His mother taught him persistence. Despite being chronically ill, she kept working as a nurse to help support her 6 children. “My Mom was sick our entire life. She had a degenerative disease called Scleroderma.” She died at the age of 53 when Lary was 30 years old.
Lary’s father also made sure he went to college. A man of color, having served in the U.S. Army during the 50’s, his Dad had a vision for Jason and his family. He wanted Jason to go where the Lary family had never gone before. Another benefit was it gave Jason the opportunity to meet the love of his life.
“I got out of high school early, in ’79. I was in the class of ’80. I didn’t even take a graduation picture. I went straight to work as an electrician apprentice. I was down in the bakery one day and my Dad said, “So, now what?”
He says, “You’re going to college.”
I said, “I am? I can’t go to college. I don’t know anything about college.”
He said, “You’re going to talk to Deacon Goodrow, who went to Clark College in Atlanta (now Clark Atlanta University).” That was the only college I applied to and I almost didn’t get in. They started me in a remedial program. By the time I graduated, I was in the top 5% of my class. I grew. I was the first of my generation to finish college. I met Debbie in college. She went to the school across the street. Spellman College. I met her in a little campus party, and we married a year and a half later. My wife has been 100% supportive through all this. She has a lot of faith in me.”
Debbie and Jason raised two boys, Jason Jr. and James. When the children were young, Lary saw his role as “head of security”.
“Jamie, the youngest, he’s six at the time—I’ll never forget this—everyday he’s got hard homework. A really solid student. One day he is struggling with his school work and Debbie says, “Go ask your Dad.”
Jamie says, “He’s not going to know”.
“He’s six! Oh, man. But you can best believe as soon as somebody is rolling a car or something breaks, I’m their dude for sure.”
Lary appreciated the different strengths his children had. “My oldest son’s idea of basketball defense was going down shooting another 3 to catch you back up. My youngest son had a natural inclination for defense. I encouraged him to play an entire game until he shot that ball. He became a pretty good offensive threat in his later years. Playing with them was such fun for me, and enjoying their individuality taught me a lot.”
For 25 years, Jason had a career working for large health care corporations. Like many others, Lary was caught up in the layoffs of his last company and decided to take a break from corporate America. “…I’m going to do something I want to do. And I ended up being a Concert Promoter. As a matter of fact, the largest Concert Promoter in the Southeast.”
He had a successful 6 years and sixty-six concerts as a Concert Promoter in a public/private partnership with the City of Lithonia, but when the housing crisis hit in 2008, Lary and his wife were hurt financially, like many others. “Deb and I, we lost everything. Rental property. Main home. Cars.” Despite bankruptcy, Lary persisted in finding other jobs and was fortunate enough to get a sponsorship to Leadership Dekalb. “They had these different days: Public Safety Day, Government Day, Education Day. And we were visiting Dekalb County. Nothing was planned for Southeast Dekalb. Nothing. I looked at at the person next to me—we didn’t know each other from Adam—and said we can build our own city if that’s how it’s going to be. He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, we can!’”
From there, Lary started following other cityhood movements to learn everything he could. He attended all the meetings, and as the only black man in the room, attracted a lot of attention. It afforded him the opportunity to meet the people involved and to learn from them and make connections. It was at one of these meetings that he learned about Oliver Porter, who was instrumental in creating the city of Sandy Springs. In fact, Mr. Porter wrote a book about it in addition to other books about public/private partnerships.
After fighting for it three times in the Georgia General Legislature Stonecrest was finally approved as a city and Lary was elected as its first mayor on March 21, 2017. “I’d say being married, having kids, becoming a Deacon, creating Stonecrest, and being Mayor are the proudest moments of my life.”
Jason Lary has a demonstrated work ethic and a reputation for getting things done. Perhaps it’s of no surprise to the loving family that live his father’s vision. And perhaps, it should be of no surprise to us, Stonecrest, as well.