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Oglesby: Remembering two of Hall Countys late giants
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Hall County lost two giants, both longtime friends, since last I wrote.

I used to tell the late Oscar Lilly, president of the old Gainesville National Bank, now Wachovia, that I wanted him to be a pallbearer at my funeral. He'd taken me much of my adult life, and he should help take me the rest of the way.

Ray McRae, late president and chairman of First National Bank, now Regions, replaced Oscar as my joking target. Not only did he "carry me" until his retirement, he was a valued counselor and friend.

One lesson about business he taught me I'll never forget. "Ted," he said, "keep your promises. Do what you say you will do, even if it hurts and costs. The key to success is don't make too many stupid promises."

He was a civic and community leader, president of our Kiwanis Club, brought numerous major industries to Hall County, gave numbers of doctors their financial start.

The Rev. Fulton Boswell, longtime local Baptist pastor of several churches, and I worked together on several projects, some church or community-related, others not. He was always helping others, members of his church or not. He was indeed a loyal, effective servant of our God in the very best sense, using his talents to the fullest to the end.

I don't know enough about all the details of the controversy between Gainesville and Hall County over the use and future of the former Hall County jail to have reached a conclusive position on the issue.

The county wants to lease it to the private CCA for a detention center for illegal immigrants. This use would require a barbed-wire fence. With it in a Southside redevelopment district, the city says it doesn't fit the zoning and the fence would be an eyesore in the long-standing plans for redevelopment.

Both cite excellent points that on the surface seem to be irreconcilable. I'm still pondering my position. I do have some knowledge of CCA the commissioners and council members may not and offer it for whatever they feel it may contribute to resolving the issue.

The first three of my high school years were in Southeast Georgia's Wheeler County and the last in the adjoining Telfair County. Until a few years ago, we owned a farm in Wheeler County. My wife has extended family there. We still visit.

Several years ago, CCA located a detention center in Alamo, the county seat. It is an attractive, unobtrusive facility as such institutions go. We still take the Wheeler County Eagle, which reports regularly on CCA. Family members in a position to know say it is an outstanding corporate citizen. The news reports of specific events and contributions we read in the Eagle bear this out.

I don't know what that may have to do with our local controversy, but if it helps, good.

Betty and I were at our favorite nighttime haunt, Poor Richard's, when an elderly couple occupied the adjoining table. They told their waitress it was a special occasion: their 66th wedding anniversary. They also mentioned it was the first time they'd been to Poor Richards.

When the waitress left, I congratulated them; they had beaten us by 10 years. She said they got married young because he got drafted into the World War II Navy Pacific fleet and was wounded when three kamikaze planes hit his cruiser.

As he often does, owner Richard LeCain stopped by our table to chat and I introduced him to them. When I told him what I've told you, he thanked the couple for coming to his restaurant and him for his service to our country. "Tonight, your dinner's on me," he said.

Long-loving Harold and Bernice Moon retired from Gwinnett County to Lake Lanier Village on Thompson Bridge Road. Congratulations.

Many thanks to the dozens responding to my last column who called, wrote or stopped to congratulate me on my 50 consecutive years as a regular columnist in Gainesville.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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