Bobby Jones was a simple man and one of my heroes.
He was born on October 18, 1942, and died on November 26, 2013. But these two dates, while significant to family and close friends, are not what is important. What is are the 71 years between the two dates and how Bobby lived his life in a quiet, plain, humble, complete and unselfish way. His faults were few, and his real friends were many. I feel blessed to have been able to call Bobby Jones a close friend for over 65 years.
I have known three people in my life, and only three, for whom I can say, “I never heard them make a negative or unkind comment about another person.” Bobby Jones was one of these three. I think this says much about what kind of a man we lost when Bobby Jones left us, two days before Thanksgiving, 2013.
Let me back up to the 1950’s, the early 1950’s. In my memory, I see Bobby pushing his lawn mower, a full gas can hanging on one of the handles, probably Amoco ‘white gas’ from Mr. George B. Well’s Amoco station in downtown Perry. His pretty blond hair bobbles, up and down, with each step, as he makes his way to yet another job – another lawn to mow. Often, our paths would cross as I, too, had customers with grass to cut.
Then, Bobby was older, and he was working at grocery stores, again in downtown Perry, with clean-up duties – mopping and sweeping – after his full day of stocking, bagging and toting ended. While his friends were cruising or courting on Saturday nights, Bobby was pushing a broom or a mop. But, given his nature, he didn’t complain. He just stayed true to being the kind and sweet man he was and was to always be. And, he always had a great sense of humor which served him well throughout the years.
High School was next, and the memories are many. Let me share a few.
Bobby, who was thin and agile, became, in the custom of high school ways, “Bones” Jones, the name probably having been given to him by our friend, Jerry Wilson, who had a knack and a propensity to give nick names that had logic and stuck. And, by the way, Bones could really dance. He looked like a white James Brown when he got on the dance floor.
While I am not one hundred per cent sure as to the origin of “Bones”, I am certain that Jerry Wilson named Bones’ lumbering 1950s vintage light brown Pontiac, “the Butterscotch Bullet.” In this car, strong friendships were strengthened on trips to the arcade at Houston Lake, Perry High School and all over the county, but with only a few trips outside of Houston County (with the possible exception of one or two to Lake Henry over in Crawford County), lest the Butterscotch Bullet fail to make the return trip (as it did on occasions, even within the County), to Bobby’s home on Parkway Drive in Perry.
You can’t write or say the name of Bobby Jones without thinking of golf. I’m not talking about the world renowned professional golfer, Bobby Jones, but I’m talking about our Bobby Jones. He was never a professional, but with a little luck and financial backing, he could have been. Let me make my case: I believe that he played on three State Championship golf teams at Perry High School. He was Captain of Georgia Southern’s first golf team (1961-1964); he shot a hole-in-one three times on three different golf courses; and, he constantly bested some of Middle Georgia’s best golfers including his ‘golfing buddy’s’. In this group are Foster Rhodes, Ed Beckham, Mel Tolleson, Norman Parker, Al Lasseter, Edgar Barfield, Jimmy Beeland, Chris Murman, George Nunn, George Brown, and Arthur Loewen.
I must get off of Bobby and golf given space limitations. However, a few years back, I wrote a column called Perry’s Own Bobby Jones. If any of you readers are interested, I’ll retrieve this article, and email it to you. Let me know.
It was on June 11, 1963. With a “Texas or Bust” sign on the side of my little turquoise and white corvair, Bobby Jones, Jerry Wilson, Jerry “Do-Tricks” Horton and I left for Fort Worth, Texas to work at Texas Steel Company on Hemphill Avenue. It was a summer that will never be forgotten by me, and now, sadly, by only me as the other three great friends are now gone. Let me briefly share some of those memories with you.
Within hours of our leaving Perry and while we were in Selma, Alabama, George Wallace would “stand in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama. That night, when we were in Meridian, Mississippi, Byron De La Beckwith would shoot and kill Medgar Evers. The next morning we drove through Mississippi’s Capital of Jackson (there were no interstates there in 1963) and there was demonstrating in the streets. We were witnessing history, but we did not realize it. We were frightened.
The Texas Steel work was hard, hot, long and scary. I wrote before that “we were boys when we left Perry, and we were men when we returned.” The day that Bobby and I spent with a fifty pound jack hammer breaking up and hauling off a three or four inch concrete floor from a large Texas Steel building will help to make you a man. Work like this also made us a “band of brothers”, as I have written earlier.
In my inadequate way (could it be otherwise when you are limited to words and space?), I have tried to portray something of this fine man, Bobby Jones, and of a life well-lived. Bobby could and did do it much better in a Personal Testimony he gave on August 26, 1984. Let me share parts of it with you.
“It’s a major milestone in my life to stand before this congregation, today, and tell you about what God has meant to me in my life…I was raised in a Christian home by Christian parents…I’ve always wanted that inner peace…Have you ever stopped to think about the most peaceful times in your life…one of mine goes back many years when Perry was just a small country town…Life was so easy then. Somehow, I feel that this is the kind of peace that followers of Jesus Christ have. This is the kind of peace I’m striving for… God was bringing me back to old friends, which in the end, is what helps make life worthwhile…”
So many friends came to say goodbye to our Bobby Jones at the funeral services, Perry United Methodist Church, on Friday, November 29, 2013. They also came in these great numbers to wrap their arms of love around Bobby’s wonderful wife, Laurie, and to hear the words of truth and encouragement from Bobby’s son (of which he was so proud), Robert. It was a fitting and love-filled service, entirely appropriate for this good and kind man.
Bobby, so many people loved you and will miss you, but none more than your old Perry classmates, Larry and Janice. And, by the way, Janice says she’ll make you a banana pudding the next time she sees you.