Longtime Macon Water Authority Chairman Frank C. Amerson Jr., who guided the once struggling authority from nearly broke to the envy of the state and even the nation, was remembered at a memorial service Tuesday for his integrity, intensity and intelligence.
Two of those traits were summed up in a story shared by former Mercer University President Kirby Godsey, who recalled a young Amerson bidding on a construction job with a Baptist church and being approached twice by a deacon who hinted that a new bass boat might land Amerson the job.
The deacon asked him, What do you think about that bass boat? said Godsey. Frank said, I told you, I dont do business that way. And one more thing: If I die tomorrow and see your face, Ill know Ive gone straight to hell.
Frank did not get that contract.
Amerson, 83, who died Friday from complications after surgery, was a no-nonsense visionary who put his community first, and as a result helped bring countless jobs to Bibb County, eulogists told several hundred mourners at Vineville Methodist Church.
He was a great leader, said Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, pastor of Mount Moriah Baptist Church. He loved to work. If he had something on his mind, there was no stopping him.
Edwards, who as the water authoritys attorney worked closely with Amerson, said Amersons colorful language and often gruff demeanor masked a softer side that he kept hidden from the competition.
He was a competitor, but it was never for himself. It was always for the good of Bibb County. His goal was always to get the best deal he could for Bibb County without giving away the farm, Edwards said. That rough facade was always there, but underneath it there was tenderness, there was compassion.
Amerson also served on the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority and was instrumental in developing the I-75 Business Park, a joint venture with the water authority where Tractor Supply Co. is building a new $50 million distribution center.
Edwards said Amerson was a self-educated man who was a voracious reader with a brilliant mathematical mind.
I saw him put to shame lawyers, accountants and engineers, saving the authority countless thousands of dollars.
Godsey noted that when the Flood of 94 destroyed the citys water system, Amerson and the authority replaced it with a $105 million state-of-the-art water treatment plant that carried a local cost of just $5 million.
I call that worthy stewardship, he said.
Amerson then worked with NewTown Macon to turn the old water works into a park that now bears his name.
His heart failed him, but his spirit never did, said Godsey. Frank Amerson could not be bought. He would rather have troubled waters and a good decision than smooth waters and a bad business decision.
Amerson did not turn water into wine, but he did take Macon water and turn it into the certified best drinking water in America, Godsey said in reference to an honor earned by the water authority.
Amerson served as the authoritys chairman for more than 30 years and was able to turn it around by running it like a business and not a political entity, Edwards said.
His mantra was: I dont make political decisions, I make business decisions.
Vineville pastor Marcus Tripp described Amerson as a man of intelligence, keen analytical skills and an incredible ability to make things happen. While in the hospital the week of his death, Amerson sought out visits from family and friends with a recurring theme, Tripp said.
It was Franks dream to provide for others, not only with the fruits of his labor but also the method by which it was gained.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.