Remembering a father, a man of value
By W.H. WATERS
This is being written the day before taxes are due, but that has nothing to do with what is uppermost in my thoughts today.
It’s the 14th day of April 2009. On this date in 1884, William H. Waters Sr. was born in the Grant community of Smith County, Tenn. He was the son of Dr. George Hugh Waters and Mattie Goodall Waters.
His father was shot off his horse in 1895 by a man paid to kill him. My father remembered it so well but seldom talked about it. His mother raised him and she imparted high moral values that ever remained a part of him. I am a recipient of his training along with a mother who strode hand in hand with him through their life. I know how fortunate I was and am to be born into a home that strove for the high road.
My father was not a perfect man, but time and the values taught him continued to refine him into one of the kindest and gentlest men in his later years. This epistle is to convey some things that have remained with me through life and are part of what I have attempted to project to mine as well as others.
My father and mother were married on Oct. 12, 1911. My brother Hugh was born in August 1912. Even so, my mother and father began their teaching career at Tuckers Crossroads in 1912 with 40 students and a combined salary of $40 a month. For 11 years, they taught there and this school grew to be a four-year high school. Then my father became Wilson County Superintendent of Schools and in this same year I was born.
My mother retired from teaching. On March 10, 1927, my sister Martha Conway was born. Then on Oct. 10, 1929, my sister Nora Ann was born. Our father was 46 when his last child was born. I remember the birth of Nora Ann for I saw her the first time when I got up to go to school in my first grade year. She was a pretty baby, lying beside my mother in that big bed at home. We were all born at home.
From 1923 to 1936, my father was superintendent of schools. In this period, the first school buses ran in 1929. In this period, the high school where black students attended was built on Market Street, about 1928. Many one- and two-teacher schools for black students were built in the county. He was invited and attended every graduation at the black high school until he died in 1965.
After my father’s funeral, we, the family, returned to the grave in the late afternoon. When we arrived there, two black male teachers and 15 black female teachers were holding a service at his grave. One man said to my mother, “Mrs. Waters, we hope you don’t mind. Mr. Waters was our friend.” My mother said, “We are honored.” My mother and father loved all the people in their lives…
Our father was much against drinking. His father had a problem with this but had been able to quit four years before his death.
Papa talked to me about whiskey and I knew it would hurt him badly should I not hear his plea. I don’t believe a drop ever entered the door of our home. When he was old, he had a heart attack. Dr. Dunklin said, “Mr. Will, you should take a little drink every morning and one at bedtime every night.” His answer was, “Dr. Dunklin, I know you are probably right, but I have taught my children all my life to abstain. I have lived a long life and I would rather die than to do it.” He did not! I went through World War II and life and alcohol has been no temptation to me.
Papa talked to me about lying. He said if you always tell the truth, that is all you have to remember. He pointed out all the advantages.
Cheating was something he warned me about. He dealt with his children always to the penny. He did this with the hands on the farm. I thought this penurious at one time, but I changed my mind as I got a broader view of our world.
Don’t steal! He impressed this on me to such an extent that I never picked up one of Mr. Isom Vance’s big red apples in front of his store on the Square. You see, many boys went by that store and some picked an apple up even with no nickel to pay for it. I think the first bite would have choked me.
The Bethlehem Church of Christ was always dear to our parents. He was an Elder for many years. He loved God, the people and the institution.
I went through a period of doubt upon my return from the war. I had seen so much it was hard to believe. He talked to me so kindly. One Sunday I made no move to get ready for church. He started the car but then he came back into the house with tears on his cheeks. He said, “Son, as long as I have a bite of food, you will have a bite of food. As long as I have a place to sleep, you will have a place. Son, if you are to live here, you will go to church.” The way he said it and the tears tore my heart out. I jumped into my clothes and ran to the car. I never again failed to get ready. He continued to reason with me gently and so today I sit here with tears in my eyes on what would have been his 125th birthday. Yes, he lives within my heart.
Editor’s Note: Mr. W.H. Waters resides in Lebanon and is a contributor to The Wilson Post. We thought our readers would enjoy reading this as Father’s Day on Sunday, June 21, nears.