“There are three days on which I absolutely refuse to work: the birthdays of Jesus Christ, Elvis Presley, and Robert E. Lee!”
“Then there’s the story of the little old lady from Virginia who told her loved ones from her death bed, ‘Oh, please don’t grieve for me. I’m going to see Jesus . . . and General Lee!'”
In this post I would like to share some of my accumulated writings and self-quotes about the South, closing with one quote from a Tulsa publisher about me as an exiled Arkie copyeditor and writer. That quote will serve as an introduction to the second post on the South.
In the next post the insightful observations from this post will be supplemented by some select quotes from others on the South and Southern culture, augmented with some Web sites that should appeal to anyone who loves the South and all things Southern.
Since January 19 is the birthday of that renowned and revered Southern leader and icon Robert E. Lee, I will open this first post with a tribute to him that I once wrote and posted on the bulletin board of the international Christian ministry in Tulsa where I was working back in the early 1980s.
It was read by virtually everyone in the building—a geographically diverse group from various parts of the United States and several foreign countries. After that original posting, I copied it each year and sent it to any new Yankee friends that I had made during that period, updating it, and changing the names of the recipients from one year to the next.
One reason I wrote and posted it at work was to respond to the kidding that I, the token Arkie, received continually from many of the other employees because of my “cornpone” Arkansas accent. Since I began as a French translator and wore Western boots (which I referred to as my “Proust boots”), I was often called the “French cowboy”—or even the “hillbilly Frenchman.”
Note: Marcel Proust was a French novelist who wrote about the ability of a small cake called a “petite madeleine” to evoke “involuntary memories,” sensations, and associations from his childhood; hence, my use of his name to describe my Western boots which recall my own childhood and youth. (For further information on this subject see my earlier posts titled “My Father’s Brand and Seal” and “My Mother’s Bible.”)
Thus, the proclamation I wrote and posted was one way that I, as a tenth-generation Southerner (Tidewater Virginia; Eastern North Carolina; Middle Georgia; Southeast Arkansas) and a descendant of a member of Robert E. Lee’s famed Army of Northern Virginia, countered the stereotype of the “Ignernt Arkie” and the “Southern Redneck” by introducing a bit of “Dixie Pride” and “Suthrun Heritage.” Although it is probably no longer “politically correct,” neither is the stereotyping of Arkies and other Southerners which is still so common in our society today.
So with that caveat, here is the tongue-in-cheek tribute I wrote and posted back on January 19, 1981, and updated to this year.
WHEREAS, January 19 is the birthday of the South’s most revered and esteemed hero, GENERAL ROBERT EDWARD LEE, CSA; and,
WHEREAS, the aforementioned ROBERT EDWARD LEE personified those characteristics of honor, strength, integrity, nobility, graciousness and gentility so representative of the Southern people and so dear to Southern hearts; and,
WHEREAS, the birthday of ROBERT EDWARD LEE is still recognized and celebrated as an official state holiday in the majority of the sovereign states of the Old Confederacy;
THEREFORE, in honor of the said ROBERT EDWARD LEE, we, the undersigned son and daughter of that most beautiful and sublime of homelands known as The Old South (from whose loving bosom Almighty God, in His Infinite and Inscrutable Wisdom, hath seen fit to wrest them that they might be thrust forth as Christian missionaries and ambassadors in this most barren and desolate Western wilderness, subject as it is to the onslaughts of vicious and intemperate Northern climes), WE, the undersigned, DO HEREBY ESTABLISH AND PROCLAIM THE DAY OF JANUARY 19, 2012, AS A DAY OF SOLEMN MEMORIAL IN COMMEMORATION OF THE BIRTH OF GENERAL ROBERT EDWARD LEE, CSA; and,
FURTHERMORE, in recognition of, and in keeping with, those Christian virtues of Charity and Magnanimity so typified by our noble Leader, whose memory we honor today, WE DO HEREBY CONFER and BESTOW THE TITLE OF HONORARY SOUTHERNER upon
and all other such YANKEES, FOREIGNERS, and POOR UNFORTUNATES, the birth and upbringing of whom hath so cruelly and unjustly deprived them of the joys of that gracious and genteel WAY OF LIFE from which Southern ladies and gentlemen, such as we, have for generations drawn such comfort and cheer.
Done this Nineteenth Day of January in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve in the City of Tulsa, Indian Territory, Confederate States of America.
Jimmy Dale Peacock, Founder-President, Sons of Southern Gentlemen
Marion E. Peacock, Chairperson, Southern Belles Synonymous
Some More Self-Quotes on the South
(emphasis in italics)
“The whole problem of the South seems to be the result of its long history of good manners and bad judgment.”
“The Old South is not dead; it’s just playin’ possum!”
“The farther South you go, the longer the memory and the shorter the fuse.”
“I come from just far enough South to temper my inherent Southern fatalism with hope—which is, of course, the worst kind.”
“In the real South, using ‘dinner’ for ‘supper’ is like using ‘you all’ for ‘y’all’; it is a practice reserved only for those special formal occasions when we want to sound cultured or refined.”
“Our last nite home over Thanksgiving I dreamed I went uptown to the railroad station in [my hometown of] McGehee [Arkansas] to pick up an attractive redhead from Trinity [Episcopal Church in Tulsa] loaded down with excess baggage. Her name? DIXIE!”
—Message I had scribbled on a day calendar
for a Saturday in December 1995
“When I am overcome with homesickness, I refer to it as being ‘all down in the South’ or suffering from ‘y’all withdrawal.’ The only answer is to ‘take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land’—or at least find some ‘sweet young Southern thang’ to ‘tawk Dixie to me.’”
“You have to join cotillion.”
—1954 Little Rock Junior League girls
“The Old South will never die, not as long as there are darling debutantes, doting docents, indomitable dowagers, and other groups of proud Southern women like the Junior League, the Ya Ya Sisterhood, The Sweet Potato Queens, the Steel Magnolias—and the Maggie [McGehee] Clique!”
—Quote by Jimmy Peacock in letter to
Charles Allbright dated June 10, 2002
“I love the South in general, Arkansas in particular, the Delta in spite, and all three in absentia. Someday soon I will love them all in memoriam.” (I have never known nor cared anything about the topography of heaven—but now the South/Arkansas/Delta, that’s a different story!)
Quote about Me from Judy Whitley in
the 1986 Newsletter of a Tulsa Religious Publisher
(emphasis in italics)
“Listen up . . . y’all! I would like to introduce you to that smooth talkin’ and slow walkin’ Southern Gentleman fondly known around here as . . . Mr. Hey [a reference to my usual Southern-style form of address].
“His given name is Jimmy Peacock and he hails from that great state of Arkansas which he considers his own personal Promised Land. . . .
“Here is just a little reminder to you YANKEES out there. According to Jimmy, the South WILL RISE AGAIN . . . even if it takes the rapture to do it!”
Note: Stay tuned for the second part of this discussion of the South continued in the next post with quotes from others on the subject.