CHUCK WILLIAMS: Photo of my father comes into focus

December 23, 2013 

For years, a photo sat on the bookcase in the corner of my father's Eufaula law office.

Taken in 1958, the old black-and-white shot pictures my dad, Horace Williams, in his Auburn baseball uniform, alongside another player and their coach -- Erk Russell.

Most of us know Russell as the legendary Georgia and Georgia Southern football coach, a big, bald man who challenged his players to achieve greatness. My dad knew him as his college baseball coach. As a kid, I loved that photo, mostly because Coach Russell was in it. A lot of athletes played for Coach Russell, but not many played baseball for him.

Gerald George was the other person in that photo. Like my father, he was a captain of that Auburn baseball team.

George's name was never important -- until recently.

I have a cousin, Ann Kirby, who lives in Kennesaw, Ga. Her husband, Mark, has been a lively and great addition to our family. A few months ago, Mark found himself looking at some old pictures of his dad, a man he did not know well. His parents divorced when he was young, and his father died in an automobile accident.

Mark was thinking of his father on what would have been his 76th birthday.

As Mark looked at the pictures, he saw one of his father, in full Auburn baseball uniform, posed with his coach, Erk Russell, and another man Mark didn't know -- or didn't know he knew.

Different people look at the same picture in different ways.

Then something hit Mark. The Glomerata, Auburn's yearbook, said the other man in the photo was Horace Williams. In our extended family, dad is known as "Sonny." Time has made him the patriarch of a large clan that grew out of the dirt fields of south Alabama.

Mark hollered down to his wife, "Did did Uncle Sonny go to Auburn?"

Ann said she thought he did, but wasn't sure.

Mark then asked, "Did Uncle Sonny play baseball at Auburn?"

Ann said she vaguely remembered something about that, but she wasn't sure.

It was well past Dad's bedtime, but Mark called my stepmother, Brenda. He began to ask questions about Auburn and Dad.

Sure enough, the father Mark knew very little about was Gerald George, my dad's old teammate, friend and roommate.

Damn small world, ain't it?

Mark had been adopted by his stepfather. He wanted to know more about his dad.

My father can help him there. They have had some conversations, and I am sure they will have more in the coming years.

It is funny how you can spend a lifetime looking at a simple photo and have no idea of its real meaning.

Now, I look at that photo in a totally different light. Coach Russell is not the first thing I see in that old picture.

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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