Column: What to learn from Doug Barnard’s life, and how to honor it

The Augusta Chronicle and the funeral service for Doug Barnard have highlighted, so very well, many aspects of Congressman Doug Barnard’s remarkable life: his military service in World War II, his successful banking career, his service as executive secretary to Gov. Carl Sanders, his highly influential 16 years as a member of the United States Congress, his service on 13 nonprofit boards, his lifelong commitment to the First Baptist Church and his mentorship of many.

 

However, two of Doug’s significant accomplishments deserve special attention.

Doug played a major role in the creation of the Community Foundation for the CSRA.

In 1996 a meeting of historic importance took place in Augusta. Doug met with two public-spirited citizens, Charlie Bellmann and Randy Kohl. Randy suggested that Augusta should create a Community Foundation and explained what it could accomplish. Doug and Charlie readily agreed. Selected as the very first board chairman, Doug led a talented board as it created an upward momentum that continues to this day.

 

Starting from a modest start – $126,000 raised the first year – the Community Foundation has blossomed. Today the corpus of the foundation exceeds $75.8 million. In 2017 more than $8.5 million in grants were dispersed to deserving nonprofits.

The two presidents of the foundation, Lee Smith and Shell Berry, celebrate the many contributions that Doug made for more than two decades.

Another area where Doug Barnard made a lasting impact on our community is the Augusta Warrior Project.

Encouraged by Laurie Ott and Jim Hull, Doug threw his full support into this effort. Initially called the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project, it is now called The Augusta Warrior Project. As a board member Doug was a super-supporter who provided numerous important contacts. He rolled up his sleeves and provided help early and often.

Under the current leadership of its president and CEO, Kim Elle, the Augusta Warrior Project has become the model organization for robust community support for local veterans.

 

Let’s turn our attention to an award that Doug received in 2012.

The Jimmie Dyess Symposium was created in 2011. It has many goals. The two most important are: 1. To preserve and enhance the legacy of Augusta’s hero in war and peace, Marine Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess; 2. To recognize citizens with a connection to the CSRA who have devoted their lives to the support of worthy causes.

These individuals are presented the Symposium’s Distinguished American Award. Although there were many strong candidates to be the very first person from the CSRA to receive this award, Doug was selected and presented the award in 2012.

 

Now for a story about Doug that defines his character.

This story, told at the Dyess Symposium, highlighted an event that took place soon after Doug entered the world of banking here in Augusta. Doug would move on to a distinguished career in banking, but at this time, soon after World War II, he was learning the job as a young bank teller.

A tall, well-dressed man approached Doug to cash a check for $80 – quite a large amount in the 1940s. Doug gave the man the $80 in cash, but had a suspicion that something was not right about this man. He called to the back office (this was long before the days of computers in banks), and found out that this man had no connection with the bank and was probably a scam artist.

Acting quickly, Doug ran out into the street, grabbed the man and forced him back into the bank. Please remember, Doug was a small man (five feet seven and 140 pounds) and he took on a much bigger man. But, by golly, no one was going to steal money from Doug’s bank. This man’s illegal activities ended that day.

 

Can Doug Barnard be a role model for us? Absolutely. You can follow the example Doug set in the last 25 years of his life: Contribute your time, talent and treasure to worthy causes.

How can you learn more about Doug and help preserve his legacy? Here are two suggestions.

Read the new book, In Their Own Words: Augusta and Aiken Area Veterans Remember World War II. Be sure to read his humorous story on page 122 of a trip he took from Chartres to Paris while the war was still underway. To get a copies call Fred Gehle at 706 738 8242. The cost is $25: all of the proceeds go to the Augusta Richmond County Historical Society.

Perhaps the best way to help preserve his legacy is by making a contribution in Doug’s name to the Augusta Warrior Project, 701 Greene St., Augusta, Ga., 30901. At the request of his family, I sent in my check last week.

 

Major General Perry Smith, US Air Force (ret.) serves of the board of the Augusta Museum of History. His website is genpsmith.com.

 

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