Gratitude for Mentors

Today, I call out my paternal grandfather, Lester E. Potts, Sr., affectionately known as “Big Daddy” (1891 – 1976).

Born of the Blake and Potts families in the Carolina community of Itawamba County, Mississippi, he moved to Pickens County, Alabama with his mother and brother in the 1890s after losing his father to typhoid fever. He was a saw miller and farmer most of his life, and was one of the hardest-working folks you’d ever know. But late in life he retired, and seemed to find that rest we all seek.

It was during this last life chapter that I knew him. He was the best friend of my early childhood. He came to pick me up each Wednesday. We’d go to Mr. Tom Lemon’s store in Aliceville and get goods, and then head to a slough near the Tombigbee River to fish. Sometimes, we’d hike a bit and find us a stick to whittle, and talk about the trees in the river bottom. Mostly what we would do is be together.

He was one of the most authentic people I’ve ever known: an old tree standing strong in the modern day woods, but rooted in an earlier time. When I hear the word ‘man,’ at some level I see the silhouette of Big Daddy wearing his characteristic hat. Frugal to the point of being tight, he was also humble, and required very little on which to get by. “Y’all are over-ratin’ me,” he would say, if given a gift or a compliment.

After he had a major stroke when I was 10 and lingered for 3 months unresponsive, I wanted to be a doctor and do something to help make him well again. This desire became my primary motivation to go into neurology.

Thank you, Big Daddy, for sharing this with me.

Danny and Big Daddy

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