By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
I am writing this quick note as am I listening to Piers Morgan interview Oprah‘s best friend, Gayle, on CNN. Oprah‘s last show was aired today, May 25, 2011. I was reminded of this when I was at the CBS studio on 14th Street this morning, waiting to be interviewed by Brandon Rudat, host of Better Morning Atlanta. I was waiting with Aaron Watson, At-Large City Councilman on the Atlanta City Council, along with his Chief of Staff, Jill Strickland. I heard Ms. Strickland mentioning the huge event today. Councilman Watson and I were talking about the old days on the Atlanta School Board when there was some real rancor on the board. Ha! Aaron was surprised that I recalled the color of his political signs (black and yellow) when he first ran against school board member Ina Evans in 1989. Ms. Evans barely beat Mr. Watson, but four years later, Mr. Watson was elected to the Atlanta Board of Education and eventually became its Chairman for five years.
Councilman Watson was interviewed first, and, as expected, he handled himself quite adroitly. He even touched on the fact that perhaps SACS chieftan Mark Elgart should have focused more on the practices of the Atlanta Public Schools instead of focusing on the governance of the school board. He was diplomatic in expressing this; I, however, used a meat cleaver when discussing Mark Elgart’s hypocritical ways of dealing with select school systems in a most capricious and arbitrary manner. I can’t give away the show, and, of course, Mr. Rudat would not appreciate this. (I hope that not much will end up on the editing room floor. Ha!) The airing of the show will be Sunday morning at 10:30 A.M. I did, however, give a good shot or two at these “national” superintendents like Beverly Hall who come to town, bringing not only their arrogance but also the “members of their cults” (viz., the central office henchmen/women who come with them to implement their scorched earth practices).
I hear Anderson Cooper now talking about the horrific tornados in Joplin, Missouri, and I am reminded that my grandparents and mother lived in Joplin when my mother was very young. My mother’s family moved to Georgia in 1933, as my grandfather, Tyndall McPherson Frazier, had to go where the jobs were. Once they came to Columbus, Georgia, they made this fare city their home. My father, Daniel D. Trotter, Sr., had been born in Madison, Georgia, but his father, Robert Alston Trotter, Sr., as a “druggist” (now politely called “pharmacists”), moved to Columbus in 1927 when my father was two years old. When my father was on a mandatory leave from the U. S. Navy in 1944 because a Japanese kamikaze plane blew up his ship, my parents got married at my mother’s house on Lawyer’s Lane in Columbus. Both my parents were 19 years old. Today, they are both 86 and still madly in love. My Mom quips, “I think that I’m going to stay with him.” On my father’s side, I am sixth generation Georgian. The Alstons settled in Hancock County, Georgia in, I think, 1801. They were the Dueling Alstons (as they were called) of Halifax, North Carolina. They brought their dueling ways to Georgia, and several met an untimely death, including my great, great grandfather, Col./Rep. Robert A. Alston, who was murdered in the Georgia Capitol on March 11, 1879. His uncle, Augustus Alston, was killed in perhaps Florida‘s most famous duel against Leigh Read, Florida’s Speaker of the House. But, because Alston‘s gun prematurely misfired, the Alston family felt that Read should have shot, like a gentleman, into the air. He didn’t. He shot Alston at direct aim. (Augustus Alston, the leader of the Whigs in Florida at the time, was considered an expert marksman, and people were actually feeling sorry for Read for having apparently signed his own death notice by agreeing to duel Alston.) Alston‘s sisters wrote to my great, great, great grandfather, Willis Alston, demanding revenge. They had remolded the bullet which killed their brother and sent it to Willis. Willis Alston eventually murdered the Florida Speaker of the House, Leigh Read, in cold blood on a street in Tallahassee. The Alstons were quite wealthy. They had left Hancock County for the more fertile Florida, where land speculation was heating up, despite the fact that the Seminole Indians didn’t quite appreciate the new settlers. Willis Alston was able to essentially buy his way out of jail in Tallahassee with a huge sum of money and make haste to the new country in the West, the Republic of Texas. Eventually, Willis Alston was killed as a result of his killing Leigh Read. But, he had avenged the killing of his brother Augustus. The killing was habitual…and, I suppose, honorable. It was their way of life. The Alston-Read Duel helped hasten the end of legal dueling in Florida, and ironically, the memory of his son’s murder in the Georgia Capitol, helped eventually bring about a cessation of dueling in Georgia. Henry Grady, Robert Alston‘s very close friend (and former partner at The Atlanta Daily Herald), wrote luridly for several days on the front pages of The Atlanta Daily Constitution (of which he was now editor, and Alston was devoted to his law practice) of Alston‘s gruesome murder at the Capitol.
