There are not enough words to thank LaGrange

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The passage of time often reveals answers to some of the “whys” we once asked.  As a young Tennessee teen, I tearfully questioned my father, “Why do we have to move to Georgia now?”

If we had not moved to the idyllic west Georgia town of LaGrange in the summer of 1962, my life would not include the joy or the answers I have today.

God knew what he was doing when he placed me in the town with the beautiful fountain in the square, the imposing high school filled with fantastic friends, the college on the hill that encouraged me to write and the local newspaper that brought me back home.

These are the words that begin a chapter in a book simply called, LaGrange.  The book is titled, “It’s all WRITE with me!” Essays from my heart. The author is me.

I always knew LaGrange was a unique town and when I moved away, I left a big part of my heart at LaGrange High, LaGrange College, the First Methodist Church and all the places that fill my mind with crystal clear memories.

The friends and loved ones I met in LaGrange have shown me how fortunate I was to once call the sweet town on the Alabama line, home. 

I guess some folks want to run away to the big cities or are tired of their hometown once they are grown, but I never wanted to leave. Deep in my soul, I knew I was blessed with LaGrange, its people, and what they gave me to be able to live the rest of my life.

If it had not been for a special teacher at LaGrange High who believed in me, I could not have fed my children.

If it had not been for the special friends I met there, I could not have survived the dark days of my life.

If it had not been for a professor at LaGrange College, there would be no words, no book, no columns.

If it had not been for a minister at the Methodist Church, my faith would not sustain me as it does today. 

If it had not been for The LaGrange Daily News taking a chance and letting me write a column about most any topic in life, there would be no second career.

Lee Walburn is originally from LaGrange and has written words all his life.  He is a highly regarded journalist and won more than 200 awards for his excellence in writing. He was editor in chief for Atlanta Magazine, and has been a renowned columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for years. In 2003, LaGrange College awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. 

I could write a lot more about this esteemed man, but my editor would have to add another page to the paper.

Two years ago, my pal, Rich Mahaffey, handed me a book Lee wrote as a gift. “Just My Type” is a compilation of 50 years of Lee’s columns. An excellent book with beautiful illustrations. 

After reading the book, it never quite found its way to a bookshelf. It found a forever home on my desk. Every day, the book’s cover with a picture of Lee leaning back in his desk chair would prompt me to possibly think about writing a book.

Then several LaGrange residents along with others would tell me, “You need to write a book!”  At first, I decided it would require too much work and my life was already busy enough just writing my weekly column. Plus, I really didn’t think I was good enough even to attempt such a feat, until the day Lee Walburn wrote me and told me I was after I sent him a few of my own stories. I never knew Lee before that fateful day.

However, it was Lee who gave me the drive, the push, the encouragement to write a 307-page book filled with stories about the stuff of life. It was Lee Walburn from a sweet little town on the Alabama line where my father took a job and me in 1962.

When my stories spread across the nation and I hear from readers in other parts of America, it always humbles me. But what makes me fall on my knees, is the readers who pick up this paper on Thursday and read my column on the editorial page.

It is the folks from LaGrange who have called me home. On Saturday, I will be at Plum Southern Gifts signing my book and meeting those who have warmed my heart and encouraged me to continue to write. 

Please come to see me this weekend. You don’t have to buy a book, but I need to tell you one thing from the bottom of this Southern girl’s heart, “thank you!”