While I know many will be amazed to learn this fact, 74 years ago today a baby boy saw this world for the first time at 5:23 p.m. The site was the old Fitts Hill clinic in downtown Montgomery (which is now a parking lot) and the doctor was James Hill. (And no, I didn’t remember that, it was on my birth certificate which I consulted. Besides, at 74 you are lucky to remember where you put your cell phone or glasses.)
The mother was 20-year old Alpha Stuart Lee of Rt. 2, Red Level, AL. The father was 23-year old Arnie Greely Lee, also of Rt. 2. Daddy was stationed at Maxwell air base and since he didn’t own a car, he rode a bicycle to the hospital after I was born. (He and mama took a cab for the first trip.)
It’s been an amazing ride. And fortunately, the amazing moments outnumber the regretful ones.
I was the first in my family to graduate college and will always bleed Auburn’s orange and blue. I’ve seen glaciers in Alaska and Buckingham Palace; the Swiss Alps and the Grand Canyon, the German countryside and the rolling plains of Wyoming.
Mama and Daddy endured the depths of the Great Depression and they never forgot it, especially Daddy. It shaped him eternally and he attempted to pass along to his son the value of financial security. That lesson never stuck too well. But hopefully as twilight gathers, enough.
And instead of worldly treasures I’ve always counted friendships instead. By that measure, I am a rich man indeed. Friendships that stretch back to my time at Theodore High School and began yesterday in Jackson, MS.
A great, great, great-grandfather name of William Greenberry Lee moved from Georgia to Alabama in 1823. The generations since made sure I never forgot who I was or where I came from. The sand and clay of rural Alabama run through my veins. My sense of place is an anchor–and sometimes it seems an albatross.
But in my own little way, I have given blood, sweat and tears to this land we call Alabama. Sometimes she has made me proud, but too often left me disappointed. We’ve listened to “leaders” who tapped into our most basic fears to benefit their political futures. We worried too much about who was going to school, than what was being taught and learned.
As my friend John Hansen reminds me, my “use by date” doesn’t have much time left on it. And he is right.
Knowing this, and being true to my roots, I pray that I continue to have the strength and energy to be a small voice supporting the thousands of teachers, administrators and students in our public schools and the courage and conviction to confront those who see our them as simply the means to their own end.
Certainly I owe thanks to the many, many hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who stop by this site. I am grateful for your visits, comments and emails. And grateful that you share some of my convictions.