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My Brother, My Hero

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John Baird, my brother, my hero.

All of my brothers are my heroes for many reasons. But let me focus at the moment on the oldest of my natural-born brothers, John Baird. There are a number of things that make him a hero: he served our country in a distinguished career of more than twenty years in the Air Force, in duty assignments in a number of hot spots around the world.

But the subject of this post is something he did well before that. The story goes…

In the early 1960’s (1962, I believe), we lived in Columbia, South Carolina. John was a senior in Columbia High School. The city was mired in the racial tension of the ’60s that ran throughout the country, centralized in the South. There were protests all across the South, which focused the nation’s attention on the need to finally fulfill the Constitution’s guarantees of equality to all citizens, without regard to race. In Columbia, as in other cities, there were protests and sit-ins at downtown stores like Woolworth’s and Walgreen’s which had lunch counters serving ‘whites only.’

Columbia High was an urban school, whose campus was only a block or so from the downtown department stores which were a focal point of the historic sit-ins. One day after John got out of school, he walked over to Woolworth’s (or perhaps one of the other department stores) and joined other protesters in the peaceful sit-in at the lunch counter. When he tried to order a burger for himself and one for the man sitting next to him (who wasn’t white), he was run out of the store. He ran halfway home (which was miles from downtown) before those who were chasing him finally gave up and let him go.

I never knew about this incident, until John recounted the story for me when I visited him just a few years ago. Since I was hearing the story for the first time, I asked if he had told our parents about it. He said he hadn’t because he didn’t want them to worry. Well, perhaps he was right to have kept it a secret. Perhaps they would have worried. But knowing what I know of our parents through their actions and the example they set (which is another story for a different day), I’m totally confident that they would have also been very proud of him, if they’d known. I know that they were proud of him anyway, but this would have only added to their reasons to be proud of their number one son.

So John, for your contribution to the public discourse, and for standing up for the change which decency mandated of our society, and for choosing to do the right thing, you are my hero.

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Written by jb

March 27, 2011 at 12:11 pm

3 Responses

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  1. He’s my hero now too! Way to go John!

    Mark

    March 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm

  2. Wow! I’m inspired! Thank you John.

    David

    March 28, 2011 at 5:53 am

  3. jb, I am so glad you shared this story!

    Thank you, John for having the conviction to honor another human and at the risk of your own safety. I am inspired by this today. From knowing and loving jb as I do, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your parents would be and are proud. Please don’t stop telling these stories!
    Today we honor Jesus on behalf of John!

    shawna

    March 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm


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