Albany State honors Ray Charles - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany State honors Ray Charles

Ray Charles (A. P. photo) Ray Charles (A. P. photo)
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June 24, 2004

Albany-- The late Ray Charles is being remembered not only for his musical genius, but also for his generosity.

Music legend Ray Charles believed there was no life without a song. So music set the tone for Albany State University's memorial program honoring Charles.

The musician first made his mark at ASU in 2002 after he donated $3 million and delivered the commencement address. ASU President Portia Shields remembers her first meeting with Charles. "When I sat down next beside him, I touched his arm to say 'Hello Ray, it's Portia Shields.' He grabbed my hands and said 'Good to see you little lady,'" says Shields.

Albany Mayor Dr.Willie Adams was also on hand to pay tribute to the late musician. Many of the of the children who packed the audience are part of the last generation that will have memories of Charles before his death. "Really, all I remember is the commercials about the Georgia Lotto," said one.

"I remember Ray Charles on Sesame Street when he was playing with Elmo, I believe on the piano," said another.

But ASU plans to make sure that the legacy of Ray Charles is not forgotten. There are already plans to rename a street around the school Ray Charles Way. The college will name it's soon-to-be-built fine arts building in the singer's honor and name a theater in his mother's honor.

"Ray made musicians and made good musicians and made good musicians better musicians," says University President Portia Shields.

And now ASU officials hope this famous Albanian's memory will inspire the next generation of musicians and entertainers. Ray Charles died earlier this month he was 73.

posted at 5:40PM by dave.miller@walb.com