As George Randal Haithcock knew that the end of his life was near, he was reflecting on how he grew up in the Jim Crow South to become a quiet activist for communities that honor diversity.
He taught chess, tutored math, provided environmental education to our increasingly diverse community. When Northeast Creek advocated for property that had been inventoried for rare and unusual plants and animals – Randal discovered that this land had also been owned by black farm families – so that when the schools system bought the property keeping some conservation easements, they also named the school to reflect its heritage.
Randal’s relationship with the Order Ecumenical began sometime in the 60’s when at a youth conference where Joe spoke. There is a Together Magazine from March of 1966 with Joe’s picture in front of 3444 West Congress Pkway. When he was attending Northwestern University in 1968 he lived in the 5th City community on the West Side. In later years he lived in the Atlanta house, Greenbay WI, Rapid CitySD Cannonball ND and back to Atlanta where we both did Town Meetings in Georgia and Alabama.
His first job after graduating from Northwestern was as the Historic Preservation Planner for the South Carolina Appalachian Council of Governments. before his death he pointed me to the documents that he wrote at that job. One document is a survey of historical places and the other is his article published by the local historical society. The article reflects so much of the Order conversation around “story” and also why he dug into (sometimes literally) the story of the new elementary school. I believe, that living on the West side, at a time when the story and identity of 5th City was being formed had a deep impact on his work as an Historical Preservation Planner – and on his last major project which is still in progress of the history of the new elementary school.
Here is a quote from his publication in volume V of the Greenville County Historical Society 1971 – 1975. I believe Randal wrote this article late 1971. Quote from “Role of the Appalachian Council of Governments in Historical Restoration” G.Randal Haithcock.
There once was “a little old mill town” that had at one time before a war been a resort town for summer visitors from other areas. One day the leaders in the town decided that the “little old mill town “ was the Textile Center of the World. They decided, I mean THEYdecided that the “little old mill town” was the Textile Center of the World…..”
This construct seems so familiar, like an lecture for CSI in the Academy! Lord only knows, but Randal wrote this after his time on the West Side where the community was seeking to decide its new Identity as 5th City. The project that Randal was working on to create inclusion of the successful Black Farmers into the history of the new elementary school is still in progress. The native plants that were rescued from before construction are waiting to be planted in the fall. And as a community of Northeast Creek volunteers we are planning the celebration of Randal’s life sometime this Fall.
~~ Coleen Haithcock