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Blackwood: Longtime church usher bows out; Zell Miller, up in the hills, reads The Times

POSTED: May 12, 2009 10:30 p.m.

For many years, Arnold Boyd and Ernest Moore were the head ushers at First Baptist Church on Green Street.

We lost Ernest, a former Gainesville mayor and councilman, in 2006. This week, Arnold Boyd’s journey on earth came to an end. He was 87.

For a couple of generations, the two men were the welcoming faces to visitors at the church.

The Rev. Bill Coates, senior pastor at First Baptist, reminded me of Psalm 84, which says, "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of the unrighteous."

"I’ve always associated that verse with Arnold Boyd," Coates said. "He has always been a doorkeeper or a servant. He was often the first person many people met when they came to our church."

Before Moore’s death, the church named an award for exemplary service in his honor and made Moore the first recipient. The only other person to receive the Ernest Moore award was Arnold Boyd.

Boyd was a businessman in Gainesville for many years. Along with George Thomas, he purchased the Gainesville Ford tractor dealership in the 1950s from Violet Leverett, who also owned the Ford auto and truck dealership.

The two men remained in business together for many years.

He was a sharp dresser and his snow white hair was never out of place. There will be others who will follow the roles of Ernest and Arnold, but no one will ever take their places.

A reader in the mountains

I was checking my voice mail the other day and there was an unmistakable voice on the other end.

"Harris, this is Zell and I’m reading you up here in the mountains," he said. Sure enough, it was none other than Z-E-double-cowboy-boots Miller. A few weeks ago, the Atlanta newspaper stopped circulating in places like Towns and Union Counties. My bosses, not missing an opportunity, are now offering The Times in a number of locations and folks are responding well.

I’m told there are a couple of places where folks gather for coffee and to solve the world’s problems, and they are reading this very newspaper. We thank you.

I’ve covered Zell Miller from way up in the mountains to way below the gnat line and it is nice to have him as a reader.

"I go down to the fillin’ station about 7 o’clock in the morning and get me a Daily Times," he told me.

By the way, he’s a fan of legendary columnist Johnny Vardeman, whose son, Dr. Kirk Vardeman, is veterinarian to Gus and Woodrow Miller, the Labrador retrievers who reside at the homeplace in Young Harris.

And speaking of Marines

Many of you know of Zell Miller’s service in the U.S. Marine Corps and how it shaped his life. One of our own is about to experience that firsthand.

Paul Herdner, a North Hall high graduate who will receive his college degree this month from the U.S. Naval Academy, has chosen to enter the Marine Corps and will report after graduation to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Northern Virginia.

I met Paul this week and he looks like a Marine already. He’s tall, proud and muscular.

He will enter the Corps as a second lieutenant and we wish him all the best as he enters this new chapter in his life and military career.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 770-718-3423.



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