Bucky’s death has brought him back to life for us. We all have our mental movies of Bucky playing in our heads as we remember him and recall stories about him. I can’t escape casting him in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. He was considerably better looking than Jimmy Stewart, but he lived out the script of the boy who stays in his hometown while his brother is the war hero, and he helps everybody buy their houses and start their businesses and saves the town from old Mr. Potter, except that Bucky changed the plot. He was also the dashing war hero pilot, and he came home after the war and went to work in the bank, and I guess you could say he worked for Mr. Potter, but he still saved the town, because he was also its guardian angel and because he was so much funnier and wilder than Jimmy Stewart. The point of that movie is the difference a life makes, and we cannot calculate what Athens would be like today had Bucky not lived here, what our own lives would be like.
He was so completely at home, so much a part of his town, of its culture—so comfortable with its values: banker, Methodist, family man, businessman. In his hometown, surrounded by his interesting and accomplished family and friends. He could have been a success anywhere, but why would he have lived elsewhere??
Away from the office, he was always on the go, seeing somebody, doing something, hanging out with his dogs, gardening, building that brick retaining wall behind the house, planting trees, cooking, grocery shopping, Scouting, coaching Little League, going to meetings of all his civic endeavors.
He was frugal, and it paid off handsomely for him. You’d run into him at Kroger or Bell’s, bragging about his coupons; he’d drive all the way across town to buy a bag of Jazz dog food for half price. He was proud of how much wear he could get our of a suit or sport coat, and always wrote the date of purchase on the label inside to keep up with the mileage.
He was frugal in business, too. Bill Simpson, who handled public relations for Athens Federal, had a savings and loan client down in middle Georgia, that let Bill know they’d welcome an offer if Athens Federal was interested in buying them out. Bucky drove down with another bank official to take a look, but he wasn’t impressed with what he saw. He told Bill, “They’ve got a receptionist, and the president has a secretary. And did you see that oriental rug on the floor? That kind of stuff is not for us.”
That didn’t stop Bucky from trying to liven up business here at home. When Athens Federal was opening its new headquarters building across from the post office, where the water department is now, Bucky bombarded Bill Simpson’s office with schemes for calling attention to the new location. Bill’s secretary began to sag under the weight of Bucky’s rapid-fire ideas. Finally, she received a phone call from Bucky demanding six midgets. “We’ll put them behind the teller counters, and when people come in, they’ll think nobody’s there. Imagine their surprise when they walk up and see the midgets!” Bill still has the memo his secretary sent him: “It’s him again. Now he wants six midgets… Mr. Simpson, I don’t think I’m cut out for this business.”
I think Bucky was easily bored, so he liked to spice up everything he did, from doing business to trading cars. Bucky drove Volvos when only Episcopalians did. I had an older Vol;vo, and he called me up one day and said, “Come on; we’re going to drive up to Gainesville and trade cars.” This was before Athens had a Volvo dealer. My car was perfectly good, but I followed Bucky up there, and we parked them both outside the dealership and went in. Bucky, with his tie stained by tobacco juice and his colorful talk (the joke about the white cow and the brown cow can’t be repeated), wasn’t their usual customer.
“Now I want a trade-in price on the blue car and a trade-in price on the green car,” Bucky told them. Then he traded them my car for his new one, and I paid him the difference between my trade-in and his. He got a new Volvo for the same price he would have got if he had traded his car, and I got a newer and well maintained car for a bargain price. We both drove away happy, leaving the salesman scratching his head.
And if you did business with Bucky, you made a friend. My father-in-law, Joe Griggs, was an ex-G.I. building houses over in Hartwell when Bucky was inspecting for Athens Federal. By the time I met Bucky and mentioned him to Joe, his eyes lit up, and he talked about Bucky as a friend, even though they hadn’t seen each other in 20 years. John Thornton and Freddy Miller started out doing investment business with Bucky and ended up lifelong friends. Bucky didn’t just see prospects, he saw people, who became friends.
