DACULA, Ga. - Ron Sailor Sr. hardly mentioned his son's suddenly tarnished political career during an emotional Easter Sunday sermon. But his message was still loud and clear.
'You're going to have days when you're disappointed. You're going to have days when folk will break your heart,' said the preacher, pacing the church's stage. 'But you need to get up.'
Sailor and his son Ron Sailor Jr. had served for years as co-pastors of Christ the King Baptist Church, a modest congregation in Atlanta's northeast suburbs that was filled to the rafters Sunday.
But Sailor Jr.'s name was missing from the church's program Sunday for good reason.
He pleaded guilty Tuesday to laundering what prosecutors said was $375,000 in drug money for an undercover agent posing as a drug dealer. He resigned his seat in the Georgia House, ending a political career that began with his election seven years ago.
Court proceedings revealed Sailor Jr. was arrested in December and he had spent the last three months cooperating with federal prosecutors, who said they are opening a broader public corruption probe. The 33-year-old, who blamed mounting debt for his legal problems, could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Sailor Sr. mentioned his son's plight only once Sunday, asking the congregation to pray for him as they held hands near the end of the service. But throughout the sermon, he asked his flock to look beyond their instincts when confronted with challenges.
'Life has come around like a tornado and it will huff and puff and blow your life down. And if you're not very careful, you'll maintain a resentment,' Sailor Sr. said. 'There's an object of everybody's anger. Nobody's mad just because they're mad - unless they're mad.'
He asked his congregation to wave their hands if they've faced tough odds before - 'my stuff ain't always been together,' he said - and preached perseverance.
'Everyone in here has a little malice in them, some envy,' he said. 'Learn how, for God's sake, to press on. If they knock you down, you get back up. If they back you into a corner, press on.'