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Sol Abrams


1924 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Sol Abrams Obituary
Sol Abrams, a lifelong resident of Athens, died peacefully on Aug. 31, 2016 at his home, surrounded by his loving family. Mr. Abrams died of complications from Alzheimer's Disease. He was 92.

All who knew him loved him for his sense of humor, his love of people and his kind and generous heart. His love for his former wife, two daughters, four grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends was unmatched, and they, in turn, loved him with an unwavering devotion.

To his family, he was a rock of stability and support whenever they needed him, bringing laughs and drying tears when needed. To his loving daughters, he was always only a phone call away, and to his precious grandchildren, he was an adoring "Papa" who played classic movies and all genres of music for them. They loved to visit their grandparents each summer for weeks at a time, relaxing in the Georgia summers that were so different from their New York homes.

Solomon Zolman Abrams was born June 10, 1924 to Doris Kahn Abrams and Philip Abrams in Avon Park, Florida. He was the first Jewish male born on record in Highlands County, Florida.

Love of family and friends and compassion for humankind influenced everything Abrams did. He was driven by his strong character, sense of fairness, his enormous heart, and above all, his love of family.

He had an innate ability to connect with people. He never met a stranger. People would meet him once and remember him for years.

His interest in people was pure and genuine. He was ahead of his time in promoting kindness and understanding between different races and genders, and he had a fierce heart in standing up for those who were without a voice.

Abrams was a natural jokester, and he loved the entertainment business, seeing it not only as a way to make a living but also as a way to bring joy into people's lives. He often said that everyone deserved to be entertained and uplifted. He loved the power of music and treasured the way a Rachmaninoff piano concerto or a Bing Crosby song could inspire people and bring them together in the shared love of music.

Abrams joined the U.S. Navy and served as a 35-mm film motion picture photographer during World War II, applying knowledge of cameras and film that he had learned as a boy after an uncle had given him a movie projector. One of his happiest memories during that time was meeting Eleanor Roosevelt - twice.

The White House hosted dinners for servicemen, and Abrams went for dinner two nights in a row. To his surprise, Mrs. Roosevelt remembered him from the previous night.

She kindly looked at him and said "Oh, I see you liked us. You're back."

After the War, Abrams enrolled at the University of Georgia, which was swelling with the enrollment of returning GIs, sailors and Marines.

He answered the call of Dean William Tate to set up movie projectors in the Fine Arts Auditorium on campus and ran movies on Sunday afternoons.

He also hosted a radio show called "Dancing in the Dark" on WGAU. Students called in and requested love songs for their sweethearts, and Abrams played them all.

He played baritone horn in the UGA Dixie Redcoat Marching Band.

During that time, he met the love of his life, Jean Chastain, at the Snack Shack Restaurant on Broad Street. It was love at first sight.

She later became his wife.

In 1951, he built and opened the Harlem Theater, which provided a place of entertainment for the African American community in a segregated era.

The Harlem also provided live entertainment on the weekends, including an unknown from Macon named Little Richard, Piano Red, and various western movie stars like Ken Maynard, Lash LaRue, and Donald "Red" Barry.

He hired African Americans in all capacities to help him run the business. His twin projectionists, Lloyd and Floyd Johnson, worked for him for over 60 years, and they became extended family.

He showed so many great movies at the Harlem that white people often came to see them there and sat in the small balcony.

Abrams built affordable housing at Magnolia Terrace and West Hancock Extension in Athens. In doing so, he achieved another important goal in his life. He always said that every person deserves a decent place to live.

During the late 1950s and into the 1960s, he hosted one of the most popular radio shows at WRFC, called The Hive of Jive. He was "Power Drive."

In 1962, Abrams opened a second theater at the new Beechwood Shopping Center, calling it the Beechwood Cinema.

Many whites had recoiled when the University of Georgia was integrated in 1961. Several years after Abrams opened the Beechwood Cinema, the sheriff called and told Sol that he'd heard that blacks might try to buy tickets there.

"What are you going to do?" the sheriff reportedly said, sensitive to brewing tensions.

Abrams replied: "I'll just ask, how many tickets, please?"

He stood firm on his principles, and his business thrived.

Abrams expanded in 1972, becoming one of the first multiplex theaters in the south and naming them Beechwood Cinemas.

Abrams also was instrumental in stopping blind bidding for movies in the 70's, a common practice at the time. Movie distributors were trying to prevent theater owners from viewing movies before they contracted for them.

The distributors disclosed the names of the stars and the plot line and then expected them to bid based on that limited information, his cousin David Kahn explained.

Abrams and others testified before a subcommittee at the Georgia Capitol to explain why this was unfair. The lawmakers were convinced, and blind bidding was outlawed.

In 1988, he bought Alps Cinema. Through 1999 he operated it as Abrams Alps Cinema, showing a successful series of second-run and art films.

Abrams was given a Lifetime Achievement Statesman Award by the National Association of Theater Owners, Show South, in 1999.

While he was an astute businessman, it was his love of people and generosity toward them that most endeared him to others, his daughters said.

In 2013, his synagogue, Congregation Children of Israel, honored him with a lifetime membership in recognition of more than 60 years of continuous membership and support. Judaism was an integral and driving force in his life, his daughters said, and informed his desire to help heal the world and to serve. Abrams had empathy, being a first generation American, because he knew what it was like to feel like an outsider. He never forgot others. He was a pillar of strength for everyone who knew him.

"It was a blessing from G-d that he was in my life," said Denise Abrams Gorham.

"Daddy was the mensch of all mensches. His unconditional love and enormous strength continue to carry me forward," said Mimi Abrams.

A memorial service will be held Friday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. at Bernstein Chapel in Athens.

Abrams is survived by daughters Denise Abrams Gorham(Mark); Mimi Abrams(Peter); grandsons Alex, David and Jake Schleider; granddaughter Maran Gorham all of New York City; former wife Jean Abrams of Athens; and cousin David Kahn of Watkinsville; and a large extended family of nieces, nephews, and cousins in various states across the country that will forever cherish his memory. The family wishes to deeply thank our beloved family and friends for their constant love and support and for his caregivers, Florine Lindsey, Lucille Sanders and Carolyn Sheppard, who gave him compassionate love and care with dignity for his remaining years. Thank you to Dr. Michael Nelson and the doctors and staff at Athens Regional and Hospice Compassionate Care.

Online condolences may be offered at www.bernsteinfuneralhome.com.

Bernstein Funeral Home and Cremation Service is in charge of arrangements. 1924 - 2016

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Published in Athens Banner-Herald from Sept. 3 to Sept. 6, 2016
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