LINCOLNTON — Paul Reviere is a friend of mine and I got to spend a little bit of time with him the other day. No, this is not the Paul Reviere who announced the British were coming. This is a man who has worn just about every hat you can wear in Lincoln County, over on the South Carolina line.
The county and its county seat are not named for Abraham. They are named for Benjamin Lincoln, a general in the Continental Army and the first Secretary at War for the Continental States.
It was Lincoln who played a major role in the siege of Saratoga and would later accept the sword of Lord Cornwallis when the British surrendered at Yorktown.
Interestingly, Lincoln was one of 10 men who received votes in the Electoral College of 1789. His one vote came from an unknown elector from Georgia.
Paul Reviere taught third grade for 38 years. One day, the principal summoned him for help.
“We’ve got a runner,” the principal said. A kindergartener had run out the door and bolted for home. The child’s name was Garrison Hearst, who would rack up a few records for running at the University of Georgia and in the NFL. I’m not sure if Paul outran Hearst, but he eventually got him back to school.
For 44 years, he has been the pastor of Tabor Baptist Church in nearby Wilkes County. He has worked at the local funeral home since he was 13 and was later elected coroner.
Two years ago, he became the reluctant candidate for sheriff. His longtime friend, Sheriff Bruce Beggs, died suddenly. A number of community leaders asked Paul to complete the term. He said no and no again. He finally relented and won the special election with 70 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race.
I attended Bruce Beggs’ funeral on behalf of Gov. Nathan Deal. Paul Reviere served as funeral director, consoler for the family and preached the funeral, which drew hundreds of people from across the state. He amazingly shoehorned the family into the reserved section without a seat to spare.
I don’t know if it was divine intervention or great funeral home experience, but I was amazed how he did it all.
We met that day for the first time and just hit it off. Paul is a brand new friend that makes you feel like you’ve known him forever.
A couple of weeks ago, a fellow sheriff died in another county. The family and friends filled one church and law enforcement officers filled another and were connected by an online video stream.
About the time the service was to begin, the feed at the second church failed. Paul, with only a moment’s notice was asked to officiate.
“Those officers needed to mourn their fallen leader,” he said.
Without a single note, he quoted an entire Kipling poem and some verses from the Old Testament. I have heard several people say it was so moving and meaningful.
I don’t know if it was his training as a schoolteacher, his years of preaching or any of his other jobs that prepared him for a moment like that, but I’m glad for whatever did it.
I may not have a big bank account, but with friends like Paul Reviere, I’m a blessed man. So are the people of Lincoln County.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.