Thirty years ago (!), I was running for public office and a young reporter for the Albany Herald interviewed me. That was back in the days before cable television news (CNN was brand new and not available very many places), before the Internet, before newspapers began going the way of the dinosaur.
The reporter — Bill Lightle — was a pleasant surprise. Erudite, well spoken, no deep South Georgia accent. I found out later he was an all around superb athlete at the local high school (Albany High) who excelled at football and basketball.
We ended up becoming friends and I played basketball with him and his younger brother, Jim, over the years in the early 1980s at the local YMCA.
More than a decade later, in 1992, the tables were turned a bit, as Bill ran for Congress in our newly created/redistricted district. He was a good candidate, put on a hell of a campaign, but in the end, old timey politics won out (perception beats competence almost every time, unless an extraordinary situation like a depression or other disaster strikes) and Bill lost.
Bill became a teacher at Lee County High School, where I coached the mock trial team a couple of years. He was extremely popular with students there, as he was when he moved on to college teaching.
When his first book — Made or Broken: Football & Survival in the Georgia Woods – came out, I scarfed it up, read it, and got a terrific appreciation of some of the local history, both sports and politics, of the area before I had moved here.
Here’s a review, courtesy of Bill’s website (www.blightle.com): Bill Lightle’s first book, Made or Broken: Football & Survival in the Georgia Woods, is set in the racial tension of the Deep South in the 1960s. The story follows a group of young men on their experiences at the notorious Graves Springs football camp.
The agony of the grueling practices and the fears of hazing were a legend about to be realized by the team’s sophomore players. Lightle vividly describes how players endured the two weeks of humiliation and abuse in the rich swampland of Southwest Georgia through mutual support and camaraderie. “Players ‘fell out’ as the expression was used because of the lack of water and what we had to go through during those practices,” Lightle said.
Made or Broken is a touching story of a young man’s experiences of trial, friendship, and the racism in Albany, Georgia.
It recounts the story of a south Georgia mill worker who grew up in the early 20th century, and who employed Bill and his friends four decades ago when teenagers weren’t quite so afraid of hard work (no video games, no IPODs, no texting).
If you get a chance, give either of those books a read. You won’t regret it.
Written by Jim Finkelstein.
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