Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

A pilgrim's progress continues

  • Follow Metro

Celebrate what you want to see more of.

Video: Kirby's Augusta
Loading the player...

– Tom Peters

What a night it was Tuesday! There was a cake with candles. There was poetry.

There was singing. There was a jacket presentation just like at the Masters Tournament.

There were hugs and handshakes. And food from Villa Europa.

There was a room full of people celebrating both south Augusta’s Pride and Progress and Jimmy Smith, the man who started all this 20 years ago.

I was just glad to be there.

When Jeff Padgett called a few weeks ago and asked whether I could take part in this two-decade celebration of one of Augusta’s best civic efforts, I said, “Sure … do I get to make fun of Jimmy?”

I worked very hard at the latter, searching our newspaper photo files for the oldest, least-flattering picture I could find.

This wasn’t easy, because Jimmy used to be such a handsome man.

Finally, I went with a 1973 studio shot that featured a wide-lapeled, checked sports coat from the Bob Smith weatherman collection. Wish it had been in color.

I blew it up big and taped a copy of it to the lectern for my part of the program, and then told some old stories.

But I didn’t tell all my south Augusta stories. Like that summer day in 1978 when Regency Mall opened and we all stood around watching its owners – the DeBartolo family – as though they were movie stars.

Or the time I played Santa Claus during Regency’s first Christmas and kept sending my elf assistant to J.B. White’s to get salesgirls to come by and sit on my lap. (I have pictures.)

I didn’t tell them because the audience was a high-class crowd including former Sheriff Charlie Webster, former Commissioner Don Grantham and current Commissioner Grady Smith.

Decorum prevailed.

For his part, Jimmy thanked everyone for 20 years of support for Pride and Progress – an organization that championed south Augusta when others would not.

And the group thanked him back. That’s why we had a birthday cake with 20 flaming candles. (Jeff blew them out after we all sang Happy Birthday to You.)

Jeff also read a poem he’d written for the occasion with special praise to Lt. Col. Jan Zimmerman of the Youth Challenge Academy – a project that Pride and Progress has long supported.

Jimmy got a monogrammed jacket as a token for esteem, and everyone seemed to go home happy.

If you would like to help support south Augusta, the next Pride and Progress meeting is Feb. 28 at the University Hospital complex at 3121 Peach Orchard Road.

There probably won’t be cake, but I’m sure the same fine people will be there.

They have been for 20 years.


Search Augusta jobs