For as long as I’ve lived in Calhoun County, I’ve lived in Bruce – Supervisor District Three, but Howard Morgan, of Vardaman has always been my supervisor.
I’ve been covering the board of supervisors for more than a decade. During that time I’ve mostly sat directly behind Howard. I can still see him leaning back in his chair to whisper something to me, or often he wasn’t so subtle. He’d wheel around in the chair, look me in the eyes and ask “what do you think?” or more often than not, want to share the story that just popped into his head.
Anything could spark Howard’s incredible memory and he would instantly have a story, extremely detailed, from 40 or 50 years ago. My late father-in-law Gale Denley is the only other person I’ve ever known with such a deep well of interesting stories that could be tapped at any second.
Howard’s stories were most often humorous. That’s what we did together more than anything – laugh.
He was the king of the recess. Anytime an issue came up in a board meeting that appeared to have a chance of lingering a while, Howard would throw out a motion for a brief recess faster than Roy Rogers could pull a six-shooter.
Out we would go to the benches just outside the board room, each with a cup of coffee in hand, Howard also with a cigarette bouncing on his lips as he delved into another story.
We’d talk about his grandkids, farming, and lots of sports. Brett Favre was Howard’s “man.”
Monday board meetings during football season would invariably begin with, “What’d you think about our man yesterday?”
His other passion was eating – primarily trying to figure out when he could get a free meal, preferably a “good steak.” We did a little wagering from time-to-time on ball games with the bet always being who would buy lunch. When I would win Howard’s lunch offer would typically be the extra can of “viennas” he had in the truck.
We didn’t always agree politically. Truth be told, I may have disagreed with Howard more than any other supervisor through the years on many important decisions. That may be why he became such a good friend. It just gave us that much more to talk about.
Earlier this year the renovations to the courthouse forced the supervisors to move their meetings across the Pittsboro Square to the CEDA building. I walked in for the first meeting in the new location and there was Howard, already with a cup of coffee and a hand in the just opened box of donut holes.
“Here’s your new seat right here,” Howard said as he pushed a chair out for me next to him at the table.
Howard died last week late on Christmas Eve after the traditional family gathering at his cabin. While he experienced some major health problems earlier in the year, he appeared to be feeling a good bit better and his death came as a shock.
Thursday morning is the next meeting of the board of supervisors. I’ll be the first to admit I’m dreading it. I can’t imagine sitting down at that table without a good story from Howard to start the meeting.
Life will go on. County business will go forward. Someone else will eventually slide into that position. But I’ll never attend a board meeting without thinking of Howard. He was a great friend. He was my supervisor.
You may email Joel McNeece at firstname.lastname@example.org