My father, daddy to us, was born into a poor family of dirt farmers, in Chilton County, AL, back in 1916. He was the baby of nine children. Being such, he was spoiled by his older sisters, especially Aunt Lorene, who was closest to him in age. She even went off with him to Jacksonville State, in 1937, to “take care” of him.
Daddy played football during his brief time at Jax State. He was a center and back then, much like in the shotgun formation today, the center had to deep snap in the single wing formation. He prided himself on doing it well.
He grew up knowing none of the luxuries his sons enjoy today. He had to get up before dawn, start a fire, milk the cows and, often, fetch corn from the large crib in the yard near the smokehouse and water pump.
And he plowed, and plowed and plowed, the small parcel of land they made a hard living on, in the Isabella community near Maplesville.
Yes, the family DID, indeed, live five miles from the school and the kids had to get there any way they could. They would walk, or if they were lucky, grab a ride on the back of a wagon which was headed that way.
After his one year in Jacksonville, he heard about a co-op program, whereby he could go to school at Auburn, where he would like to study agriculture. He would go to school for a semester and then work the following semester. Under this program he could graduate college and have it paid for, in full, by the time he graduated.
He spoke numerous times of, literally, plowing his way through Auburn. Much of this plowing was done along S. College St. where the KA house and other fraternities stood for many, many years. This was across the street from the buildings where he attended classes.
These classroom buildings were Samford Hall, Comer Hall and Langdon Hall.
Coincidentally, Auburn Stadium, which is now Jordan-Hare Stadium, was built during his sophomore year on the Plains, in 1939.
Daddy met mama while they were both students at Auburn. They were married in 1941, shortly after he graduated. Mama insisted they be married on a Sunday, March 15, so they could attend Auburn First Baptist Church on their wedding day.
He served, stateside, during WW2 in communications. My brother, Jerry LeCroy, was born on August 14, 1945. Daddy was stationed in Miami, at the time, and that day happened to be the day Japan surrendered.
My uncle, Wilfred Weatherly, sent him a telegram stating, “The Japs surrender and Braxton, Jr. is born!” Oddly enough, I was the one later named Braxton, Jr.
My parents moved to Camden, AL in 1948. Daddy was employed by the Farmer’s Home Administration at the time and remained with the FHA until his retirement in the early 70’s.
Daddy was a proud alumnus of of API. The name was not officially changed to Auburn until 1960. He told many tales of the football games he attended which only served to really whet his youngest son’s voracious appetite for all things Auburn. My love for Auburn was already strong before he took me to my first game in 1961. My life was, then, changed forever. Auburn defeated Clemson, 24-14, on homecoming that bright Saturday. And hardly a passing Saturday, in autumns to come, passed without me begging daddy to take me to Auburn.
God bless him, he did this quite a few times over the next several years.
On April 2, 1982, daddy passed away. He was far to young to go at 66 years of age. He died of an extremely rare blood infection called “microbacterium fortuitum” which he, evidently, contracted during open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in September of 1980. He also had an aneurism repaired and a quadruple bypass during that surgery.
He was never the same after that.
We now have a brick, in his honor, placed in the ring just inside the gate in the south end zone, where the Auburn enters, at the completion of the Tiger Walk.
There are countless times I’ve wanted to talk with him about football after a particularly big win involving our Tigers. I’ve even prayed to him and the “huge cloud of witnesses” that must surround Jordan-Hare during a beautiful fall afternoon. And with all due respect to my Alabama friends, I could picture him beaming brightly after the “Kick Six” in November of 2013.
Daddy, it’s a beautiful summer Saturday afternoon here in north Georgia. Two of your great-grandchildren, Max and Lorelei are here with us. I so wish they could share this time with you. You could regale them both with tales of the 1949 Alabama game, a huge 14-13 upset in the rain at Legion Field, or the last game you attended in 1980. That was the only game trip you shared with your grandson, Luke. And I remember your story, that night, of sitting near some twins who were family of one of the Dixie Darlings from Southern Miss. How you thought you were “seeing double”.
I will raise a glass to you tonight, Daddy. It’ll be Makers Mark and not your favorite, Old Forester. But I will smile, hoist the glass, and through my tears give you a resounding “WAR EAGLE”.