Today’s column is a potpourri of subjects. Some of the subjects are serious, and other subjects are about heartbreaking, distressing days in American history. Featured in today’s column you will find information on the Great American Smokeout, a brief commentary on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and a wonderful story about that remarkable Roman, Rev. Warren Jones.

The Great American Smokeout

For over 40 years the American Cancer Society has continued the Great American Smokeout. In the 1970s, smoking and secondhand smoke were common. The Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday in November every year, has assisted dramatically in changing American attitudes about smoking. These changes have led to community programs and laws that are now saving lives across the country.

It all began in 1970, in Randolph, Massachusetts. Arthur P. Mullaney encouraged people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate money they would have spent on cigarettes to a local high school scholarship fund.

In 1974, Lynn R. Smith, of the Monticello Times in Monticello, Minnesota, promoted a “Don’t Smoke Day.”

The California Division of the American Cancer Society successfully prompted nearly one million smokers to quit for the day on Nov. 18, 1976. Can you imagine one million cigarette butts? That gives a visual to how much cigarette smoking that is! The Nov. 18, 1976, California event marked the first ever Great American Smokeout.

Smokers have respiratory issues such as emphysema, lung cancer, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The American Cancer Society is to be commended for this very worthwhile promotion. Those of you who currently smoke, I encourage you to try to quit today.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963

That was 56 years ago. It’s one of those days in history when we will always remember where we were, and what we were doing, when we heard the news.

I was in the second grade at North Rome Elementary School. WRGA had a daily radio program about classical music composers. That day, when the newscast interrupted the program, we were learning about Tchaikovsky.

Four sitting presidents have been shot and killed. The first, Abraham Lincoln, was shot in 1865. James A. Garfield was assassinated in 1881; William McKinley in 1901; and John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Interestingly, Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, narrowly missed being present when his father was assassinated. He planned to be with his parents at Ford Theater on April 15, 1865. At the last minute there was a change of plans and he did not attend. However, Robert Lincoln was present when Garfield and McKinley were assassinated.

What makes the assassination of JFK markedly different from the other three is that it was all televised. A county watched its leader killed in broad daylight and it forever changed America.

On a much lighter note, Warren Jones has a birthday next week

I’ve never met the Rev. Warren Jones. I am, however, friends with his daughter, Jan Fergerson, whom I’ve known for many years.

Rev. Jones has a theory about birthdays with which I quite agree. He celebrates his birthday all month long. Birthdays are so much fun and we should celebrate.

Through the years, Rev. Jones has met a lot of people, some of whom were very famous. Like the time when, in 1938, Rev. Jones was on a trip to Tuskegee Institute with a group of students from West Georgia. After lunch, Rev. Jones stepped out on the porch and a man happened to walk by. He said to Rev. Jones, “Would you like to see my laboratory?” Rev. Jones said, “Yes. But who are you?” The man said, “I am George Washington Carver.” Rev. Jones then said, “I know all about you. My mother worked for the Experiment Station in Griffin, Georgia. She sent you those bulletins you wrote and asked for. I’ve heard about you my whole life!”

University of Georgia graduate. Journalism professor. Original committee member for the Peabody Awards. World War II (Air Force) veteran. United Methodist minister. These are just a few of Rev. Jones’ achievements.

Warren Jones is a good man, a great American and an illustrious Roman. Happy Birthday Rev. Jones! May you have many more.

Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, a writer, avid cyclist, history enthusiast and ardent reader of Southern fiction. Readers may email her at pamterrellwalker@gmail.com.

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