By Stephanie Collins
It could be said nearly every person that lives in Richmond has seen the large black man peddling his bike down the Bypass or making his way through downtown on a lawn mower.
All who have seen him would have also noticed his friendly smile and wave, wondering what walk of life brought him to where he is now. More importantly though, people want to know who this mysterious man is.
Big World, also known as Anthony Mitchell, grew up with the nickname Little World before carrying on the title of Big World after his uncle. He is not sure how the nickname got started, but it has become a tradition. His 18-year-old son Anthony is currently carrying out the tradition with the nickname of Little World.
For 20 years, Big World has been riding a bike and lawn mower around Richmond, utilizing the activity as an advertising business. After graduating from Madison Central High School in 1992, he was approached by Coldwell Banker to carry a sign on his bike for money – The rest is history. He has over three-dozen advertisers today and can be seen by the public nearly every hour of every day.
Over the summer, however, he was suddenly nowhere to be found. Rumors he had died spread like wildfire.
Big World said he was sick and checked in to the emergency room at Patty A. Clay on June 15, where he was treated for nearly two weeks for pneumonia in both lungs.
The man that is both a mystery and a friend to Richmond’s citizens was not alone.
“My room was never empty,” he said.
Big World said he was extremely touched by the outreach of the community, and the reaction to, “what they read in the media, made me feel good and special.”
The media Big World referred to was the local newspaper, The Richmond Register. The newspaper put out a news brief on June 23 stating after several inquiries as to Big World’s well-being that, “reports of Big World’s untimely death were exaggerated. He expects to recover fully and hopes to get back to carrying advertisers’ signs around Richmond soon.”
Big World said he couldn’t wait to get back to his business of advertising once his health improved, and his love for doing it can be summed up into one sentence: He loves when little kids wave at him.
“It makes me feel important and special,” Big World said. “I love to make people laugh.”
On the other hand, Big World said he was frustrated by the rumors he had died but brushes it off as something every well-known person has to deal with. After all, rumors of his death have been going on for about four years, he said.
Just like every other celebrity, Big World has dealt with numerous rumors and stories about his past or what he’s like personally throughout his 20-year celebrity status in Richmond. Although he’s not aware of it, several web pages on Topix and Facebook are dedicated to him. The newest page on Facebook for him began over the summer.
“People are always telling me about that [the websites], but I just don’t really get it,” Big World said. “Many people think I’m crazy, but once they talk to me, they realize I’m just a normal guy.”
Big World is 39 years old and has lived in Richmond his entire life. He said he never imagined the fame he would acquire through his business.
“It kind of amazed me,” Big World said. “I didn’t know it was gonna go this far like this.”
The fame has gone as far as to include T-shirts with his face on them.
Considered a friend to the student population, Big World is well-known and appreciated by the student body. He said he enjoys spending time with students and is often invited to tailgating and social events. He can also be found regularly downtown amidst the night-life crowds.
Being a creature of habit, Big World can mostly be found in his usual spots, which are typically in front of businesses he advertises.
One advertiser, Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q, is where Big World parks on a regular basis. He loves the sweet tea and gets a free meal in exchange for his business with the restaurant.
“He’s always really nice and wants to know how your day is,” said Amy Nichols, 23, a server at Sonny’s. “He’s always alone and either orders wings or a burger.”
“He’s advertised here for a long time,” cashier Teri Marshall said. “I’m not sure how long, but he was here six years ago when I started.”
Big World is single and lives with a roommate, his son and two dogs. He said he can’t really describe a typical work day because it depends on how he feels. As a person with diabetes and a bad heart, he said he has to be careful.
After the recent hospitalization for pneumonia, coupled with the record-high heat lately, Big World has not been out as much and said his future in mobile advertising depends on his health. He already anticipates he won’t be out as late this school year as in the past.
With his “prayer band” still on, he continues to pray for good health.