Today, June 18, 2006, is the 32nd one I have experienced without my father. Charles Thomas Paige (b. 9/25/11, d. 9/6/73) was an usual man for his time. In this photo (click to enlarge), which I believe it was taken on 6/15/50, the date of his graduation from Temple University with a masters’ degree in theology, as well as the date my parents were married, he shows a serious side that was a part of his public persona.
My father was ordained in 1941, in the church that would be our church home once our family returned to Virginia in 1963. A photo from that day is eerily similar to the one taken nine years later. As in real life, my father never seemed to age.
As a minister, my father set an example for his children to follow. Before his death, he requested that a Christian flag drape his coffin, saying that just as Uncle Sam’s soldiers had the American flag on their coffins, he had been a soldier for Christ and wanted this to be a part of his funeral service.
But my father was much more than a minister. Education was something he highly prized so he continued to take classes and study and encouraged us to do the same. By the time he was named as president of the Baptist Industrial College and Seminary in 1956, he was just 9 hours short of doctoral degree, as this article shows. This college ultimately award him an honorary doctorate.
My father was a man of words. He wrote a weekly column for the Tri-State Defender, a local black newspaper in Memphis. In it, he discussed not only religion, but the topics of the day, including the war, rock-and-roll and even politics. He was a great story-teller, as many preachers of his day were. (This particular skill seems to be lacking amongst the preachers I’ve heard lately.) His engaging style of writing and speaking kept his audience engrossed.
Like many of his generation, my father was deeply committed to civil rights in the Jim Crow era of the South. And his commitment was not just in words. In 1963, my family – parents and eight kids ranging in age from 12 to 8 months – returned to my father’s ancestral neighborhood in Phoebus with the clothes on our backs and the few belongings we could carry on the bus. My father had stood up against Jim Crow and had paid a hefty price, losing virtually everything he had worked so hard to obtain. He spent the last ten years of his life working day and night, to put food on the table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our backs, neglecting to take care of himself in the process.
It is these last ten years of his life that I remember. Anything before that is just the product of my being the family historian. I was three years old when we came to Phoebus and 13 when my father died. In between, the Reverend Charles Thomas Paige was just Daddy to me. I recall waving to him as he left on Monday morning to drive to the Eastern Shore where he taught biology at Mary N. Smith High School. I recall waiting anxiously for him to return on Friday evenings, vaguely aware that he was teaching during the day and working at the Campbell Soup factory at night. I remember taking him fried egg sandwiches and iced coffee to the cleaners on the corner where he worked on Saturdays. I remember the car trips to churches outside of Phoebus where he was invited to preach, especially one in Kilmarnock, which became a favorite of mine. I recall the letter that he sent me when I was at 4-H camp the summer after 4th grade. “Pumpkin, here’s two dollars” the letter said. I recall standing in the doorway of the family room, afraid to enter, because my mother had caught me smoking and Daddy, the family disciplinarian, was about to mete out my punishment. I recall him coming to a band concert of mine when I was in the 7th grade, him standing with his cane in the rear of the auditorium, his body weakened by the diabetes that had taken hold, half of his foot having been amputated. And I recall my little brother, coming to my cheerleading practice and telling me that I had to come home – immediately – and him blurting out that “Daddy is dead.”
On this Father’s Day, 2006, I remember my Daddy and cherish the little time that I had with him. My Daddy remains ever present in my life. I dream of him often. I wonder what he would think of me today. Would he be proud or disappointed? Have I lived up to the rich legacy that he left? Have I broadened the trail he blazed? I don’t know. But today I honor all that he was. And I think I will try to do it more often, not just on Father’s Day. I started a project years ago to convert to digital format my father’s writings. Life got in the way and I never completed the project. I’m going to try to set aside time to work on it. And, beginning next Sunday, I’m going to publish one of my father’s old columns on this blog.
13 thoughts on “Father’s Day 2006”
Vivian, that is a beautiful tribute to your father. I am really moved by it. You communicated the deep integrity of the man. It left me thinking: what will my daughter will think of me? And, what should I do to improve myself and contribute to others (as your father did) ? Wondering about how she will think of me puts a powerful perspective on how to live better. (I’m sending you a picture via email.)
Chris – I think the only thing you can do is be the best father that you can be. And if considering how your daughter will think of you when she’s older is what motivates you to do it, always keep her in mind. Very cute kids, BTW 😉
Vivian – I can promise he’d be exceedingly proud of you. What a wonderful and moving tribute to your father. He was certainly someone to be proud of.
From the short time that I have read your posts, I can say I have seen a great degree of integrity in you and a great amount of intelligence and decency. Any parent would be glad to have children like that.
As has already been said, this was a wonderful tribute–and a fitting memorial on Father’s Day. Too often we keep the memories inside and others miss out on “knowing” the people who helped shape us to become who and what we are. Your father sounds like an awesome person. I am looking forward to reading his columns in the future.
I also think he’d be very proud of you. I know that I admire you for your activism and passion. Keep up the good work!
Now I see where you have obtained your skill for writing. Many of your blogs are very articulate and insightful. Unlike many bloggers, you do not try to bait readers for a reaction but simply let them react to your words. Keep up the great writing. Your father would be proud.
Wow….great post, Vivian!
Thanks to all of you for your kind words.
Nice job. As my only child is a daughter, I have a special appreciation for reading a daughter’s touching remembrance of her father. I got lucky — it’s easy to be proud of my daughter. She‘s a solid citizen.
Lucky me, I’ve also been fortunate enough to have known a few men not unlike your father.
The older I get, the more I fear my generation has failed miserably to live up to the time-honored standards that were passed down to us. So, I think — perhaps too much — about what my grandfather would say now about our way of life, particularly about our conveniently slack standards for civility, courage and honesty.
What is amazing is, if you think about it, your blog carries on his legacy of his weekly writings.
Papers of yesterday, blogs of today.
Technology keeps his memory and his example alive!
I’m just glad that he kept the clippings. He also wrote a bit for the Journal & Guide once we came back to Virginia but as of yet, I haven’t been able to locate any of those columns.
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