The Brainerd Community Center will forever carry the name of Chattanooga health advocate Chris Ramsey Sr., who died of complications from COVID-19 Jan. 16, 2021 at the age of 54.
It’s an honor his family with never forget. But his wife of almost 30 years hopes it’s just the beginning.
“Please, y’all, don’t let this be Chris’s legacy, just a sign with his name on it,” Lucrecia Ramsey told elected officials, community members, and Ramsey’s loved ones–a crowd of nearly 200 people–gathered outside the center Tuesday morning for the renaming ceremony.
“His legacy needs to be continued with all of us getting involved in the community–whether it’s giving or doing an act of kindness, volunteering, being a mentor, or contributing to his scholarship. We all need to take action like Chris did. He gave his whole life for that. Up to the very last day, he was serving. Before he went into the hospital, he was serving. So, if he can do that, we all can do that. So do something! So that Chris’s legacy can continue in this community and beyond.”
Tony Sammons, the administrator for the Department of Community Development for the city of Chattanooga, agreed with Mrs. Ramsey.
“Through his outreach, through his entire life, his goal was to give back to his community,” Sammons said. “This is only a symbol of what he represented. The lasting work that Chris gave us, is us returning and giving back to our community as well. So let’s do him that honor.”
Mayor Tim Kelly said the Brainerd center, a place that’s become synonymous with community in the area, is being honored in a way reminiscent of how Chris Ramsey lived.
“I will forever be in his debt and grateful for everything he did during his lifetime to inspire all of us to make that vision a reality,” Mayor Kelly said. “Chris lived by the phrase ‘service is the price we pay for the space that we occupy.’”
Best known for his work promoting the Hamilton County Minority Health Fair, Mr. Ramsey was a dedicated public servant and an outspoken advocate for health equity and education for underserved communities in Chattanooga. He was also a leading voice at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, it was that very virus he was fighting so hard to keep others safe from that claimed his life.
“It was Chris who pointed out to me during my campaign that Chattanooga had one of the worst health disparities in the state of Tennessee,” Mayor Kelly said. “It was he who inspired me to really create the Office of Community Health to continue to try to close those health disparities that have haunted our area for so long.”
His widow noted that the Brainerd Community Center held a special significance to Mr. Ramsey, a 1984 graduate of Brainerd High School.
“It’s such an honor to have the center named after him,” she shared. “He always used to tell me that this center was where he used to go in the summertime, and he was a member of the Boys Club. So, this is the ideal place to continue his legacy.”
A plaque in Mr. Ramsey’s honor was hung in the entryway of the center now bearing his name, a reminder of his dedication to service and community. Dr. Bernie Miller, pastor of the New Covenant Fellowship Church in Chattanooga, also unveiled a proclamation in Mr. Ramsey’s honor that will hang in the center.
“Chris challenged us to find our passion and serve our community,” Mrs. Ramsey said. “He felt that we didn’t have to wait on the government, on people, to help us, that we can help ourselves. He didn’t just sit back and let others do. He wanted to do and share his part.”
Mr. Ramsey was a native of Chattanooga. He received his Bachelor of Business Administration from Austin Peay State University in 1988, and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1990.
While attending Austin Peay, Mr. Ramsey became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. After college, he continued to serve as an active member of the organization and held several leadership roles.
He was a 2011 NAACP Ruby Hurley Humanitarian Honoree.
Additionally, Mr. Ramsey was an active member at New Covenant Fellowship Church, where he joined in 2004. He served as a deacon and in 2014 was ordained as an elder.
Lucrecia Ramsey said that although it’s bittersweet her husband isn’t here to see the renaming, she is proud of him and glad he was recognized.
“My heart is just overfilled with happiness,” she said. “I know Chris is up in heaven, just smiling.”
Mrs. Ramsey said she is thinking about bringing some of her husband’s awards and other memorabilia to the center so those visiting can learn more about him. (Photo Gallery on pg 3)