The Chatmans’ story reveals love’s law of attraction in action, the evidence of destiny enforcing its will. Mary left her native Akron, Ohio, with no desire for a relationship. Going through a divorce and traveling extensively for work, the idea was unappealing, daunting. Leaving a tumultuous, abusive marriage, her goal was to lay a foundation for her daughters to join her in the south, be exceptional at her corporate job and enjoy her newly established freedom. Director of business development at AT&T at the time, “My job had just transferred me to the Atlanta area,” Mary recalls. “I’d purchased a house. I was throwing pool parties, having cookouts, living it up!”
Driving around Atlanta’s Grant Park with her girlfriends one day, a vision distracted Mary to the point of making an ordained move—albeit involuntary, and perhaps uncool. “She ran over the curb,” Scott recounts. “I guess she saw something that attracted her.”
Admittedly, she was checking out his body: a 6 foot, 4 inch tall athletic situation. “I was like, wow, he’s got some nice legs.” Scott asked her to pull over. Exchanging numbers, she never called and Mary, quite contrary, gave him the wrong number. But the draw between the two, being ruled by universal law, was imminent.
“We kept running into each other,” she says. “The first time, he said, ‘You know you gave me the wrong number.’ Grocery store, different events, we’d see each other out and just laugh. Scott was always cool, never pouncing on me about dating.” After five months of arbitrary meetings, Mary’s intrigue piqued. “I thought, there is something mysterious about this guy.” In an effort to demystify the situation, Miss Mary Mack made the call.
“On our first date, I was doing a lot of talking, he was doing a lot of listening,” Mary recollects. “Guys usually talk about themselves, so it was refreshing.” Multiple dates ensued. Mary’s job required travel, so they got to know each other via phone as well. “I would share what I was going through [as a Black woman] in corporate America. Scott always had a biblical scripture for me that would help me. It was impressive, and unusual.” Still, they were not an item. “I enjoyed his company. But I kept it at bay. I was preparing for my daughters to join me in Atlanta and I just wasn’t ready for a relationship.”
Mary’s mind turned a corner at one of her cookouts where Scott was present. “I looked at him and thought, this guy is someone I don’t want to risk not being with. I found him mesmerizing.”
The couple dated for four years. Scott decided to wait to propose until Mary’s daughters, Taneia and Tyana, were graduating from high school. “I was conscious of her daughters, coming into a relationship with kids involved,” he says. “When we met, they were young teens and great girls. I knew it was important for them to have a strong image of a male in their lives.”
Adherent to the notion that when you marry a woman, you marry her family, Mary’s father, one of her sisters, a young nephew and both daughters were present at the proposal; however, all were unwise to the surprise. “Scott put the ring under a piece of chocolate cake. It was underneath the paper, so it didn’t get all chocolate cake-y. He got on one knee in the middle of the restaurant and asked me to marry him.” Mary adds, “I will never forget that moment.”
Gracefully, Mary didn’t allow her first marriage to sour her vision of companionship; she knows what true love looks like. “My parents were crazy about each other.” Mary’s mother was able to meet Scott before she passed on at the early age of 63. “I was angry at God when my mother passed. She was an angel. But God gives life and takes it away.” Mary’s mother was blessed to give birth, not once, but five times. “I know that my four sisters and I are gifts directly from God. Doctors told my parents that they would never have children. They tried, but didn’t have kids for many years. My mom had her first child around 39.”
Mary’s husband describes her as “free-spirited, free-flowing and still very strong.” Scott confides, “We’ve been together for 26 years and married for 21 years on December 29. If I had known then what I know now, I would have married her sooner.”
The beauty of the Chatmans is that they exercise intense, romantic love for each other and are motivated in life by dynamic love for everyone else. Scott is the founder and executive director for A Titus Man Organization, dedicated to the progression of young men 8-18.
“I grew up with my mother and three siblings. Unfortunately, my father’s life was taken by a family friend. It was a tragic, unexpected situation. My father was a young man, 32, living his dreams as a builder here in the city. I was 8 years old when we lost him.” The Titus Man offers, “Coming from a single parent home inspired the organization. Also, understanding the importance of a male role model. That male presence makes a huge difference.”
Desiring that fatherly influence, the former athlete’s guides came in the form of coaches and mentors. Scott earned a full scholarship to several colleges and chose Savannah State University, where he was a three-letter man. After graduating, he worked with Coca-Cola as an account executive and left to start his own transportation company, Navigator Express.
“We ran that company for 10 years, made a million at the three-year mark,” says Scott. “I also owned several homes. When the real estate market crashed, God put on my heart to start A Titus Man Organization.” Serving over 400 young lives to date, the not-for-profit’s primary mission is to grow and develop men of character. “If a young man is interested in being a doctor, a barber, or whatever [their future interest], we will locate the professional for him to shadow.” Along with several other progressive programs, A Titus Man Organization has a yearly drive affording Atlanta-area youth, no matter the gender, their first bike.
The entrepreneurial bug bit Mary when she created an amorous experience for Scott. “I had been traveling and unable to spend a lot of quality time with him. I wanted to do something very romantic. I decorated our house with rose petals, candles and little luxuries. I’d made a beautiful steak dinner, and my sister baked a birthday cake for him. When she came over to drop off the cake, she said, ‘This is fantastic! You should do this for a living when you leave corporate America.’ The idea stuck with me.”
Scott’s “honey bun” designed an epic night for her husband. “A lovely surprise for my birthday from my wife. It was so amazing, so special.” Scott adds, “Whatever she does, her heart is fully invested. I felt like a king that night and, of course, it didn’t end that night.” The evening was such a hit, in fact, the Chatmans decided to give the experience to another couple that was getting married.
“We left their reception early and decorated a suite for them. The couple called us from the room. We looked at the phone like, ‘Why are they calling us? It’s their wedding night!” Mary reveals, “The bride was crying. She said, ‘This was the perfect ending to our perfect day.’ ” Love Life Designs was born as a business. “I ended up packaging different romantic experiences for anniversaries, wedding nights, birthdays.” Gaining momentum as Atlanta’s sensual guru, she was approached to write for Black Bride magazine. “I started writing about love and romance.”
Due to one of her sisters passing away suddenly, Mary stopped writing for several months. When she went back to it, the magazine was up for acquisition. And so, she bought it. “One of the reasons I bought Black Bride, I want to give back to women. I feel I can do something big with a Black voice. People have often suggested I change the name, but I’m very comfortable with it. It’s my job to showcase Black women’s love stories and dispel the myth that we don’t get love or get married.”
However, running a business and seeking investors can be challenging. The CEO states, “Scott always reminds me that God’s timing is perfect. My husband gives me the highest level of support that you can imagine. Whether spiritually or financially, when it gets rough, he won’t let me give up.”
Love—the movement of the Chatman family— is at the heart of their work and the core of their union. Mary conveys, “We love unconditionally. Our family… we don’t have a bunch of rules, you know?” Like the coolest families in America, “We accept each other for who we are.”
A Titus Man is a non-profit organization servicing youth, primarily Black men 8-18. For more information, like A Titus Man Organization on Facebook or to donate, go to www.atitusman.org. Like BlackBride.com on Facebook.
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn’t always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at [email protected] (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.