Monthly Archives: January 2014

Men, Be Devoted to the Women in Your Lives

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Jasper Dorsey, my grandfather, is by far the most honorable man I have ever known. His long career of service to others made a difference in the lives of countless people transcending generation, race, economics, and creed. There is no way I could ever do justice to the meaning of his life by anything I could say. I hope that the significance of my life in some way holds a candle to his.

I was contacted today by Dick Yarbrough, a Georgia columnist and a close friend of my grandfather’s. My grandfather wrote a column that appeared in over forty newspapers in Georgia from 1983 to his death in 1990. One of his last pieces was a tribute to what he called, “The Women in My Life,” and he wrote it shortly after his wife, my grandmother, died in March, 1989.

Mr. Yarbrough was contacting me to ask about that piece. Interestingly enough, the piece was so compelling to so many, that it ended up being included in the Congressional Record of the 101st Congress by Rep. Buddy Darden of Georgia on May 4, 1989. Mr. Darden, like Mr. Yarbrough, was mentored as a young man by my grandfather. He included it in the daily proceedings of the Congress as a tribute to his friend and mentor, and because it expresses a kind of lifelong devotion, admiration, and love that ought to animate every like relationship men hold with the women in their lives.

Here is what Papa wrote on March 31, 1989–

Your indulgence for a moment please, because this is a love story. It is about the women in my life.

Neither time nor space is adequate to do justice to any of them; so, this is merely a tiny tribute to their magnificent influence upon my life.

If being cherished and loved is real wealth, and I believe it is, then no man is truly richer than I. They are always gentle on my mind and memory. They are my pleasingly unforgettable characters, each in a special dimension.

The first woman in my life was my Mother. Annie Robertson Coryell Dorsey (1893-1967) was born in Marietta, GA, married John Tucker Dorsey there in 1912 and lived among friends in that small town her the days of her useful life.

She gave me the secrets of happiness: Not so much in doing what you like, but in liking what you have to do; if you want happiness, try giving it away to others; and to always be useful. She believed anyone could make a difference if they tried hard enough. She taught me her religious faith by the way she lived.

People who lacked vision irritated her, especially politicians or church leaders. She often quoted the scriptures to them on the subject, always with a smile and with an affection, impatient admonition. She had no pretensions and possessed true Christian humility. My Mother took her religion seriously.

Patient with ignorance or inexperience in the unlettered, my Mother was intolerant of bad manners or things she considered wrong or anyone’s failure to try. Her levels of energy and enthusiasm were so high that if she wanted you to do something, it was easier to just do it, than to try explaining why you couldn’t.

Another woman in my life was Sally Cobb Hull Weltner (1887-1957). As my wife’s mother, she thereby gave me my life’s greatest asset. One of the least judgmental of women, she even learned to love me, after a while. Her five children were marvelously taught by precept and example to love God and their neighbor as themselves. In her last illness she also taught them courage and a stoic acceptance of pain she could not change.

The youngest woman in my life is Sally Hull Dorsey Danner, our daughter. She has inherited all the good qualities of her Mother and both her grandmothers and none of my aberrations. She has a unique quality of enthusiasm for things she supports and a compelling ability to organize others to produce exciting events.

These women shaped my life in inspirational and highly motivational ways. All are unique characters whose tolerance of me was exceeded only by their affection. It’s especially pleasing that so many others agreed with my assessment. They made my success possible, they also made it necessary.

The woman who gave a marvelous dimension to my life was Callender Hull Weltner Dorsey (1915-1989). Ours was a college romance. Marrying her over fifty one years ago was the best thing I ever did. Her decision to share her life with me was my greatest gift. The years flowed by so swiftly and excitedly—none have been better than those.

She had a spritely personality, a lilting laughter, a remarkable sense of humor, an unlimited intellectual capacity, infinite charm, a keen sense of understanding people, and great compassion for the unfortunate. She was different, in the nicest way.

We lost her March 15 after a long, painful, and wasting illness. She faced it with great courage and a light-heartedness which made her friends proud.

The women in my life have been lovely, charming and unique. “Age could not wither them, nor custom stale their infinite variety.” They’ve been great fun. More than that, the have been awesome.

Lincoln the Magnanimous

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From William J. Wolf, The Almost Chosen People: A Study of the Religion of Abraham Lincoln:

“From a window of the White House to a group who serenaded him on his re-election, [Lincoln] confessed: ‘So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom. While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result. May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?'”

What a model of civility presented by this great President to his people. This was a people torn apart by the issue of civil war. One side wanted to end the bloodletting, even at the cost of negotiating an end to the war with the Confederacy on the basis of separation. Lincoln’s position was to see the thing through until the states of the Confederacy had been restored to their proper relationship to the other states of the Union.

Lives were at stake. At the time of the election in the fall of 1864, no one really knew how much longer the war would go on. George McClellan, Lincoln’s opponent, represented the position that almost guaranteed an immediate end to the war and the suffering. The election of Lincoln would mean that the war would go on, perhaps for a very long time–no one really knew.

If there was ever a time when public civility would have no place in the political, religious, social, or economic life of the nation, it would have been in 1864-65. If it could be possible to justifiably dismiss civility from the words and actions of politicians, it would seem that the election of 1864 would be the time. But Lincoln consistently extended his magnanimity to all whom he met to oppose and defeat–those on the battlefield and those on the ballot. His magnanimity was informed by his trust in the wise and gracious providence and care of God in all things.

In this election year, when we Americans are torn apart by differences over momentous issues, may we yet remember the example of this, our most religious president. And may we follow it.

Why Don’t People Smile in Old Photos?

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John C. Calhoun: Very grim.

Ever wonder why people don’t smile much in old photographs?

I love looking at photos taken of people from long ago. When I look into the eyes of a person in a photo who is a member of a whole generation that has long been dead, I wonder all kinds of things about that person.

What was he thinking right at that moment?

Why was he having his picture taken?

Who else was in the room?

Where was the studio, and what was the weather like outside?

What did she do after her picture was taken? How did life go on for this person subsequent to the photo?

Like most people, I usually smile when I am having my photo taken. In fact, it is considered weird not to smile in front of a camera. Sometime during the last hundred or so years, it seems smiling became the normal fashion in photos and portraits.

Why didn’t people of old smile when they were having their pictures taken?

Here are some possible answers from the Ohio Historical Society. Read below for a taste.

When daguerreotypes were first introduced in France in 1839 the exposure time for larger photographic plates could be up to 15 minutes, sometimes longer. In just a couple of years improvements in camera lenses and the chemicals used to expose the images shortened the exposure times to a minute or less, but to get clear images people had to sit still. Photographers even had head rests that held sitters heads in place when they were having portraits made. Having to sit perfectly still for seconds probably discouraged smiling.