I Know Varney Sherman - The Man

By Dr. Sakui W. G. Malakpa
Professor, University of Toledo

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 28, 2005


Varney Sherman
In the scramble for the presidency of Liberia, I understand more than one score ten Liberians are racing for the Executive Mansion. Among these candidates is Clr. Varney Sherman who, like the other candidates has been attacked, challenged or otherwise written about. I cannot (and will not) defend Clr. Sherman relative to his legal practice or his politics. I am unable to offer any defense or attacks along these lines for I know nothing about them; those who do may write as they see fit. However, I know Varney Sherman, the man.

Almost a quarter of a century ago, I arrived in Cambridge, MA to pursue doctoral studies at Harvard University. Except for my official contacts, I knew no one at Harvard. However, I was told in advance that a Liberian named Varney Sherman had been admitted at the Law School. When I arrived in Cambridge, I called the Harvard Law School and was told for sure, Varney had arrived and was settling in. I left my number and a day or two later, Varney called. We were anxious to meet each other and we did. This began a long term relationship. We still are the best of friends; in fact, we are brothers.

Varney and I supported each other at Harvard. Many times, while I was caught up in the middle of work, Varney would stop by my room at the Cronkhite Graduate Center rolling in a six pack of beer although he is not much of a drinker. “Oh my man,” he would say giggling, “If you follow this book you will go crazy. Come on, take a break.” I always agreed and appreciated the thought. Other times, knowing I am visually impaired, Varney stopped by to make sure I had enough supplies of whatever I needed. Still other times, we just “hung out” together.

At the end of the school year, Varney and I returned to Liberia, I to visit and Varney to return to his law practice. While visiting Liberia, Cllr. Sherman introduced me to his family and friends and based on my relationship with him, they embraced me as a member of the family.

For nearly a quarter of a century now, I have enjoyed a warm friendship and brotherhood in Clr. Sherman. Over the years, I have come to respect and admire many qualities in Varney.

Clr. Sherman is a scholar. During our days at Harvard, Varney and I took time away from school work to discuss various academic and intellectual issues. I was amazed that a man who studied chemistry and law could hold his grounds (and sometimes swallow me up) when we plunged into areas such as history, philosophy, literature and even education, supposedly my area of strength. I can hear him now giggling at some points I made as if to say, “That does not make sense; you ought to know better.” Well, I would not just give in to a trained lawyer; I kept my ground too and fought back, sometimes successfully and thus my turn to giggle. In fact, this experience encouraged me years later to return to school to earn a law degree.

Varney is a family man: In my association with Varney at Harvard, I was impressed by his commitment to his family. On his dresser and all around his little room were pictures of his wife, Joyce and his two boys, Zoeluma and Zuanna, who respectfully refer to me as “Uncle Sakui.” No doubt, they were the center of his life for he glowed with pride each time he talked about them. After all these years, I have not noticed an iota of decline in this glow. He cares passionately about his family; pictures of his family still are all over his house in Liberia even though his wife and boys live in the US.

Clr. Sherman cherishes friendship: In my latest novel, The Village Man, (yet to be published), a follow-up to my published work, The Village Boy, I write, “Honest, free and fair friendship, few and far in between, fervently ferments into fraternity for true friends are better than most relatives. Buttressed by truth and loyalty, true friendship does not fade with fads and faults but flourishes into infinity. When you find such a friend, you have found more than a brother or sister.” Clr. Sherman is such a friend. He keeps close to his friends from childhood days, from high school, college and beyond. While at his house once, I admired him and his Cuttington friends as they joked about their college days. They still call each other Mr. but the Mr. is jokingly followed by first names. When I last stopped by Varney’s house in Maryland, he introduced someone to me as his childhood friend.

Personally, I have enjoyed my friendship and brotherhood with Varney over these many years. Just as I accepted his family, Varney also accepted members of my family in Liberia; they were always welcomed to his home. Varney manifested his true friendship and brotherhood in 1994 when I lost my mother and returned home to bury the old lady. Yes, it is a platitude but yet true that a friend who stands with you when you are most in need is a friend indeed.

