Richard Hyatt: Questions lead to introspection

November 7, 2013 

Our community was touched again recently with the death of Abbott Turner II, the 52-year-old son of one of our community's most cherished citizens.

Looking back, this is not the first time Columbus has experienced the suicide of a person in the public eye.

His death is a reminder that the decision to take one's life is not relegated to someone far away or someone suffering outward pain.

The questions are basically the same, whether we're talking about the suicide of a well-known businessman, a police investigator, a prominent educator or the flamboyant editor of the Ledger-Enquirer.

Newspaperman Jack Swift committed suicide 23 years ago this month, a year after Muscogee County School Superintendent Braxton Nail hung himself in his own backyard.

Jack was my boss and my friend and he appeared to be on top of the world.

So did Nail.

And after all this time questions about why they did what they did still arise and, as always, we have no answers.

I bring up Jack's death because anyone who knew this talented columnist still wonder why he didn't share his pain with people close to him so we could help.

We don't understand why anything would cause an over-achieving person to pick up a pistol and use it.

I can appreciate the anguish of the people who spoke at Turner's service last week at St. Luke United Methodist Church.

In this same sanctuary in 1990, I delivered a eulogy for Jack.

It was not an easy assignment, for what can you say at such a moment?

What I finally said was not what I originally wrote. In the wee hours before the memorial I was told the person I first described was not Jack.

In the end, I gave myself permission to be honest.

I couldn't explain what Jack did or what he was feeling but I could talk about what was going on with me.

This is all we can do when we come face-to-face with anyone's suicide.

We can't look into the heart of the deceased but we can look into our own.

We can't solve the problems our loved one was facing but we can face our own.

Those are the best memorials we can build.

More Richard Hyatt:

Richard Hyatt: Sears catalog once signaled beginning of holiday season

Richard Hyatt: Let's go back, way back into time

Richard Hyatt: School board arrogance expected

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at

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