It had to be in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. George Dekle Busbee was Georgia’s governor, and he and the First Lady, Mary Beth, were comfortably ensconced in Georgia’s new and beautiful mansion on West Paces Ferry Road when a tornado hit. This was a real tornado, not a political one. But, this is not about the tornado. It’s about the foolish thing I did.
I think it was one of my state House colleagues, although given the brevity of the time I knew him, I’m not certain. I believe he was from the Atlanta metro area, perhaps Clayton County. I don’t remember his name.
“Larry, do you want to ride over to the Governor’s mansion with me to see the tornado damage?” With little thought, I answered, “Yes,” and this was while the remnant winds of the storm were still strong.
And, so he came in his helicopter, and landed it next to the Capitol. I jumped in and we were off. About the time we got over downtown Atlanta, I became alarmed at the quality of the machine in which we were swooping northward toward the mansion and my total lack of knowledge of my pilot’s abilities.
But swoop and dip and swirl we did. We got a good look. I got a good scare. But we made it back, landed next to the Capitol just like Gov. Busbee did when he was frequently brought to work in the state’s helicopters.
Rep. Peggy Childs sponsored the legislation. Ray Charles came to the floor of the House, played and sang. Hoagie Carmichael, author of the song, talked to the legislators on a “hook-up” from California. We adopted “Georgia on My Mind” as our state’s official song. It was one of the smartest things we did during my 32 year tenure. It was the most exciting thing we did.
We were young and foolish. Bryant Culpepper and I started out to Atlanta and the legislative session from Perry on Sunday afternoon at 4. We ignored the snow and the weather warnings. We had a job to do. Eleven hours later, at 3 a.m., Monday, we go to our hotel room.
The same Monday at 10 a.m., we, and about 30 of our colleagues, were in the House Chamber for the opening. Thirty present, and 150 not present. The chaplain of the day didn’t make it. We did have the “scripture reading and prayer” as speaker Murphy gaveled the session to order.
I’m not sure who “preached,” but I think it may have been Rep. Billy Randall from Macon. Not much happened that day, but memories were obviously made. Bryant did remind me that Speaker Murphy didn’t take the roll call despite our Herculean efforts to get there.
He was the shoe shine man at the Capitol. He and I got to be good friends. He gave a very good shine for what he charged. Was it $1.50 plus tip? He alluded to a rough life, perhaps some problems self-imposed, when he was younger. He was usually reading his Bible when you interrupted him for a “shine.”
I miss Henry Tookes, and wonder if he is still living. I don’t believe there is still a shoe shine stand in the Capitol. I’ve noticed that some of the legislators could use a little buffing plus those great life instructions from Mr. Tookes.
I remember Big Jim Bennett, representative from Valdosta, slugging another representative in the face one night on the floor of the House. My recollection is that the consensus was the man needed slugging. Was the sluggee from Savannah? I think so. Does anyone do stuff like this today? I doubt it. But, they do act mighty ugly at times. Sometimes words hurt more than fists.
Lots of celebrities came to the floor of the House for introduction while I was there. Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Prince Charles, former governors, presidents, future presidents, football coaches, Atlanta Braves, Georgia Bulldogs, a real bulldog, etc. I never was too interested in having my picture taken with any of them until Kenny Stabler came.
He was dressed in a long overcoat and looked like an evangelical preacher. He kinda’ looked like Billy Graham. He was probably not at all like Bro. Graham. I wanted to talk with this former, left-handed, Alabama Tide and Oakland Raider football quarterback. More importantly, I wanted to know the man who ran the “mullet toss,” each year, at the Flora-Bama. Some of you understand, don’t you? Most don’t. Sorry, you’ve missed a lot.
Two lines about my wonderful legislative assistant of 20 years, Diana Lynn. She was simply the best.
Wiley Nixon. Mr. John Greer. Roscoe Emory Dean Jr. Hugh Gillis. Bill Lee. Culver Kidd. Rooney Bowen. Howard Rainey. Cap Hicks. Celestine Sibley. Frank Pinkston. Warren Evans. Ben Barron Ross. Denmark Groover Jr. Wayne Snow. Bobby Parham. Henry Reaves. Paul Coverdale. Paul Heard. Tom Murphy. Marcus Collins. Wayne Shackleford. Nathan Dean. Burke Day. Monk Toms. Elmo Thrash. Jimmy Lord. Ken Birdsong. Dick Pettys. Etc., etc.
I could go on and on, but must stop. Thank you Billy Chism, and others, for the requests.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.