Posts Tagged Woodruff

The Attack on Pearl Harbor – A Family Story

I was seven years old when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place on Dec. 7, 1941. It was a Sunday morning. My most vivid early memory of the aftermath was that my Uncle Jack was drafted and sent for basic training to Ft. Jackson near Columbia about 100 miles away. My grandmother Carnell was at our house every day begging my dad to take her to see him. Of course that was impossible. Dad became an air raid warden. We had air raid drills at Northside Elementary School which mostly consisted of us getting under our desks when the alarm sounded. When I was in the 4th.grade, my dad and three of his friends went to visit Uncle Jack and three others from Woodruff at Camp Chaffee in Arkansas near Ft. Smith. I always have thought it was Camp Cook. None of the four men had much money so they ate a lot of chili on the trip. My teacher’s, Miss Woods, boyfriend was one of those visited. Uncle Jack sent me a horned toad before he went to France. We know that at one point he was stationed near Nancy, France, because in a letter he congratulated my parents on the birth of their daughter, Nancy Francis. Somehow this got by the censors.

Carl, my Aunt Sally Lou Hanna’s son, served in the Navy. He was clerk to Admiral William “Bull” Halsey. Her son-in-law, Dwight Knight was in the invasion at Normandy. My great Uncle Mitch’s two sons, Dewey and Dan Easler were also in the war.  Marion P. Carnell, Uncle Calvin’s son, and longtime member of the South Carolina House of Representatives also served in the Navy. Clarence Wehunt, husband of Sarah Carnell, served in the Army.

My late wife, Liz, and her family were in the Philippines at the time of the attack. Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries, who decided to stay. They were there for the duration of the war without pay. They credit the Chinese Christians for keeping them alive. During the war they relocated to Manila from the Island of Leyte. My sister-in-law, Joan, kept a diary of her experiences. She later wrote and delivered a paper, “A Child’s View of the War.” She delivered the paper at a 50th. Anniversary commemoration of the war. She also included some observations from her younger sister, Liz.

in 1991, my brother-in-law John Wallace and I visited the Arizona Memorial and the American Cemetery in Hawaii.

The Second World War changed all of our lives forever. It changed our nation and the world. President Franklin D. Roosevelt became my lifetime hero followed closely by James F. Byrnes of South Carolina. In more recent years I have grown to appreciate the accomplishments and straight talk of President Harry S. Truman.



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The Right Time and Place

One of the surprises that came with writing my book, Our Father: Discovering Family,* was getting to revisit at least in memory with some of the saints that inhabit my world. Some of them I wrote about others are still unsung. Most of these remembrances brought a smile to my face and a deep sense of joy and gratitude.

I also realize that my small home town of Woodruff, South Carolina was the ideal place to encounter people whose values would guide my life. Yes, it was the segregated South and yes these people were prisoners of their place and time. Never-the-less, I did not see or experience the meanness that is so evident today. I did not hear the harsh rhetoric toward public officials that is so pervasive today.

I got a head start on race relations. While we lived in the Abney Mill Village and in a company house. The company sent crews to do regular maintenance. One day the two person crew at our house consisted of two Black men. They were repairing a bedroom window and I was watching them from the inside. I had not yet learned how to tell time. When one of them asked me the time, I simply threw the alarm clock out the window to him. They loved it. From then on when we met on the street they greeted me loudly and recited the story to their companions. This incident set the tone for my life. Everyone enjoys a good laugh. Laughter is a healing force.

Pink Robinson was the custodian at Woodruff High School. He had a laugh that was unmistakable. And contagious. When the windows were open, you could hear his laughter as he returned from an errand on Main Street roughly two blocks away. Smiles spread across the classroom no matter which class you were in when his laughter rang out. It is not a stretch to say that everyone loved Pink.

Rev. Susan Sparks, a Baptist pastor in New York City, a lawyer and a standup comedian, has written a wonderful book, Laugh Your Way to Grace. She contends that Christians have forgotten how to laugh in church. She maintains that laughter is a gift that needs to be nourished. She’s right. Some of my best memories are of Northside Baptist Church and the saints and sinners that I met there.

*Our Father: Discovering Family. Wipf and Stock. 2016.

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Influence of the Mill Village Church Cited in Our Father: Discovering Family

Northside Baptist ChurchThe mill village church that played such a vital role in the lives of its members across the piedmont Carolinas has all but disappeared. One of those churches, Northside Baptist Church, and its pastor are singled out for special praise by Mitch Carnell in his new book, Our Father: Discovering Family. Carnell credits the people of Northside and Rev. Roy R. Gowan for laying the foundation and then giving him permission to explore the meaning of his Christian faith. “Mitchell,” Gowan said one day, “God created all of you. That includes your brain. God did not expect you to turn it off when you come to church. God is not put off by your questions.”

Carnell’s book begins at St. Paul’s cathedral in London and then weaves back and forth in the stages of his life. He began writing the book with two simple questions. How did I get to where I am spiritually from where I started? What am I to do with the rest of my life? According to the author, God had a much bigger idea. He wanted me to discover the vastness of his family. I had to stretch the boundaries of my small town background and open my mind and heart to a larger way of thinking.

Dr. Carnell also gives a great deal of credit to his lifelong friend, the Rev. Ansel McGill who retired as pastor of Parisview Baptist Church in Greenville. He also singles out professors at Mars Hill College and Furman University. His late wife, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, questioned all of his assumptions in a loving but forceful manner.

He has now been an active member of First Baptist Church of Charleston for fifty years. He stresses the contributions of its long time pastor, the late John A. Hamrick, to his life. He credits Hamrick and the church’s legendary organist and Minister of Music and Worship, David Redd, for teaching him how to worship.

Our Father; Discovering Family, is available at most book stores, as an ebook from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or the publisher Dr. Carnell is a speaker/consultant in the fields of interpersonal and organizational communication. His website is

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Our Father: Discovering Family, Discussion at Presbyterian Village

On July 30, I had the opportunity to discuss my new book, Our Father: Discovering Family, at Presbyterian Village. Afterwards there was an excellent give and take question and answer period. Several longtime friends are residents at the Village and Rose and Bob Boston came just for the event.

One of the questions raised dealt with how considering my viewpoint on race relations had I managed to survive in a culture that did not always support my views. The answer is that it hasn’t always been easy, but that you just have to remain true to yourself. I gave several examples from the book.

A second much harder question was, “Do you think the murders at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston would help to soften people’s attitudes toward race on a long term basis?” My answer is that I have serious doubts about a real change of heart. It is easy to say and do the right thing when the cameras are on, but much harder as time moves forward. I doubt that the white religious leaders will now campaign for expanded Medicaid, an increased minimum wage or more reasonable gun laws. In so many cases the congregations are ahead of the clergy. I discovered that condition when I was a student volunteer at Furman University.

It was encouraging when several of these attendees were still talking about our Say Something Nice campaign. That is part of the second portion of the book in which I discuss discovering the purpose for the remainder of my life: helping Christians communicate in a more Christ-like manner.

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