Friday, February 19, 2010

Beautiful children and grandchild

This note is to brag about my three children and brand new grandchild. (See photo with this post.)

I know I'm biased but I have three of the best kids in the world.

From left in the photo: Crawford of Melbourne, Fla., (my oldest), daughter Dorothy of Durham, N.C.,and daughter Elizabeth of Nashville, Tenn.

The little one is Lucy, daughter of Dorothy and Patrick.

She's also my granddaughter. Lucy is a month old, now weighs a bit more than 9 pounds and is bright eyed and alert (as you can see.)

She cannot NOT be smart. She takes after Dorothy and Patrick and Elizabeth and Crawford and her papaw (yours truly.)

Love 'em all.

Happy one-month birthday, Lucy!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Close call with Rock Hill Police Department

Every semester I tell my students not to be out and about late at night in their cars in Rock Hill.

"You will be stopped by a police officer, and you will end up getting some sort of ticket," I say.

That's because the police in Rock Hill are bored, especially late at night. They're scouring the community--its byways and highways--looking for trouble.

I guess that's their job--to find trouble and arrest people or fine people.

The rest of my spiel to the students goes something like this: "I, on the other hand, being an older person with gray hair, can be out late in Rock Hill, and even if I'm stopped by an officer, I probably won't get a ticket. That may not be fair, but that's the way it is. . . You get cut a bit of slack (respect?) when you're older... The police just accept that you're probably NOT doing anything illegal..."

Last night I was almost proven wrong.

I had been at the university till about 10:30 p.m.; then had stopped for a snack at McDonald's.

Time I'm driving home it's a bit after 11.

In the rear view mirror, I see a big car suddenly dart out from a side road.

He's close behind me in a few seconds, blue lights flashing.

I pull over to a grocery store parking lot.

After about a minute (maybe he's checking my license plate??), the RHPD officer gets out of his cruiser and slowly, very slowly walks to my car.

Then the request: "Let me see your driver's license and registration."

I give it to him, but really have a hard time finding my registration. I fumble and scrounge through the glove compartment. I find a crumpled document and hand it to him. The window down and cold air and wind biting, I wait while he returns to his cruiser.

He's a nice cop--toboggan on his head, African-American, soft spoken--doing his job.

While he's in his car, checking on this and that, I wait...

I'm pondering what I've often preached to my students: "If I get stopped late at night, the cops in Rock Hill won't give me a ticket, but they will give YOU a ticket. It's not fair, but that's just the way it is..."

He's still in his car. I walk up to his window and say this: "Officer, how fast was I going?"

"You were doing 51. Speed limit is 35."

"I apologize, officer. I always try to obey the law. I wasn't feeling good. I'm tired and I just wanted to get home. I need to take my medicine." (This is all the truth.)

He asks me where I live and why I've been out so late.

I tell him.

He keeps checking and writing.

"I didn't even think my car (a VW Beetle that you see with this blog post) would go that fast," I say.

He laughs.

A good sign.

He hands me a warning ticket.

"You have a good rest of the evening, sir," he says.

I thank him--profusely. And then I promise him that I'll do something, somehow to boost the police department.

That's partly what this blog post is about.

Saying thanks to a good-hearted Rock Hill police officer who gave an old guy a break.

Close call. I don't plan to be on the road at that unseemly hour again. I will be "beddy-by," curled up under the covers, reading myself to sleep. Where I should be and need to be that late in the evening.

Bottom line: Respect the police. Fear the police. Understand the police. Appreciate the police.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Salute to Vivien Thomas

Bet most people have never heard of Vivien Thomas, and I wouldn't have either, but for an award-winning feature story about him in one of my course textbooks.

The story--"Like Something the Lord Made"--was written by Katie McCabe for The Washingtonian , a city magazine in Washington, D.C.

McCabe's story about Vivien Thomas and Dr. Alfred Blalock of Johns Hopkins Hospital won the coveted National Magazine Award for feature writing in 1990.

Have you or a member of your immediate or extended family had open heart surgery? (I had a double bypass in April 2008).

If so, you should get down on your knees and give thanks to Vivien Thomas; he never went to college, let alone medical school. But starting out as a lab assistant for Dr. Blalock, who became interested in doing heart surgery after researching the hearts of dogs, Thomas figured out how to solve the problem of "blue babies." He was right by Dr. Blalock's side in the surgery room at Johns Hopkins Hospital when Blalock performed the very first human heart surgery (on a blue baby) in 1944. Thomas walked Blalock through the surgery, telling him what to do and how.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Why hasn't Vivien Thomas gotten his due regard in American history?

Here's a man who was a true giant in medicine, training many heart surgeons at Johns Hopkins.

He's the man behind the man (Dr. Blalock) who changed American medicine.

An African-American, he should be getting as much recognition today (which happens to be part of Black History Month) as the other heroes of African American culture. Vivien Thomas is right up there, in my opinion, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

He's a hero, and most of us have never heard of him.

Read McCabe's story. And now there's a 2004 movie--"Something the Lord Made"--that you can get from

Click here for a few scenes from that powerful film.

And click here for my favorite scene.