(As published on westernjournalism.com, Sept. 28, 2017)

I saw him last spring in Montgomery, Alabama. I was there to speak to a Leadership Montgomery group. As I looked out over the crowd, he sat there, grinning. Grinning at me! Grinning as if he had a secret no one else in the room knew. As it turns out he did. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, we found the time to get together and talk about it.

The story travels back into not only my past, but also, our mutual history. Back into a time I call yesteryear. Memories fade. Details get fuzzy but the essence of the story, he remembers in full.

We were freshmen at Auburn University. We had at least one class together. We obviously struck up a relationship.

Sam Johnson tells it like this. We both started Auburn in fall 1970. As freshmen we were coming at the early integration of the University from different perspectives. Sam is white. He chose to get to know me. Not just in class and not just as an athlete. Sam chose to befriend me and get to know me in a time when not many on the white side of the integration experiment at Auburn chose to cross over to that other side. He could have chosen to avoid the integration debacle. It wasn’t his fight. He was secure socially in a fraternity and had the advantage of not being the first in his family to venture to Auburn. I was at the other end of that spectrum.

When we met this September, Sam remembers, that we talked a lot in those days; or rather I talked… a lot. Sam says I was angry and voiced my anger to him about the experience between classes while sitting outside of The Haley Center building. Some of that is fuzzy for me but I don’t doubt I was angry. I do wonder about my sharing my feelings with him. That was something I did not do with people I did not know well. It was part of my anger. Integration was lonely, boring, demeaning and more like the drudgery of a miserable mission than a fun education experience. Today when I hear my fellow white alums from that era or teammates tell stories of their college days, I wonder if we went to the same University. The few of us black students who ventured into integration during that time were pioneers on a mission to make things better for those who would follow. Was it fun for us? Nope. The black athletes, at that time there were three of us in the Auburn athletic department (1basketball, 2 football), were the forerunners to today’s games, but we were not the beneficiaries of our efforts. I kept who I was and what I was thinking bottled up inside. My insides were tied up in knots, knots of anger. I often kidded some of my white teammates telling them, “If you knew what I was thinking, you’d be scared of me.” Sam must not have been afraid. Because according to Sam, I let him in.

The visible proof of our relationship appeared in the school newspaper, The Plainsman that I would later write for. The paper ran an article on race relations on campus, with an accompanying photo. Sam brought a copy of the photo to our meeting in September. The photo was of Sam and a white female, two other black males: Joe Nathan Allen and Rufus Felton, two black females who I do not remember, and me. We were all smiling. We had been recruited to pose for the picture. Someone walked up to Sam and me and asked if we would pose. Someone else recruited the others. We agreed and met the others on the steps outside Haley Center. In the photo we were all smiling like friends. Sam did not know any of the others, just me.

The cut line under the photo in The Plainsman read, Communication. Cold weather does not deter students both black and white from gathering for conversation on the steps of Haley Center before going to class. Integration problems still exist but progress is being made.

The photo is dated February 12, 1971.

Sam caught hell from some of his fraternity brothers and others for being in the photo with five black students. But he went even further. Because of my venting, Sam took it upon himself to go to the University recruiting office and tell the officials what I had said. Not telling on me but repeating the things that I had said needed to be done to make progress at the University. At first he was given the run around but they eventually listened. Auburn administrators even went so far as to put some things in place to recruit more black students and improve the social atmosphere.

Before we left our September meeting, Sam says that I inspired the little progress that was made in those days. I thank him but know that it was in part, credited to him. I could not have gone and done what he did. I would have been viewed as the angry radical in the administrator’s eyes. I could have lost my spot on the team, lost my scholarship, gotten kicked out of school. On the other hand, Sam would not have known what to say if he had not listened to me. When Sam took it to the administrators it became a university problem not just the angry black guy’s problem. He did what I couldn’t do. It takes us all. Sam taught me that. Thanks Sam!

