duGard Communications Presents The Beat Won’t Stop: Gratitude Celebration

   November 7th, 2021             News Uncategorized

duGard Communications Presents

The Beat Won’t Stop: Gratitude Ceremony

Sue Atkinson

Nashville’s premier PR executive.

Latin is the start of everything, especially a long PR relationship.

Sue G. Atkinson fell in love with Public Relations when I was just getting started in the world. After teaching Latin and Math at John Overton 

High School, as well as serving at Nashville Public Television, Sue began a PR career that would span over 30 years. I met her at HCA as a wide-eyed intern. I introduced myself to Sue by saying I was one year away from being an ‘alumnus’ of NCCU. She, quite pointedly, corrected me and said “Alumna, you will be an Alumna.”  I was absolutely mortified, embarrassed and disappointed. I wanted to crawl under the table. That was 1997. 

Fast forward to 2001 and Sue’s company, Atkinson Public Relations, handled PR for TriStar Health System. Here was an opportunity to interact with this woman who loomed larger than life, in my eyes.  What I loved most about Sue was that she was always hard to hear, which meant you had to lean in to listen. In retrospect, I think that was a strategic move on her part. She also gave me the best marriage advice: 

“Perri, always remember it’s about three cups, not just pouring in to make one cup. You are always important as an individual and Anthony is too. There is the cup that represents the two of you, but do NOT forget your cup. Keep your cup full just as much.” 

I’ve used that advice to give others, for years… Thank you Sue.


Francis S. Guess

Nashville’s favorite connector.

You’re the other daughter, you know…the one NOT in the will!

Francis was “Uncle Francis” for years. Richard’s best friend and running buddy. When we moved back to Nashville, we went to a TSU game together and Mama and I sat in front of four 40-something men who carried their binoculars. Not to watch the game…but to specifically watch the Sophisticated Ladies perform. That was the LAST time my mother went to a game with them. 

Years later, after opening duGard and while building the brand presence and media footprint for The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), I learned that ‘Uncle Francis’ had actually owned a Public Relations/Public Affairs firm at one point in his career (later I’d find out that Laura Purswell, current HR Director at NMAAM, was his assistant during this time) and that his role, at what was then Seighthaler, was based on more than bravado. 

I learned so many pearls of knowledge from him like, ‘listen intently and talk less, you’ll learn where the bodies (projects/details/info) are buried’ and that it was always better to ‘beat ‘em up in the back room Perri, but be their friend and protect them in public.’ 

He was of and for the people well before anyone was ‘woke’ and he navigated board rooms like nobody else I knew. And he was the type of person that when he believed in you, you were part of his trusted tribe that gathered regularly, each Thursday at 5:08pm at one of a few watering holes…his crew was a cultivated “Brat Pack.”  One day the Brat Pack was summoned to meet at Gold Rush for drinks. A woman who was visiting asked me, “are you and Francis seeing each other?” I recoiled (mostly because Francis was literally like family) and told her, ‘oh no, he’s like my dirty old uncle’ within his earshot. I had to pay for my own drinks that day. 

After Francis passed, I had a long conversation with Richard, explaining that I was just so sad and lost in the fact that he was gone. As I tried to explain, my breath caught and Richard, in his intuitive way said, “He loved you Perri, he told me so many times even as recently as a few weeks ago, and he was proud of you.” 

Cheers to the years, Francis my friend.  Jack & Ginger up next!


Washington “Wash” Rose

A freed slave turned entrepreneur and business leader.

Out of nothing, he made something…and advertised it.

Wash Rose, a former slave, left South Carolina and moved to Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1866 after buying his freedom. In Yazoo, he started a blacksmith shop in a two-story brick building around 1870 and was regarded as a very successful, respected and regarded businessman with an intense level of attention to detail. His second youngest daughter, of 16 children, was Margaret Alexandria Rose, my great grandmother. As the story was told to us, Wash was so well-regarded as a blacksmith that his business grew and he recognized that the growth could be furthered with additional visibility. More business meant he’d be able to scale and hire his sons to work for/with him as the shop grew. So he took out advertisements in the Yazoo City Gazette to promote his business. It was such a success that he was able to buy the building that housed the shop, along with multiple properties within and outside the city limits.  Well before I realized it, during an excursion, I stumbled upon advertisements that he had placed…and it hit me.

Entrepreneurism and advertising was in my DNA…and it spawned positively, for generations.

With its heavy, tall arched and shaped parapet and denticulated cornice, his shop is one of the oldest remaining commercial buildings in Yazoo City, having survived the Fire of 1904.


