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There are two special birthdays this week, both of whom were, and always will be, extremely influential in my life. See, I grew up in the downtown Atlanta black community known as the Old Fourth Ward, a very historic place. It was there that my dad, Herman “Buck” West moved in 1959 with my mom, Elizabeth “Snooks” West. They found a quaint little house at 651 Kennesaw Avenue and bought it for $19,000. I will never forget that proud day when my dad made the last payment on that house and it officially became his.
My dad was a real model of a man. Perhaps some today would classify his masculinity as toxic, but it was that of a strong, principled man. He had a full mustache, goatee, and chin beard. And as I wear it today, dad had a full salt flattop haircut and was nicknamed the “Grey Ghost” by his close friends. Dad was respected, adored, and beloved by all. Sadly, my dad lost his life in 1986 – only 66 – to a massive stroke. Here was the man from the Old Fourth Ward, a simple Corporal who had served in World War II. My dad had challenged me when I was fifteen to be the first commissioned officer in our family. My older brother was an enlisted Marine Infantryman in the Vietnam War, wounded at a place called Khe Sanh … dad was also a disabled American veteran.
Day - July - Dad - Man - Old
I will never forget the day, 31 July 1982 when my dad, the man from the Old Fourth Ward, stood at my right shoulder, mom was on my left, and pinned on the gold bars of a U.S. Army Second Lieutenant. I had fulfilled his challenge. Sadly, it would be the only promotion he would ever see me receive.
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It had only one fault, it was useless.