‘Biggun’ changed lives through foundation

Published 10:01 am Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I’m sad that I’ll never get the chance to meet some of the people I’m introduced to each day.

Isiah Bracy is one of those folks.

Mr. Bracy was buried Friday without ever crossing my path. It was only Monday that I talked to his widow, Maggie Gipson Bracy, and got to know him.

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She and I chatted by telephone. I was in Brookhaven at my office, while she was at the home she and her husband of 49 years shared in Illinois.

It’s a lot emptier there without him, she said.

Isiah Bracy was born and raised in Brookhaven, and even though he lived in Chicago, his roots were still in Mississippi.

That’s what prompted him to organize the Brookhaven Mississippi Scholarship Foundation in 1984. He wanted to help send children to school who had the smarts for college, but not necessarily the funds.

He and his wife were products of the Brookhaven School District having both graduated from A.A. Alexander High School.

He didn’t have the money to go to college right after high school, so he went to barber school instead. Then he served in the Army for two years as a communications specialist in Germany.

When he came back stateside, he was able to earn his associate of arts degree in lithography and printing operations from the American National Training School.

He worked at the American National Can Company until his retirement in the mid-‘80s. That’s when he set about helping young Brookhaven students attend college.

The man many knew as “Biggun” had a bigger mission. He wanted to send kids from Brookhaven to college.

In the 32 years he and his wife raised money through a yearly social event they hosted in Chicago, they were able to help 22 students go to college. Many of those students received financial aid through the program all four years of school.

Each year, the organization would host a dinner and reception, and invite everyone they knew and a lot of people they didn’t know to come and bring their checkbooks. “He’d invite many Brookhavenites to come to the events,” Mrs. Bracy said.

And many of them would make the drive up to Chicago faithfully each year to support their cause.

Mr. Bracy died July 1 in Chicago after a lengthy illness. It was his dream to see the foundation continue after he was gone so that many more students in Brookhaven would have the chance to change their lives through a college education.

And hopefully, like “Biggun” did, also change the lives of others.

Donna Campbell is managing editor of The Daily Leader. Contact her at donna.campbell@dailyleader.com.