‘Remarkable’ man learns to read at 67

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 6, 1999

Ray Beall has attended the adult literacy program at the Natchez Senior Center for two years and five months. Beal turns 67 in October, and is reading for the first time in his life.

Born with mild physical handicaps that affect his vision and speech, Beall was sent at the age of five from his home in Hazelhurst to the School for the Blind in Jackson.

&uot;I went to the Blind School until I was 21,&uot; Beall said.

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With glasses, Beall can see well, and he admits that he was socially promoted from grade to grade at the school despite his inability to read.

At age 21, he moved to Natchez where he attended Pine Ridge School for one year. Beall held a variety of jobs including newspaper delivery and working in a grocery store. His motivation for going back to school in his 60s is that he wants to read his Bible.

Ordained as a minister in the Baptist Church in 1978, he attends Cloverdale Baptist Church on Cloverdale Road.

&uot;I go to Sunday School and read Bible verses in church,&uot; Beall said.

Beall has spent over two years working with his tutor through four levels in the adult literacy materials.

Getting back into school after so many years was an adjustment, he said.

&uot;I don’t know how to explain, it was new to me once again,&uot; Beall said.

The literacy program has helped Beall’s reading and his speech, said Janet McNeely, director of the adult literacy program at the Senior Center.

&uot;Ray’s speaking voice has improved,&uot; McNeely said.

&uot;As part of the reading program, we emphasize sounds and the ability to enunciate them. Ray is a truly remarkable man to come forward and say he can’t read.&uot;