By Lanier Laney
Larry Holman, a native of Durham, N.C., met his future wife, Wilma Prince, after graduating from high school at a community government program where they both worked.
Says Larry, “We became best friends there and are still best friends.”
Says Wilma, “Larry and I have always been interested in improving the community in which we live. We’ve always wanted to give back in any positive way we can.”
Both Larry and Wilma have impressive business experience. After graduating from North Carolina Central University in Durham with a degree in Finance Management, Larry began a 26-year career with JC Penney in North Carolina as a merchandise manager, general manager and personnel manager. In Beaufort, he was manager of the JC Penney at Cross Creek Mall. Wilma worked and retired from IBM after 30 years, then worked in the school system for another 10. She is now owner of H&H ComproTax Beaufort, a tax preparation company.
They have been very happily married for 42 years and have three wonderful children, Karmisha
Holman Graham, 39, of Clemmons, N.C.; Kelly Holman Atkinson, 34, of Raleigh, N.C.; and Kevin Holman, 30, of Raleigh who attended Battery Creek High, then the Governor’s School of the Arts in Greenville, graduating from USC in 2006. Karmisha and Kelly each have two children.
How did these two North Carolinians end up in Beaufort? Says Wilma, “For several years we would vacation on Hilton Head Island so we were familiar with the area and loved it. When Larry had the opportunity to come to Beaufort to manage the JC Penney store, we were very happy. We fell in love with the people, the coast, the beaches, the history. Then in 1999 we decided we would retire and live in Beaufort.” Larry adds, “Here in Beaufort, we felt like we were coming home even though we had not lived outside of North Carolina. Beaufort was the place for us.”
Thanks to his background in finance and his hobby of investing, Larry had a goal to retire at 55 years of age and was able to do that by age 54 with the help of JC Penney. Larry had always been community oriented and wanted to make a positive contribution. Says Larry, “When I retired, I was asked to become the president of the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce by the state representative at that time because they needed someone who did not need a salary.”
Since 2001, Larry has been president in charge of keeping the chamber financially sound, which includes applying for ATAX money and funds from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. This money finances a Gullah Geechee Heritage guide and ads to bring tourists to support local businesses. During the past few years, they have partnered with South Carolina Housing to administer SC Mortgage Help program to keep people out of foreclosure. Larry has been instrumental in purchasing property at 711 Bladen Street to build an incubator, office space, and a museum showcasing local artists. The Black Chamber has been designated a Micro Lender through the Rural Micro Entrepreneur Assistance Program. Since November, the Black Chamber has made three loans that have already created five jobs.
Larry has also worked with the community to help organize the Community of Hope Coalition, which is a group that reaches out to youth. Through the Black Chamber, Larry has also helped form a homeowner’s association with members of the Northwest Quadrant so that they would have representation at the Beaufort City Council and with city contracts. For these efforts, in 2006 he was awarded the combined Distinguished Achievement in Business/Humanitarian Award by Beaufort County’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Steering Committee. Says Larry, “Leading the Black Chamber and having a presence in the Northwest Quadrant, Beaufort and surrounding counties have given us a chance to work closely with the community and make an impact.”
The mission of the Black Chamber of Commerce is to work with all businesses identified by the federal government in the protected class — disadvantage business enterprise — that need technical assistance and information related to procurement opportunities, employment, certification, access to capital, business development, networking opportunities, referrals, etc. They are the facilitator between public and private entities looking to expand their participation with minority and women-owned businesses. Although they are called the Black Chamber of Commerce, Larry points out: “We did not expect the community, as a whole, would think we are for black or African-American people only. We are inclusive.”
In asking them what they feel is needed most by the community they serve, both Wilma and Larry said: “There is a huge need for financial literacy in Beaufort and surrounding areas. These needs include banking, mortgages, insurance, taxes, property tax, and escrow accounts.” To that end, the Black Chamber has developed a financial literacy program that includes developing a business and marketing plan in partnership with SCORE.
As for the future for this couple? Larry says and Wilma agrees: “To keep on doing what we are doing as long as we can.”
If Beaufort is lucky, that will be for a very very long time!
To contact Larry and Wilma Holman
• For Larry and the Black Chamber of Commerce: www.bcbcc.org
801 Bladen St. Beaufort SC 29902
• To reach Wilma for information on her tax services:
H & H Compro Tax Beaufort. Phone: 843-379-4588. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 801 Bladen Steet. Beaufort, SC 29902.