Bucky loved to get up a group and go off to Civil War battlefields, dragging along a bunch of books and maps and puzzling over the terrain, following in the footsteps of his forebears. It was serious fun, but even on those trips he tried to economize. One evening we pulled into a motel in Lexington, Virginia, and Bucky went in to secure us some rooms. He told us he tried to get us a discount as a group of Methodist ministers, but the desk clerk said she didn’t think Methodist ministers drank vodka.
He wrote a column for a number of years in The Athens Observer drawing on one of his many fields of interest—local history, investing, funny local anecdotes—writing it out in longhand and then dropping it by for us to decipher. He had a good news sense.
When the Athens Observer started a local television station, my partner, Chuck Searcy, asked me to do a talk show, where I interviewed somebody each week. After about the second one, I encountered Redwine on the sidewalk. “McCommons,” he said, “your TV show is like a quiet chat in a funeral parlor. It needs spicing up.” Of course, I invited him to join me, and of course he did, and of course he spiced it up. He said his role would be to disagree with whomever we had as a guest. And he did. I think the greatest proof of his success was the night we were discussing abortion, and a woman called in and said, “Yes. I’d just like to say that Mr. Redwine is the best argument for abortion that I’ve ever heard.”
He was, of course, irrepressible. A niece recalls, for instance, the party he threw for his neighbors on the occasion of the birthday of his dog, the one who had plundered all their garbage cans.
My daughter Molly says by email: “I remember him driving up to us in the Kroger parking lot in an immaculate car with electronic command buttons for various car functions—the first I had seen like that—plus an early car phone. He was wearing a Tommy Hilfiger sports jacket and a cocky grin and looking every bit the dapper man about town. I was awfully young, but I keenly perceived that he was an anomaly—just a little more stylish and splashy and having a better time than most men of his generation.”
What gives this movie its punch is that while Bucky was a tobacco-chewing, wise-cracking, iconoclast of a banker, he was also a true friend, filled with loving devotion to his family, to Bonnie and to Karen—and thank God for Karen, who saved Bucky from his desolation after Bonnie’s death. Bucky gave of his expertise and advice to his friends and family. He represented Athens Federal and gave it a quirky human face; he knew his town and appreciated its past, making him a forceful advocate for preserving what was best about it and helping to keep it on the right track for the future. He may have been the self-appointed president of the Redneck Club, but that only made him better able to run interference for those who could see clearly what a treasure Athens is. In Bucky they found an unlikely and invaluable ally, an angel in disguise.
The Athenian Oath, sworn by citizens of that other Athens, is inscribed on our statue of the goddess Athena. It concludes: "We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public's sense of civic duty. Thus, in all these ways, we will transmit this City not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."
That’s Bucky, all right, and he had a wonderful life being an Athenian.
Morgan R. Redwine, Jr.
Morgan Roby Redwine, Jr., retired Executive Vice-President of Athens Federal Savings and Loan (now Athens First Bank and Trust), died Monday, February 4, at the age of 89. To his chagrin, he was born in Atlanta but came here soon after. “Bucky,” as he was known to everyone, grew up in Athens and attended the public schools here, graduating in 1941 from Athens High School as President of his class. He was enrolled for a year and a half at Virginia Military Institute before entering the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he piloted a P-51 Mustang fighter on missions from Iwo Jima to Japan, attaining the rank of major before being honorably discharged at the conclusion of the war. He completed his education by graduating from Yale University in 1948, and continued that connection as an enthusiastic recruiter for his alma mater.
After Bucky returned to Athens, he began his business career with Dun and Bradstreet as a credit reporter, traveling throughout Georgia to interview wholesale and retail businesses for credit analyses.
