in the future. The Donate button will take you to the Paypal site where you can use your credit card or Paypal account to make a secure, one-time donation or set up a monthly recurring donation.

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