Opinion Columns & Blogs

WALKER: ‘They loved him most who knew him best’

A friend, Bob Bailey, brought me a book this past week that had in it an article I wrote on Nov. 12, 2005, a significant date. I re-read it and decided I wanted to share it with my readers. Here it is:

Clyde Walker was 15 when he died in 1927. This past Sunday, Janice and I visited his grave at Pinehill United Methodist Church out in the country in Washington County. There it was, his little marker with his name, date of birth and death, and the words “They Loved Him Most Who Knew Him Best.” I would suspect, but do not know, that my grandmother, who was Clyde’s mother, was responsible for the poignant words on his tombstone.

This is the way I understand it based on bits and pieces learned over the years from Daddy, Clyde’s younger brother, and Aunt Lillian, Clyde’s older sister, and not from my grandparents, who never talked about Clyde’s death. When I explain the circumstances, you’ll understand why they didn’t discuss it.

It was Nov. 12, 1927, and Clyde was squirrel hunting, a perfectly natural thing for a 15-year-old Washington County, Georgia, boy to do on a fall afternoon. Not only for the sport involved, but also for the opportunity to provide part of a meal or meals for the family.

Clyde was still gone when the sun set and the darkness came. I can imagine there was apprehension but not panic when the men decided they needed to go and look for Clyde. And, so they set out. It’s hard to imagine that what they found could’ve been worse. There was Clyde, hanging on a fence that he had tried to climb but couldn’t get over. Dead.

This is what the men surmised. One of the hammers on the double-barreled shotgun caught on a root or vine and discharged with the shot, striking Clyde in the stomach. Clyde tried to walk and crawl from the big tree, under which he was waiting for squirrels, to the house. He got as far as the fence, but was unable to climb it. A trail of blood clearly marked his path. Clyde was gone. Fifteen years old and loved by all, but especially by those who knew him best.

Why do horrible things happen to good people? It’s one of the great mysteries of the ages. I’ve heard ministers and great Christians try to explain, but I’ve never heard a completely satisfactory answer. In our finite understanding, maybe there is no answer. Perhaps we don’t understand because we are humans and not God.

Some of the happiest times of my life were spent out in the country with my Walker grandparents in Washington County. And as a youngster, maybe about 15 years of age, Papa used to let me take his .410 caliber single-barreled shotgun into the woods, alone, to hunt and shoot at birds and squirrels and rabbits. Never once did he or Grandma mention Clyde’s death. As I got older, I realized that they must’ve thought about Clyde and the dangers involved when I trudged down that little dirt road with Papa’s gun on my shoulder. But they let me do it because, at least at that day and time, it was a part of growing up. A part of becoming a man.

Can you imagine what Thanksgiving and Christmas must have been like at the Walker home place in 1927? And now they rest -- Clyde, Papa and Grandma -- on a hill at Pinehill United Methodist Church. Or, are they together, somewhere, in a happier time and place?

Clyde Walker never made it to manhood. He was only 15 when he was killed. But they said of Clyde, “They Loved Him Most Who Knew Him Best.” The words are chiseled in granite and are still there for folks to see. What wonderful words. Would be unto God that someone would say that about me when my time comes.

Clyde Walker was killed 78 years ago, today. I never knew him, but I do remember him.

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: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.