Clr. Sherman is also a generous man. Varney does not talk much about the many organizations, institutions, and people he supports but, each time I visited his home, it was clear he and his wife are truly generous. Likewise, whenever I visited his office, there was always somebody who had come for assistance and the person did not leave disappointed. Cllr. Sherman and his wife support students, charitable organizations, and institutions, including Cuttington University where Varney and Joyce met. Cuttington showed its gratitude and the gratitude of many beneficiaries of Cllr. Sherman’s generosity by conferring on him the honorary LL.D. degree in December 2003. I dearly wanted to attend that program to show my personal appreciation for a good and distinguished Liberian I call “friend and brother”. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed in Sierra Leone and so I reached Liberia after the program.

The Shermans have supported young people from various parts of Liberia. I recently met one who in gratitude, adopted the Sherman name. His original name is Namoi Kerkula; he now calls himself Tom Namoi Kerkula Sherman. Namoi was educated by the Shermans from elementary school throughout high school; he was then sent to Ghana to study computer science. He is now on his own, working in Liberia.

Clr. Sherman loves Liberia and Liberians. As I indicated earlier, I honestly know nothing about Varney’s law practice and his politics; but, while in Liberia on several occasions, I talked with his employees when I was at his law firm and with his friends who stopped by the house, where I was always his houseguest. As I understood, Clr. Sherman employs people from every part of Liberia; he never stops to think whether an applicant for a job is of this or that ethnic background or from that sector of the community or that area of Liberia, etc. As I socialized with his workers, I discovered their backgrounds. Moses Paegar, the Managing Director of his law firm, is Bassa; Johnny Momoh, the second in command is Gbandi; Momodu Jawandoh is Fulah; Albert Sims is Kpelleh; and the list goes on.

Of great importance is that Clr. Sherman does not stay away from Liberia for a very long time; no matter how difficult the times, he is back there. I know for sure that his home has been vandalized several times; he has moved from one house to another at least three times since our civil war started in December, 1989. But he does not get discourage and thereby opt to practice law in the West, which, with his Harvard law degree, he could have done easily. He told me in one conversation, “This is our home and everyone cannot leave. Some of us must stay here to give hope to the many victims of this war; some of us must be here to rebuild what others have destroyed so that those of you who wish to come back tomorrow will have a place to come back to.” These are nothing less than the words of a patriot, one who passionately loves his country and cares for its people.

Over the years Varney Sherman has exhibited such impeccable character and endearing personality and conducted himself with such high level of integrity and credibility that I have held and continue to hold him in the highest of esteem. In fact, when I was reelected National Chairman of the Federation of Lofa Associations in the Americas, FLAA, I invited my friend and brother, Clr. Varney Sherman to be the Induction Officer and Guest Speaker at my induction in Philadelphia, PA. He accepted and performed well, justifying the confidence I have always had in him. Everybody in attendance at that program marveled at the depth of Varney’s knowledge about Liberia’s problems, his passion for our country and its people, and his vision for our future. None of us knew then that he was interested in becoming President of Liberia but all of us knew he truly loved our country and cared about our people.

In sum, I can go on and on relating all I know about Clr. Sherman but I will not. I hope I have made my point that I know him as a person. From my personal experience, he certainly is not the “arrogant” man that some have described him to be. I wonder whether any of these other writers have ever met the man, Varney Sherman, or ever interacted with him. Those who try to portray Varney Sherman in the news media as “arrogant”, “selfish” and “uncaring” only because he is a candidate for the presidency of Liberia when they know nothing about him are not only unfair to Varney Sherman, but they are also unfair to the reading public.

Finally, I earnestly hope during this presidential race, candidates and their supporters will avoid attacking personalities; and if they can’t avoid attacking personalities, definitely they should not levy false accusations or ascribe to their opponents fabricated character or conduct merely to win votes away from them. Rather candidates and their supporters should address issues, reveal their platforms, and clarify how they will pull Liberia from the rubble of war to foster unity, peace, socio-economic development and respectable international relations. Above all, I pray fervently that whoever is elected will truly have Liberia at heart.

Paid For By The Varney Sherman Camp.
About the Author: Dr. Sakui W. G. Malakpa is a tenured Professor at the University of Toledo. His telephone number is 419-530-2047; his fax number is 419-530-8447. One may also get him through his Secretary at telephone number 419-530-7733. His email addresses are sakui.malakpa@utoledo.edu or smalakpa@uoft02.utoledo.edu.