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Updated (FEB 2008)
BORN IN THE SMALL TOWN OF FRISCO CITY, ALABAMA, TO A RETIRED FARM FAMILY, DOC SPENT THE FIRST 12 YEARS OF LIFE IN A CAREFREE, BAREFOOT EXISTENCE, RAMBLING ABOUT THE WOODS AND SWIMMING AND/OR FISHING EVERY CREEK IN Munroe COUNTY (MunroeVILLE, COUNTY SEAT, IS BEST KNOWN AS THE SCENE FOR HARPER LEE'S STORY "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD"). ENCOURAGED BY THE DUAL MOTIVES OF ESCAPING A LOCAL BULLY AND HAVING THE CHANCE TO STUDY CHEMISTRY (NOT TAUGHT AT THAT TIME IN LOCAL SCHOOLS) DOC WROTE TO 10-12 PREP SCHOOLS ASKING FOR A SCHOLARSHIP. SINCE THE ONLY POSITIVE REPLY CAME FROM GEORGIA MILITARY ACADEMY IN ATLANTA, DOC DULY REPORTED IN JULY 1946, WHERE HE STARTED A WORK PROGRAM BEFORE CLASSES RESUMED IN SEPTEMBER. AFTER FIVE YEARS OF ACADEMICS AND 2-MONTH SUMMER WORK PROGRAMS DOC GRADUATED IN JUNE 1951) AS VALEDICTORIAN (SUMMA CUM LAUDI) IN HIS CLASS.
TORN BETWEEN APPOINTMENTS TO WEST POINT AND ANNAPOLIS (GMA PRESIDENT WAS USMA GRADUATE, WHILE HIS SON, THE DEAN, WAS ANNAPOLIS GRAD) DOC MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE. DURING OUR TIME AT THE ACADEMY DOC TENDED TO FAVOR THE "SOFT SCIENCES" AND WAS IMPRESSED WITH FOREIGN SERVICE FOLKS HE MET DURING VISITS TO THE UN AND WASHINGTON. BY GRADUATION DOC HAD DECIDED THAT HE WOULD SWITCH TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT AFTER REQUIRED SERVICE. FIVE YEARS WITH THE AIR FORCE AS INTELLIGENCE OFFICER (AFTER FLIGHT ASCHOOL FAILURE) INCLUDED TOURS AT RAMSTIEN/LANDSTUHL, GERMANY; ETAIN, FRANCE, AND CANNON AD IN CLOVIS, NEW MEXICO.
DOC PASSED THE FOREIGN SERVICE TESTS WHILE IN GERMANY AND, WHEN INFORMED IN SEPTEMBER 1960 THAT HE COULD JOIN AN INCOM,ING CLASS, HE RESIGNED HIS REGULAR COMMISSION AND JOINED THE FOREIGN SERVICE. DOC'S GREATEST PIECE OF GOOD FORTUNE WAS MEETING A YOUNG LADY NAMED JEANNE ABBOTT, THEN WORKING FOR STATE, WHOM HE MARRIED IN APRIL 1961. THE FOLLOWING 27-PLUS YEARS WERE FILLED WITH TOURS IN MEXICO, YUGOSLAVIA (ZAGREB), MOSCOW, AND BRUSSELS, WITH SHORT WASHINGTON TOURS INTERSPERSED.
DOC DECIDED TO RETIRE IN FEBRUARY 1987 FOLLOWING TWO YEARS WITH THE US MISSION TO THE EC, INTENDING TO RETURN TO THE US AFTER A BIT OF TOURING. HOWEVER THIS PLAN WAS SHELVED WHEN DOC WAS OFFERED A JOB WITH NATO'S INTERNATIONAL STAFF WORKING ON SOVIET ECONOMICS. ALMOST TEN YEARS LATER DOC LEFT NATO AND FINALLY RETIRED TO WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA, WHERE HE GOLFS 3-4 DAYS A WEEK AND LUNCHS REGULARLY WITH LOCAL CLASSMATES.
GOOD FORTUNE AGAIN SMILED ON DOC IN 2007 WHEN HIS DAUGHTER AND BRIT HUSBAND, AND THREE GREAT GRANDKIDS, MOVED TO VIRGINIA BEACH AFTER TWENTY YEARS IN BRUSSELS. THE COMMUTE TO VISIT, NOW ABOUT ONE HOUR, SURE BEATS THOSE 8-10 HOUR FLIGHTS TO BELGIUM. DOC'S YOUNGER DAUGHTER LIVES AND WORKS IN WASHINGTON WHERE SHE ASSISTS WITH COUNSELING STAFF OF IMF, WORLD BANK AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHILE COMPLETING HER DOCTORATE IN PSYCHOLOGY. LOOKING BACK JUST PAST THE 75 YEAR MARK, DOC HAS NO REGRETS ABOUT THE PATHS CHOSEN, ESPECIALLY THAT WHICH LED HIM UP THE HUDSON TO USMA.
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How I got my appointment to West Point
In 1946, at the ripe age of 13, I decided I wanted/needed a better schooling than what I was getting in Munroe County, Alabama..home of Harper Lee and mockingbirds! So I applied to about ten boarding schools for scholarships and wound up getting accepted at Georgia Military Academy in Atlanta.
I spent five happy years at GMA. school nine months and work two summer months. I managed to ace my courses and wound up valedictorian..summa cum laude. Don Olvey was at GMA that last year but he was doing post grad, having finished high school in his home town. Otherwise I would have come in a distant second!
Anyway based on academics I was nominated as a candidate from a Distinguished Military school, took the tests and won one of 14 slots for either of the military academies. I did face a problem choosing, as the GMA president, Bill Brewster Sr, and the PMS@T Col. McQuarrie, were West Point grads (both class of 1920 Cullum nos. 6769 and 6770, married two daughters of GMA founder Woodward) but the Dean, Bill Brewster Jr. was a Naval Academy grad...he chose navy since he could do Annapolis ar age 16 but West Point at time required 17!).
Guess the 2-1 vote prevailed for me so off to USMA I went....also I grew up around Mobile Bay and never really liked boats. Looking back, in view of my decision while still at the Point, to opt for a diplomatic life in lieu of military, I probably would have done better to take an available scholarship to Georgetown or an Ivy League school.
But I have no regrets that my path led me to join a group of really great guys and in the long run I think I was probably better prepared for the Foreign Service than many of my fellow FSOs who had prepped at traditional civilian schools.
16 AUG 2010