On a Friday night, before a Saturday Auburn football game, at the busy, crowded Auburn Hotel and Conference Center, I heard my name called as I entered the lounge. “Hey Thom, come on over here and sit down.” It was a command as much as a request. Charles Barkley was parked in a corner holding court with several guys sitting around him, including another Auburn basketball Legend, Chuck Person, “The Rifleman,” who is now on the Auburn basketball staff. My friend Mychal and I joined them and let’s just say it was a memorable evening.

Charles held court, a king on his throne as he sat with his back to the wall able to see all who entered his domain. For the next couple of hours our laughter rocked the lounge as we cracked jokes at each other’s expense, expounded on sports and politics, enjoyed several beers and pizzas, and of course listened to Charles.

In a crack aimed at me he blurted out to a nearby waitress, “Yeah, I’m out with my Grandfather tonight.” Everybody got a big laugh at my expense. It was that kind of night.

Charles loves Auburn and its people and proved it by posing for at least 50 pictures that night with whomever came forward to ask, children, men, women, past acquaintances and anyone who wandered into the room, discovered that Big Charles was in the house and wanted a photo. Often they would interrupt our conversations, yet Charles was always gracious and we would make room for the person to enter our little domain and get the photo op. I admire his graciousness. He made all who asked feel special.

Charles was in town for the game but also for the announcement that Auburn athletics would honor him with a statue in front of the basketball arena much like the statues of Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton grace the outside of the football stadium. The weekend also included the Bruce (Pearl) and Barkley golf tournament played that Monday with some 120 golfers competing from around the area in support of Auburn basketball.

In typical Charles fashion he asked that his statue be made from a younger picture of him when, as he termed it, “I was skinny.”

“Must be a baby picture,” one of the guys quipped.

The laughter rocked the lounge.

The fun continued throughout the evening.

“I was the leading rebounder in the SEC, when I played with Chuck (Person).” We waited for the punch line. Charles delivered. “Hell it was the only way I could get a shot. Chuck would put it up, baby.”

Chuck could only laugh.

I met Charles for the first time a few years ago. We were both speaking at a conference in Montgomery. I approached him and extended my hand to shake and he put me in a bear hug and held on to me all the while saying “Thank you.”

Puzzled I asked, “For what?”

“You know what you did,” he responded.

“You and the first brothers to come to Auburn made it possible for us.” He responded, referring to the integration of Auburn sports in the late 1960s and early 1970s and those athletes like himself who came behind us early pioneers.

“Thank you.” He said again.

I’ve never forgotten that and never will. That recognition is as important to me as any statue could ever be.

Since then we have been friends, comfortable enough for him to crack me about being his grandfather.

After a couple of hours we drifted up the street to another bar restaurant in downtown Auburn. With Chuck Person having left because of an early morning basketball practice five of us headed up the sidewalk. Heads turned as Charles led the way. A couple of people stopped me to shake hands and relay an Auburn anecdote.

“Hey Charles,” I called out to him as we walked up College Street. “Yeah?” he answered. “Look at all these people looking at us,” I began. I waited until I had all the guy’s attention and then stated. “They’re trying to figure out who the big guy is walking with Thom.” The guys laughed, especially Charles.

As the evening wound down, Charles and a couple of the others decided they would check out another spot before heading back to the hotel. I begged off. Charles couldn’t resist. “Yeah, I know your wife,” he laughed. “Better get on home before you get a whipping.”

I hugged him. It had been a great evening.

Rolling into Atlanta up I-85 north, I approached the interchange outside of downtown that offers the possibilities of north, south, east or west depending on your destination. I chose I-20 west and the flood of memories began.

I spent nearly six years driving this portion of the interstate while working on a television show that lives on in memory, reruns and in many, many hearts. In the Heat Of The Night was my first recurring television experience. Carroll O’Connor hired me as his city councilman, Ted Marcus, on the show.

