My daddy was not an educated man. He and his brother and sister grew up on a small farm, where they picked cotton under the blistering south Georgia sun and plowed fields behind a mule they kept in the barn behind the house. He attended high school in Poulan GA and loved telling everyone he had graduated second in his class. The punch line was there were only two people in his senior class.
He never went to college. He served during World War II in Africa, then came home to his wife, and a few years later I became their only child.
Daddy worked for the Trailways Bus Line after the war. He was the “class trip” promotor. He would put me and mama in our old car, and we would ride all over south Georgia, parking under shade trees on high school campuses. Mom and I would wait in the car, opening our sack lunches and eating there in the shade, while daddy went inside to help plan senior class trips – with Trailways as the transportation of choice.
After the bus line, he had a civil service job at Ft. Benning in Columbus GA. Then we moved to Sylvester, my mom’s hometown (only seven miles from Poulan, where Daddy was born and raised). He worked in insurance for a while, working a “debit”, which meant going out and collecting insurance premiums on a monthly basis.
When he got a job as a bookkeeper at the Bank of Worth County in Sylvester, he and mama built their first home – the one they would live in for the rest of their lives. Even without a formal education beyond high school, daddy moved up the ranks at the bank. From bookkeeper, he was promoted to teller, then to loan officer, then to Vice President – and when he retired at the age of 65, he was President of the Bank of Worth County. Things like that just don’t happen anymore.
Daddy never met a stranger and loved to talk. He was honest, hard-working, and fair to everyone. At his funeral in 1996, one of the stories the preacher told was about what would happen when parents came into the bank to borrow money to buy a teenager their first car. Daddy would always ask to speak to the teenager privately. The probably frightened young person would sit down, and daddy would get up and close the door to his office. Then he would talk about the responsibility of owning a car – how they should be proud of it and take care of it, how they should never drive recklessly or speed or drive under the influence, how they should take on the task of working to pay for the car insurance themselves. I smiled hearing this story, because those were the same words I heard from him when he bought me my first car.
Daddy was a pillar of the community, a deacon at the First Baptist Church, a beloved brother to my Uncle Hubert and Aunt Martha, a treasured friend to many. He was my mama’s first and only love, and he was the only earthly hero I ever had, and that remains true to this day.
Happy Father’s Day, daddy. Love you more!