The people of Joplin are suffering incredibly. I just heard Springfield, Missouri also mentioned on CNN. This is where my mother was born, in the middle of the Ozarks. Cracker country. The most hellacious fighting during the Civil War — and even before and after the Civil War — took place in Missouri. The most bitter and scandalous fights took place here. This was home of Frank and Jesse James. In fact, Ma Barker and Her Boys were from Springfield. Southern Missouri and all the way up to Harry Truman‘s hometown in Independence, now a suburb of Kansas City, was fiercely loyal to the Confederacy. Union General Shackelford was constantly battling the Confederate sympathizers (and fighting collaborators) in Missouri, which was ostensibly neutral during the American Civil War. My mother’s mother was a Shackelford, the daughter of Garland Clinton Shackelford. Her mother, my great grandmother, was born in England. I am one-eight British; therefore, by law, I am officially English-American. I often wonder if I also have Yankee blood running through my veins. Ha!
Oprah…ah, what an American story! What can we say? So generous in spirit…and also in her pocketbook. She stands as a constant testimony that no matter where one begins in his or her life, if he or she has the same indomitable spirit, with God‘s grace, he or she can accomplish things which shock the imagination. My mother loves Oprah. Everyone loves Oprah. When you can be called by only one name (like Diana or Herschel), you have really made an indelible impression on the hearts of the people. When I spend time in Brazil, I long sometimes to watch English-speaking programs. I even got into American Idol. Ha! But, I really looked forward to watching Oprah late at night. I watched the special programs in Australia and Yosemite Park. This Mississippi Lady via Memphis and Chicago has touched the hearts of Americans, and has made us more whole. On Piers Morgan tonight, Gayle says that Oprah lives a life of gratitude. So true. I have tried to impress on my sons (and friends and me) the importance of the attitude of gratitude. St. Paul wrote: “In all things give thanks.” All. As a teenager, I came up with a metaphor for my life which has served me well…GOOPS. Good Out Of Poor Situations. I have been in poor situations in life. I remember that I was on fast track for a superintendency at a fairly young age. But, I stepped on some wrong toes in the Educational Military Complex and demonstrated amply that I would not eat shit (yes, I use whatever word I want to use here; if you don’t like it, then get your own damn blog), not even in capsule form. But, what was meantt for my bad resulted eventually in my good. My misfortune turned into my fortune. Today, I probably haunt quite a multitude of those weasling, booger-eatin’ administrators. Ha! I love using that phrase!
Now on to Mark Richt…I read in the media today that Coach Richt and his wife had decided to sell their lake house and grand property on Lake Hartwell. This is a handsome piece of property that commands a hefty price. You can imagine that ole Coach could buy a great estate, pulling in over $3,000,000 per year in salary. I like Mark Richt as a person. He is a good Christian man. Some had speculated that he was selling this property because he was nervous about his status at UGA, my alma mater (twice). But, the truth of the story was that he and his wife had decided that they wanted to free up more of their assets to contribute to charity. Most specifically, the Richts do much charitable work in Honduras via World Vision. I give the Richt family much credit for putting their money where their faith is. They also have two adopted children, from, I believe, Ukraine and Russia. They also have two biological children. They don’t just talk their faith; they actually live it. Didn’t St. Paul also say, “Work out [not “for”] your salvation with fear and trembling”? I believe this irascible Jewish rabbi turned Christian was saying that we need to live out the ethics of Jesus, viz., giving a “cup of water” to the thirsty and “bread” to the hungry, as well as visiting “the captives” in prison, despite the adjudication of their lives. Bobby Bowden was Mark Richt‘s Christian mentor. The Richts are living out their faith, although I have had much ambivalence toward Richt as a coach. Ha! I disagreed with him relative to starting David Green over D. J. Shockley in 2002. (Of course, he never called to ask my opinion, but this is the fun of college football…second guessing the coaches, right?!) I understand, I believe, his rationale. Green had had a good redshirt freshman year (“the Hobnailed Boot” versus Tennessee and all), but I felt that D. J. Shockley was the superior athlete and quarterback, as evidenced by his performance early on against Clemson at Sanford Stadium in 2002. I got mad and walked out of the stadium during the third quarter and had gotten to the top of Baxter Street when I heard the roar of the crowd. I got into my car and heard Larry Munson explaining that the Shock had driven the team down field for the key touchdown. I could’ve kicked myself! Ha! But, we like to second guess the coaches!
