Monday, July 27, 2020

The Last American

Yesterday, my nearby town lost one of its great characters. Because I value his family's privacy, I will only refer to him as Bobby, but everyone who is local will know of whom I speak, and at the end is a video that will identify him fully.

Bobby was 90, as best I can tell, when he passed away. He served as the town's mayor several times. He was great friends with everyone, and as far as I know, he hadn't an enemy in the world.

I met him when I was 20 years old. I worked at a law office in town, and Bobby was friends with my boss. But it was because I was "James Arthur's" wife that my acceptance was immediate. Bobby also was old friends with my father-in-law, Jimmy, and I heard many tales about their adventures at hunting camp, a secret place somewhere over on Bald Mountain in Craig County.

Bobby was the kind of guy who had a story for everything - because he'd done so much. He greeted me with a hug whenever I saw him and would immediately ask about my husband and the rest of the family. As time passed, he wanted to know about my nephews, too. He never forgot to ask about them.

Bobby lived in my nearby town all of his life. He was born in 1930, and he lived in the small community before the time of vehicles, before telephones, before, well, most things that we now take for granted.

He grew up in an America that doesn't exist anymore. He grew up in a time when all he needed to know took place within walking distance of his house, and if he needed to know more, he read the newspaper (and didn't proclaim it "fake news" if he disliked what he read). 

Around 2005, Bobby wrote a book about his life, a memoir, if you will, of simpler times. Copies may still be available at the Botetourt County Historic Society. I cannot find my copy, which makes me sad because I'd like to quote from it. If he signed it for me, I may have put it away with my other autographed books, and they're in a closet that I can't reach. 

His book held so many stories, though! For example, his father rescued a young black child during the winter, and the boy grew up with Bobby (who was white). There was something about skunks. And a story about a coffin. The hunting stories, too, seemed to always elicit gales of laughter from the men as they stood around talking and reminiscing.

Bobby attended school in town, spent a year at Greenbrier Military School, and then volunteered for the Army. 

According to a Roanoke Times story from 2005, he also worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. The paper reports that Bobby said this: 

"I witnessed the first H-bomb explosion in the middle of the Pacific in 1952," . . . "I was 40 miles away at sea, and you couldn't look at it with the naked eye. It was humongous, something you just can't describe. That island where they detonated the bomb is no more."

Later, Bobby worked as a deputy clerk for the Botetourt County Circuit Court and then went on to work for Appalachian Power. He didn't lay lines - he negotiated rights of way. He was still working for Appalachian the last time I spoke to him, which was last summer, even though he officially "retired" in 1993.

The book Bobby wrote came about because he had all of those stories in his head and putting them on paper seemed like the thing to do.

He also wrote letters to the editor of the local newspapers. Here's one from 2018:

I once belonged to the NRA back when it was what I considered a hunting organization. When it became more political, I dropped out. I tried to explain to the calls I got from NRA my feelings, then and only then was I left alone (no more calls). I was told by several friends and NRA members, "once the anti-gun people get their feet in the door, we would all lose our guns." I simply cannot buy into that theory.
I would suggest we outlaw automatic weapons and bump stocks, have a buy-back system, give them all to the military and very special units of law enforcement, we could avoid a lot of mass killings. In addition to the above, we should keep arms out of the hands of the mentally unstable that show any signs of aggression. This should help keep the peace.
We certainly cannot continue to allow people to be slaughtered, most especially our precious children. Arming teachers is not a feasible idea.
Raising age limits from 18 to 21 to purchase automatic weapons is only showboating at best.
NRA, please become a hunting organization again. I will gladly rejoin.
BOBBY _____
I thought the world of Bobby. I know there are hundreds of people who can write a better description of Bobby than I can, people who were closer to him and knew him better. To me, though, he was, first and foremost, a decent and kind human being. Given the things that are going on today, I think he was probably among the best people I have ever known. I consider his America to be gone with him now, and we are faced with new problems and villains to overcome, and a totally different country. I hope Bobby will look down and give us guidance as we make tough choices.

Here is part one of a talk with Bobby, part of the Virginia History Exchange. There are four parts, and the rest can be viewed there if desired.


  1. I enjoyed this post about Bobby. Sounds like a man of integrity and fine character. hope you find your book.

  2. Thank you, my "fren", this a beautiful description if a beloved relative and friend. You describe his qualities perfectly and I am grateful.


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