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Dick Yarbrough: I still look up to my big brother
Dick_Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough

He probably is not going to be happy at the attention, but don’t blame him. It is not his fault that I am proud of my big brother and have access to the paper and ink to tell you about him. 

On Sunday, Gainesville’s own Bob Yarbrough, celebrates a milestone birthday. He will be 90 years young. I should live so long.

While we share the same parents, we are different in many respects. Like our father, Bob is a quiet and wise man, thoughtful and unassuming. Our mother was a woman of boundless energy with a great sense of humor and someone who suffered fools poorly. Guess who got her genes?

In other ways we are very much alike. We love our family, our friends, our God, our church (He is a member of Lakewood Baptist), a good joke, good music (especially the Gaithers) and the University of Georgia. 

Before I go getting all gushy on you, I must confess that it hasn’t always been easy being Bob Yarbrough’s younger brother. There was a time in my life when our family — parents, aunts and uncles and cousins — would gather at our grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner. Bob always got to sit at the table with the grownups and talk grownup stuff. I was relegated to the kid’s table in the other room with a bunch of cousins straight out of Hee-Haw who chewed with their mouths open and talked about cowboy movies.

I could have handled that indignity well enough were it not for the smirk I would get from my big-shot brother sitting with the grownups and reminding me I was not. I was so traumatized by those times that even today I break out in a sweat whenever I see the child’s menu in a restaurant and fear I am going to be seated with a bunch of kids who chew with their mouths open and talk about cowboy movies.

I did even the odds occasionally. Once when he was taking his squeeze to a drive-in movie, I hid in the backseat of the car planning to do some groundbreaking research to see if lovebirds really watched the movie or, if not, what. I never found out. He found me first and had to turn around and take me home. He wasn’t happy. Go figure. 

Despite the ups-and-downs of our relationship, my brother had one attribute I treasured above all others as a kid. His handwriting was identical to our mother’s. I recall at least two occasions when I cajoled him into writing a note to my teacher saying that Richard has been talked to and will not misbehave again. Yours truly, Mrs. R.E. Yarbrough. 

I can truthfully say that everyone in our family knew Bob Yarbrough was going to be a success. He worked from the time he was a young boy delivering chickens (dead ones) on his bicycle to customers, to sacking groceries to working at a local magazine publishing company while still in high school. (More on that later.)

He was the first to graduate college. Neither of our parents had the opportunity to attend high school. The publishing company he worked for in high school? He later became executive vice president, which led him to Chicago where he served as president of another large magazine publishing company until his retirement and relocation to Gainesville to be with his family.

Frankly, my own career hasn’t been chopped liver, but I doubt any of it would have happened had it not been for my brother. Bob was and remains my role model. I was never sure I could live up to his standard and overachieved trying to do so. Frankly, I am still trying. 

A 90th birthday requires a bit of reflection. In that time have you made a positive difference in someone’s life? Is this a better world because you were here? When you leave church on Sunday and go out into the rest of the week, do people say there is a Christian who walks the talk? Would your parents be proud of the way you turned out? Your family? Your friends?

In the case of Robert Earl Yarbrough, Jr., the answer to all of the above is a resounding “yes.” As for me, I admire him as much as I love him — and that’s a lot. He is my big brother and always will be.


Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose regular column appears Saturdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/opinion. Contact him by email; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; or his Facebook page, facebook.com/dickyarb.

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