Madison County Opinion...

 February 21, 2001

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
February 21, 2001

Frankly Speaking

Dale Earnhardt was a true Southerner
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 fans.
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 to appear.
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 His e-mail address is

By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
February 21, 2001

From the Editor's Desk

'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.
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 last.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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