Music legend Ray Charles, who died last year at 73, continues to receive honors. Months after his death, the singer's final album earned eight Grammy awards. Now the singer has had a post office named after him.
At the ceremony at a post office near the late singer's recording studio, friends and family members described Ray Charles as a musical genius. He was called a master of gospel, country, jazz, rhythm and blues, raucous rock and roll and mellow ballads.
A native of Albany, Georgia, Ray Charles was raised in Florida and later settled in Seattle. Blind since age seven, he developed a passion for music and over a career of 58 years, he earned 21 Grammys, including one for lifetime achievement. Since 1964, he had a recording studio in Los Angeles, where he produced such classic albums as Georgia on My Mind and the posthumously released Genius Loves Company.
To the strains of Ray Charles singing "America the Beautiful", 200 friends, family members, and fans of the singer gathered for the recent ceremony, hosted by Congresswoman Diane Watson.
"I am so proud to have had the privilege of preparing the legislation that was so readily signed by all members of the House of Representatives to provide a lasting facility that will always carry the name of the great Ray Charles," said Ms. Watson.
President Bush signed the federal legislation enabling the change last month.
Carolyn Thomas lives in the neighborhood and is pleased that her local post office is now named in the singer's honor. "I love Ray Charles," she said. "My mother loved him. He's from Georgia. My mother was from Georgia. He has a special place in my heart."
Charles Scott works in the newly renamed Ray Charles post office as a letter carrier. He approves of the name change, but says it poses a challenge.
"Ray Charles is a legend, so that means we've got to step up to the plate and increase our performance because we're carrying his name now," said Mr. Scott.
The postal worker says the singer was a personal inspiration, a black orphan who fought discrimination and coped with a physical handicap.
"He came from poverty, he was blind, and he was raised in the south, so he overcame a lot," said Mr. Scott. "He did a lot. So in that vein, we've got to keep going on the same way."
Ray Charles was a man of self-deprecating humor. His longtime manager, Joe Adams, joked that the singer worked at this post office part-time, sorting the mail, a difficult task for a blind man.
"So if you get a letter that's six or seven years old, that was one that Ray sorted," joked Mr. Adams
Ray Charles died of acute liver disease in June of last year. His life story was told in the 2004 movie Ray, which earned an Oscar for best actor for star Jamie Foxx, and introduced a new generation of listeners to the music of the legendary singer.