A cellist in a white suit performed movingly. So did a trumpeter as well as a vocalist. Friends recalled their favorite memories of Thomas Jefferson Byrd III. His children remembered his intense love for them. And his ex-wife declared he would live on his family.
“I will even go on and say he will live on in our children’s children’s children’s children because I guarantee we will be talking about Thomas Byrd stories for a long time. And we all know he had many,” Veronica Byrd said. “We love you. We bless you. We appreciate you. And we thank God for you.”
Mourners held a memorial service Tuesday for Byrd, the Tony Award-nominated actor who was fatally shot near his home in Southwest Atlanta this month. Held just outside Hillside International Truth Center in Atlanta, the service was streamed online for hundreds of people.
Byrd was shot in the back following an argument near his home on Belvedere Avenue SW, according to police. The authorities have announced up to $10,000 in rewards for help in the case.
Born in Griffin, Byrd, 70, graduated from Morris Brown College, taught elementary school in Atlanta and acted on stage, on TV and in film. He performed in shows led by acclaimed directors Spike Lee and Kenny Leon. Byrd’s Tony nomination for best featured actor in a play came in 2003 for his work in August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” on Broadway.
His family held a public viewing Monday at Alfonso Dawson Mortuary in Atlanta. Nicknamed T-Byrd, he is survived by his son, Thomas IV; five daughters, Aria, Carmen, Kalah, Shannon Byrd-Crossley and Desaree Murden; five grandchildren; and his ex-wife.
“I realized that God’s gift to me was my dad and the way he loved me and the way that he made me feel —that I was the smartest, most capable, most beautiful person in the world,” Murden said Tuesday, her voice cracking with emotion. “I could do anything. I would say something trivial. And he would be like, ‘Girl, you are so smart.’”
Atlanta police are urging people with tips about the shooting to call 404-577-8477.