D. J. Shockley, an outstanding Clayco student-athlete, along with Hines Ward, is someone whom you cannot help but to like and respect. He patiently waited in line for three years to start at QB. When he finally started at UGA, the Dogs won the SEC. He, along with Jay Cutler, was named Co-Player of the Year in the SEC. The Dogs lost only to Florida that year in regular season, but D. J. was out with an injury. Against West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl, the Dogs were down 0 to 28, and the Shock engineered the Dogs to four unanswered touchdowns and came within a hair of pulling off one of the greatest upsets in bowl history.
Passion. I have always been a person of great passion. In fact, I told Mr. Rudat this morning that I could be “placid” in the upcoming segment, if he wanted me to be that way. But, he assured me that he had seen some videos of me being me, and he wanted me to liven up things, so to speak. That was my role. In fact, the program went to a commercial break using a YouTube video of me just being me. I have a friend who used to be a Commissioner in Clayton County, and any time that he has to get fired up about anything, he always says, “I went John Trotter on them!” Is this a compliment? I don’t know. Ha! But, back to Richt: He’s a little too placid for me…while he’s on the sidelines. I like Spurrier throwing the visor. I like Les Miles getting mad at the reporters and telling them about his “damn good team.” And, I like Richt recently losing his cool with the aggravating fair-weather UGA fan (we are the “best” fairweather fans in the country, you know?!) in Macon. I just want to see him act more like Dooley…eh, Derek, that is, not Vince. Vince was Placid City, except when he would jump in the air, helping Herschel Walker to go airborne over the pile for a touchdown or helping Kevin Butler get it between the uprights at 65 yards out! I like the way Derek Dooley gets so mad on the sidelines up in Tennessee. He reminds me of his volatile mom, Barbara. So, I hope that Boca Raton Richt will show more and more emotion. He is a good man, a good coach, a good father, and a good husband. He can’t help his upbringing…which was among more sedate people, I suppose. Boca Raton is no Clayco. It’s not Cabbagetown or Vine City. If people hoot and holler at graduation ceremonies at Boca Raton High School, they are probably looked upon with jaundiced eyes. But, Coach, Jonesboro, Sandersville, and Roopville are not Boca. Let your hair down a little more. The Bulldog Nation (most of the members of which have never attended a class at UGA, but still feel passionate about the Dogs) just want to see more “fire in your belly.” We know that it’s there. Be a little more like St. Peter. Cut someone’s ear off every now and then. Coach, we want to see somebody cut. Metaphorically, that is. Deep down, we are all wrestling fans. Ha! A little more Rick Flair! Whoaaaaaaaaaa! Football on Saturdays is entertainment, you know? It’s start with Corso and and the boys at 9:00 A.M. We just want our guy, Mark the Terrible, to juice it up a little more. More “heel” and less “baby face.” That’s all.
I have been telling the staff people at the MACE Office that we need to help feed the world’s hungry each month, but we seem to always get so busy that this concern gets lost in the shuffle. Tonight, I went onto the website of World Vision, and I am determined that we will make this a top priority. I had already talked to Mr. Norreese Haynes, MACE‘s Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, and he wholeheartedly agrees that MACE should do its part to help feed the hungry. Each month, we will send a certain percent of the membership fees from the teachers to World Vision which will in turn make sure that hungry children in the world are fed…and also clothed and educated. World Vision appears to have an impeccable accountability reputation with its finances. We can say “Thanks” to Coach and Mrs. Richt for setting this good example and spurring us on. If all people and companies and organizations will do its share, then much good can take place in the lives of children in Zimbabwe, India, Brazil, and other countries.