by David Shivers
Recently-minted author Graham Lowe appeared before the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on October 28 ostensibly to talk about his book, “It’s a Grand Old School”, a chronicle of Albany High School from the years 1954 to 1966, but his message ended up being just as much about aging with purpose.
His remarks also included a tribute to the beloved late educator and football coach Bob Fowler, who Graham described as a long-time close friend.
“In writing a book about Albany High,” Lowe said, “I couldn’t help but think about all the great guys that were there during that time frame. And I thought of one, and it breaks my heart still, Bob Fowler. Bob Fowler was bigger than life. That’s the only way to describe him, bigger than life. He came to Albany in ’55 and I came in ’54.”
Lowe and Fowler coached together and became close friends. “It is true that there are some men who are stronger than a brother,” said Lowe, “and that’s what he was for me. Strangely enough, every time I talk to somebody about Bob Fowler, they will automatically say ‘He was my best friend.’ And I kept thinking, how can he be his best friend and my best friend and (still another’s) best friend, but that’s the kind of guy he was. And I never saw him get angry with kids. Now, I can’t say the same thing for myself, but the guy had a control of himself and he was a strong, strong witness of a Christian believer.”
Lowe began his book project in February 2012, compelled by a prediction someone made of him 45 years ago that he would write a book.
“I remembered what he said and I had some free time on my hands,” according to Lowe. “If you’re retired, you cannot have free time on your hands. You can’t just sit in that chair and stay motionless, because things that remain motionless will stay motionless. Don’t sit there; keep the body moving because it will lock up on you if you don’t.”
Lowe said he interviewed 103 people in Albany and the surrounding area to obtain personal recollections for the book. He doesn’t think of himself as a writer because, he says, he just compiled what other people told him.
“There are a lot of references to Bob Fowler and some great pictures of him, but not just him. From those 103 people we took (a half-page to two pages) for each one of them. And it’s all compiled about Albany High School and what happened back in those days.”
He stopped at 1966, he said, “because I left Albany High in ’66 and could not write about being there because I was not there. But it was just a special place for me.”
Lowe left Albany High to become headmaster at Deerfield-Windsor School, and subsequently continued his 58-year educator career in Savannah, Camilla, and Damascus, Georgia – where he still lives – before retiring in 2002. After about a year of retirement, he returned to coaching duties part-time at Deerfield assisting his son, Allen Lowe.
During the interview process he also became aware of various family stories, and he encouraged his audience to write about their families.
“You ought to be excited about your family. Who’s going to get excited about your family if you don’t?” he exclaimed. And don’t wait to do it. “Each family deserves a book. Don’t wait until you feel so creaky you can’t pick up a pen or whatever.”
Family and personal stories are the basis of “Swamp Gravy”, the nationally-recognized folk life production that originated in Colquitt, a short drive west of Albany.
“’Swamp Gravy’, their theme song is ‘Everybody’s got a story.’ And when they get into it, they say ‘You tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine.’ They do the cutest things over there you’ve ever seen, and you know what, that town (Colquitt) is surviving real well because of ‘Swamp Gravy’. They have performed at The White House, and I mean they’re folks just like you and me.”
Lowe queried, “Does anybody feel kind of old when you get up? Well, I do. If I can get out of bed and put one foot on the floor and then the other foot and stand up without falling down, I will take it. When you wake up, put your arm forward, and if there’s no lid there, you’re not dead.”
Citing words from Henry Thoreau, Lowe said he is looking for his next project.
“Thoreau said men live lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with their songs still in them. I want to sing my songs while I’m still here. I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I’ve got to do something. I cannot just walk along and watch the days pass by.”