Warm, Wonderful, Winning
“Go to school, go to church and take care of each other.” These are the tenets Robert and Carolyn Abrams instilled in their six children. Perhaps the most notable of the Abrams’ children is Stacey, also known as the Honorable Stacey Abrams, who has diligently served as House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and State Representative for the 89th House District. As the House Minority Leader, she is the first woman to be the leader of either party in both chambers. She is also the first African American to hold that position in the House of Representatives.
The relevance of her parents’ words of wisdom, combined with her Spelman sister Marian Wright Edelman’s quote, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time,” have built a solid foundation for the Stacey many have come to know and love. As accomplished as she is, though, the experience of conversing with Stacey is comparable to enjoying your favorite beverage with an old friend. Her warm and inviting sense of calm makes conversing with her quite enjoyable.
Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, Stacey springs from humble beginnings. “My parents grew up in poverty in southern Mississippi,” she shares. “The mantra was, if you get a good education and have a good work ethic, you’ll do well. We found that not to be true.” She adds that although her parents were well-educated, they still had to work hard to make ends meet. “The reality is that millions of families have that same challenge,” she continues. “For my parents, we ended up wallowing and almost bemoaning our faith. We realized that no matter how much we had, there was someone else who didn’t have it.”
Thus, Mr. and Mrs. Abrams were very intentional when it came to ensuring their children played instrumental roles in improving the community. “Their commitment to assuring that we served people other than ourselves ran pretty deep. We may have found ourselves volunteering at a homeless shelter or working at Vacation Bible School to teach people to read. Our privilege was that we had two parents who loved us, and that privilege meant that we had an obligation to serve.”
After graduating from DeKalb County’s Avondale High School, Stacey pressed her way, reluctantly, I might add, to the gates of Spelman College. “My mother tricked me into Spelman,” Stacey says. “I didn’t want to go to school in the south. Neither did I want to go to an all girls school.” It was the transformative presence of Dr. Johnetta Cole (Spelman’s then-president) and Morehouse College that helped compel her to attend, Stacey chuckles. “I put names together of all the schools that had accepted me, and Spelman came out three times.” With Spelman’s long history of service, it did not take Stacey long to get acclimated. She served as vice president as well as president of the student body, and became more involved in social justice and community engagement, learning about and fighting for those who faced poverty and inequities in healthcare, housing and education, among other issues.
In addition to graduating magna cum laude from Spelman (with a major in Interdisciplinary Studies of Political Science, Economics and Sociology), Stacey also earned a J.D. from Yale Law School. She graduated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin with an M.P.Aff. in Public Policy. Accordingly, she has put her education to work to better the lives of Georgians through the government, nonprofit and business sectors.
Highly esteemed and ever-evolving, Stacey remains a southern girl at heart. Her favorite color is yellow, and she admits that pepperoni pizza will put a smile on her face on any given day! Her two favorite movies are “The Princess Bride” and Disney’s “Moana.” When she’s not busy serving others, you’ll probably find her enjoying her favorite books, Intuitionist by Colton Whitehead and The Windup Bird Chronicles. And she’ll always hold dear to her heart the memories shared with her great grandmother, whom she affectionately called Moo Moo. “The 4th of July holiday was always special in my family,” Stacey recalls. “My great grandmother was born July 3rd, and my grandmother was born July 5th. We come from a family of great cooks, so everything we ate was good! I remember when I was about 8 or 9 years old, all the kids were outside playing, but I was still in Moo Moo’s house talking to her about the fact that she had all her family around her, and all the love that we shared. Nothing could compare to that!”
Indeed, Stacey is warm and wonderful. And, as she continues to champion the cause of others, she will always be a winner.