After two years he opened Redwine Real Estate and Insurance, writing fire and casualty insurance and selling real estate. He sold that business and went to work for Athens Federal in 1960, doing appraisals and inspections, progressing through liquidity investing, problem loans, mergers and stock conversion; he was ultimately promoted to Executive Vice President, where he became a fixture in the local banking community. He retired in 1989, but people still recall his unorthodox style and his sharp eye for character. He personified the local banker who didn’t need a computer to size up a customer, once startling a young college professor by quickly granting him a loan after ascertaining that the applicant had made a perfect score on his college entrance SAT exam.
Redwine was also principal stockholder in Equitable Securities and President of Magic Years of Learning day care centers in Athens and Gainesville. He had a brief stint as Executive Secretary to Georgia Governor Lester Maddox that ended abruptly when it became evident that their management styles were not compatible.
Outgoing and interested in everything and everyone, Bucky Redwine threw himself into the life of his community, serving on the Clarke County Board of Education, as President of the Friends of the Georgia Museum, President of the Athens City Club and District Chairman Cherokee Council of the Boy Scouts of America; he was a Director or Trustee of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, the Athens Tutorial Program, the Athens Chamber of Commerce, the Athens Community Council on Aging, the Sandy Creek Nature Center, Oconee Hill Cemetery, The Old Athens Cemetery and the Athens Historical Society. Board meetings were guaranteed to be livelier when he was in attendance.
He coached Little League, enjoyed his bridge club, was a longtime member of the Athens Country Club, was Adjutant in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, President of the Athens Investment Club, a member of Clarke County Citizen Advocacy and the fourth of six generations of his family to be members of Athens First United Methodist Church, where he delighted in the camaraderie of the Tuck Sunday School Class.
For a number of years he wrote a weekly column for The Athens Observer, and he co-hosted a popular weekly talk show on Observer Television. In earlier years he enjoyed hiking and camping, and he was a lifelong collector of stamps, coins and Confederate artifacts. He made numerous trips with friends to Civil War battlefields, where he studied maps and retraced the steps of his forebears. He loved to share his interests and was always generous with his financial expertise, giving sound advice to family and friends.
Morgan R. Redwine, Jr. is survived by his wife Karen Whelchel Redwine, his son Roby Long Redwine, his daughter Virginia Redwine Hurst, his daughter-in-law Dana Ruffin Redwine, his son-in-law Charles Benson Hurst III, his grandchildren Elizabeth Long Redwine, Roby West Redwine, Frances Grace Redwine, Mary Bonner Redwine, Charles Redwine Hurst and Henry Somerville Hurst, his cousins Charles Redwine and Parks Redwine, and also by two stepsisters-in-law and their families, three stepsons, two stepdaughters and their families, four nieces, two nephews, a grandnephew, and a number of cousins.
Bucky was preceded in death by his father, Morgan Roby Redwine; his mother, Lucy Leah West Redwine; his wife, Mary Juliette “Bonnie” Bonner Redwine, his sister Marion Rylander Mathis Allen and his brother Henry Edward Mathis.
Funeral services will be held at First United Methodist Church, Athens, on Thursday, February 7 at 1 p.m. Burial follows at Oconee Hill Cemetery. The family will receive friends in the Sexton’s House at the cemetery, following the graveside service.
Pallbearers are Loyd Black, David Casarotto, Bill Douglas, Chuck Jackson, Gilbert Milner, Jim Paine, Stan Sheram and Jimmy Wilfong.
Honorary Pallbearers are Upshaw Bentley, Gary Doster, Robert Gibson, Bill Griggs, Bobby Heath, Charlie Horton, James L. LaBoon Jr., Toombs Lewis, Pete McCommons, Fred Miller, Lee Pierson, Bill Simpson, John Thornton, Allen Stephenson, Charlie Upchurch, Richard Warner, James Q. Wilfong Sr., and the members of the Tuck Sunday School Class.
Donations in remembrance of Bucky may be made to The Alzheimer's Association (www.alz.org/georgia), Friends of Oconee Hill Cemetery, P.O. Box 49219, Athens GA 30604, or another philanthropy of the giver's choice.
Bridges Funeral Home, Athens, is in charge of the arrangements.