Harris is a great advocate

Published 1:06 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Saturday I had an opportunity to cover an event I always enjoy.

Each year Bainbridge Advocacy Individual Network Inc. (BAIN) celebrates the anniversary of the passage the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The act, which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, commercial facilities, employment, transportation state and local government services and telecommunications.

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What makes the day so special to me, and Saturday was the 21st anniversary celebration, is that it annually gives me an opportunity to visit my dear friend Virginia Close Harris.

Virginia and I go back a long way. I covered her when she was an outstanding front court player for the Bainbridge High School Lady Cats basketball team.

She played her freshman and sophomore years under Coach Bobby Trawick and her junior and senior years under Coach Stave Hartzog.

In 1980, during her senior basketball season, Virginia was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but she did not let the disability get her down.

Instead, she became an advocate for the disabled, winning awards for her hard work while serving on state and national boards.

Virginia is one of the most giving and caring people that I have ever known.

Her biggest accomplishment came when she founded BAIN with the goal of looking after needs of the disabled in Decatur, Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Early, Grady, Miller, Randolph, Seminole and Thomas counties.

Virginia comes from a very athletic family. Her brother Calvin Close was the starting fullback on former Decatur County School Superintendent Ralph Jones’s 1982 Bainbridge High School Bearcats State Class AAA championship football team.

Her older brother Marcus Close, who is retired from Georgia Power Company and living in Valdosta, was a Bearcats tailback and strong track sprinter.

While visiting with Virginia at her BAIN office on Shotwell Street Monday, we had an opportunity to reminisce about the great runs she and her brothers had on local athletic courts and fields.

The Close’s are just one of many strong sports families I have had the opportunity to cover through the years and I look forward to continuing to keep local sports families like the Closes before the public.

That is why I enjoy this great job so much. It gives me an opportunity to cover people like Virginia Close Harris and report on the work they do to make the world a better place.

Thanks Virginia for all the great work you do. You are truly a great advocate for all the people you love and care about and I salute you and your great staff at BAIN.