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In the news business, getting close to tragedy is part of the job. Over time, sadly, there is a de-sensitizing that develops. It’s disturbing sometimes how flippant you can react to hearing about accidents, deaths, crime, and other dreadful events.
But not this time.
As I write this, the news is scarcely 10 minutes old. I’m not left grasping for words very often. But this is one of those times.
Walter Huckaby, a man who is on the short list of Coffee County’s most influential citizens, has passed. Huck, as everyone called him, touched tens of thousands of lives locally and beyond during his lifetime.
As a teen, Huck was a tremendous athlete. He took his love of sport and used it to connect with the youth of this community primarily through the parks and recreation department. Huck’s interest in young people extended beyond the field of play. Yes, he coached and developed some phenomenal athletes during his career, a few of whom went on to celebrated careers at the highest level of sport.
But his interest in youth went far beyond how good of an athlete a child was. Yes, he coached future Major League Baseball and NFL players. Much more importantly, though, he developed fathers, ministers, entrepreneurs, public servants, responsible citizens, and those with a heart of service who continued the legacy he began.
Thursday afternoon, the City of Douglas released a statement regarding Huck’s passing. “We have lost a truly great father, coach, mentor, and public servant. For decades, he was an integral part of our community’s success and his contributions are too numerous to name. We send our love and sympathy to Vicky, his friends, and members of his extended family.”
Coffee County’s history is filled with people who have made differences at the local, state, and national levels. Their names adorn buildings, streets, and parks throughout the county. You can’t tell the history of Coffee County without mentioning who they are. The history of this community cannot be told without mentioning their accomplishments. Walter Huckaby is one of those individuals.
He was no local titan of business and industry. He didn’t sit on boards of directors or hold public office. Yet the lessons he bestowed upon the young people he encountered created a generation of leaders who transformed this community from a sleepy little South Georgia town into a rural success story.
To put it succinctly, without Huck, there would be no Coffee County as we know it.
There is no way in this short space to even scratch the surface of what he meant to this community. There are no words to do his legacy justice, to capture the significance of the life he lived in service to others.
Huck loved and served all equally. He cared for the third string right fielder as much as he did the superstar quarterback. And all who came in contact with him were made better for his influence.
There will never be another Walter Huckaby. He will live on through the impact he made in the lives of the people of this community and those lessons will continue to make Coffee County a better place for generations to come.
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