The Madison County Journal
February 21, 2001
Dale Earnhardt was a
The South has lost another hero. Dale Earnhardt embodied within
his life all the best characteristics of a traditional Southerner.
A native of North Carolina, Earnhardt grew up in the stock car
racing culture. His father was a racer, so is his son. He was
one of the handful of drivers who made NASCAR a major sporting
event first in Dixie, and then nationwide.
On the track, Earnhardt was highly competitive. He deserved the
title "intimidator." It was his determination to win
by whatever means available that made him a hero for many race
At home, he was a hero as well. He was praised for his efforts
to make his community a better place. He was always ready to
use his fame and fortune for needy causes.
He was a man of his word. Associates constantly praised him,
saying that when he committed to be at a function, he never failed
Earnhardt cared about the North Carolina and the South. One interviewer
was suppressed at the amount of detailed knowledge he had about
Southern history and his ability to see through the revisionist
teachings of today's historians.
Dale Earnhardt was a true son of the South. He was brave and
daring in his chosen profession. He was loyal to his family and
community. He was willing to commit himself to serving those
who needed his service without expecting awards or recognition.
He was an outspoken supporter of the South and southern culture.
Last Sunday was the highpoint of Dale Earnhardt's life. He was
reaching his greatest achievements as a NASCAR driver, a team
owner and a father.
As he approached the final turn of the Daytona 500 race, he could
see his newly-hired driver, Michael Waltrap, leading. Just behind
Waltrap was his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt himself was
in third place, using every skill at his command to hold off
the charging drivers on either side.
Earnhardt had to be filled with joy and pride at that moment.
His team was winning. His son was establishing himself as a future
power in stock car racing. He was involved in the kind of competition
that he loved. All was right with the world.
A moment later, Earnhardt's car spun out of control striking
the wall at 180 mph. He died instantly. If someone had written
a script for Earnhardt's final moments on this earth, they could
not have come up with a better plot.
I will not mourn the death of Dale Earnhardt. He died a happy
death. He died a noble death. He died as a hero should die.
No, let's not mourn his death. Instead, let us celebrate his
life. We can offer no better memorial.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.
His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address
The Madison County Journal
February 21, 2001
'More access' a good move
Making the county government complex more accessible to the public
was a good move by county commissioners, if for no other reason
than this: A taxpayer-funded building should be open to the taxpayers.
Yes, there is a risk in unlocking all doors into the building
during business hours. Someone with bad intentions could have
an easier time hurting a person if he didn't have to go through
a metal detector to get in the building (the metal detector was
moved to the front of the courtroom). But how effective has the
security setup been? The building's security guard, Marlin Carithers,
reported last week that department heads and their employees
often used side and rear doors of the building, which literally
opened the door for intruders to bypass the metal detector.
There's also a risk in keeping doors locked and forcing people,
particularly the elderly, to walk around the building in wet
or icy weather, facing the possibility of a fall as they hurry
to get to the front door.
Either way - doors open or locked - there is a distinct possibility
of an "I told you so."
In the end, the improved convenience should be considered a plus
for those doing business at county offices.
THE PASSING OF A LEGEND
I've never been much of a racing fan, but even I was shaken by
Dale Earnhardt's death and how Sunday's accident on the final
lap of the biggest race in the sport appeared minor compared
to the earlier wreck that day.
The shock was, as one friend said, like Michael Jordan dying
in the last minute of the seventh game of the NBA finals - unthinkable.
Still, Earnhardt is the first name that first comes to mind when
I think of car racing. I remember driving to Birmingham years
ago and getting stuck in traffic outside Talladega. Earnhardt
had won the race that day and it seemed like every car had something
about Dale Earnhardt sprayed or stuck on it. One guy motioned
for me to roll down my window and when I did he tried to sell
me a Dale Earnhardt lugnut. I laughed, but realized that everyone
wanted a piece of the hero, even if it was a lowly little lugnut.
There's little solace now for the thousands who cheered for him
that day and throughout the years. But his impact on the racing
world, and even those who don't really follow the sport, will
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.