John Ellis, 18, thought of himself as fortunate to have been able to grow up with two fathers, who are gay, and two mothers, who are lesbian. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: Ryon Horne
Photo: Ryon Horne

Ryan Cameron, TV anchor Fred Blankenship, and other Atlantans candidly talk about their dads

Fathers often complain that they get short shrift when it comes to their role in raising their children, and celebrating their special day.

We talked with several metro Atlantans about their relationships with their dads. We asked each person to pick one word that best describes either their father or their relationship.

Anointed. Generous. Connected. Genius. Strength. Hero. Homegrown. Belief.

Stories ranged from a father’s dream that one day he would have a daughter to a dad who would give his last dime to someone on the street and whom his son had to share with the world.

Sometimes, too, those relationships could be rather complicated. At times, a grandfather or stepdad filled the void.

There’s the husband and doting dad of three whose own tortured relationship with his father made him determined to be the best dad he could possibly be to his own children.

And there’s the father whose love made his child’s transgender transformation easier.

There is a connection to fathers that can’t be ignored and often shapes us into the people we are today.

Here are excerpts from our chats:

Fred Douglas Blankenship III 

Anchor, Channel 2 Action News

“Father’s Day means to me — in one simple word — belief. Belief because my dad always believed in me, even those times when I was not necessarily sure that I believed in myself. My dad believed in me. Fred Douglas Blankenship Jr. — and anyone who knew him called him Junior. Junior believed in his son, and that still means the world to me.”

Rumal Rackley 

Rumal Rackley holds a picture of him with his legendary father Gil Scott-Heron. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Administrator of the estate of his father, singer, songwriter, activist and author Gil Scott-Heron/Brouhaha Music

“I think that one thing that people don’t know about my father was his loving side. A lot of times, people feel like he was a revolutionary, or trying to get a point across or fight some type of injustice, but he was actually very loving … to me and … to my daughters. I have two daughters now, but I had one daughter that he was able to see. He has her name in the liner notes on one of his albums. So I think there’s a softer side that some people may not be familiar with.”


Meighan Simmons

Meighan Simmons, guard for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, holds a picture of her with her father, who she says had been the reason for her success in basketball. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Guard, Atlanta Dream

“I’m a big daddy’s girl and through my whole life, he’s just been the one to support me, 24-7. No matter what I did, no matter what decision I made, he’s always been there. … I can say that the biggest advice that’s he’s given me was just to remain confident and just continue to believe in the gift that God has given me and to use that for his glory in order to represent my family and what God has done for me my whole life.”

»Watch as Simmons gets emotional when talking about her dad’s dream of her

Ryan Cameron

As part of our Father’s Day project, Atlanta’s V-103’s Ryan Cameron uses the word “acceptance” to describe his grandfathers, the men who helped mold Cameron as a child. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Former V-103 radio personality 

Cameron didn’t have a good relationship with his father, but he said his positive role models growing up were his two grandfathers.

“Yes, my mom’s dad and my father’s dad. Everybody lived on Bankhead, but they were, like, eons apart even though they were less than a mile apart. … My mom’s dad was a successful businessman and had a janitorial service, where he cleaned up places like Marietta Dodge and all these car dealerships. He was the guy who taught me about going outdoors. Going camping and water skiing. Going in a mobile home and staying overnight. … Then you go around on the other end, you had my other grandfather, who went to work every day and who had his own issues, but at the same time, they were both men’s men. They always taught me that no matter what, once a man has a family, he had to take care of that family. No matter what.”

»Watch as Cameron talks about both his father and the profound presence of his grandfathers in his life.

Noriko Ishihara

Noriko Ishihara, a sales operations executive for a television network in Atlanta, talks about being connected with her father without the usual show of love most people are used to. We ask various Atlantans to talk about their dads in this storytelling project. They picked on word that describes their dad/stepdad/adoptive dad and tell a story about them or talk about their relationship. RYON HORNE/RHORNE@AJC.COM

Works in sales operations for a television network in Atlanta

“The word that describes my relationship with him is connected. We were always connected. Always. … I was born in Japan, and when I was in second grade, my dad — because my mother kept the house — my dad was transferred to the U.S. So I was 7 when we moved to the States. I had no idea what was going on. … And it was always about my dad. My dad was tired. My dad wanted to do this. He wanted to do that. So I really didn’t really realize the connection until I got older. Even though to me at the time he seemed disconnected, he was always connected. He knew what I was doing. What I liked. What set me off and what stuff I liked doing. He really didn’t share that with me until probably a few years ago.”

» Watch Ishihara shares about the connection she has with her father 

James Parker Sheffield

James Sheffield holds a letter written by his father in response to Sheffield’s coming out as a transgender. We asked various Atlantans to talk about their dads. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Director of organizational development, the Health Initiative

“When I was 30, I finally took the step to transition and to come out as trans, and so I wrote a letter to my dad to explain it to him. Because it’s a little bit of a heavier topic to explain trans stuff, so I just thought I would explain that better in writing. … He did write me a letter that completely caught me off guard. It really meant a lot to me that he took the time to do that. … This was April of 2010. He writes, “Dear PJ … I got your letter and to say the least, I was blown away. I know you would not make a snap decision on anything, so all I can say is that I love you with all my heart, and I always will. I hope everything goes well for you, and I will always be there for you. Hope to see you soon. (And this is my favorite part of the letter) Tell everyone hello. Love always, Dad.’”

» Watch as Sheffield reads a letter his father wrote him in response to Sheffield’s telling him he was transgender. 

John Ellis

John Ellis, 18, thought of himself as fortunate to have been able to grow up with two fathers, who are gay, and two mothers, who are lesbian. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Recent high school graduate. Four parents. Two moms and two dads.

“If I were to describe Randy in a word, it would probably be driven. He’s always been the stricter of all my parents. Really pushing me to do my best. … He’s kind of what I envision when I think of man. The word man. He went back to get his master’s degree in business when I was 13. I think he saved up all of his possible vacation days for a couple years so he could go to class. When I was 15, he actually graduated. If I can describe my biological dad, it would be extraordinary. … He is kind and caring and understanding and probably one of the smartest people that I know.”

» Watch as Ellis talks about growing up having two dads.

Brenda Bueno

Brenda Bueno, radio personality and president of Oxigeno Radio, talks about the need to reunite with her father after hardships growing up. We ask various Atlantans to talk about their dads in this storytelling project. They picked on word that describes their dad/stepdad/adoptive dad and tell a story about them or talk about their relationship. RYON HORNE/RHORNE@AJC.COM

President of Oxigeno Radio

“Father’s Day now kind of regains some of the meaning that it had lost for me for a long time. Complicated family issues made me distance myself from my father, whom I hadn’t spoken to for probably about 12 years. Until about five years ago, when I decided to kind of put some things away and stop hanging on to some hurtful things. I decided to forgive him for myself, for my children, not for him, per se. … Father’s Day now means kinda going back to my roots.”

» Watch as Bueno talks about the day she reunited with her father.

For Father’s Day video stories, go to

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