Miles, community benefactor, dies

Published 9:03 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

Raymond A. Miles, a businessman who moved to Bainbridge as a young man, then became the community’s biggest fan, died Wednesday morning in north Georgia.


He was 85.

Miles was born on May 19, 1925, and reared in Ellaville, Ga., one of eight children of a share cropper.

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He joined the U.S. Army at age 18, and served in the South Pacific in World War II.

Miles came to Bainbridge in 1960, and carved a career for himself first in insurance, then real estate development. He was a major builder of homes and a commercial property developer.

Miles Realty celebrated the 50th anniversary of the business in April of this year.

He has been one of Bainbridge/Decatur County’s biggest cheerleaders and a benefactor to the community. He earned a reputation as a champion fund-raiser for such worthy causes and developments as the building of Bainbridge College and the YMCA.

Always a proponent of educational pursuits, he was a supporter of L.I.F.E., and for the establishment of scholarships to help students further their education. He was also a patron of the arts, especially of The Bainbridge Little Theatre.

With the help of his wife “Sam,” Raymond Miles wrote a book about his amazing life so his family would have a written legacy. By popular demand, a second printing titled, “Thank You, Bainbridge!” was made available for sale to the public in November 2009. All proceeds from the sales went to his favorite charities, including First Baptist Church, the YMCA and the Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library.

Miles held many local and state offices in organizations and community affairs in his lifetime. They include serving one term on the Decatur County Commission and Georgia Real Estate Commission. He was past president or chairman of the Southwest Georgia Board of Realtors, Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce, Committee of 100, Bainbridge Lions Club. Bainbridge-Decatur County Industrial Development Authority, Bainbridge Housing Authority, Bainbridge College Foundation, and Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA.

He was a member of Bainbridge Rotary Club, Orion Lodge #8 F&AM, Bainbridge Shrine Club and Hasan Shrine Temple.

He was a deacon and finance chairman of First Baptist Church and a member of the Penny-Lambert Sunday School Class. He was named Decatur County Man of the Year in 1986.

He was also instrumental in the construction of the new building for the Department of Children and Family Services building on the corner of Wheat Street and Miliuli Avenue.

A host of friends

In addition to his extended family, Raymond leaves a host of good friends who have graciously expressed their thoughts.

Charles Tyson, a fellow Realtor, said of Raymond, “He was a great guy and a great friend of mine. I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather pick on.”

The two were noted for exchanging gibes at Rotary, Chamber events and other meetings.

Tyson recalled that Miles was always for the community. He built a lot of the housing here in Bainbridge.

“He did well here, and was so appreciative that he always gave back. I never called on him for anything in the community that he didn’t respond positively. He was one of the instrumental people for the building of the college and the YMCA and always contributed money to those organizations as well as to our church, First Baptist.”

After Tyson retired as Bainbridge’s city manager, the two became closer friends and the two couples traveled together some.

“We always had a good time together, but he couldn’t drive a car to save his life,” said Tyson. “One problem was he would always be looking around at property trying to figure how to make a deal. He lived to make a deal.”

Steve Poitevint regarded Raymond as a mentor and surrogate father after Steve’s own dad died when Steve was in his teens.

“He was one of a kind,” said Poitevint. “I learned so much just by watching him in action. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. I always saw a sermon in Raymond.”

Hal Brannen said he hopes the readers can only hope to live the same full life that Mr. Raymond lived right up to the finish line at full speed, with his faith, family and community beliefs perfectly in alignment.

“He was a true pillar of our community, leaving a legacy of community involvement for all of us to aspire. His presence among us will be deeply missed, especially for all those who had the privilege to know him,” Brannen said.

Brannen often fished with Raymond, and those who have read the book know there were some interesting and amusing tales to be told on those occasions.

“For those of us who had the privilege to fish with Mr. Raymond, we are all certain that he is in heaven already making arrangements for someone to take him fishing, and without a doubt he will catch the most and the biggest,” commented Brannen.

Ken Bailey, executive director of the YMCA, gives Miles high praise for his work with the Y.

“If it weren’t for Raymond Miles the YMCA wouldn’t be here today, nor would I be living in Bainbridge. When you recognize the Y was just one of the many things he has done, you realize his presence has made this community what it is today. People who have never moved away from their hometown cannot quite understand how Raymond came here in his 30s and made Bainbridge his home.”

In the closing chapter of Raymond’s book, he wrote, “If I could choose what people may remember about me in the future, I would like for them to remember how much I love and appreciate the city of Bainbridge and its people, and how strongly I believe in the importance of a good education.”