LILBURN -- When the Plymouth Breeze slipped a couple feet across the center line Wednesday morning, slamming head-on into a Nissan Rouge, Jamiel Terry's potential as a human being and the rift he was mending with his presidential-candidate father came to a tragic halt.
Terry, 31, made national headlines a few years ago when he announced his homosexuality, casting light on the struggles he had growing up in a Christian fundamentalist family. The move, at the time, surprised and rankled his father, Randall Terry, founder of the pro-life organization Operation Rescue and a staunch detractor of gay civil unions. Randall penned a widely circulated editorial -- "My Prodigal Son, the Homosexual" -- denouncing his son's life as "shambles."
In the years since, and especially this week, Randall has changed his tune. He's campaigning for president as a Democrat, cognizant that his chances of beating President Barrack Obama in 2012 are slim, but hoping to deflect enough of Obama's supporters to thwart his reelection.
All that was temporarily derailed this week, when Jamiel crossed the center line at 7:06 a.m. on Dickens Road near Lilburn.
Police are investigating the cause but don't suspect speed or alcohol played a role. Three people in the Nissan, ages 29 to 53, were hospitilzed with injuries that weren't life-threatening. Jamiel died at the scene.
The cause could be that Jamiel was simply distracted, one officer reasoned. He was driving his aunt's car, having moved to Lilburn three months ago to live near his beloved sisters. His family is still trying to figure out where Jamiel was going.
Randall adopted Jamiel, then 8, and his younger sister in 1994, having brought them in as foster children years earlier. This week, Randall said he and his "brilliant" son were "working through their issues" and even planning a father-son lecture tour, though their differing views on same-sex marriage were irreconcilable.
"We are all in a state of shock, and unthinkable grief," Randall said in a press release. "As anyone knows who has spent time with (Jamiel), he was funny, articulate, and a formidable debater on many topics."
Jamiel's sister, Ebony Whetstone, 36, of Lithia Springs, called his death a blow to the family and the gay community at large. Out Magazine listed him as one of the "100 Most Intriguing Gays of 2004."
"He was insanely intelligent ... and he was definitely conscious politically, spiritually, emotionally," Whetstone told the Daily Post. "It's a huge loss to the community, a huge loss to the world, because he has so much to offer."
Jamiel Terry's funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Lawrenceville Catholic Church in Lawrenceville. His body will be flown to Rochester, N.Y. for a Wednesday burial.