I rode into downtown Covington, Georgia that had doubled as Sparta, Mississippi on the show and could not stop grinning. I passed the library, which, with signage and several police cars parked out front, doubled as the exterior of the police headquarters. There was the department store that I remembered standing in front of with Howard Rollins as we waited for the director to shout “action,” before walking up the sidewalk and me, (Ted) trying to convince him to run for police chief. It would be my first scene ever on the show and one of the first I’d ever shot. I was a little nervous. I must have passed the test because the producers continued to hire me for the next five years. I passed the park where Carroll, Denise Nicholas and I shot a scene from the episode of “First Girl.” The memories were now a flood.

I had not been back this way since the mid nineties when the show wrapped for good, after 8 years on the air. A reunion of In the Neat of The Night fans and fellow cast mates brought me back to my beginnings.

I parked and walked toward the restaurant where we were all meeting. There were people standing outside. “Ted Marcus is here, ” someone announced as I was walking up the street. Ted was alive once again. It felt good to be Ted again.

Most of the fans had come from several states away. They are all dedicated to the show, know most of the episodes and could quote me Ted’s dialogue from most of the shows I worked. A few of the people gathered called me Thom but most stuck with my TV name Ted. “Ted remember in such and such an episode you said such and such to so and so?” “Ted, remember when you tried to get Virgil to take the Chief’s job?” Ted remember…”

It was like a family reunion on steroids.

I had been contacted last year to attend the first reunion, which I understand was a major affair with over 700 people in attendance and the actors signing and taking photos most of the day. Many of the actors returned for that reunion. I had not been able to attend, as I was fortunate enough to be working another show Containment, at the time. This reunion was smaller, maybe 50 participants. But it was just as special to me.

People came from Indiana, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and so on and so forth. The have a closed group Facebook page. They are a classy group. The page begins:

Welcome to In The Heat Of The Night Fan Page!

Along with this being a fun group of Heat fans to gather and share love of the show, and movie, there are common sense expectations to follow in the group including, but not limited to- NO NEGATIVE, OR BELITTLING, comments about any actors from the show. No advertising which includes for other groups/pages. (Heat related events and etc. are okay) No political talk. Respect other member’s posts and opinions in the group. Thank you!

It is a great group of people.

While in Covington they go on tours of set locations including to the owner’s houses that doubled as homes for the characters on the show. The owners allow them to tour their homes. The owner of the home where Virgil and Althea lived on the show welcomed a couple of the female fans to spend the night. This has not happened on any other show I’ve worked.

I’ve done about 75 episodes of television, a dozen movies, a couple of hundred commercials, industrials and other productions but there is something different and special about The Heat. It still airs every day sometimes twice a day. Across the country I’ve met fans that are almost religious about it. Many younger people will tell me “my Grandmother loves that show.” “My Dad watches it every day.” It touched souls. It made people happy. That is satisfying to those of us who worked it.

I always knew why it was special to me. It was one of my first. I landed a recurring role on a top ten show and got to learn from some pros. I got to befriend Carroll O’Connor, Howard Rollins and the other actors and crew. It gave me the confidence to continue going forward to what became a career.

Leaving Covington, (Sparta), that evening I knew why Heat was so special to others. Covington, (Sparta) will always be in my heart. Beyond just a television show, obviously we created memories not just for ourselves but also for fans across the country. They thanked me over and over for coming. I thanked them over and over for having me.

The news of death travels at Internet speed. I found out about my friend “Wash” while trolling along on Facebook. He’d died that morning.

“Book” was the type of guy you didn’t envision dying. Not suddenly. Not of pneumonia.

There is no single descriptor for “Booker.” Just like his many different friends called him by the many variations of his name he was a character, one with deeply held convictions of righteousness and caring for those with less than.

“Try and do as much right as you can in the world,” was one of his quotes on a You Tube interview you should see. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nguzYcltZOk).

He tried. He was a child protester in the Birmingham Civil Rights movement at age 14. At 18, he did his duty in Vietnam. He was a foot soldier all of his adult life for human rights. He was a political activist and an agitator. Man, he’d agitate the heck out of you. He liked getting up under your skin.

We traveled in different circles. Me, in the upscale world of shirts and ties, “Book” in his overalls, white T-shirt and a hat sitting astride his head, grinning. Always grinning.

