I didn’t grow up in Mountain Brook, but…

Ronnie Rice
Ronnie Rice, Ph.D., J.D

ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is Ronnie Rice.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

Many of the guest articles on ComebackTown appear to be written by people who grew up in Mountain Brook or over the mountain—so I had some reservations about telling my story.

Not only did I not grow up in Mountain Brook, I grew up in the opposite of Mountain Brook.

I’m from Prichard, Alabama—a small town with a 38% poverty rate and a median household income of $21,860.

I’m one of five children.

All my siblings enlisted into the military except for my eldest brother who’s serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

I knew at an early age I had the ability to change my future.

I saw folks discouraged by the ebb and flow of their lives. So, I decided to be the master of my destiny.

As a kid, looking at poverty around me, having the utilities turned off, and not having the luxuries of my counterparts; I realized I had two options: I could accept my situation as unchangeable, or I could utilize the resources that were at my disposal to get myself out. I chose the latter. I’ve always felt I had the aptitude to change the world.

My education

I graduated John L. Leflore High School in Mobile in 2003–followed by Morehouse College with a Bachelor’s of Arts and Psychology. At Regent University I obtained a Masters in Organizational Leadership and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Human Resource Development. Finally, I graduated from Miles School of Law and recently passed the Alabama State Bar Exam.

I’m now waiting to be sworn in by the Alabama Supreme Court.

I’ve lived in Atlanta, Memphis, Virginia Beach, and now Birmingham. I’ve done a lot of travel for work and consulting around the globe including United Kingdom, Canada, and Bermuda. I’ve had the opportunity to experience different cultures, organizational structures, and learning styles.

Alexander Shunnarah—the billboard giant

My academic and professional career led me to form a close relationship with one of the most well-known figures in the Southeast: Alexander Shunnarah.

I first met the billboard giant in the fall of 2014 as an unpaid intern at the Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys law firm.  I had three degrees, but I wanted to get real-world experience.

On the first day, Alexander came up to me in the lobby and began to ask me questions rapidly, one after another and another–some about me personally, some about my family, some about my educational background.

I assumed he knew nothing about me, but quickly realized that Alexander always has tabs on everything occurring in the law firm. It appears he noticed my hustle and respected it.

He told me that same day “Anyone who would work without pay deserves to have an opportunity to show the work he can do when paid”, and gave me a job on the spot.

This was the beginning of the Ro-Lex relationship:  Ro[nnie] and Alex[ander]. Yes, corny. He actually has one and I’m working on mine. This served as the foundation of a remarkable brotherhood that helped hone my business skills, litigation insight, love for people, and commitment to a successful life.

Birmingham is my future

I can honestly say that Birmingham is the only city I truly love.

Many of my young professional friends have abandoned Birmingham, but I plan to stay here and invest in our future.

I have two good friends—both are white—one who actually grew up in Mountain Brook.

We are constantly plotting and scheming on how  to make Birmingham better.

It’s true I didn’t grow up in Mountain Brook, but I’m on a mission with the help of my friends to prove that if we work together, all of us in Birmingham will be able to reach our potential.

Ronnie Rice, Ph.D., J.D, is a Birmingham resident and the Firm Administrator for Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys. He volunteers for many Birmingham non-profits, but most importantly enjoys spending time with his 4-year-old daughter, Chloe Elizabeth.

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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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8 thoughts on “I didn’t grow up in Mountain Brook, but…”

  1. Great Story! Congratulations on being one of the rare people in America who are willing to work hard to build a successful future! Way too many people in our country (from all walks of life) expect someone else (like the government) to just give them what they want without having to invest in themselves or their community. I salute you Dr. Rice! We need a Birmingham full of motivated, energetic, and inspiring young leaders like yourself!

  2. A true American success story! Congratulations on your hard work and proof that there is opportunity for anyone who is willing to work hard. I hope you can help to make Birmingham a better place for so many young kids that they can learn from your experience and have the same goals and aspirations!!

  3. Respect the hustle! I too am a minority that came from a difficult background to achieve “The American Dream,” and live in one of Birmingham’s desired areas. I love that your story adds a different perspective to this assumed narrative that people have about Birmingham’s affluent suburbs and the people that live in them (especially the anecdote about Alex S.).

    I’m rooting for your Ro-Lex relationship to provide the groundwork for Birmingham’s next chapter of leaders, and that your “plotting and scheming” with your friends results in getting people to work together to uplift the Birmingham region as one.

    I know that it would be “the dream” to help Birmingham realize its full potential. However, people like you and I are proof that the dream can be achieved.

  4. Your personal testimony is refreshing and one I hope many youth will take note. It’s not where you came from; where you’re going. To a great extent each one of us determines our our destiny by the choices we make and our preparation for life.

  5. You are an inspiration to the future leaders of our city! So proud of all your accomplishments. More power to you!!! Thank you for sharing this story.

    Marcie Braden
    Retired Teacher of the Gifted and Talented

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