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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.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Truett Celebration Hayesville NC October 19

         There is a direct line in which I benefited from the life and Legacy of George W. Truett. Not only was I baptized in 1959 by my Father Billy D. Fox when he was pastor of the Truett Memorial Baptist Church in Hayesville, North Carolina, but I was given confidence by J Paul Beam and his family in Gaffney SC as a High School Senior in 1971. Beam, born just 30 years after Truett's birth two years after the Civil War in 1867 was part of a generation for whom Truett was the North STar of Baptist witness in the Public Square. Cherokee County , South Carolina's School Superintendent,  A theological graduate himself from the Baptist seminary in Louisville, Ky, that after his Baptist shaping on the old Downtown campus of Furman University in Greenville SC, Beam was a protégé, a poster child of Truett's legacy of Baptist Christian virtue in a lifetime career of Truett's second love, Education.

     About a month before a tragic accident took the life of Mr Beam and his wife Daisy and Daughter Mrs. Youngblood, Mrs. Beam, herself a 70 year old woman at the time, comes over to the pencil sharpener in my Advanced Math Class at Gaffney High. She said Stephen, Paul and I think you are a fine young man. We are proud to see you accepted to Furman University. Paul and I know how much your father makes, we know how much Furman costs. If for any reason that becomes a burden to your Dad and family, don't hesitate to call on us. Paul knows a lot of people there and we can help you work things out.

    So Here is my effort submitted to the Clay County Progress. A version should appear in the Nov 19 issue of the paper. And at the end of this click on the sterling address of Dr. Colin Harris, by far the wiser review, recently published at Other versions of that day may appear in Gaffney's Cherokee Chronicle and possibly a national Baptist publication.

         For Clay County Progress
   Becky Long Publisher
   Truett Event of October 19  

    September 30 I attended the Sacred Harp Singing in Dutton, Alabama about halfway between Ft Payne and Scottsboro up on Sand Moutain. You never know who will show up at these events as Sand Mtn is Ground Zero for Sacred harp; in fact the Ivey family of  nearby Henegar was the guts of the group at the Oscars in 2002 for their soundtrack performance for Cold Mountain.
   I got to talking to a tennis player from Bard College and some folks from Canada and Brown University. Bard is where Luc Sante teaches, Sante a consultant for the movie The Gangs of New York.
    He is also an essayist. All that to say at one point he talks about how every individual is their own "archaeological site". As such Hayesville North Carolina is one of the biggest digs of Stephen Fox, as it is a place of wonder and transcendence for me, locked in time of my 5th through 8th year. When I was in Hayesville, everybody of the first half of my life was alive, Momma and Dad, my Fox Grandparents and all my Mom and Dad's brothers and sisters and cousins, before a few divorces in the family, a diagnosed schizophrenic, some aspirations unreached and the unveiling of life that comes to us all.

    Chief in my site, my origin diggings is the towering figure of George W. Truett. My dad was the pastor there. The historical marker was a hundred yards or less from the parsonage. I was baptized there, heard Bible words and phrases; it got me thinking and I haven't stopped yet.

    In the summer of 1960 Colin Harris as a young man not much past 18 came up from Clairmont Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia to the Truett Camp in Hayesville for a weekend Baptist retreat with his youth group. His youth  pastor David Bookout, was a friend of my Dad, Billy D. Fox, then pastor of the Truett Memorial Baptist church in town.

    My Dad was the devotional leader for the weekend, and my mother Louise was in charge of seeing the group of 30 of the  best and brightest from the big city church were well fed. October 19, 2017 at Hayesville High School, now Dr. Colin Harris, retired religion proff from Mercer University said it was Billy Fox who first gave him an inkling of the grandeur, the towering stature of George W.  Truett in Baptist life. Harris told 80 odd students, some faculty and a sprinkling of members of the Clay County community Billy Fox "adored" George W. Truett.

    And he did.

   Earlier this year Frances Fitzgerald drew national attention in the Washington Post, NY Times, NY Review of Books and Cspan's Booktv with the publication of her magnum opus The Evangelicals and the Struggle to Shape America. So in that context and even moreso in the frame of the "religion card" in national politics since Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter became President in 1976. George Truett is key for historical praise and analysis.

