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I couldn’t help but notice that my recent comments about what I believe to be the sophomoric behavior of those who changed the names of Lord Fairfax and Patrick Henry Community Colleges were answered not with history-based logic, but with personal attacks on me as an apparently uninformed interloper to Virginia and to the Blue Ridge.
Dennis Kelly and Casimir Eitner did not attempt to counter the argument that the name changes were the result of the fashionable “woke” trend towards historical revisionism, “cultural cleansing” and any number of other politically correct bromides. Instead, they created a fiction that, like the attack on Lord Fairfax, is based upon old fashioned ignorance.
I don’t know Mike Wenger, but I have no reason to think he is anything less than a fine fellow. But that is irrelevant in this instance. The subject is how we consider history.
I arrived in Virginia at the age of 2 weeks, when I was thought stout enough to take the train up to Portsmouth from McNairs Crossing, North Carolina, where I was born. We were generational “railroad” people, on both sides of the family. My father was from the town of Driver, in Nansemond County, Virginia. My mother’s family were also railroaders in Virginia and North Carolina.
So my brothers and I grew up in a “section house” in the Sugar Hill area of Portsmouth, where everybody but us were listed on the census as “Negroes.” So, I have been a Virginian since September of 1941. (All of this is covered in my memoir, “Redneck Boy in the Promised Land”, which was published by Random House. Hey, I can get y’all a real good deal on a used copy….).
Our first trip to these beautiful mountains was just after World War II, when gas rationing ended and we bought an old car. After we made it up to Thornton Gap, I didn’t want to go back home and I have been visiting this paradise ever since. When the time was right, Alma and I found our home here in 1998. So the attempts of these fellows to demean me as some sort of “come-here” gadfly are lame and pathetic to me.
After graduating from dear ol’ Woodrow Wilson High in 1959, I worked at a series of jobs and saved a little dough for college. In the years after leaving Tidewater, I studied at Chapel Hill, then went down to Atlanta in 1969. I worked on stage, in television and in films, including a lot of work in California.
In 1988 I was elected to the U.S. Congress from Atlanta, and I spent two terms on Capitol Hill. When I was redistricted, I ran a “tilting at windmills” race against Newt Gingrich and ultimately brought the ethics charges against him. He won the election, but I guess I won the ethics case.
But there is no doubt about it, most folks know me as “Cooter,” the character I played on the “Dukes of Hazzard,” a mega-hit which, unlike us, doesn’t seem to age.
When I had the idea for “Cooter’s Place,” a “Dukes of Hazzard” themed tourist stop, I had no idea how it was going to work out. But it took off like a rocket. “Cooter’s,” and Rappahannock County, were featured on all the network affiliates from D.C., were written up in The Washington Post and all of the nearby news outlets, made it into several national magazines, and popped up on CNN, MSNBC, CBS and several other national TV networks. And the stories were also very complimentary to our county, both from national media stations and from the local area. And in every story we did, we talked up the beauty and friendliness of Rappahannock.
I started writing for the Rappahannock News right after we arrived. We lived on River Street in Sperryville until the late Betty Pullen pointed us to a cabin for sale on Harris Hollow. So here we are in Paradise and here we are going to stay.
Mr. Kelly and Mr. Eitner question my credentials and my commitment to education. Yet their “reasoning” is based upon wikipedia and their fertile imaginations. Eitner is certainly correct on one thing, in my opinion. “Underfunding” is a very real concern. For a lot of people.
I am not going to stop saying what I think and why I think it. Never ever, while I’m on this side of the dirt. So to my critics, such as Mr. Eitner and Mr. Kelly, I can only say, “toughen up, buttercups, y’all ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”
And, if I may add a footnote on the issue of our divided populace, entitled “Uncivil Wars,” I see that it is a project of the Foothills Forum. There are those of us who were here before the Foothills Forum appeared to great fanfare and self-promotion. And as one who was around long before the Foothills Forum, I would like to posit that things were indeed divided before the Forum proclaimed its presence, but not nearly as divided as they are now.
“Just sayin’, is all..”
The writer lives in Harris Hollow