Afew good men, and a goodwoman
The famous Marine recruiting slogan “… a few good men” goes all the way back to 1779. This slogan came to my mind recently when I attended a memorial service at Haverford College for a former teaching colleague of mine, AlWilliams, who passed away in June.
Al had been a Marine, stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back in the early 1960s. Al became a college professor at Haverford College, a lawyer, and, finally, an independent school teacher (which is where I met him). Al was a great parent, teacher, and friend. He loved his daughters and was revered by his college and high school students (some ofwhom spoke at the memorial service).
Al and I stayed in touch even after I switched schools. Al was a tough taskmaster. He told his college students that if he asked them a question, they could answer “I don’t know” only twice during the dura- tion of his course. On the third time they would flunk. Needless to say, all of his students were prepared for all of his courses. He will be missed.
Another of the “… few good men” who passed away recently was the actor James Garner. Garner was not a Marine. He served in the Army during the KoreanWar, earning two Purple Hearts. I remember liking Garner as a kid. I thought his smart-alecky character Brett Maverick on the 1950s TV show “Maverick” was terrific. Then, I remember just loving the 1970s show, “The Rockford Files.” The whole thing was great — Garner was still a smart-aleck, his friend Angel was delightfully goofy, Noah Berry was great as the dad, and the 1970s outfits were, shall we say, interesting.
I admired Garner even more after I listened to the audio version of his 2011 autobiography, written with Jon Winokur, “The Garner Files.” Garner had a difficult upbringing, actually getting into a fight with his stepmother. As listed in his obituary in the New York Times before he got into acting Garner had worked at the following jobs: “…telephone installer, oil field roughneck, chauffeur, dishwasher, janitor, lifeguard, grocery clerk, salesman and, fatefully, gas station attendant.” While working at the gas station, Garner became acquainted with a man named Paul Gregory, a soda jerk who wanted to become an agent. After his service in the KoreanWar, Garner, on a whim, went into Paul Gregory’s office to see if Gregory could get him a job in acting. Gregory got Garner a small nonspeaking part in the play “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” with Henry Fonda, John Hodiak, and Lloyd Nolan. Needless to say, a star was born. Garner said he copied his acting style from Henry Fonda.
“Maverick,” movies and “The Rockford Files” quickly followed. What I had no clue about was that James Garner was a rabid liberal — just like me! My three favorite political things that I found out about Jim Garner were the following: First, he had been one of the Hollywood contingent who had responded to Harry Belefonte’s request that they join Dr. Martin Luther King on the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Second, the California GOP, hoping to follow in the tradition of having actors like George Murphy (senator) and Ronald Reagan (governor) run successfully for high office, asked Garner to be the GOP nominee to run for governor. As they vetted Garner, the GOP officials realized he was a liberal. They told him he would have to give up his pro-choice position if he was to be their nominee. Garner told them to forget about it.
Third, Garner stayed involved in politics by making many financial contributions to many candidates, most of whom were liberal Demo- crats.
As far as good women go, I found out that one of the former members of a girls track team I coached in 2002-3 works forVice Media. I had, in a previous commentary, mentioned one of this company’s shows, “Vice,” which runs on HBO. I had praised the episode that showed how much money we have wasted in Afghanistan. My former runner, whose sister and dad I had both taught, told me to watch the episode from Season One about the escapees from North Korea. Wow! What a show! She had worked on Season One of this show. I am so proud of her. With all of the bizarre shows on TV such as “Duck Dynasty” and “Here Comes Honey-Boo-Boo,” it is an honor to know someone who is working on something meaningful.
So here’s a tip of the hat to two good men and a good woman.
Contact Tom Lees, a longtime area resident and educator, at tlees2@aol.