Our common ground was a heart for humanity, a love of poetry and drama and bicycles. Poetry and drama unites the unlikeliest of humans. Joins us through the power of words. Joins us through our mutual humanity. We shared that. Our love for humanity expressed in the words of writers, actors, poets, on stage, in church, and on the street.

Bicycles. We would ride up and down the hills near Shades Crest Road when I lived in Hoover, Al. On those rides we debated our mutual humanity and how best to serve others. We always agreed on the expected outcome. Getting there would sometimes lead us down different paths.

The last time I heard from my friend was through a mutual friend, Judge Mike Graffeo. They both live in Birmingham. I was in Los Angeles. It was a call I couldn’t answer for whatever reason of importance at that time. Mike left the message he was with Booker and they were giving me a call. But they would be gone in a few minutes.

On his You Tube interview, Booker leaves us all a message.

“ If you truly believe that every human being is important. …that the greatest thing on earth is another human being and that the greatest thing on earth is our collective mind.

…And if we could ever tap into that, ever just realize that the only things holding us back is us.

…If we could pursue peace like we pursue war. We would already have cured cancer and be a thousand years ahead of where we are now.

Try and do as much right and as much good as you can. Try to spread as much love and joy and peace in the world as you can.”

The words of Washington Booker III, born January 20, 1949, died January 20, 2016.

We all showed up at Screen Gems Studio in Atlanta with anticipation. We were there for an in-person audition for a network television show. In-person auditions have become rare in the high technology world of today’s television acting. What was once an actor’s pride, to enter a room with producers, directors, and casting directors and “win the room” has now been relegated to putting your audition on tape and e-mailing it to either your agents or a pay subscriber service (which I refuse to do). Things change.

The opportunity was a USA network episodic in its second season. The character, Mike runs an old dive bar somewhere in North Philadelphia. Mike acts as a counselor to the young actor playing one of the leads, Neil, whose father and Mike were friends in Vietnam. In terms of a character, Mike is interesting, a character with layers and the possibility of recurring work. Mike was worth the time and effort.

Long past the excitement of “being on television,” this opportunity from a business perspective meant a boost in pension pay, earnings toward family healthcare, a payday and perhaps several if Mike recurred. It was strictly business.

But then it turned into something else.

Walking into the audition waiting area, an impromptu reunion took place. The boys were there.

Gordon and I worked together a couple of years ago on the Television Movie Game of Your Life. We had fun and most of our scenes together. I like Gordon’s work. I like Gordon. He’s a great guy to spend 14 hours a day with for several weeks making television.

Charles was the odds on favorite for the job. He has the look. Television is about “The Look.” The producer’s creed is, “We can teach someone to act. We can’t teach a Look.” Charles wears a white beard. He’s short in stature and talks with a comforting tone. I’ve known Charles since we both worked on In The Heat Of The Night in the 1990s.

Alonzo, I don’t know. We share the same agent. Seems like a nice guy. He laughed a lot at the stories flying around the room.

Tony, I’ve never worked with. He had a nice run on a Tyler Perry show. He’s been searching for the next opportunity ever since.

We were all there to read for Mike. That’s “The Business.” There were five of us for the one job. We all had a 20% chance.

The job would begin shooting one week later. We all knew whoever got the job would be getting “The Phone Call” within twenty-four hours. The others would not. I always say not getting the job is like the country western song, If your phone don’t ring, you’ll know it’s me.”

The Director was an hour late. Veterans to the “hurry up and wait,” aspect of the business, we took it in stride and took time to catch up. We were all there for the same job, but we’ve been in the business long enough to not let that fact get in the way of our friendships. We laughed and told stories. Gordon and I caught up on life. Charles told stories of his civil rights days. Alonzo laughed a lot. Tony told stories but fretted over the job. It showed in his eyes.

I enjoyed the experience. It had been a while. Over the last few years, since moving back from Los Angeles to Florida, business opportunities, production of a documentary film, and writing another book had taken me in different directions. I had managed to stay in the game with Game of Your Life, Drop Dead Diva, recurring work on Reckless and commercials. But, being at Screen Gems that day, brought back memories of eight successful years of the business in Atlanta, and thirteen more in Los Angeles.

