Cast in the series "Underground," actor Ryan James was the central figure at a Memphis soiree hosted in honor of James' later mother, who died in 2013. (Photos from program cover)

He sings, dances, acts and memorably starred in three of the ten episodes of “Underground Railroad.”

Ryan James, model and actor hails from Memphis. He was honored July 3 during an evening soiree hosted by friends and fraternity brothers at an elegantly designed, invitation-only affair at the Diamond Event Center, 3885 South Perkins Road.

Ryan James with his aunt, Dr. Ida Payne Lofton, whose late sister, Delores Coburn, was James’ mother. (Courtesy photo)

“Ryan was coming home, and my sister, June Hammonds, and I planned this soiree in his honor,” said Dr. Ida Payne Lofton, James’ aunt. Lofton and Hammonds are sisters of James’ mother, Delores Coburn, who died in 2013.

“People always say Ryan and I look more alike than his mother did,” said Lofton. “We both have the red hair and freckles. We wanted Ryan to know how proud we are of him, and how happy we are about his success.”

Ryan James McDade’s modeling and acting careers were just taking off when his mother died. Her only son, he grew up in Whitehaven, graduated from Whitehaven High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in Electronic Media Production-Communications. 

“Ryan graduated in 2009, but it was hard finding a job in television,” said Lofton. “I was the one who encouraged him to move to Atlanta. He just started pursuing his dreams and working whenever he could. And today, he is a successful actor and model. We wanted to honor Ryan and celebrate the legacy his mother, Delores, left behind.”

McDade, whose professional moniker is “Ryan James,” was seen in “The Killing Secrets” on Amazon Prime, and was most notably cast in the 10-episode Amazon Prime series “Underground.” McDade plays in the sixth, seventh and eighth episodes.

He also boasts success in the print model industry, having represented such brands as Delta Airlines, Sprite, Gucci, other major clothing brands, and skin care products.

Delores’ Legacy Soiree provided an opportunity for family and friends to salute Ryan James and note his success as an actor and model. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

Brian Ingram, along with Lofton and Hammonds, decorated the venue, Lofton said. Ingram is a Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother of McDade’s, and helped to coordinate the event’s color scheme.

Red and white are Kappa colors. Black is for “our skin,” said Lofton.

The elaborate red-and-white program included historical text that exemplified the “legacy” of racial pride and dignity that Ryan’s mother, “Delores,” held to. It reads, in part:

“…Delores discovered that her African ancestors, indeed, had legacies that they were able to pass down to their descendants from one generation to the next for the last 20 generations. Of utmost importance, these legacies were built on the innate human qualities of:

  • Recognizing and praying to a higher Spiritual Being;
  • Having faith that prayers would be answered;
  • Practicing self-determination;
  • Having patience and emotional stamina to endure the atrocities of enslavement;
  • Practicing survival and coping skills;
  • Staying physically and mentally strong;
  • Learning to read and write discretely;
  • Learning how to eat and to distinguish among medicinal, poisonous, and edible plants;
  • Having the audacity to maintain hope;
  • Establishing secret codes for communication;
  • Learning how to think and function independently; and
  • Expressing love and supporting each other.

… Delores also left a legacy that she passed to the next generation that included virtues of morality, based on faith, hope, and love, the bedrock of Christianity.”