Bucksnort To Enigma

If you grew up in North Georgia in the 1980s and watched any local news then you knew Leroy Powell. He was the only reporter on channel 5 or any station for that matter in Atlanta that had an authentic southern accent. His beat was that of a humorist and to produce human interest stories that reflected what we might not have realized then was the vanishing south. He had weekly segments and the occasional special that shared the common theme of life and the peculiarities associated with living in the south.

The towns in this video still have the same names from Arab to Tallapoosa but the people have changed in the past thirty years. Leroy mentions people in the south being gracious and it struck me how that's gone now. The Greatest Generation was a living embodiment of that graciousness be they black or white it was a natural disposition like a hereditary trait. The Boomers still carried some of this graciousness but it was a weakened characteristic, by the time Generation X came there were only scant traces and now Millennials would have to ask Siri what graciousness meant.

Today some people want to claim that the southern heritage is that ratty old Confederate flag but our heritage is in our grits our red eye gravy, RC Cola, the Claxton Fruitcake, our way of speaking, the stories we share like my grandfather that ran moonshine, the rotting home places that dot the back roads, the sap in the pine trees and in Georgia that iron-rich red dirt.

The evolution of our regional identity is now viewed through the frames of politics, the names on our subdivisions and served to us at Cracker Barrel on plates from Thailand. If you are lucky you might still have a living grandparent that can cook genuine southern food. The southern identity has become as faded as a washed out Drink Coca Cola mural on a falling down gas station at the crossroads in towns like Bucksnort and Enigma (yeah, I've been both places).   

I won't pretend that the story of the south is all sweet tea, barbecue, and see Rock City signs along the roadways. Our story includes the Trail of Tears, the slave markets in Charleston, the blood soaked soil of Chickamauga, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi, Lester Maddox's axe handle, the nail bombs of Eric Rudolph and numerous other tragedies. We can't forget the terrible parts of the past but I do miss the graciousness that sewed the south together like that quilt that had been passed down from generation to generation.

Leroy died in 1999 at the age of 55 from cancer. In the modern landscape of local television news Leroy wouldn't have a career and that's a shame. There is not a news department budget in this city for this type of work and there's not an audience with the interest or attention span either. Leroy's work in the present is like that quaint old Zebco 33 reel hanging in the boathouse.