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Bulloch County Black History Month 2024
Anthony Simmons follows family's great example
Anthony Simmons
Anthony Simmons

There are a few Statesboro families in which a successful set of parents have birthed offspring who echo the parental path. Distinguished bloodlines are plentiful in Bulloch County, but it’s not often that descendants follow the footsteps of both parents. 

Anthony Dwayne Simmons, Bulloch County Commissioner for District 1B, is the product of a family in which the importance of education, social responsibility and Sunday worship were firmly established. Simmons has been married to Joyce Lawrence Simmons for 41 years, is father to Tamala (Marc) Peacock and Brantley (Ja’Meria) Simmons, and has three grandchildren: Chase Aiden, Sydni Grace and Ava Jade. 

His parents, Bobby Simmons and Ereslyn Anderson Simmons, created a loving home for their five children (Anthony, Bobby, Ursula, Wyleen and Angela) while developing an efficient work ethic that resulted in successful careers and professions. Bobby Simmons, the family’s patriarch, went to his eternal rest in 2017, but the fruit of his labor is evident in his offspring’s achievements. 

After graduating William James High School in 1956, Bobby Simmons attended Savannah State College (formerly Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth), graduating with a B.A. in Business Administration. In search of economic opportunities, the Simmons were a part of “The Great Migration,” in which approximately six million Black people moved from the American South to northern midwestern, and western states where racial segregation was not mandated. 

Anthony Simmons
The parents of Anthony Simmons - Bobby Simmons and Ereslyn Anderson Simmons.

Philadelphia was not as hoped, however, and Simmons soon returned to Statesboro where he began work as a brick mason. 

“I laid bricks with my daddy as a teenager,” Commissioner Simmons said. “One day he turned to me and said, ’I can use this skill for myself and my community.’ He built our family home on Lovett Street, and expanded his investments to the construction of apartment buildings on Johnson Street, Church Street and Peachtree Street. 

“These properties, which were my dad’s dream, were left to my mother, and are now my responsibility. Daddy went through a lot to get those apartments constructed. He often came home from city council meetings angry and disappointed, but he was determined.” 

In addition to being a pioneer who provided affordable residential housing in the Black community, the elder Simmons was a charter member of the Bulloch County NAACP. The late Gordon Alston, Bulloch first Black commissioner, and the NAACP sued the Board of Commissioners when the census showed that there should be a Black representative on the board. 

Ten years later, Commissioner Simmons won a seat when a second census determined that another Black representative should be added. “I hold this office because, in 1994, my dad encouraged me to run. I enjoy this position because it’s an opportunity to serve.” 

Roy Thompson, Chairman of the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners, speaks highly of Simmons’ character. “We’ve served together for 19 years. He is very anxious to do what is right; a fine gentleman and a great friend.” 

Simmons also helps care for 92-year-old family matriarch, Mrs. Ereslyn Simmons. Mrs. Simmons attended the Riggs School for early education, William James High School, Alabama State University and then Georgia Southern College. 

Before working as a high school counselor at Statesboro High School, Mrs. Simmons was a home economics teacher. Having inherited an interest in business and community from his father, Commissioner Simmons credits his mother’s influence for his interest in helping people to cope with everyday life. 

A 1974 graduate of Statesboro High School, Anthony Simmons earned a BA degree in Social Work and Sociology from Ft. Valley State University and a Master’s degree in Child and Youth Administration from Nova Southeastern University.  

“I am a retired social worker,” he said. “I worked at Cedarwood teaching children with behavior disorders for 13 years; I later worked at Pineland for approximately 10 years.” 

Simmons’ affinity to the counseling and education profession mirrors his mother’s chosen paths.

The desire to educate and enrich runs through the Simmons’ bloodline. Daughter, Tamala, who earned a degree in Business Education, worked briefly in the education field, but is now a Senior Property Claims Adjuster; son, Brantley is certified in English Language Arts and Science and is currently teaching at Langston Chapel Middle School. Brantley has expanded his service mindset by establishing the K.I.N.G.S (Knowledge Influencing the Next Generation’s Success) mentoring program for young men. The organization is run with the help of wife, Ja’Meria, who is also an educator.

Commissioner Simmons has earned plenty of recognition for his service over the years including the Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Award. He serves on the board of Concerted Services, the Health Board of Statesboro, the Coastal Regional Commission Board and is a member of the Associated County Commissioners of Georgia, the NAACP, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and has served in many capacities at Thomas Grove Missionary Baptist Church, where he’s been a member for 35 years. 

Ray Mosley, County Commissioner for District 1A, describes Simmons as an individual who works quietly behind the scenes. “Commissioner Simmons does not always get credit for the work he does, but he’s very involved when it comes to advocating for his constituents. He reaches across the aisle to get the job done.” 

Simmons’ said his personal life is equally rewarding. He spends time with family, enjoys sports, fishing and attending community events. 

“Some of my fondest memories are of my dad and I at a fishing hole. I still fish in any piece of water I can find,” he chuckles. “Retirement is great; however, I stay very busy managing the apartments.” 

He jokingly adds, “I also work as a ‘bus driver’ three days a week when I take my grandchildren to school in the mornings. I recently introduced them to chewing gum and Tic-Tacs, which they enjoy because their parents don’t allow them to eat a lot of junk.”

Mirroring his dad in both looks and actions, Simmons has successfully merged the principles established by both parents as he works to leave a legacy for generations to come. 

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