Alan Peoples: An Appreciation
Published 10:16 am Wednesday, October 19, 2022
I have known and admired Alan Peoples for so long that I have no idea how or when our friendship started. As a track coach at Polk County High School, he regularly ran with his students from the school to the top of White Oak Mountain. As a Polk County Commissioner, Alan was one of my elected officials when as a Columbus Lion I went to the area schools to “Celebrate Liberty.”
Alan and I served on the Courthouse Restoration Committee. It was hard for me to reconcile his avowed “hippie” appearance and demeanor with his also being a retired Lt Col from the US Army. His wife Harriet is definitely a “flower child,” and Alan has decorated her Volkswagen minibus accordingly.
The Lions observed “Liberty Day” in local schools until someone trade-marked that and wanted royalty payments. We “Celebrated Liberty” instead by taking an elected official to tell of his/her responsibilities and to hand each student a little booklet containing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We had to stop doing that when no one volunteered to pay for printing the booklets.
I seized upon my relationship with Alan to lament to him that Polk County had utterly neglected PFC Bryant Womack, who died in Korea before he was 20 years old. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. I appealed to Alan’s Army instincts . . .
The late Howard Greene had urged young Bryant not to become a medic because he would be near the front lines with no weapon to defend himself. Bryant did not want to kill anybody, but he did want to serve his country. I suspect that he also did not relish claiming “Conscientious Objector” status.
Howard often brought Bryant home from Fort Jackson near Columbia, depositing him at an oak tree near his home at Bryant’s insistence. Howard was probably the last person from Polk County to see Bryant alive.
Bryant’s family moved to Rutherford County while he was in Korea; that County displayed a portrait of PFC Womack in their courthouse along with recognition of his Medal of Honor. As a meeting of the Restoration Committee was breaking up one time, Alan said that he could not tell me why yet, but that I would soon be “very happy.”
The announcement that there would be a new Justice Building across from the Courthouse named for PFC Bryant H. Womack did indeed please his family and me!
When Fran and I sold our house and moved into an apartment at White Oak Manor in Tryon, we had a Tryon address at last! I was learning how to manage a stop by the traffic light at Oak Street and Trade (where Morris stands) with my stick shift Saturn. I was making Fran nervous, to say the least, as I tried to coordinate releasing the emergency brake and getting the car moving in first gear, all without letting it roll backward into cars assembling behind me.
One morning as I brought my Saturn to a dutiful stop behind a car, its door opened and a beaming Mayor Peoples stepped out with arms outspread, loudly proclaiming, “Welcome to Tryon!”
When I saw Harriet’s brilliantly painted VW bus parked near Cafe La Gaule when we stopped there for breakfast one morning, I looked for them inside. And there they were, again welcoming us with big smiles to another part of our beloved little town that we now share.
As with my column about Howard Greene some years ago, this one is largely about Bryant Womack. That is because I think the Medal of Honor is a more than significant recognition of valor, too often awarded posthumously, as was PFC Womack’s. One of the first things we learned in Air Force basic training was how to salute commissioned officers—and holders of the Medal of Honor.
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