    Our family left Hayesville January of my third grade year, 1962. For the next 16 years in Gaffney SC as part of his ministry my Dad told everyone he met, on some occasion or another about the Great George W. Truett, who historians have unanimously agreed was the grandest Baptist of the first half of the 20th Century. Check his Wikipedia page. Truett at age 27 saved Baylor University from Financial ruin; from 1897 to 1944 he was pastor in the biggest Baptist pulpit in the world, FBC Dallas, President of the Baptist World Alliance, and ambassador for President Woodrow Wilson to America's troups in WWI.

   All the while according to Princeton's Robert Wuthnow in the recent book Rough Country, for his time on the right side of history, a gradualist smartly advancing with Christian concern and the politics of what was possible the advancement of civil rights for Black folks though the dam didn't break till after his death. Wuthnow has a great chapter on that aspect of Truett's life " From Judge Lynch to Jim Crow".

   My father told folks high and low of the ministry and educational work of Truett. In Gaffney he told John Hamrick, likely the most influential and wealthiest Baptist in Gaffney SC. Hamrick a former President of the American Textile Association had a private audience with President Ford in 1974, and he was in the inner circle of textile magnate Roger Milliken of Spartanburg, the man legend says told Goldwater to run in 64 and gave Nixon more money than any other man in America in 72. Dad told Hamrick's sister Mrs. John Reaves and her doubles partner Kat Sossamon the wife of a U South Carolina trustee and later the Mother of another trustee about George Truett. They often called Dad on weekday mornings when they needed a "fourth" for their tennis matches.Billy Fox told Presidential Candidate George McGovern about Truett when he preached to him outside Pigeon Forge Tn the fourth Sunday of August 1983 when McGovern, the son of a Methodist minister showed up at the nearest Methodist church of a good trout stream he found in East Tennessee. It was the family's annual Helton Reunion and McGovern stuck around for an hour after church.

   As an aside Dad's first cousin Ray "Bush" Helton the moderator of the reunion welcomed McGovern that morning saying. We are honored to have Senator McGovern with us this morning. Bush said, Senator I think we should tell you outside my sister and Billy's boy Stephen you are about the only Democrat in the congregation today but you are welcome to our worship service and we want you to stay and have lunch with us if you like.

    McGovern Did.

    Late in his ministry, Dad had semi retired and was doing a little circuit preaching for some small Methodist churches in NE Alabam. One up on Lookout Mtn, in Dogtown, also known aka Ruhama Alabama, three years before he died, Dad presided over a ten day Vacation Bible School. He told that group about George W. Truett. One kid about 15 years old, pusihing the age limit was dismissed the first week for smoking, but they let him back in the second week. At the testimongy meeting the last night, the kid got up and said: A lotta people say Preacher Fox is getting too old. I just want to say he's my friend.

     One of the key moments of the Hayesville event Oct 19 was Hersey Miller, the son of an associational missionary who slept in the Historic Truett home in the room next to Truett's room. Hersey played basketball for the yellow jackets with Frankie Galloway but left his tenth grade year. A retired medical doctor, whose early 60s Scrabble games with my Dad were intense, Hersey became part of a panel conversation on Truett's legacy.

   Blind to some of the thinking of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Marilynne Robinson he mirrored, echoed some of the thinking in her latest collection of essays, The Givenness of Things when he came out with this in the Hayesville auditorium

     Miller said: "
George Truett believed in civil and religious liberty for people everywhere.  Liberty and freedom require respect.  On what foundation is respect built?  The foundation of respect goes to the heart of who we are, and what it means to be human.  One of the key questions is how we got here, and where did humans come from.  If we are here only because of time, plus matter, plus chance, then respect is nothing more than one person’s power over another.  But if we are here because we are created in the image of God, as Truett maintained, then I respect you because you are the same as me – made in the image of God – both of us equally deserving God-given respect and freedom." 

      Already there is facebook chatter at the highest levels of Baptist life about a possible symposium at Truett camp in 2020 on the hundredth anniversary of Truett's famous 3 hour speech on the Capitol Steps in DC on the Separation of Church and State. I'm certain if such an event takes place, there will be a plenary session open to the public at Truett Memorial or some other venue in Hayesville.

   There are almost certain to be some kind of Celebrations at Wake Forest and at Truett Divinity School on the campus of Baylor

   Retired Mercer professor Colin Harris piece in ethicsdaily. With his son John, a Furman math proff and John's daughter Sophie they are authors of the children's book Mr. Tuck and the 8 Heroes. Get a copy for the elementary school you attended along life's way. I hope to be in Gaffney this spring with Dr. Harris for a reading at the Central Limestone Elementary school on the Pacolet Hwy.



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