Recent days, including today, have been ones for goodbyes in Albany. Each of the farewells go to individuals worthy of an entire “Thumbs Up” column because of the differences each has made in the city and the people touched by their lives.
Pastor Finbarr “Barry” Stanton, an Irishman, arrived in Albany in 1989. As the new parish priest for St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, Stanton faced the challenge of leading a minority of faithful souls in a part of the world totally foreign to him. With the expectation of remaining in the deep South for as few as six years to as many as 12 years, Stanton took on his position as the leader of St. Teresa’s with glory and gusto. Now, 25 years later, the good father has reached the time of his life when he can retire, which will include a move to Savannah. Congregation members that have grown up under his guidance, described by Stanton as “rich, poor, black, white and brown” have an abundance of appreciation for the many years of service Stanton has given so willingly. Church member Liz Dixon said of Stanton, “He has humbly and generously served thousands in Southwest Georgia through some of the happiest and saddest times of our lives. He has served us from cradle to grave and has done so admirably and gently.” While Stanton will certainly be missed, he can easily move on knowing he has been a good and faithful servant.
In the long and storied history of the Albany Police Department, one would be hard pressed to find another officer who overcame the obstacles placed before a black man with the same positive outlook as Washington Long. In 1966, after leaving the Air Force, Long was hired as one of the city’s first black police officers. Twenty years later, he was named the assistant chief of the department. In 1987, Long became Albany’s first black chief of police. At the time of his retirement, Long had 28 years with the department and had broken (and no doubt mended) racial barriers in a city where such barriers were considered the norm. In an interview with The Herald years ago, Chief Long explained his success(es) by simply stating that his philosophy was simply to live by the Golden Rule in every aspect of his life. Long died earlier this month at the age of 86 but his legacy is a strong one and will not soon be forgotten.
While Johnny Seabrooks has no plans to leave Albany, he has now officially retired from the position of athletic director for the Dougherty County School System. Seabrooks coached football and track and field for more than two decades at Monroe and Dougherty High before becoming the athletic director in 2001. He is known to be firm yet a great listener at the same time, both with players and coaches under his watch. Seabrooks has been inducted into four Halls of Fame within Georgia but not one of those special events could touch the retirement ceremony held for the 40-year veteran of the DCSS at Monroe High last week. Among all the plaques, pictures and memorabilia always present in Seabrooks’ office at Hugh Mills Stadium, not one was a picture of the man himself. And so, his retirement gift was a large portrait of himself with the stadium across the bottom, a gesture that brought tears to the big man’s eyes. It seems that Seabrooks was the last to figure out just what an impact he has had in this community over the last four decades. Worry not, however, Seabrooks is not going anywhere and plans to remain available for the student-athletes and coaches for a long time to come.
Aaron Blair is leaving Albany today and his work with downtown redevelopment will continue because of the groundwork he laid and the relationships he developed. Here’s wishing you and your wife all the best in California.
Thumbs up, one and all.