“They” were the Harris Corp. out of Florida. Lanier Plaza was a subsidiary of a division of Harris Corp. and at the time a major player in the hotel industry. And someone had read the article in the Atlanta newspaper and saw that one of their employees was openly talking about being gay.

“I tried to stay out of everyone’s way for three days. I was in the accounting department and I know Georgia is a right to work state. I finally went to my boss and said, if they [Harris Corp.] decide to fire  me, I intend to sue them. I said I realize I will lose, but it will be embarrassing for Harris Corp.,” Rhodes remembered.

And that was it. Nothing more was said and Rhodes worked there for five more years.

While mingling with Georgia elected officials at the convention held in Atlanta in 1988, Rhodes said he got the bug to also run for office.

“I thought, well, damned, I’m as smart as they are,” he said. So he put his hat in the race for the Georgia House of Representatives as an openly gay man — believed to be the first gay man to run for state elected office in the state — but in a crowd of 7, he finished fifth. He didn’t run for office again, but continues to remain politically involved.

Rhodes retired eight years ago as the purchasing director for the prestigious Capital City Club and today remains active in the community. He helped found the SAGE organization for older LGBT residents that meets regularly at the Phillip Rush Center. He is also an active member of St. Mark United Methodist Church.

His spirit and works in the community led the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to reward him with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its gala tomorrow, Sept. 14, at its Community Awards.

“I was totally shocked,” Rhodes said when he heard he would be receiving the award.

“I never considered myself a leader, always a follower,” he said.

“I’ve always been in the background. But it goes to show you, if you live longer than anyone else you’ll win,” he added with a laugh.

The AGLCC Community Awards Dinner is Friday, Sept. 14, at the W Atlanta Midtown.

Nominees are:

Guardian Angel Award
Linda Ellis — executive director of The Health Initiative
Glen Paul Freedman — board chair of Atlanta Pride Committee and Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Committee
Jeff Graham — executive director of Georgia Equality
James Parker Sheffield — former director of Atlanta Pride Committee and now director of organizational development at The Health Initiative

Corporate Ally
Cox Enterprises
Deloitte
SunTrust
UPS

Business Woman of the Year
Marci Alt — founder of Carma Productions, the Gay Yellow Pages and Gayborhood App
Karla Kreitner — owner of Kardon Events
Sheila Merritt — vice president, business development at Q&A Events
Barb Rowland — Realtor with Common Ground Real Estate
 
Business Man of the Year
John Benthal — owner of Mission Motif
Tyler Calkins — publisher of Fenuxe Magazine
Rick Kern — managing director at MixIt Marketing
Adam Rimes — CFO of Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus
 
Member of the Year
Cleo Meyer — State Farm agent
Lab Monkey Design — full-service creative agency owned by Jack Kinley,
No Mas Cantina — Mexican restaurant
Q&A Events — full-service event company

Photo: Richard Rhodes enjoys regular card games at the Rush Center with other SAGE members, an organization for older LGBT residents that he helped found.

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