SO WHO KNEW?

Dalton, Georgia, has its share of local hero’s. Maybe it’s because of its size and location between Chattanooga and the north and Atlanta to the south, perhaps because it was an essential cog in the wheel during the civil war in that it was the staging area for Sherman’s March to Atlanta, or it played a part in the Great Train Race.

There were several college football players that came from the area. Some like Ricky Townsand, Jim Allen, and Ricky Lake who went on to the pros. Debrah Norville and Marla Maples were also from Dalton.

Aside from national celebrities, the town had some absolute colorful local folk legends born and bred and never left home types. One I’d like to tell you about today. His name is Brad Gibbs.

Brad was a prominent lawyer in town and also the magistrate of the night court. If any one man resembled a Georgia Bulldog it was my friend and golfing buddy Brad. He had the look of a typical state Georgia Trooper who would pull you over and say, “you in a heap of trouble, boy.” He was short and rotund. He looked a little bit like Boss Hog and behaved like him too.

In my early days in Dalton, I rented an office in the 101 Building on Highway 41 South. The building was occupied by several attorneys, a yarn company, an accounting firm, an insurance company, and me with my two-room sales office.

My office was on the second floor facing Thornton Ave. My desk was perpendicular to a floor-to-ceiling glass window, and I was visible from morning to night from the street while working at my desk.

The first time I met Brad was one morning entering the back door of the building. He saw me coming across the parking lot with my arms loaded with samples, and he held the door open for me to enter. He said with his raspy and deep voice “ How you doin big un?”. I nodded and said I was fine and asked how he was. As I passed him there was a strong odor of whisky. Whew, it wasn’t even eight. I thought maybe from the night before. Anyway I made a mental note. I didn’t know who he was.

A few nights later while I was on my way home from work I was pulled over by a local cop for an overdue registration tag and was given a ticket. The summons said I was to appear in night court. I think I was driving my wife’s car.

When I arrived home I asked about this night court business. My wife told me all about it and who the judge was and his reputation. I thought this was it. With all I’ve heard about these southern night courts and all, I was going to receive a huge fine, or I would end up in jail for a night or two, or both.

When the court date arrived, my wife and I went down to the courthouse and checked in for my turn to be heard. Upon entering the courtroom, I noticed the boozer who opened the door for me at the office the other morning. It was Brad Gibbs in all his legendary glory sitting behind what appeared to be an alter wearing his judge’s robe. It appeared as if he was twelve feet tall. Oh my God, what am I in for now?

The first couple of cases involved traffic violations, disorderly conduct, then an outright drunk, and finally me. The judge seemed somewhat harsh on the repeat offenders, and he seemed to have known most of them. I suppose Dalton being such a small town that sooner or later, almost everyone seems to know each other.

When my name was a called I actually had a slight panic attack. I seldom ever felt this nervous. An amazing reaction. I think it was because I hadn’t reasonably estimated my liability or where this thing might head.

Brad looked at me with a big grin and asked me to state my name and why I had been given a summons. In a very nervous voice I told him that I did not realize my registration was overdue and that I was recently to Dalton from NY and that in NY things of this nature were sent to you in the mail.

He explained in a severe tone and posture that “this is the state of Georgia, Whitfield County, and renewals were done by birth date, and most folks didn’t require to be reminded of that. Do you understand?” leaning over the podium.

Then he said that he remembered me from the law building and always saw me in my office from the road. He mentioned that I worked some long hours.

He asked me how long I was here from NY. With that he said resoundingly “I CAN TELL, YOU ARE STILL CITIFIED, CASE DISMISSED” and slammed down his gavel. After the gavel he burst out laughing.

Over the years, Brad and I became good friends and played golf together many, many times. He didn’t play his best when sober though. He had an extraordinary sense of humor and was a great guy to hang with. He was exceptionally popular around town.

One day Brad cornered me in the clubhouse and asked me if I knew what MADD stood for. I replied of course I do. MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVERS. It’s an organization.

Then he told me that he belongs to DAMM. I said what the hell is that. Brad replied in his deep scratchy, and bold tone “DRUNKS AGAINST MAD MOTHERS.” We both broke up hysterically and headed for the bar.

I will always remember Brad. A true and colorful legend from Dalton, Ga.

One of the best and there are more.

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Warren Rodkin

I have been around for a very long time and have had a number of experiences. I have many stories to tell and a lot to say. I am delighted to have a platform.