SMITH COLUMN: Charlie Maddox

Published 9:30 am Friday, February 3, 2023

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There may be a Charlie Maddox in your town. There is one where I hang my hat, I am proud to say. 

He has been a voice of reason in the Athens community for decades. He came along when official segregation was biting the dust which means he knows about the slings and arrows of a past which were fraught with insult and were intensely demeaning and repugnant.

Nonetheless, he has always turned the other cheek and kept on doing good.

Born and raised in the Classic City, he is a man who always extends a helping hand. He would get your ox out of the ditch. He has always been his brother’s keeper.

Today, when I have an opportunity to interact with him, good feelings wash over me because his sage advice falls inspiringly on my ears; his smiling countenance confirms that in his generous heart he truly cares about his fellow man.

While the mores of life have changed dramatically, as it has for all the communities across America, the core for Charlie remains the same. He will forever be an advocate of faith, hope and charity. It comes easy for him to be in church on Sunday, and if he were not in the pulpit of the Twin Oaks Baptist Church of nearby Washington, where he is the minister, you would still find him in a house of worship.

Some of that is due to his raising, but it is largely owing to the fact that he is a man of faith with a God fearing bent which gives him an inner strength that has brought him enduring respect in a community where assorted views exist when it comes to religion — everything from agnosticism to atheistic practice — exits.

Charlie Maddox is a kindhearted and gentle man who does more good by being himself than the charlatans of TV evangelism could ever hope for —especially with their bombast and greed getting in the way.

His dad was a truck driver for McCann Aerospace while Charlie was finding his educational way at old Burney Harris High in the pre-consolidation era. He played football (halfback) and was the shooting guard in basketball.  He was a very good athlete but not quite good enough for Georgia and Southeastern Conference level competition. Wouldn’t have mattered. He would have been denied admission.

The universal integration of college athletics in the South was six years away when he was in high school. He enrolled at Savannah State on football scholarship, but his goals and aspirations were derailed by hernia surgery. After enrolling at Georgia in 1965, a red-letter day for him, he was drafted into the Army when a second hernia surgery brought about a medical discharge.

“I was mad as I could be about that first hernia,” he smiles, “but I was quite happy about the second one.”

Following a brief connect with Nationwide Insurance, he began a career with the State of Georgia Department of Labor, which lasted for 35 years. 

All along he was a community volunteer and was active in providing support for the black athletes whom UGA signed to play between the hedges. “We were so proud of those first five signees and wanted them to feel welcomed in our community.

“Coach Vince Dooley encouraged us to make them feel at home. His only concern was that we honor the NCAA rules that were in place at that time. We were happy to do that and have always wanted the minority kids to know that we were there for them. We formed a club which we called the “One Hundred Percenters” to be their advisors and surrogate parents. Our goal was to help them.”

Earlier, when there were protests that there were no black players on the Georgia roster, Charlie was happy to join in the demonstrations but when things became right, he preferred to be a leader.

His philosophy then and now: “Don’t dwell on the past, look ahead.”

When I am in need of a wizened savant or critical-thinking aficionado, I could do no better than have coffee with Charlie Maddox, one of UGA’s classic and most valuable Dawgs.