Afew good men, and a good­woman

The Colonial - - OPINION -

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.

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