= Expanded 're-post' from Comment in Teacherken's Diary =
I'm an Alabama lawyer. I'm from the South Alabama town of Slocomb.* Yes, 3 letters different from "Maycomb." I can't prove it, but I know damn well Harper Lee derived Maycomb from Slocomb. Do Google Map of "Monroeville, Alabama" and "Slocomb, Alabama" -- you'll see.
My father, who passed away two years ago next week, was an attorney from Alabama. Daddy never belonged to the Alabama Bar, though. He was a DC, Maryland & Virginia lawyer. However, in 1990 he stood-in as my proxy to take the oath when I joined the Bar as I was in Japan at the time. We were both very proud that he could do that for me. I bound us -- thousands of miles apart -- in a way that many fathers and sons are never bound. I first read six years earlier in September 1984, the first time I was living in Japan.
At the time I was an exchange student from the University of Alabama to Kansai Gaidai (Kansai Foreign Language University) in Hirakata, Japan. I was twenty-one years old. was taught in a couple of Lit classes back when I was in high school, in Slocomb, but for some reason I never had a particular class in which it was being taught.
No, I found my first copy of at some used book sale on the campus of Kansai Gaidai. Over the course of a couple of weeks in September 1984 I read it at night in my little, comfortable room that my dear home stay family's house, there in the little town of Tsuda, a few miles away from Hirakata, which itself was a half-hour away from either Osaka or Kyoto, depending on which direction one took the Keihan Line from Hirakata Station.
It was an amazing thing, reading in the quiet night in Tsuda and being transported back to Slocomb and dozens of other small Alabama towns that I knew very, very well. Reading Lee's descriptions of Atticus, and hearing Atticus' words, well, Atticus was my father. My father did defend many a "lost cause" and did tell me that doing the right thing was better than doing the convenient thing. Although never in the Alabama Bar, my father worked for more than twenty years with Alabama lawyers as a consultant and researcher on literally hundreds of cases where involving the poor vs the rich and the accused vs. the Power of the State. Daddy had to leave trial practice back in the late 1970s owing to his loss of hearing. I'll forever regret that I never got to see him try a case.
Note: my nom du Kos, "BenGoshi," is Japanese for "Lawyer." So whenever I'm on Daily Kos I carry with me my inextricably intertwined lives: (Alabama) lawyer & Japanophile (who's lived there twice and travels to Japan on business or otherwise 1-3 times a year).
But back to and the first time I read it. What with my living abroad for the first time and all, and in 1984 having no email or cell phones, when I was away from friends and family in the United States, I was away and, yes, from time to time got a little homesick. Reading took me back home to South Alabama. Not so much for the racially-charged trial (unbeknown to me at the time, I would be involved in such things as an Alabama lawyer a decade or so later), but, rather, for Lee's description of Maycomb and the life and lifestyle and atmosphere of the place. And my father, who was the kindest man I ever have and ever will know, a lawyer from Slocomb, Alabama.
When I was about 10, could've been when I was 9, I got a BB gun for Christmas. This is when we were living in Virginia. My father, unlike Atticus, told me to never shoot any birds with that BB gun. The BB gun would mainly be used for when we were down visiting family in South Alabama, you see. Of course, within a couple of months I had gone and shot and killed some sparrow or thrush or such. That bird was sitting on top of a log in this big woodpile we had. I remember to this day seeing the BB skip of the log (I had aimed low, actually) and up and hit the bird. I was mortified. ("You always said people don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent..." Bob Dylan, "Brownsville Girl"). I don't remember much of the details afterwards, except that I went to my parents and confessed and they were not pleased, but they were kind to me when they saw that I was remorseful, which I truly was, and saw that my guilt and sorrow were punishing me aplenty.
When my father passed away 2 years ago . . .. His obituary, which I wrote, excerpted:
(My father) passed away at his home on Friday, July 18, 2008. He was two months from his 86th birthday and three weeks from his 60th wedding anniversary with his surviving wife, (my mom).
(My father) attended the University of Alabama, served his country as a Merchant Marine during WWII, and following the war, attended night school at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. while working days as a clerk with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he met (my mother).
He practiced law for decades as a member of the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia Bars, even after moving with his family to his beloved South Alabama. (He) touched innumerable lives throughout his life and will remain known and loved for his unparalleled selflessness, kindness and dedication to living the Golden Rule. A life-long Methodist, he sought and
taught to look for the best in people, no matter their station or
circumstance. . . .
*I was born in DC and, until I was 13, raised in Northern Virginia. In 1976 my family moved from McLean down to Slocomb. But every summer I spent several weeks to a couple of months down in Slocomb, my father's home town. I suppose in a way that made me "Dill."