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People We Know, But Don’t Know
8/19/2015 4:36:39 PM

By Barney Blakeney

It’s funny how you think you know people, but really don’t know them at all. You get this gut feeling about some people. You get up close and personal with them, but not so close and personal you really know them. That’s been my relationship with three local giants in this community. Two of them passed away last week - Mrs. Amanda Garrison Lee and Mr. Herbert U. Fielding. We’re blessed to still have with us Mr. James E. Campbell.

Amanda Lee was a teacher at the old C.A. Brown High School when I attended it. Eventually, she became my Homeroom teacher. Mr. Fielding I met when I started writing for this publication back in the mid-1970s.

I knew of him as a politician and local businessman. Mr. Campbell I met more recently. I really can’t remember when, but I haven’t known him nearly as long as I’ve know the other two people.

Although I don’t know any of those people really personally, I feel compelled to write something about them. You see, not only have they touched my life in some very meaningful and deeply personal ways, they each merit any recognition and honor I can give them. All I’ve got is this pen, so I’d like to use it to show how much I respect and honor those three people.

Mr. Fielding died a couple of weeks ago. I heard about his death through a television news cast. I first met him as a news reporter. I was young and dumb and like most dumb youngsters, I thought I knew everything. The Chronicle gave me the opportunity to write for his newspaper and boy, did I write about all the stuff I thought I knew.

I think Mr. Fielding took a shinin’ to me. As I covered news and issues with the fervor of youth, he admonished me to do the job the right way. We weren’t always on the same page, but he always showed me respect and never denied me an interview. He always spoke with me candidly. I learned he was a fair man who believed in what he was doing.
I later learned that what he was doing was giving to Charleston everything he possibly could.

Until last week, I never realized how important Mr. Fielding was in the development of this community. In recent years I made it a point to get closer to him. I’m glad I did. All the bright accolades heaped on him since his passing, is more than deserved. I don’t think any of us who didn’t know the man up close and personal really can appreciate what he did for this community.

It’s been the same with Mrs. Lee. She was a good lady, but A.G. Lee was no joke. When I got to C.A. Brown her reputation as a down to earth, no nonsense street-brawler of a teacher soon became known to me. We were told there was no use committing a violation and thinking you could escape her by running into a boy’s bathroom - Mrs. Lee would come in there and get you! That wasn’t just reputation, that was real.

Mrs. Lee was incomparable. Her son Charlie was at Brown while I was there. We played in the band together. It was common knowledge that as hard-nosed as Mrs. Lee was with most students, she was even more hard-nosed with Charlie. In recent years I’d run into Mrs. Lee from time to time. She told me she loved Charlie and her grand kids, but she loved the fact that they lived in Atlanta, Ga. even more.

Mrs. Lee never cut me any slack. She chastised me for staying in the local community. She challenged me to move on to bigger things. She wasn’t one to push, but she didn’t accept people just getting by. I once, while in the grocery store, heard Mrs. Lee tell a former student seeking her approval how stupid the student always had been. The young woman took the rebuke, as I often had taken mine, with the knowledge that Mrs. Lee in her way simply was telling her how much she loved her and wanted more for her.

Mrs. Lee passed away August 8 without the fanfare that was allotted Mr. Fielding. But all last week I heard different people tell how that giant of a woman had impacted their lives.

God willing we’ll have Mr. Campbell, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, a while longer. I got an invitation to the celebration, and as is his way, Mr. Campbell’s celebration was another opportunity for him to contribute to and promote progress toward a more humane society.

Day-long activities at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture were dedicated to the DuBois Kenyatta Campbell Memorial Endowment at the Coastal Community Foundation for the John L. Dart Library.

The events included a tour of the James E. Campbell Collection: a library of social change activism in the long struggle for a substantive democracy, a panel discussion and repast followed that night by dinner and an evening of jazz with Ann Caldwell.

This space is far too inadequate to outline even my very limited personal knowledge of the three people mentioned above. Many of you know them far better than I do so you know what all could be said about them.

For those who knew them even less personally, I can only quote the late Lewis ‘Blackie” Frasier who used to say, “You can make a whole other world with the things you don’t know.” What we don’t know about those three indeed could make another world - a better world.

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