April 13, 2021

Family and friends are life’s treasures

            For four-sips-of-sweet-tea short of three hours, the outside world was in another galaxy. Larry Walker had driven north, up from the Gnat Line. I traveled south, down from the foothills. With the welcome mat rolled out, Jim Minter was right where he’s been for 90 years.

            Unless you had done your homework, you wouldn’t know about Inman. Jim’s hometown is a teensy speck on a very crowded Fayette County footprint, below the world’s busiest airport and Atlanta.

            Thanks to the Minters, suburban sprawl hasn’t subdivided and paved over their roots. A testament to their love of Inman is its former combination post office and train depot. Before it sagged into a heap, Jim and his family transformed the small frame structure into a nostalgic showplace with a museum’s aura.

            For Jack Frost days, there’s a woodburning stove and rocking chairs. Every time I’m invited there, I must peruse the posters and pictures that line the walls. It’s a step back in time, without having to blow the dust off the fixtures. For three silver-haired fellas, what better place to reminisce and swap stories?

Three friends tapped the pause button to visit. From left
are Larry Walker, Jim Minter and me. Jim hosted us in
the former Inman post office and train depot, restored
by his family. (Photo by Anne Minter)

When Jim’s wife, Anne, walked in with a picnic basket, we settled around a weathered oak table. And there we sat eating barbecue, talking, laughing and sipping tea until mid-afternoon. 

            By touching the pause button, we were reminded that true wealth isn’t about money. The real treasures of life are family and friends. Using those two measurements, no one on the annual Forbes 400 list is richer than Jim, Larry or me. Let tell you about these two friends.

Jim Minter

            Jim is one of the most modest, self-effacing men you will ever meet. The retired editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a newspaper icon. Long before Google, Jim was one of my human search engines. Jim’s written one book, but inside his encyclopedic mind is enough information to fill a library shelf with books. 

I never tire listening to his stories. Pick a subject: sports, politics or famous people. Jim’s written about them all. The $100-a-week sportswriter worked his way up to the executive editor’s slot of the South’s most powerful newspaper. 

My friend would deny the credit, but he is responsible for rescuing a “frostbitten” Lewis Grizzard from Chicago. As a columnist, an author and a raconteur, Lewis was wildly popular. But Jim was the soft-spoken mastermind who put Lewis on the launching pad to fame and fortune. 

Larry Walker

Larry Walker and I go way back, too. The Perry lawyer’s shingle has been hanging for 56 years. The American Bar Association once honored Larry as the best small-firm lawyer in the nation. His hometown honored him by naming the “Larry Walker Parkway.”

When U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn went to Washington, Larry took his place in the Georgia House of Representatives. During his 32 years of service, he had but two opponents. Larry did the legislative heavy lifting for several governors. Few under the Gold Dome were closer to legendary Speaker of the House Tom Murphy. 

Larry, the visionary statesman, gets things done. Not many believed Perry was the right location for the Georgia National Fair. Larry made it happen. Annual fair attendance surpasses 500,000. Add another half-million visitors for livestock shows and special events. 

Larry and I are a two-man book club. He’s authored two books, with more in the works. Larry and I share multiple interests: UGA, quail hunting, fishing, books, history and, of course, family. We also share an irreplaceable friendship with Jim Minter.

Family and friends.

What treasures.

I’ll drink to that.

Sweet tea, that is.