Over the years there had been some 75 episodes of television, a half dozen films, a half dozen television movies and hundreds of commercials as talent, writer, and producer.

The director arrived. The casting agent apologized for him. The director did not apologize for himself. I was third in line to go in to read for him. When I walked in, the director was eating. I thought “Damn, he’s an hour late and he’s sitting in the audition eating a smelly sandwich.”

The casting associate positioned himself behind the camera. He would read with me. We exchanged pleasantries and took off. I did what I’d prepared but also went with the flow of the scene. I know Mike. I’ve known many Mikes over the years. He was not a hard guy to inhabit. It felt good. I had the room. But then, the director gave me the kiss of death. He turned to the casting associate and said, “All of them are so good.” I knew I was dead in the water. He didn’t need to blow smoke up my dress and make me feel good if he was going to hire me. Hiring me would make me feel good. It was Charles’ job. We all knew it.

I thanked the director and the casting director and met Gordon and Charles in the parking lot. Tony split. Alonzo having gone first was long gone. The three of us laughed and talked for another hour. We all vowed to get together but we knew the next time would probably also be an audition.

The skyline of Atlanta loomed in the background. It felt good to hang out with the guys, where I began my career. Soon, it was time for me to hit the road. Other business interests, outside of the business, beckoned. I gave the guys a hug and drove out of Atlanta.

By the way, my phone didn’t ring.

I never thought I’d write this column. I never knew I’d feel this way. A teammate has passed on and I can’t stop thinking of him. Our journey together brought us a long way. Because we accomplished great things on the football field 40 years ago, the sports media named us, “The Amazins.” As we grew older, had families, and matured, learning to love each other along the way, we coined our own phrase, “Teammates for Life.”

That’s how I feel about David.

David Langner, died Saturday April 26, 2014. He was one helluva football player. A little guy, I often said he was crazy on the football field but if I had the first choice, I’d take David. I’d rather have him on my side than be against him.

David and I traveled a long way in our journey to friendship. I knew him before he knew me. We played against each other in High School. He was a star at Woodlawn High in Birmingham. They were very good. The night we played them they dressed nearly a hundred guys. They came out of their locker room, cocky and proud and ready to feast on the 40 or so players we had from the small Catholic school who had no business on the field with them. David, his brother, his cousin, and their teammates blanked us 39-0 and it wasn’t that close. David, a winner of all kinds of honors, became a highly touted signee of Auburn University.

I walked on at Auburn. One of three blacks on the practice fields of over a hundred players and the only black walkon. David and I didn’t start out as friends.

Walkons have it tough. David didn’t care for the fact that I had dared to walk on to that hallowed ground that he had already earned a spot on. To further confuse things, we had both grown up in Birmingham in the 1960’s when legal segregation meant we could not play ball with or against each other. Friendship was out of the question.

We didn’t get along. David had further to go than I did. We fought often on the field. But we were ballplayers and together we won many games. I won a scholarship and in 1972, we shocked the Southeastern Conference by winning 10 games, losing only once and finishing #5 in the nation. David was a hero that year with his two touchdowns against Alabama in the now famous “Punt Bama Punt” (look it up if you don’t know) game against Alabama. He also led us in interceptions, made All-SEC as a defensive back, and instigated many of the fights we had with other teams. He was a bad ass and we were glad we had him. We always knew he would make a big play.

As we won games, he and I tolerated each other the way teammates will do when they are not friends. Winning does that.

When we were done, he went his way and I went mine. Many years later in Nashville, while filming a Legends of Auburn video, we sat across from each other at dinner. We talked and laughed. He’d already had some health issues and discussed them freely with me. It was a great night for me and, I believe for him. After those many years, we were learning to be friends.

Later, at the thirty-year reunion of “The Amazins,” David came up and gave me a hug. Not one of those quick man hugs but a real hug. He wouldn’t let me go. I hugged him back. I remember standing there in the middle of the floor hugging. Hugging for what seemed like a very long time. That is my favorite memory of my friend David.

