Miles: Plenty to be thankful for

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Raymond Miles did not set out to be an author.

He simply wanted to leave a written legacy of his remarkable life for his children, grandchildren and extended family to know and enjoy.

With the help of his wife, “Sam,” and a computer, a simple record of his life was compiled, printed and distributed among his nearest and dearest in 2004.

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Following the publication of a Miles profile article in The Post-Searchlight, where it was mentioned he had written “a book” about his life, Miles began getting calls and letters from friends and acquaintances far and wide requesting a copy of “the book.”

At first he made jokes about having to go into a second printing, but now, five years after his first endeavor, he has been convinced by family members to expand the work and have it printed in true book form.

The result is “Thank You Bainbridge!” edited by Lou Merritt and printed by Budget Printing in Tallahassee.

The book makes good bedside reading. It is like having a conversation with Miles—sometimes nostalgic, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always interesting and informative.

The narrative is told in the first person and chronicles not only the life of Miles, now a very active octogenarian, but is also descriptive of life in South Georgia in the poverty stricken days of the 1930s on through the World War II years and into the more prosperous post-war years.

The reader follows Miles from his youth, growing up near Ellaville, where his father was an illiterate hard-working share cropper in order to provide for his family of eight children. And one soon comes to understand the extraordinary work ethic that his son has emulated over the years.

Miles’ years in the military service during World War II, stationed in the South Pacific are also covered. There he witnessed events that permanently shaped and cemented his belief systems and faith in God—a faith he has maintained and promoted the rest of his life.

Miles came to Bainbridge in 1960 and began carving a career for himself first in insurance, then in real estate development. He freely admits that moving here was the best thing that ever happened to him. He has been a cheerleader and benefactor for the community ever since. He has earned the reputation as a champion fund-raiser for such worthy causes and developments as Bainbridge College, L.I.F.E., YMCA and the establishment of scholarships to help students further their education.

This is extraordinary when you read of the academic difficulties Miles had in school. He only has a seventh-grade education. He could not read, and it wasn’t until years later when he joined the U.S. Army at age 19 that a routine physical and eye examination discovered he was legally blind. He was issued his first pair of eyeglasses and was amazed at what he had been missing.

The book tells of his association and development of close friendships with the power brokers of the Bainbridge community during those years and how they helped him succeed in business. There are testimonies included from many of those.

Miles shares his personal tenets and mottos for success. A personal favorite is how to get along with people. Miles claims that if you have trouble getting along with someone, that the problem may very well be you.

Another is his philosophy that you cannot sell anything to anyone, but you can help people accomplish what they want to do. He has always told his sales people that if people ever get the feeling that you are trying to sell them something the deal is off and you are dead in the water. You just have to offer to help them accomplish what they want to do.

As the title “Thank You Bainbridge!” suggests, this book is an expression of appreciation to a community. Miles is convinced he could never have accomplished what he has if it weren’t for the people of Bainbridge who took him in and helped him along the way. For that reason he is donating all profits from all book sales to the following local charities: the YMCA, the Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library and First Baptist Church of Bainbridge.

A series of book signings will be held beginning Monday, Nov. 30, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the YMCA; Tuesday, Dec. 1, at the library from 2 to 4 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 2, at First Baptist Church from 4 to 6 p.m.

Miles will also be at the Book Nook on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. , and promises everything sold there will go to the above mentioned charities.