If you drive around Wilmington at all, follow local politics or attend certain sports events, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Ricky Meeks.
Meeks, 42 (in 2011), is a Wilmington native and Republican who has run for several city and New Hanover County offices. He is also an advocate for more public transportation in Wilmington and the surrounding areas. He rides the WAVE transit system around New Hanover County every day. A 6-foot-4 man who sometimes wears a moustache or beard, he can often be seen at bus stops around town.
“I’ve been the biggest supporter ever since 1992 to get a bus going from Wilmington to Fort Fisher,” said Meeks, who said he serves on a citizen’s planning committee for WAVE transit. “Here we are, 2011, and we still don’t have a bus going to Carolina Beach or Kure Beach or the Fort Fisher Aquarium.”
He said he is passionate about the issue of mass transit because he grew up in a Wilmington housing project, Nesbitt Courts, and understands the plight of low-income families who can’t afford to have a car. When he ran for Wilmington City Council in 2009, he said, “it was no surprise to anybody that I support trains.”
He said, “Of the people I’ve talked to, everybody supports the idea of having a train to both Charleston and Raleigh. I don’t think it would hurt the Wilmington business. I think it would help a whole lot.”
His political aspirations have included running for a spot on the New Hanover County Board of Education four times and Wilmington City Council four times. He ran for mayor of Wilmington in 2003. In addition to running for office and advocating for more bus routes and trains, Meeks, a graduate of New Hanover High School, attends sports events at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, high schools and some middle schools in the area. He also helps with the scoreboard at games for the UNCW softball team.
His interest in sports was sparked, in part, by former New Hanover High School principal Robert Moore, who asked him to wear the mascot costume, a wildcat, for pep rallies when he was a student. Meeks is unemployed and receives disability checks from the government because of what he describes as a developmental disability. He’s had somewhat of a troubled past: When he was in sixth grade, he was placed in a foster home because his mother, Lucille Meeks, a single parent, had a nervous breakdown after being mistreated at her workplace. He was sexually abused at the foster home, Meeks said. In 1992, Lucille, who was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, died at age 46, Meeks said.
“I never knew my real father,” he said.
Living by the motto that you should “count as a blessing those that curse you,” he said he tries to be a good Christian, ignoring the middle fingers some drivers extend to him when he’s walking around Military Cutoff and Eastwood roads.
“Either they’re having a bad day or whatever,” he said.
But most of his experiences as a familiar face around town have been positive. During the 64th N.C. Azalea Festival on April 9, 2011, Meeks was part of the festival parade, riding in a yellow convertible with a sign on the door that described him as a “famous Wilmingtonian.” The festival president, Hank Estep, asked him to join the parade, said Meeks, whose notoriety can be confirmed by a look at his Facebook page where he has nearly 4,800 friends.
“Everybody in life has gifts. Sometimes we have shortcomings,” he said. “I try to overcome them by being a nice person.”
Date posted: April 15, 2011
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