Rockdale County

Amateur boxer dies suddenly 5 days before his college graduation

ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. — It was an emotional moment when a family walked across the stage and accepted their loved one’s college diploma after he died 5 days before graduation.

Former Rockdale High student Barron Mann was all set to graduate with honors from Shorter University in Rome before he died. Now, his mother wants to honor him by giving out scholarships to those who helped her and her through some tough times.

Since Barron couldn’t walk across the stage to receive his diploma, Shorter University allowed his family to come on stage and accept it.

“So we remember our brother in Christ. Our graduate Barron Joseph Mann. Summa cum laude,” announced Dr. Donald Dowless, the school’s president.

“My family was in tears,” Barron’s mother, Cassandra Thornton, told Channel 2s Tom Jones.

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Barron’s brother, dressed in his cap and gown, became emotional. The crowd gave the family a standing ovation.

It came 5 days after Barron suddenly died in his mother’s home in Conyers.

“I heard him come to the stairs and he said we got to go to the hospital. I can’t breathe,” Thornton recalled.

Barron was seemingly healthy. An amateur boxer. A member of the wrestling team at Rockdale High.

“He worked out 5 five days a week on his own,” his mother pointed out. She says he recently developed asthma and had to use an asthma pump. But she says it didn’t stop him from boxing or other athletic activities.


Thornton says the coroner is still trying to figure out how her son died.

“He said other than the asthma we see nothing else,” she explained..

Thornton says she and her son came to Georgia with nothing but the clothes on their backs years ago.

“I literally had three dollars in my pocket,” she said.

Thornton says homeless shelters helped her get on her feet. Then her son joined the Rockdale High wrestling team. The whole team gave him brothers, friends. people that he could rely on,” she said.

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Now she has started a scholarship fund to raise money for the shelters they stayed in, the wrestling team and others who gave them a hand up. “So I’m giving it to these people because they reached out in what they felt a small way and impacted his life,” Thornton said.

Thornton says this is a GoFundMe scholarship fundraiser. So far it has raised more than $5,000 of the $10,000 goal.