May 18, 2022

The real ‘Superman’ couldn’t even fly

            The Superman I knew didn’t wear red briefs and blue leotards and fly around with a cape flapping in the wind. That legend lives in comic books and Hollywood.

            I knew the real “Superman.” We once lived next door to him in Athens.


            Like Clark Kent, he was a newspaperman. When he dropped by my office, he was usually wearing a sportscoat, sans tie. Over our decades of friendship, I never saw him in a skintight red and blue outfit. And if he had X-ray vision, he disguised that superpower by propping bifocals on the end of this nose.

            How did I know he was “Superman?”

            Here’s proof.

            As editor of UGA’s student newspaper, The Red & Black, he crafted his wordsmithing skills. With his crisp 1951 Grady College of Journalism diploma, he went home to join the feisty staff of The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. The newspaper would win a Pulitzer Prize, beaming sunshine into the shady sides of Phenix City, Alabama, then known as the “most corrupt city in America.” I recommend you read The Tragedy and Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama by Margaret Anne Barnes.

            If he or any of the other reporters could fly, they didn’t know it. Instead, they treaded across the Chattahoochee River Bridge in their Hush Puppies, toting note pads and cameras. The late Claude McBride was among the award-winning journalists working with “Superman.”

            During the 1950s era, a crime-busting prosecutor was assassinated, as the gambling, prostitution and whiskey toughs fought back. Once, I asked Claude, then the chaplain of the Georgia Bulldog football team, why he became a minister. “One night,” he said, “I stepped out the back door of the newspaper, and I felt a gun in my back. The thug said that I better never write a word about Phenix City. Right then, I heard the Lord calling.”

            In a daring plunge, the Hush-Puppy-wearing “Superman” quit his assistant editor’s job on the big-city daily for another reason. He launched a weekly newspaper, The Phenix Citizen, inside enemy lines. He survived—physically and financially—but that’s not the heroics that proved my friend was “Superman.”

            Even Lex Luthor would agree that this is more amazing than “flying faster than a speeding bullet, being more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound.”

            Imagine this: “Superman” lived in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house with his wife and three other women—her mother, her mother’s mother and his mother.


“This is a job for Superman!”

            Despite cramped quarters, happiness reigned at 1117 W. Lindsey Drive in Columbus. Most grooms would choke repeating the for-better-or-worse vow if they knew two mothers-in-law and a grandmother were part of the wedding package. But wait, there’s more.

The stork dropped by three times, delivering Jim, Kathy and Laura. Because the house started to get a little crowded, they moved—all of them.

When Millard and Charlotte celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary in 1998, his mother-in-law was still living with them. And the courtly lady was there until she died at 93.

            Do the math. Charlotte’s mother: 41 years. Millard’s mother: 16 years. Grandmother: 10 years.

When I did the math in 2004—counting the 50 years that Millard had lived with Charlotte—the grand total of women years was 117. And that didn’t include the years their daughters, Kathy and Laura, were at home.

“And I never heard him complain,” his genteel wife once told me. “Not even once. He’s such an honorable man.”

Yes, he was.

My friend, Millard Grimes, 92, died May 3.

And if Millard’s “honorable” example didn’t make him the real “Superman,” I’ll eat my computer, coated in kryptonite.