Opinion Columns & Blogs

Remembering Cicero Lucas

wmarshall@macon.com

It’s wrong to forget about a man like Cicero Lucas. I’m trying to help keep that from happening. No, everybody hasn’t forgotten Cicero. The folks over in the Statham, Georgia, area where Cicero now lives and those in the Washington, Georgia, area where he is from know Cicero, and I’d bet the farm that almost all of them think highly of him. Also, those who knew Cicero or knew about him when he played football at UGA, and those who knew him when he worked at or around the Capitol remember what a great guy he was.

How did I get off on Cicero Lucas? Well let me tell you. It sprung from my writing about Ben Fortson, last week. If you knew “Mr. Ben,” or about him, you probably knew Cicero, or about him, and let me tell you why. But, first let me start at a time before Cicero worked for Mr. Fortson.

Cicero was a very good and unique football player at the University of Georgia. He was small by today’s standards, but not by 1956-1958 standards when he played. He was 5-feet-11-inches tall and weighed 185 pounds and was a fullback and a guard. He was voted Georgia’s most valuable lineman in 1957 and was third-team All-SEC that same year.

But it was what they said about Cicero, which was the truth, that endeared him to the “Bulldog Nation” (which was a much smaller nation, but no less rabid, in 1957). This is what “they” said: “Coach Butts could tell Cicero to back up and try to run through that brick wall and Cicero would back up and give it his best try.”

Wallace Butts, the legendary hard-nosed head coach at UGA had to love Cicero Lucas. The Bulldog Nation loved Cicero. I heard Perry High School Coach Herb St. John, an All-American at Georgia, say, on more than one occasion: “I never had any problem with Coach Butts, he told me what my job was and I did it.” Cicero Lucas had to be exactly the same way. Like I say, Coach Butts had to love him.

Now, I’m getting to how I got to know Cicero and why I think so highly of him.

In 1960, Cicero, who is from the same part of the state that “Mr. Ben” was from, started working for Mr. Ben. And among other things, it was Cicero’s job to pick Mr. Ben up and put him in his wheelchair or sit him at his desk or put him in Mr. Ben’s car and then drive him to where he wanted to go. Cicero was strong. Cicero was polite. Cicero was patient. Cicero was kind. Cicero had a smile for everyone. Cicero was popular — with Mr. Ben and with everyone with whom he came into contact.

Cicero would have been any politician’s dream employee, but he was especially good for Mr. Ben. In other words, Mr. Ben told Cicero what his job was and Cicero did it and, like Coach St. John, who had no problems with Wally Butts, Cicero had no problems with Coach Butts or his Secretary of State, Mr. Ben Fortson.

And then in 1978, Mr. Ben was gone, but Cicero stayed on at the Secretary of State’s Office for several years before going to the House Clerk’s Office in 1984 where he stayed as a valued employee until he retired in 2004.

Everybody that I ever heard say anything about Cicero, from Speaker Tom Murphy to the doorkeepers at the House Chambers, made it very positive. Indeed, Cicero was nice to all. And, when you saw him and talked with him, he gave you a big lift, just like he gave Mr. Ben.

Cicero has to be, what, about 79 years old, or so? But he is still hunting — he is an excellent turkey and deer hunter — and an avid fisherman. And I know he’s still nice to everyone with whom he comes into contact.

I do have two additional thoughts.

First, isn’t it a shame that 185 pound fullbacks and guards can’t play at schools like Georgia anymore? Even if they are tough as nails and disciplined as the pope, they’re too small. And isn’t it a shame that more people aren’t like Cicero; just do the job as you are told to do. We probably could have used a few more Ciceros in the Georgia House and Senate, and I know we could use lots more like him in the Congress of the United States.

If you once knew Cicero Lucas, don’t forget him. He is worthy of your memory, and I bet he’d appreciate hearing from you. His email address is: lucascicero@bellsouth.net.

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.

  Comments