Son, brother, husband, father, uncle, educator, mentor, athlete, coach, community activist, friend, highly respected.
Talmadge B. “Sonny” Portis Jr. opened his final parachute at Gilchrist Center in Columbia, Md., on Feb. 1, 2018, at the age of 84.
The viewing will be 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at March Life Tribute Center (5616 Old Court Road, Randallstown Md.). A homegoing celebration will be Thursday, with the wake at 10 a.m. and the service at 10:30 a.m. at Morning Star Baptist Church (1512 Woodlawn Dr., Gwynn Oak, Md.)
Talmadge, son of the late Talmadge B. Portis Sr. and Bertha Portis, was born on April 30, 1933, in Laurel. He accepted the Lord at an early age at the East Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church.
Talmadge is a 1952 graduate of Oak Park High School in Laurel. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Alcorn A&M College, then went on to serve his country in the 82d Airborne Division. Upon returning to Laurel, he began his career as an Elementary School Teacher at Nora Davis Elementary School. He strongly believed in community and was instrumental in starting a baseball team for Black children and coached championship football teams. He followed in his father’s footsteps and played with the Laurel Black Cats, a semi-professional baseball team located in Laurel, one of Mississippi’s original independent Negro League charter franchises. Negro Leaguers such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Satchel Paige are among the many players to play for the Black Cats.
Portis marshaled the cooperation of White and Black business people in the town of Laurel, and in one summer, he and his group (Community Action Club) built a baseball diamond, put up concession stands and bleachers, built a fence around the field and outfitted 90 Little Leaguers. In addition to the baseball field, they also built tennis courts. Since their inception, the courts have been refurbished and named in his honor.
He then went on to become the first African American to work for the Mississippi Employment Security Commission. After six months, he was promoted to the Equal Opportunity Officer and moved to the state headquarters in Jackson to lead the EEOC division. To enhance his personnel skills, he earned a Master of Science degree from Mississippi State University in guidance and counseling, with an emphasis in employment counseling.
Through his work with the Employment Security Commission, he was recruited by General Motors to head the personnel division of Packard Electric in Clinton and retired as manager of Plants 21 and 24. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Hinds Community College, served several terms as president of the State Board of Education, and Gov. Ray Mabus’ Commission of Workforce Education. After his retirement from Packard Electric, he formed his own parts distribution company, TalPort Industries, in Yazoo.
Talmadge was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He was an avid sportsman and lettered in football, baseball and tennis at Alcorn A&M College. One of his favorite experiences was the opportunity to play an exhibition match with tennis pro Arthur Ashe at the Riverside Country Club in Jackson. He also refereed high school and college football and basketball games.
Talmadge is survived by his wife of 59 years Rose McInnis Portis; children Cathy Lawrence Patterson of Jackson, Donald Andre Wade of Laurel, Monica Logan DeJohn (Randy) of Jackson, Angela Portis Keys of Columbia, Md., and Lisa Portis Morgan (Athol) of Ellicott City, Md.; sister Naomi Cole Johnson of Chicago; and a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents Talmadge and Bertha Portis; and sister Barbara Jean Portis Shanks.