I finally made myself go see our old friend Bucky Redwine. I say “our,” because he’s probably your friend, too. Bucky has been out of circulation for a while, in the Alzeimer’s unit out at St. Mary’s beautiful campus on Jennings Mill Road.
“Where have you been?” he said, his eyes lighting up. I didn’t test to see if he could call my name, but his delight was as evident as my own. We had a great conversation, frequently repeating ourselves, and I left happy to have visited Bucky.
But maybe you came along when Bucky was no longer an Athens fixture. After all, he turned 89 on New Year’s Eve. Even so, you may remember him from Athens Ga: Inside/Out, whether or not you ever hit him up for a home loan.
Morgan Roby Redwine, Jr. is an Athens original in a town where there is never a shortage of interesting and eccentric citizens. A biography of Bucky would be a history of our city in the later 20th century. He was a part of it, so outgoing and fun-loving that he always wanted in on the action. From all accounts he was a puckish lad as a youngster, and he still is.
We all get so focused on our own lives in the present that we not only lose sight of others going through the same struggles, but we forget the rich cavalcade of compatriots who have gone before us. A life like Bucky’s is instructive, because he was always so gregarious that he was interested in everybody and was related to many of them.
No life can be summed up in a few paragraphs, especially Bucky’s, but here goes. After he graduated from Athens High School, his father sent him to Virginia Military Institute, where World War Two caught up with his generation. Along with a lot of his classmates, Bucky signed up for the Army Air Corps with the belief that they would be granted deferments until they graduated. Instead, they went immediately into training, and before he was 20, Bucky was piloting a P-51 Mustang fighter, escorting B-29 bombers on their runs from Iwo Jima to Japan.
After the war, Bucky finished his education at Yale on the G.I. Bill and came back home to Athens, where he has been ever since. He got into banking and became executive vice president of Athens Federal Savings and Loan, now Athens First Bank and Trust—a tobacco-chewing, wise-cracking, vodka-drinking, Volvo-driving banker when a Volvo was an exotic foreign machine. Bucky was a Republican, too, when that party was actually an urban alternative to the rural, conservative Democrats who ruled Georgia.
Bucky belonged to a bridge club, an investment club, the country club, the historical society, the cemetery board, the Methodist Church; he had a Scout troop, he coached Little League, he wrote a weekly column for the Athens Observer, he anchored Observer Television’s weekly talk show. Bucky has always pursued his own interests along with other people. He read a lot about the Civil War, so naturally he organized trips with friends to go see the battlefields, to walk the ground where his forebears fought, to see those scenes with his own eyes in the company of comrades.
Although his restless energy impelled Bucky out into the community more than most, he was typical of the Athenians of his generation who grew up here when the town and the university were small, and everybody knew everybody. They carried that closeness with them as their turn came to lead their town, and they valued character above credentials and integrity more than income. Bucky is out of it all, now, but that twinkle is still in his eye, and he is still a part of all he’s seen, even if the memory eludes him.