It was during the fall of 2006 at an away Banks County High School football game that I had the honor of having my first extended conversation with “Brother Jim” McLendon.
The Leopards were playing a long way from home and I recall Brother Jim and I were sitting on a bench on the visitors sideline more than 90 minutes before the game began. Brother Jim was complimenting me on the way I covered the athletic teams at BCHS and while I was appreciative of the comments, I had to quickly turn the conversation around.
Since arriving in Banks County the year before I had been more than impressed with Brother Jim himself, man who gave tirelessly of his time to the school and community like few did. As we sat there on that old wooden bench watching the first few Leopard players appear on the field for pregame warmups I knew I was in the presence of a legend. Oh, Brother Jim would laugh at that description and try to convince me that he didn’t really do all that much but anyone who knows him knows how that simply is not true.
That’s why I was so glad to see him honored in last week’s edition as the Newsmaker of the Year for 2008. I only wish I could have seen his reaction when he saw the front page feature, complete with four photos no less, detailing what he means to the Banks County community. Brother Jim is truly one of a kind and I can think of no one who deserves this honor more.
Since our first extended talk during that late afternoon in the fall of 2006, I have had many more back-and-forth discussions with Brother Jim. His profession makes his a natural listener of course and he always greets me with a smile, a pat on the back and a compliment on my work. Many times after a difficult week I must confess it was something I needed and even looked forward to.
Often times he and I would joke at Friday night Leopard football games about who was the most tired. He would claim he was and I would try to out do him.
“At my age, you are going to be tired,” Brother Jim would say, with that trademark smile.
“I may be younger, but I’m in such bad physical shape I probably have you beat,” I would counter and we both would laugh.
Brother Jim, for all his ability to share a laugh with you, has also had to help lead the Banks County community through some difficult times in recent years. Deaths of students at BCHS, always tragic, always unexplainable, still have a cloud of sadness over everyone. Brother Jim has helped during these times with true words of comfort. Few, if any, could have done a better job with this most difficult task.
As we embark in a new year, we are all better because of people like Brother Jim. We need more people like him. Those without an ounce of selfishness in their body and those who would drop everything for anyone in need.
Brother Jim certainly deserved to be Banks County’s Newsmaker of the Year. Yet, to the community he is so much more. He is a leader, a friend, a supporter, a person who you can always can count on. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone quite like him. Perhaps that’s what makes him stand apart and what makes us appreciate him more with each passing day.
We have a treasure in Brother Jim. A treasure that gets more valuable with each passing day.
Chris Bridges is an editor with Mainstreet Newspapers. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.