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Harris Blackwood: Farewell to John Melvin, the best Daddy Warbucks I ever did see
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

About 19 years ago, I was a member of the cast of the summer production of “Annie.”

During several productions of the musical, Pam Ware cast local attorney John Melvin as Daddy Warbucks, the millionaire industrialist who adopts an orphan named “Annie.”

There couldn’t have been better casting. I’ve seen various productions of “Annie,” but no one better than John Melvin in the starring role. After an extended illness, John Melvin answered the final curtain call last week. He was 79.

My daughter, Ashton, was pretty convinced that Melvin was the real Warbucks. She was dining in a restaurant with her mother and saw Melvin/Warbucks across the room.

Her mother went over and told him the story. He came to their table in his Warbucks persona and got down on one knee to talk to Ashton. She recalled the moment this week. It was a highlight in a little girl’s life.

John Melvin was born in Baltimore, but his family came to his mother’s hometown of Jefferson to live. He played in the high school band. His trumpet playing ability earned him a spot in the Redcoat Band at the University of Georgia. A few years ago, he gave the trumpet he played at the 1960 Orange Bowl to Jefferson High School where it is displayed in the trophy case.

John Melvin.jpg
John Melvin. Photo courtesy Stewart, Melvin and Frost.

He was a double Dawg, earning both an undergraduate and law degree at UGA. After serving in the Air Force at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, John and his wife, Mary Lou, returned to Georgia, where he would enter private law practice at the firm that would one day bear his name, Stewart, Melvin and Frost.

At his retirement, John Melvin estimated that he had conducted about 10,000 real estate closings. That’s a lot of homes.

There is a term I like to use about community minded people, it is “paying your civic rent.”

Some people live in a town all their lives and never contribute to the good of the community.

John Melvin was active the Gainesville Rotary Club, First Presbyterian Church and also was involved in other community activities. He was an Eagle Scout and sang in the church choir.

Most of all, John Melvin was a kind and gracious man. He was unmistakable with his rich bass voice and his 6’5” frame.

I got to know him better during that summer production. I remember that he was intent on getting his lines and songs right and was all business when the curtain rose. But outside of that time, he was fun to be around. We exchanged a number of stories and good laughs during that experience.

He was devoted to his family, his church, his hometown of Jefferson and his adopted hometown of Gainesville. His civic rent account has a credit balance. He left this place better than he found it.

There is a song in “Annie” where the little girl and Daddy Warbucks sing about just needing each other. “I don’t need anything but you,” the song says.

A community like ours needed someone like John Melvin. Thank you for coming our way, Daddy Warbucks.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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