Editor’s note: This story first published on May 25, 2018 (Mississippi Today), after Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination for Georgia governor. Abrams, who grew up in Mississippi, has received national attention for her organizing efforts ahead of the 2020 presidential election and U.S. Senate races in Georgia.
Stacey Abrams, who won Georgia’s Democratic nomination for governor, grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where she and her five siblings learned about service to others from their United Methodist minister parents.
The Rev. Carolyn Abrams said she and her husband, Robert, who both now live in Hattiesburg, tried to teach their children to strive “to make things better for others. Education was key, family and God. You go to church, go to school and look out for each other.”
She said those views are central to her daughter’s political philosophy.
Stacey Abrams, 44, has received national attention in recent days after winning the nomination by a convincing 53-point margin. She is the nation’s first African American woman to win a major party’s nomination for governor and would be Georgia’s first female governor if elected in November.
Carolyn Abrams said her daughter attended pre-school through 10th grade in Gulfport after the family moved back home to Mississippi from Wisconsin. Carolyn Abrams was at the University of Wisconsin on a fellowship.
In Gulfport, Abrams said she and her husband were involved in various ministries, for the homeless, the poor and those in detention. She said their children always participated and would even perform plays at the juvenile detention centers.
“These things, I think, stayed with her,” said Carolyn. “The world could be better. I know she brings this with her in politics.”
The Abramses moved to Atlanta in 1989 where both parents pursued graduate degrees at Emory University. The parents later moved back to Mississippi where they served churches in south Mississippi in the United Methodist Conference. Stacey is not the only one of the Abrams’ children to excel. One sister is a federal judge in Georgia while others include a college professor.
In a statement from the campaign, Abrams father, referring to this daughter “as the best thing that has happened in Georgia since peanuts,” said: “I knew from a very young age that Stacey would be special. Throughout her childhood in Mississippi, I watched a young girl grow into a leader dedicated to service. Carolyn and I raised our children with the understanding that we must work everyday to do right by others”
She is known by numerous members of the Mississippi Legislature.
Former state Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who was the minority leader in the Mississippi House, said he had met Abrams several times.
He said Abrams “will be a powerful governor for the people of Georgia. Of course, I am proud to say she is from Mississippi.”
Williams-Barnes said she called Stacey Abrams to congratulate her after the primary victory. Mississippi Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, said her parents and Abrams’ parents have been friends for many years. The Abramses were mentors for her parents, RoseMary Hayes Williams and Theodore Williams Jr., when like the Abramses, they opted to become United Methodist ministers. Williams-Barnes said Carolyn Abrams did the eulogy for her mother’s funeral.
“She is excited,” Williams-Barnes said. “We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to ensure she is elected governor of Georgia.”
But Williams-Barnes said she is not surprised by Abrams’ success. Besides being a politician, Abrams is also an author and attorney.
“She comes from a family with deep roots in Christ and a belief in hard work,” Williams-Barnes said. “Her success does not surprise me at all.”