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Excerpts

Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

More of the saga.

Today’s item is a reflection on several of its predecessors from across the last four decades.

Three years after I began writing Excerpts, driving along Route 200 into Kilmarnock one day, I concocted the idea of naming the highway after Jessie Ball duPont.

I never met Mrs. duPont, but all my life I had heard of people whom she had helped, particularly by sending them to college, and of all the many organizations, churches and individuals who had benefited from her generosity. I recall one of the first residents in the new Lancashire Nursing Home in Kilmarnock being there as her “guest.” That lady outlived Mrs. duPont, but her charity prevailed until she died.

That initial thought I developed into an Excerpts. The day it appeared in the Rappahannock Record, I received a call from the late H. R. “Peck” Humphreys, the former mayor of Kilmarnock and chairman of the Lancaster County Board of Supervisors, who then was serving on the Commonwealth Transportation Board. He told me that he had been one of Mrs. duPont’s scholarship recipients and that he was enthusiastic about the idea of naming the highway in her honor.

I asked him if the legislature had to approve it, and he said the transportation board could proceed independently. Less than a month later the signs were up denoting Route 200 as the Jessie Ball duPont Memorial Highway. The only glitch has been that VDOT refuses to spell her surname correctly. Perhaps future more enlightened leadership will rectify the error.

***

In 1978, I had dinner at the International Club in Washington with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, then serving as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia. He was a bishop of the Methodist Church, small in stature, but a towering figure intellectually and a complete gentleman.

I recall him recommending the chicken livers on the buffet, which he found to be quite tasty. He told me that he wanted his country to be like ours. His love of America was unbounded, dating from his days as a seminary student in Missouri.

The following year, his government was overthrown and he spent most of the rest of his life under house arrest. When he died in 2010, I decided to write an item about my dinner with him. When I finished, I told my Good Wife that no one reading the column ever would have heard of him.

I was wrong. The day the paper appeared I received a call from my friend, the Reverend Larry Adams, the former pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church in Lively. Indeed, Larry knew about him, for he had interned under him for a year during his own seminary training. Thereafter, Bishop Muzorewa often figured in our conversations.

***

During my junior year in high school, Admiral Hyman Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy, came to address the student body. The time was at the height of the Cold War and the admiral was perhaps the most widely known figure in the American military establishment.

I vividly remembered his speech, although I was not going to pursue a science career, opting for the excitement of history instead. Ten years later, when I was a graduate student, one evening I was waiting for the light to change at an intersection in Washington, and he was standing next to me. I knew he was a very direct person, nevertheless, I spoke to him, and asked if I could walk along with him. His response was, “If you can keep up.” We chatted as we walked and I told him that I remembered his speech at our school, but I was pursuing a degree in history, to which he replied, “We need that too.”

I saw him on other occasions, for much briefer passages. When he died in 1986, I wrote an Excerpts about walking with Admiral Rickover. Two years later I was seated at a dinner in Washington next to his widow, Eleonore.

I told her about my experiences with her husband on those few short occasions and about the column, a copy of which I sent her. That began a long friendship that lasted until her death at 91 in 2021, and it included her witnessing my Good Wife and me committing matrimony. She kindly told me that the column captured the real admiral.

Lastly, my gratitude to the publishers, the editors, staff and the many readers who have recognized the milestone of 40 years writing Excerpts. I am honored by your kind remarks.

What is past is prologue. On to next week.

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