Margaret Alexandria Rose Campbelle

A teacher and librarian first, this life-long socialite knew the magic of positioning,  promoting and publicizing her family.

Her Father’s drive influenced the unbeknownst PR strategist she’d become 

Grandmother Campbelle was a formidable woman. Living to be 108, she saw and lived through a lot…including the opportunity to attend her 80th class reunion at Clark Atlanta University. 

She knew the power of the press, pen and amplification before any of those phrases were a big deal and she was a publicist before her time.  Even after dealing with adversity, she marched ahead and ruled the family like there was no tomorrow, ensuring that milestones were documented and celebrated. 

In my casual conversations with her, later in life, she revealed that she wanted to be an AKA, but had the Imperial Coterie and several other organizations to keep her occupied, so that was that.  From high society teas, events and parties, she made sure that every event she attended, led or touched was covered in whatever was the press at the time. The epitome of her work was to have her son, Attorney RBJ Campbelle, Jr. who graduated as the first African American from the University of Tennessee’s Law School in 1956, featured and elevated to coverage in The Tennessean. Hitting JET Magazine in 1994was just one more feature for her. Though mostly dependent on a wheelchair, during commencement ceremonies, she proudly walked (with assistance from her granddaughters, Jeanne and Margaret) to her seat and then the podium at age 108 to accept special commendation from former CAU President,Thomas W. Cole, Jr. and to share the stage with Alexis Herman during commencement. 

It was my dream to be accepted at CAU. Unfortunately, I received my acceptance letter two weeks after I started at North Carolina Central University. I did end up in the right place, but it was important to me to carry on my grandmother’s legacy.

At this point in my life, I think she’d be proud and feel like I’ve lived up to her standard…and legacy. 


Velma Woods

Pearl-Cohn Comprehensive High School was better because she was in it.

Each student was important, but I felt like she was always rooting for me. 

Ms. Woods is petite, kind and about her business…in high school, it would always tickle me to see her move into her ‘professional sista-girl’ when you were not doing what you were supposed to be doing. As a guidance counselor at an inner-city high school, she saw the lives of her students from all walks of life, but she always treated us like we were her own. She saw the good in each one of us…and wouldn’t let us forget it. 

My Junior year in high school, I was raped. Some random dude as I was walking home from cheerleading practice…didn’t know him, but he pulled a gun and drug me down the steps. 

So, I was out of school for a while. When I got back, I did what most people do, go through a grieving/anger process and in the midst of that I reacted in ways that didn’t represent the previous Perri. Nothing drastic…but it started showing up in classes where I’d had a stellar record. As I neared the end of my Senior year, things were more tenuous than I realized. ISS, skipping school and class were not my norm, and our ‘traditional’ teachers did not approve of a Valedictorian like me…with behavior issues.  Ms. Woods and my mother fought tooth and nail for me to be treated with understanding, all while trying to get me to do what was right, as well.  But, I was required to submit my valedictory speech, to ensure I didn’t go off script. Ms. Woods (and my mother) were livid but the alternative was that I wouldn’t receive the distinction. I didn’t understand any of this, until much later…but my mother always shared that Ms. Woods was one of my biggest advocates, that she fought for me when it seemed like no one else would. 

I am truly grateful for Ms. Woods and the countless number of times she stood up for kids that look like me.  “It doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you are going,” she’d say to me…look Ms. Woods!


Clinton C. Boyd, Jr.

When a manager pushes you to be better, you better heed the call (like I was still on line)

That yellow jacket, the laugh and the thoroughness shaped me for life. 

Clint was ambitious, focused and methodical. Already a success in the pharma sales world, he took a bet on four guys starting a consulting firm and hopped over to the entrepreneurial space becoming the VP of Subrogation at Innovative Recovery Services, Inc. (IRSI).  When Reggie left me (us) for South Africa, I was aligned to report to him and Marketing was added to his title.

Clint brought process to the table…had me thinking about marketing in a way I’d never thought of, technically…we were talking strategy, not about how to build a website and why it was important, which we I hadn’t done in my career at that point. I was solely in ‘check the box’ space. But Clint pushed me to see a bigger picture, be accountable and ensure how we represented ourselves as a company. He had a certain walk, a certain approach, a certain thought process and it rubbed off on me (probably each of us), for sure. We all knew he was going to be walking down that long hallway with a look of focused intention and ready to pull out the erase board markers. But his laugh didn’t match his swagger, this high pitched hee-hee-hee with full shoulder movement, and looking back on that small action makes me laugh. His influence even impacted past employees. McKinley Merritt repeated a Clint-ism in the back seat of her mother’s car, one day, responding to something surprising to her…’what the heck, I mean, what THA hell!?!’ comes out of her mouth and as the story’s told, all Pamela could do was laugh…and I think this is actually what Jordan Boyd said in the back seat of his car too! I need to check on which kid said this!!  This story is one that we’ve told many times over the years because it’s just so funny as to how his words were so impactful. 