Since I heard of his death, I can’t stop thinking of him. I’m proud that we overcame society to be friends.

David will be celebrated for the touchdowns against Alabama, and the great career he had at Auburn. There’s talk that David belongs in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. You will get no argument from me on that. But most importantly, I will fondly remember the impact we had on each other’s lives. We are teammates for life, and now beyond.

I love what I do. It’s fun!!! I’ve been doing it for a number of years now and it only gets better. Whether it’s acting for television, writing a collection of short stories, producing a documentary, consulting with a client or making a speech before hundreds of foundation board directors. It’s all a blast to me. Fun!! Most of the things I do today in the early stages of my career I did them for free. That’s how much I enjoy them.

So why was I taken aback last week when, during a Q and A session after a speech, I was asked, “What does it feel like to be a celebrity?” I hesitated. Had to think. I was kinda embarrassed. You see, I’ve never thought of myself as a celebrity. To be a celebrity, I always thought you have to have an entourage. I’ve never had an entourage.

But for my next trip I decided to try out the celebrity thing. I flew to Los Angeles rented a car and drove to the Palos Verdes Peninsula for a speech the next day.

I was given a suite in a resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with walking trails into the surrounding mountains. Gorgeous! Even though I didn’t have an entourage, I allowed myself to feel very celebrity like. As I walked along the walking trail, people spoke to me, and gave me big smiles. I checked in with the client who had purchased my services and they made me feel like the second coming of Brad Pitt. They were all over me, “Do you need…?” Someone came up and asked me for an autograph and I hadn’t even spoken yet. I thought, “Okay, maybe I am a celebrity.”

Later that day, enthused with my newfound celebrity, I blew the audience away with a forty-five minute keynote address for nearly 450 people. They were generous enough to give me a standing ovation. Afterward, there were questions and answers; people lining up for photos that I knew would go straight to somebody’s Facebook page. There were autograph and business card requests. Man, I was feeling like somebody! After an hour of celebrity-hood I retired to my suite, called my wife, and wondered why if I was a celebrity, she kept telling me about issues at the house I would need to solve when I got home. Things like, the motion detector floodlights not working and getting the cars serviced. I reminded her that celebrities have “people” to handle those kinds of things. She laughed. Reminded me that she did have “people.” Me. Where in the hell was my entourage when I needed one?

My celebrity-hood ended at that point.

Without an entourage, I awoke at 4:00 the next morning, packed up the rental car, and headed to the LA airport for a 6 am flight. Who schedules a 6 am flight for a celebrity? I sure as hell didn’t do it. In the airport, no one recognized me or gave a hoot that I had rocked the Association of Governing Boards’ annual conference at the Terranea resort the day before. I was just another passenger. Still, my first class seat reinforced my celebrity-hood until the lady in front of me who obviously didn’t know I was a celebrity, laid her seat back in my lap damn near pinning me into the seat behind me. “Damn, woman don’t you know who I am?” I wanted to say. “Man,” I thought. “If I had one of ‘my people’ here with me, I’d tell them to handle this small fry sitting in front of me.”

Landing in Houston, my celebrity star not only faded, it lost all luster.

Because of an ice and snowstorm, across the country, my connecting flight was cancelled. I was directed to a nearby hotel. After being constantly assured for an hour and a half that the hotel shuttle was on its way, while standing in twenty-degree weather, I took a taxi. “Damn, Don’t they know I am a celebrity?” I thought.

Believe me, nothing from that point on was befitting a celebrity. Fifty-four ninety-five was the room cost. Need I say more? It was musty and uncomfortable. The funky heater would have made me laugh if it wasn’t twenty degrees outside. I sank onto the floor when I sat on the couch. My electronic key would never work more than once. If I needed to get back into the room, I would have to go to the front desk where there was never anyone present, and ring the bell. “What’s wrong?” would be the response. “Nothing,” I would answer, “other than I need to get in my room.” If ever I needed an entourage, being stranded in Houston would have been a great time to have one.

