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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A friend in the Bush White House

        Eric Motley drops in on Maya Angelou a few years before she passed away in Greensboro NC at Wake Forest.  He falls on his knees in honor and wonder at getting to meet in the flesh this great Poet, American icon. She says, get up son, none of us who have survived Montgomery, bow to anybody. Story will bring tears to your eyes. Google it at Huffington Post.

     So When a friend called a month ago to tell me Eric had just left Birmingham after a book signing of his new memoir, I was already pretty much all in.

      I've never met Eric Motley but I feel like I know him well. We recently became facebook friends. He is a great friend of mutual friends Todd and Brad Heifner through days at Samford University and we both held the late President Tom Corts in highest esteem. Eric as good friend of my cousin Wendy Skelton  Whitley gave my Dad's sister Juanita a personal tour of the White House late in the Bush 43 administration.

     And though Motley's coming of age story is a good 20 years after mine, his wondrous story of development in a strong caring black community just north of Montgomery, Madison Park, mirrors many of the stories I heard from my friends of color in the first years of integration, late 60s, early 70s in Gaffney South Carolina.

     Motley's new book is blurb endorsed by folks across the spectrum from Laura Bush to Henry Louis Gates to Stephen Carter and the head of the Aspen Institute for which Eric now works, Walter Isaacson.

     This review will have a second part with reservations about the evolution of the Bush dynasty, the presidential family that landed Motley with the Aspen Institute, but this first round will resist hagiography with glowing, sincere promotion of this magnificent success story of a black man from the deep south.

      Motley had a caring community and a bicycle. Naturally he ingratiated himself to older folks in the community and before long women had made him the DUK, the Designated University Kid. They singled him out for books cause that was his inclination and special instruction. A white elementary school teacher Mrs. Mayes saw his gifts and carted him all over Central Alabama for public speaking contests. He came by piano and voice naturally.

    A few chapters later, still about twelve years old young Motley is in the downtown Montgomery Library on a Saturday afternoon for his twice monthly hour that usually turns into ninety minutes visit while his grandfather waits in the parking lot. In one scene it's like the third generation sequel to Miss Jane Pittman, he looks over and sees an aging man in a wheelchair reading. Governor George Wallace and young Motley make eye contact before closing hour.

     You can't make this stuff up.

       At Samford President Tom Corts took him under his wing. Corts is a special story in his own right. Handsome fellow what you think a President of a Baptist college should look like the last quarter of the 20th Century he always spoke to my Dad by name and they talked about their mutual acquaintance from Wingate in NC, Everett Chapman who was gifted in the pulpit.

     When Motley was a freshman at Samford spring of 93 , in my 40th year I attended an Inquistion of Corts by leftover Birchers and their friends. It was like the first cousin of Judge Frank Johnson or a great grandson of Abraham Lincoln was on trial by this near 1,000 member mob of Baptist preachers. More about that in the 2nd installment of this review.

   Gotta say now Corts at one point when Samford was in the throes of the Baptist fundamentalist fight on liberal arts and everything else they could spin as liberal; Corts thought I had planted a provocative piece in the Wall St. Journal. Was not me but wish I coulda claimed that on my resume.

     Motley leaves Samford, Birmingham and Bama in 96 and goes to Scotland to Study. From there he gets a big thumbs up from the Tutweilers of Alabama and next thing he knows he's in the Bush 43 White House.

   And from there to the Aspen Institute where he is now.

   This is a remarkable story. Luck and the fates have been with Motley thus far but he brought a lot to the table, and as his theme, his testimony shouts out, it was a community in Madison Park Alabama who didn't believe what Jim Crow told them about themselves, but like the themes in Paul Harvey's Moses, Jesus and the Trickster, gave at least one 1990s member of the talented tenth the confidence and determination to find a way out to dance on the Big Stage.

     I called Gaffney High School the day I got my copy of this book, a few days after emotional reads from my friend Todd Heifner on the phone. I told them to get this book for the HS library and have the Honors History students read it. Cause my great friends the third year of integration in 1971, in the yearbook where I have my proudest picture with soon to be Montreal Olympian Charles Foster, the father of the BEST consensus MLB player first decade of the 21st Century, Grady Sizemore Jr; the daughter of the doctor for whom the legendary football field is named--and it is legendary; we didn't do our moment in the South's great drama without unspoken hopes folks like Eric Motley would some come along after us.

    And he did.


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