Clint is the first person we lost. Clint is the first manager that invested in me as a person. Clint drove me nuts. He pushed me, challenged me, called me on my stuff. He gave the best prayer at church one day and the Deacon’s, to this day, have the “Clint Boyd Rule” – you can’t pray over 3 minutes.  This prayer was long, but powerful and the Lord was truly speaking through him…it’s like the whole church melted away and he was just in conversation with the Lord. It makes me cry even to this day.

I’m grateful to have known Clint. He shaped my life. Elaine, thank you for graciously allowing us to still be part of your family’s fabric…I miss Clint terribly.


Reginald D. Holt

If Innovative made me, Reginald Holt was the architect of my foundation.

If being smart was an art form, it’d look like Reggie Holt.

Several years ago, I worked for a bunch of guys. All Ques. And all wild. Wildly professional. Wildly fun. Wildly caring…and aggravating. And I loved it, we all did. It’s the bunch that Lee had me meet (and it was like I was on line). We’ve remained close and they’ve poured in to me on various legs of my journey…and that of others who were with us along the way. The entrepreneurial spirit, drive and environment of Innovative Recovery Services, Inc.(IRSI) was so infectious, but in those days we didn’t even really understand what they/we were accomplishing as a team.

They all were (and are) special. 

While Lee brought me in and was basically my brother, Reggie became my guy. He made it ok to be smart, he fostered it and held extremely challenging, higher standards and held interesting and thoughtful conversations with me…he was ridiculously smart and I think he was impressed (maybe proud) of the fact that I could keep up. I was, for all intents and purposes, a nerd too. We talked about marketing, strategy, analytics (before I realized that’s what it was) and I learned that he had memorized all of the zip codes in the area when he worked for UPS. It all made sense and was the perfect fit for a girl who never really fit in to suddenly have this intelligent cool dude (with an even more cool wife) talking stuff and spewing facts on a regular basis. 

I loved the environment and the freedom we had to get stuff done, but also have fun. When Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill came out, I played it over and over and over again, in the office. He looked up one day and said, “Perri, if you play that one more time I think I will absolutely lose it.” So, I found headphones. When IRSI was in the log cabin I officed with him and Tony. One day a HUGE snake slithered across the rim of the wall close to the ceiling…I left the room unable to articulate what and why, leaving Reggie there…when I finally was able to say something to him, he ran out of that room so fast and was mad at me for not telling him…but quickly empathized with me too. And he’s been supporting me, even as far away as South Africa, ever since. 

Thank you Reggie for making it cool to be a cool nerd…


Cheryl Read Sullivan

The jazziest woman in the world taught me a lot about Marketing & PR and the days of Bear Bryant

She exposed (forced) me to do media relations and I fell in love with the strategy of public relations

Cheryl Read is one of those force of nature women you don’t realize you need in your life until you have experienced her power, reach, influence and understanding. She’s extremely opinionated and generally right. She has an instinct and intuition that surpasses most – understanding issues and getting to the bottom-line of a conversation, reading the room, being prepared, developing thud-factor reports to be ultra prepared for a corner office meeting and dressing to the nines. She also has so many Cheryl-isms it’s hard to keep up. Many of which I still use today. Like jazzy. She’s the reason I had to focus on media relations as part of my growing responsibilities at TriStar Health System. “Perri you need to pitch in addition to the work that Atkinson Public Relations is doing. Let’s cultivate that in addition to your other duties.”

Blank stare.

I was scared of the unknown. I was fine right where I was. Why in the heck did she want me to do this?  Well…it worked. I jumped in, started pitching, started landing and building relationships with the media…she had a strategy and may not have realized it. The rush of finding the right angle, the connection and the ability to convey why something was important to cover felt like playing chess after reading the playbook for years…the significance of it all was massive and fueled my future. Though I thought I’d be at HCA forever, I’m grateful for the way things happened so that I could get to today. 

Cheryl is a collector of people, a natural introvert who turns it on like a natural extrovert. We share that trait. She works any room she’s in and pushes everyone in her space to learn, lead and master multiple skills. She shaped so many things that her drive and determination is instilled and ingrained in me. 

Cheryl is like the Bear Bryant of HCA/TriStar Marketing and Public Relations. Bryant retired with 323 victories…I bet Cheryl impacted nearly as many marketing and PR professionals in her career and life.

Roll Tide, Cheryl Read Sullivan!