Last year, I did nearly 125 days on the road. It’s part of the gig. None of those days turned out to be as hectic as the twenty-four hours in Houston. I reminded myself of the gangster Hyman Roth’s admonishment to Godfather Michael Corleone in the movie, The Godfather. Roth tells Michael, “This is the life we have chosen.”

Upon landing at home, finally, “my people” (my wife), were at the airport to greet me. As usual she had her smile on. She gave me a big hug and said, “Sorry you got delayed in Houston. Your agent called and they want you to shoot next week in Charleston.”

I smiled back and asked, “Can you go with me?”

“Sherman is Sherman,” I accidentally coined the phrase when describing, to a former Auburn teammate, how our mutual friend and teammate Sherman was doing. Immediately, the teammate understood and giggled. Everyone who knows Sherman understands. Keep reading . . . you’ll understand too.

I’ve known Sherman Moon since 1971. In those days of yesteryear, we were competitors for the same position on the football team at Auburn. We remained competitors on the field, but friends off the field. Forty years later we lived one street from each other. Our visits consist of football debates, reunions with teammates, parties at our neighbors’, and enjoying Sherman’s BBQ. The man can throw down on a grill.

Sherman, then and now, always has a smile for you.

You see; with Sherman the glass is always half full. Smiling, laughing, talking, talking, and talking until you reluctantly have to interrupt or ask for a break.

“Oh, Okay TG,” he’ll say, and relinquish the floor for a few – a very few – minutes before jumping back in. He’ll throw his head back and take you on another one of his verbal journeys. Upbeat, head held high, and fun. That’s Sherman. Rain or Shine. Sickness and in health, stage four cancer not withstanding. My phone chimes and there’s his familiar voice on the phone, “Hey TG, what you up to?”

Sherman beat prostate cancer. He got ahead early in that game, recovered, and came out with a victory. The carcinoid tumor he’s been battling for the last three years has proven to be a booger that, even Sherman has to admit, has tested his mettle. The cancer has metastasized into his stomach, liver, and lymphatic system. Doctors in the US have thrown their hands up and cried, “No Mas!” But you didn’t get to be a teammate on the Auburn teams of ‘72, ‘73, and ‘74 without a lot of courage and fortitude. We’ve never backed down from a good fight.

I have not once heard him complain. I’ve not once seen him in a bad mood.

Several former teammates, who have occasionally run into him, call me and ask, “Is Sherman still sick?”

“Yes,” I reply.

“I saw him, and he was as upbeat as he’s always been,” they counter.

“Sherman is Sherman,” I respond.

Sherman says, “I have Cancer. Cancer does not have me.”

My friend Sherman is on his way to the Netherlands for treatments that, over the next few months, will cost him upwards of $70,000. With all the debate about Affordable Health care in the US, there is little doubt that remaining healthy and finding cures is expensive. In Sherman’s case, it has cost him dearly. He and his wife have lost their income and their home. His final chance at a Hail Mary pass, to regain his health, needs assistance.

Sherman’s teammates and friends are lining up at his side.

Sherman reluctantly agreed to have his story told and to have others solicit funds for him. Nineteen thousand dollars flowed in instantly from family and life-long friends. Next up, was a benefit golf tournament that included a dozen former teammates, some who had not seen him in forty years.

Teammates drove to Florida’s Fort Walton Beach from Mississippi, Tennessee, Central Florida, and Auburn, AL. Sherman made a brief appearance and took pictures with his friends. Then he took off for the airport, leaving for his trip to the Netherlands and the first of four treatments. His teammates and other golfers raised another $8,000 that day.

In Sherman’s honor, we laughed, reminisced with some great Sherman stories, and realized how special we are that Sherman came into our lives. Those who hadn’t seen him in many years marveled at how fun, positive, and upbeat Sherman was.

Just like always.

Sherman is Sherman.

**Want to support Sherman and Vicki Moon?**

Send donations to:

Sherman Moon

PO Box 2077

Fort Walton Beach FL 32549

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