His name was James Wilson Brown and he was 96 when he died. But back in 1950 he was like 35, a quiet man with coal black hair and an easy smile. He was also a graduate of Auburn University and teaching “ag” at Ohatchee High School.
I was one of those in “Farmer’s” classroom. It was an affectionate nickname, but one not used in his presence. However it’s a pretty good guess he knew about it.
There is a nice story with boyhood humor involved.
Somewhere in those years, Mr. Brown’s old black Pontiac came to a long overdue end on the front end of the Seaboard Railroad “streamliner” that passed through Ohatchee each day.
Seaboard, in the settlement (it was a blind crossing just outside town), offered to replace the car with whatever make and model Mr. Brown desired.
Cadillac? … Lincoln?
No sir … our “Farmer” opted for a 1950 Frazer, a long-gone make that lasted six or so years.
Why a FRAZER?
Finally, a smart mouth in our crowd came up with:
“Hey, he’s an Auburn graduate.”
That may be the first Auburn joke I ever heard, but truth is I know of no one who loved his alma mater more than Mr. Brown. Into their early 90s, he and his beloved wife Pearly had season tickets to Auburn football games.
One thing occurs to me.
Monday night, “Farmer” will have the best seat in the house to watch his Tigers smoke “them Ducks” from Oregon for the national championship.
Auburn jokes aside, I know of no one in our crowd who didn’t love “Farmer.”
More to the point, I know of no one in our time the man mistreated or spoke ill of.
James Wilson Brown was something very special … and will always be such in the memories of us …
In Wednesday’s column, I mentioned The Star’s recent story on the renovation of the “Watermark Tower” in downtown Anniston. The story also referred to the 10-story landmark as the Liles Building and the AmSouth Bank Building. The name it had right before AmSouth was the Commercial National Bank Building.
My memory said it had also been called the Wilson Building at one time.
That kicked up memories and all sorts of responses telling me I was exactly right.
Most informative came from Ben Howell (Howell Signs) and Erna Evans, a lady who can probably trace your ancestry all the way back to Adam and the First Wife if asked.
Anyway, Ben loaned me an old copy of Annie’s Town by Tee Morgan, subtitled, “A picture history of Anniston, Alabama, 1880-1940.”
It is a wonderful book and there is the old building itself on page 61 with:
“The building was built in 1926 by Luther B. Liles … at a cost of $415,000 … The building did not prosper during the depression and was sold to Mr. (W. C.) Wilson and was renamed the Wilson Building.”
From Erna’s e-mail, in part:
“William Coleman Wilson Sr. (1880-1949) purchased the 10-story building in 1932 . . . He is (was) the son of Joseph Columbus Wilson (1848-1932) who served in the AL Legislature in 1919. They are both buried at Edgemont Cemetery.
“William moved from Lincoln to Anniston in 1920 … he purchased what is now the Victoria Inn (for $28,100) and established Emory Foundry with Henry Bascom Rudisill.”
Have a nice day … and get ready for you-know-what … snow ’n’ ice are due this evening.
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org