News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists
SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 2007
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TOM WRIGHT

Close encounters of the famous kind

People enjoy meeting the famous and powerful and then recounting the experience for their peers.

So it is understandable that Athens Mayor Dan Williams was unabashed in his desire to meet President Bush when he visited Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant on Thursday.

Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer cancelled a few days in Atlanta as a birthday gift from her daughter because she, too, wanted to meet the president.

My Grandfather Glenn never met anybody as important as a president. He never met a governor. But he did meet a man who said he once met Thomas Edison.

My grandfather was born 10 years after the Civil War ended and lived a good chunk of his early life reading by a kerosene lamp. To meet the man who gave us light would have been a life experience for anyone. But for Grandfather, meeting a man who met Mr. Edison was close enough.

He recalled the man saying that the inventor of the long-lasting light bulb and the phonograph was the smartest person he’d ever seen.

I heard that story often as we worked side-by-side in Blount County cotton fields.

My mother had her moment of reflected glory, too. Each time the credits from the “Perry Mason” TV series scrolled up the screen, she pointed out the name of Gail Patrick. “I went to school with her in Birmingham,” she usually said. Ms. Patrick was a 1930s actress before becoming executive producer of the popular TV series.

My moment came several years ago at an editor’s convention in Washington, D.C. Thinking I had found Regina after getting separated at a reception, I slipped my arm around female shoulders and said something like, “I’ve been looking for you.” The hair was the right shade of red and the height was right.

But it wasn’t Regina. It was actress Shirley MacLaine who had been our luncheon speaker.

“I’m sorry, I thought you were my wife,” I stammered.

It worked out well because Regina showed up as I apologized and I got credit for mistaking a movie star for my wife.

Tom Wright is executive editor.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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