Memoir Review 

Southern Winds
by W. Everett Beal
Writer's Showcase, 2000
ISBN:  0-595-10081-3

Everett Beal looks back at his family history and the events that shaped his life on the border of Florida and Georgia.  And much like the train from which the book takes its title, Southern Winds is a journey of change in the South where sometimes the winds blow calm as a summer breeze and sometimes with the force of a hurricane.   

You could say that the character of a man is built over time by the heritage he possesses.  In America, the Beals, the Bealls, and the Bells descended from a Scot named Ninean Beal who settled in Georgetown.  He donated thirty of his thirty thousand acres to the creation of Washington, D.C.  A direct descendent of Ninean Beal was the inventor of the telephone – Alexander Graham Bell.  From this background as well as the lesson from his gentle parents, Everett Beal was taught to serve humanity and to treat others as you wish to be treated. 

Beal sets the tone of his memoir by capturing the daily life of Valdosta, Georgia in the first half of the 20th Century and how World War II was a turning point for this country and the South.  People worked hard and followed their faith.  The black and white communities had separate schools, churches and communities; but there was an easygoing respect and acceptance of those in each race that treated each other with common decency.   

As a boy, Beal appreciated the joy Black churches expressed during river baptisms.  Often a Black man named James babysat him and his brother.  The love between James and the boys was strong.  It wasn’t uncommon for blacks who became close to a family to take on the names of uncle or aunt.  The relationship was one of trust and kinship.  True, in an era of Jim Crow, there were areas needing social change, but that change was coming at a gentle pace as most things move in the South.   

Beal became a pharmacist and opened his store in Griffin, Georgia.  Drug abuse is not a modern problem, Beal tells anecdotes of how addicts would use uncontrolled substances to get their fix.  He would cut off their supply from his store, only to know they would go elsewhere and would one day see their name in the obituary section.   

Pharmacists were often called “Doc” by the community and treated with respect.  Also, the pharmacists felt a responsibility to their communities.  Beal would often answer calls during the night to fill prescriptions.   Once he saved a black man living across the street from his pharmacy, by breaking in and carrying him out of his burning house.  He treated everyone with the same respect as they treated him. 

The winds across the South became more violent after World War II.  Where there had been a peaceful co-existence between whites and blacks, a tide of unrest was mounting.  The civil rights activists often took a violent twists burning down downtown stores.  Relationships that were civil became testy.   Beal found himself staying in his pharmacy armed overnight to protect it from burners and looters.   This was distressing to his beliefs about humanity.   

Everett Beal relives the experience of many white southerners who appreciate the simple pleasures of a slower paced life and lived peacefully with their black neighbors.  And how that existence became one of distrust during the period of unrest.  Yet, Beal comes back to the lessons of his parents to put it all in perspective – we are all human beings.    

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

© 2001 Southern Scribe, All Rights Reserved