Dr. Robert A. Holmes – A Gentleman, a Scholar, and a History Maker


Written November 30, 2010.  Dr. Bob Holmes might not be walking as much as he did in 2010, but he is still walking for his community.  We still belong to the same Church and we check up on each other on Sunday mornings every now and then. He has not gained a pound and I am envious of this accomplishment. Just as we expect of Bob, he is still a mover and shaker within our community.

There is a stretch of interstate highway 285 in southwest Atlanta from I-20 to I-85, named the Bob A. Holmes Freeway, adding validity to the fact that this man must be somebody important.  Surely he has accomplished much to warrant this recognition. Let me assure you that he has truly been making history. Not only did Robert A. Holmes make history, he did it through his many public service efforts and initiatives which he undertook for his fellowman (and woman).

From Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where Bob was born, up to his thirty-four years of service in the Georgia State Legislature, Holmes has been a consummate gentleman and a scholar.  Raised by his mother, Priscilla Holmes, a single parent who was a hotel maid, with the help of two aunts and his grandmother, Bob grew up in Harlem (NY City) where he admits, “I was about to become a juvenile delinquent when my mother sent my brother, Clarence, and me back to West Virginia.” Bob, along with a cousin and two friends, integrated the Shepherdstown High School in 1957. This must be where Robert Holmes got the idea that he had to fight for the right to be somebody.

With an undergraduate degree from Shepherd College, he returned to New York City and earned a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University at age 25 through his hard work and an abiding determination to succeed through the process of getting a good education. The education community felt like “home” for Holmes, so he stayed in this environment. He taught at Hunter College and Southern University and then became coordinator of the Harvard-Yale-Columbia Intensive Summer Studies Program at Columbia University; after which he worked as director of Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge at Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York.

Holmes finally made his way to Atlanta, GA to help establish the doctoral program in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) – where he served as a
“distinguished”  professor of political science until his retirement in 2005. During this period of his life, Bob was also director of the Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy and the W. E. B. Dubois Institute.

Holmes must have invented the term “multi-tasking” and truly made his mark as a Georgia state legislator, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives where he was chair of the education committee, the governmental affairs committee, the Atlanta-Fulton County Legislative Delegation, and the largest State Legislative Black Caucus in the United States. While in the legislature, he was a member of the appropriations committee for twenty years, and he was the first African American on the budget committee where he served for sixteen years.

Somewhere in the mix of his career, Bob Holmes managed to spend a few years in the business world. He is one of the co-founders and board members of Capitol City Bank (Atlanta) and North Georgia National Bank (Cherokee County); and co-owner of Dataware Zenith Computer Franchise and Policy Design Corporation. He was a real estate broker and owner of Unique Realty and Property Management as well as Robert A. Holmes Realty. Holmes was an international management consultant in countries around the world such as China, Mongolia, Nigeria, Russia, Losotho (South Africa), and the Ukraine for USAID, USIS, and other organizations and agencies.

Holmes is a prolific writer and has authored, co-authored and/or edited more than fifty books/monographs and published more than sixty articles in professional journals and book chapters. He is the former editor of two annual publications:  The Georgia Legislative Review (1991-2004) and the Status of Black Atlanta (1993-2005). He has served on the editorial advisory boards of the Journal of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Phylon and the Review of Black Political Economy. His latest book, Maynard Jackson:  A Biography has been widely acclaimed and is the only book published on the life of the former Atlanta mayor.

Let us not forget the many hours of community service that Bob Holmes racked up over the years. He has given his time to more than 40 local, state, and national organizations. Currently, he serves as chair of the Finance and Pension (investment) Committee on the Board of Trustees of the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority [Grady Hospital], the boards of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia, the Shepherd University Foundation, and Capitol City Bank, among others.

He is the recipient of more than 100 honors and awards. Some of these honors include the Atlanta Jaycees Outstanding Young Men of the Year, Metropolitan Atlanta YMCA Layman of the Year, and the Clark Atlanta/Amoco Foundation Teaching Excellence Award.  He has been given several awards as “Legislator of Year” from groups such as the American Association of Adult Educators, Georgia Municipal Association, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and the Georgia Environmental Council, to name a few.

Everyone needs a little fun in their life, and for Bob Holmes, he is happiest when he is running through the streets of Southwest Atlanta on any given morning. He has quite a record at “road running” having participated in more than 150 races ranging from 5Ks to marathons.  He is a former president of the South Fulton Running Partners, the oldest African American running club in the USA. A member of the National Board of the Road Runners Clubs of America, Bob received the Browning Ross Spirit of RRCA Award in 2002 for his 25 years of service to road race related activities. Holmes has served as a race director for over forty races for non-profit organizations, and he was a member of the host committee for the US Track and Field Indoor Championships held in Atlanta after the 1996 Olympic Games. Bob also holds a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, has competed in three mini-triathlons, and enjoys international travel, the symphony, plays and watching sports.

Bob’s grandmother, Marstella Washington (who passed away at age 98) gave him the foundation for a God-fearing life when she told him, “Bobby, always do the right thing at all times, even if you are the only one who is willing to do so . . .  and remember those who are less fortunate than you because God has blessed you to be a blessing to others.” It seems to me that Bobby listened to his grandmother and followed her advice.

Bob is married to Gloria Carey Holmes, is the father of Darlene, Donna and Robert Jr, the grandfather of eight grandchildren and one great grand-daughter…

The interstate highway named for Bob Holmes does not adequately honor this accomplished gentle man. But we can certainly set the historical recorded straight by recognizing this extraordinary history maker who moves among his friends and neighbors on a daily basis –without fanfare. The next time you see Bob running down the street, say “thank you.”
We salute you Bob for many jobs well done; and, more than that, we appreciate you.


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November 30, 2010

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