An extraordinary man, Aulsie Glenn “A.G.” Blackmon, from Warrenville, passed away from pulmonary fibrosis on August 2.
Unfortunately, obituaries rarely do justice to their subjects. No matter how well written, a few column inches of ink on perishable newsprint can never adequately tell the tale.
Most people’s lives are worthy of greater commemoration. Biographies are infinitely fascinating because the stories they chronicle are infinitely varied.
A.G.’s full and consequential life was no exception. Living past his 90th birthday, he was a Christian, a patriot, a political pioneer, an author and a symbol of Aiken County’s industrial heritage.
A.G. was also my friend for nearly two decades. What I treasured most were our conversations and his reminiscences on matters great and small.
Though strongly opinionated, he listened sympathetically and with good humor to opposing viewpoints, and he critiqued without becoming objectionable.
Born in Orangeburg in 1924, A.G. served during World War II in the 114th U. S. Navy Construction Battalion. As a “Seabee,” he labored in Normandy and the port of Cherbourg in 1944 and on Attu Island in the Aleutians the following year.
Coming home, he worked in textiles until his retirement in 1999. Starting as a sweeper, he rose to director of quality for the Graniteville Company. A.G. championed a point system for grading cloth and wrote “The Manual of Standard Fabric Defects in the Textile Industry.”
He once guided me through the mills from raw cotton bales to finished cloth. Through Swint, Townsend, Horse Creek and Gregg we went. That day I learned a whole new vocabulary – picking, carding and drawing machines, slubbers, warps and looms, dyeing and finishing processes, the works.
A.G. took pride in his job and his company, all subsequently sacrificed on the altar of free trade.
He and his wife, Dorothy, were active Republicans long before there was a local Republican Party. Their son, Bruce, remembers them standing outside of the plant gates distributing literature in the 1950s.
Fifty years ago, he was convinced Barry Goldwater was our country’s last great hope. He tirelessly supported the cause, and helped open and staff campaign headquarters across the county. Though Goldwater lost, A.G. remained a pillar in Aiken County’s nascent Republican Party.
His conservatism, however, transcended mindless partisanship. A.G. had a healthy skepticism toward certain Republicans he saw as opportunists or unprincipled trimmers. He had standards.
A.G. understood the critical relationship between religion and politics: Disorder in the soul leads to disorder in the state. Our country’s dysfunctional politics didn’t cause the present discontents, but are instead symptoms of deeper turmoil.
He often quoted Jeremiah 10:23: “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”
A.G. sought an audience through the editorial pages. This newspaper printed many of his letters and – judging by some outraged rejoinders – he frequently hit home.
Disdaining popularity, A.G. sought to proclaim the Truth (with a capital “T”) as demonstrated by God’s revealed word and two thousand years of Christian history.
His was a prophetic voice crying out in a barren, post-Christian wilderness. Fearless of the canons of political correctness, he wrote with passion, pugnacity and eloquence.
Yet A.G.’s deep pessimism toward this mundane world was exceeded by his expectations for the next. He enjoyed the political fight, but his heart and soul was committed to understanding the profound mysteries of the faith.
As an amateur theologian – and amateur only in the sense that he wasn’t an ordained minister – his Biblical knowledge could put ministers to shame. He knew what he believed, why he believed it, and he eagerly proclaimed the Good News to anyone who would listen.
When we talked last, A.G. knew his time was drawing near. He was out of breath and I assumed our chat would be brief.
But A.G. wanted to discuss many things. Will the country survive two more years of Obama? Will clueless Republicans blow yet another election? Can America recover her moral foundations? His old voice and energy returned as he eagerly discoursed on matters great and small.
Finally, when his labored breathing returned, he reminded me one last time to put my faith in Christ and the promise of eternal life, and not in men and the snares and temptations of this world. He always returned to the permanent things.
Finally, A.G. agreed to pick up our conversation the next time we met.
Requiescat in pace, my friend, and may we someday continue on where we left off.
Gary Bunker is a former Aiken County Councilman.