Contributor vendor #0001 passes away, friends remember influence - WSMV News 4

Contributor vendor #0001 passes away, friends remember influence on paper

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Ray Ponce de Leon was one of the original six vendors for The Contributor. (WSMV) Ray Ponce de Leon was one of the original six vendors for The Contributor. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Ten years ago, some didn't know the chances for a street paper with submissions by the homeless community. One man gave it his confidence and proudly wore a tag reading "#1." Now, a community is saying goodbye.

"It's going to be one of our best selling papers, I would say," said Chuck Clinard, holding a stack of The Contributor papers as he walked toward a car. "How are y'all today? Alright, this is our Predators issue."

There's a big headline on the papers.

"Preds Make History," Clinard read.

Wednesday's traffic through the newspaper's office, with vendors grabbing up their papers and heading out the door, was something hard to imagine 10 years ago.

One person knew the potential of a street paper benefiting the homeless community, Ray Ponce de Leon.

"I think Ray is the reason we realized it would work," said Linda Bailey of The Contributor. "Things he was interested in, he brought in and helped it form what it became."

"So, this is the cover of our very first issue," she said, thumbing through the pages of an archive book. "Ray was featured on the cover, actually."

Bailey said Leon, who was homeless at the time, was involved in the paper's initial planning meetings 10 years ago. He wrote satire, reviews and poetry and drew cartoons.

"He had a lighthearted touch to a lot of what he created," Bailey said.

She read one of his songs aloud.

"Yellow journalism tells of blue laws in red light districts where black cats cross the brown-nosed candidates. You don't know where to turn. From each other, we can learn."

Out of the more than 4,600 vendors to work for The Contributor over the years, Leon's credential read "#0001". Leon was one of the original six vendors for The Contributor.

"I'm #0002," Clinard said. "He had a significant role in bringing people. He recognized each individual's talent not by what other people expect. He didn't hold people to society's standards, but their own. The paper has supplemented me as I have just received an associate degree in medical assisting."

Clinard said it was Leon who managed to become the first Contributor vendor to use the money made on paper sales to get a place to stay.

"We never dreamed that could happen at the beginning," Bailey said.

Clinard said he knew Leon had been sick with health problems including his kidneys, but his death this week has still hit him hard.

"I'm having a difficulty with it now, especially in this hurry-up society where you make acquaintances but not friends," Clinard said.

"I love Ray, and I miss him so much," Bailey said. "It's hard for me to imagine him not walking through the door of our office anymore and sitting around in our chairs chatting. It's not the same place without him. We'll always be thankful for what Ray brought here."

Both Clinard and Bailey said Leon's left behind a lot, in the words he wrote and on that Contributor office with the newspaper boy on the door.

"All I can say is, from #2 to #1, it's been fun," Clinard said.

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