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Oglesby: Farewell to 5 more good friends

POSTED: January 17, 2012 1:00 a.m.

Five more good friends who made positive marks in our community and state died since last we visited.

Miller Watkins, longtime head of Georgia Power's Northeast Georgia District and fellow church member who was there every Sunday until only a couple of weeks to his end, died before my last column appeared but had been written. Many remember his daughter, Amanda, who grew up under Pam Ware's tutelage and now is a Broadway performer. We've seen her in several New York shows.

Jefferson "Jeff" Davis, staunch supporter of the Confederacy, and, like me, a longtime Kiwanian and good friends with presidential candidate Newt Gingrich died after a long illness. He was successfully involved in a number of things helping community, county and state. We'll miss his contributions.

Johnnie Wiley, who owned J&J Food Stores (two in Gainesville and another in Cornelia), suffered a heart attack on Christmas I didn't know about until I learned of his death. Legendary in giving groceries freely to the down and out, he considered it a mission.

I last saw him at our Sunday School class's six-week Bible Study in Dale Rochester's home. He brought me a sack of scuppernongs, which I dearly love. His generosity continues in the person of his son Darrell who already was president and chief operating officer.

Ed Dunlap Jr., brother of the late James Dunlap, left a wife and legacy like his father and brother. He bred horses, was a civic leader, president of Kiwanis, Lanier Islands board, etc. He was the anonymous donator of the colorful flowers that annually adorned the median on Thompson Bridge Road. I last saw him at the grocery store where we chatted about old times.

Woodrow Stewart died last week. What a legacy he left. He went to college on a football scholarship, got a law degree and was managing partner of his law firm which included boyhood friend John Melvin.

He was involved in most civic endeavors: chairman of the board of directors of First National and Regions Bank, Hall County Hospital, served on the board of directors of several corporations including McKibbon Brothers, Gibson Dental, president of Kiwanis, Jaycee's Young Man of the Year, active in two churches, deacon chairman at First Baptist, and generously contributed to many local non-profit activities. I was proud to call him a friend.

After Florida votes we'll know whether Rick Santorum will move into a third position in the GOP presidential nominee race. Several asked why I still think the race will come down to Romney and Gingrich. My reasoning:

In national rather than state polls, they continue to rank first and second, not far apart even after the barrage of negative ads Romney's PAC funded. National polls ranked Gingrich more than 50 percent in who would be trusted most with the nuclear trigger and who had the most experience in Washington.

Romney's religion shouldn't be a factor but many consider his Mormonism a cult. Undoubtedly he would attract more moderates and independents than Gingrich, Both carry heavy baggage which a well-funded Obama will exploit.

Some national columnists in the Wall Street Journal picked up on my earlier speculation Florida Sen. Mario Rubio could be a running mate for either, though in a debate Romney answered a question who would he pick as a running mate, replying Gingrich and walked across the stage to shake on it.

Rubio not only could assure swing state Florida for the GOP but rally many Hispanics who say Obama is all talk and no action to the GOP. No one else supports Gingrich's proposal to give Hispanic non-felons here with stable paying jobs and families a red card granting them temporary legal status to keep the family intact but NOT citizenship.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The Times. His column, in its 52nd year, appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.



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