Thanks to my friends, mentors for guidance

Published 5:28 am Monday, June 1, 2009

By By Tray Smith
As a newly minted high school graduate, I have felt no different this past week than I have felt for the past year. However, I know I have passed a signature milestone in my life. This article is for all of the people who helped make it happen.
According to an old saying, “A friend is someone who believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself.” For me, that friend has been Mrs. Bonnie Latino. Anytime I have upset my parents, myself or other friends, Aunt Bonnie is who I call. She has edited several columns and speeches for me, including the one I gave at graduation. She has been a true inspiration in my life, and I will always love her.
What Bonnie Latino has done for me in the community, Sheryl West has done for me at Escambia County High School. If not for her support and guidance, I would have never succeeded at ECHS. She has been like a second mom for me, always willing to talk about any concerns I have. I am going to miss her.
Of course, I must thank The Atmore Advance and publisher Adam Prestridge for giving me not only a political column, but an opportunity to develop my writing and thought processes. This column has meant the world to me.
I must also thank Councilman John Garrard, Representative Alan Baker, Congressman Jo Bonner, and Governor Bob Riley for supporting my political endeavors and opening up remarkable opportunities. All of these men are great role models as I head into public service.
Growing up in Atmore, I have had a great group of friends, young and old. Clare Jones and her mom and dad have been particularly supportive, and Clare comes to most every event involving me. Sara Beth Davis and her parents have offered me not just multiple meals of delicious lasagna, but also an enduring friendship and spiritual guidance. Gordon Nichols and I sat by each other in pretty much every class, and I have known his family my entire life. And Shane Hadley, who has radically different interests than me, has nevertheless been one of my most loyal friends.
I must also mention Mitch, Tammy, and Perry Jones, and thank them for taking me to multiple Auburn games with Tal Black, even though I am now going to Alabama (Roll Tide.) Additionally, I must thank the Atmore Historical Society and the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce (Mrs. Sheryl and Mrs. Shelly, especially) for presenting me with two very rewarding honors this year.
I could not imagine having a better church family than the one I have at Atmore First Presbyterian, or a better pastor. We have a friendly, small congregation: if you are looking for a place of worship, come check us out.
When people think of politics, they often think of men in dark, smoke filled rooms making important decisions. The important decisions that put my life on track were actually made in the open, at Annie’s Community Cup, one afternoon in the spring of 2005. There, Mom and I met with Jane and Ellen Corman. There, the Corman’s informed of the opportunities open to young people and encouraged me to take advantage of all of them. Since then, I have followed in Ellen’s footsteps.
Later in life, I have made more connections and friendships. At Escambia County High School, I became close to Elliot Faircloth and his family. (Mrs. Shelio, Renee Godwin and Ann Stephens deserve a special thanks for playing tennis with my Mom, a hobby she will definitely need to maintain after I leave in July.) I have also become close with Mrs. Lillie Johnson, who might be a Democrat, but is also an excellent cook and a really good friend. I have spent every Sunday morning beside Alan Ash working the sound system at the church, and he gets special thanks for doing most of the work. And I have also gotten to know and love my countless teachers and administrators in the Escambia County School System, none of whom I will name because there are so many I may accidentally leave out.
I want to thank all of these people, and my other friends, for making my high school years a success. I want to thank my family, too, but that is for a different column. My grandmother may even get one all to herself.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a former page in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at His column appears weekly.

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