Gov. Roy Barnes and three former Georgia governors came Wednesday to bury former state Sen. Thomas F. Allgood Sr. and his wife, Thelma Louise "T" Ray Allgood. They were joined at First Baptist Church of Augusta by hundreds, prominent and not-so-prominent, who had been touched by the Allgoods.
As in life, they were together in death.
"You cannot speak of one unless you speak of the other because they were truly a marriage that knit them into one person," Mr. Barnes said. "We shall all miss them greatly. They were taken from us suddenly, and before we were ready, before we said goodbye and thanked them both for all of the things they have done for us over the years."
Mr. Allgood, 71, Mrs. Allgood, 61, and pilot Stephen Ray Patterson, 53, were killed Friday during takeoff from Daniel Field.
"I was afraid last Friday I had lost that precious love of theirs that had touched me and my family," said Dr. Thomas Shores, their pastor at Woodlawn United Methodist Church. "But love such as theirs is never lost. It is never lost."
Mr. Allgood was a former state senator and Senate majority leader who was serving on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Mrs. Allgood was a former nurse and owned and operated several nursing homes. About 50 of her current and former workers packed the pews of the church in her memory, said Fay Cupstid, who worked with Mrs. Allgood for 25 years and helped her start her first nursing home in 1980.
"They just had friends in all walks of life," Ms. Cupstid said. "They were just kind of special people."
Former governors Carl Sanders, Joe Frank Harris and Zell Miller, now a U.S. senator, were among the many dignitaries who attended.
"I thought of the many times I landed at Daniel or Bush Field and (Tom) and T were there to meet me and take me back. And how generously he gave of his time and his money and his influence," Mr. Miller said after the service. "It's a tremendous loss to Richmond County and the state of Georgia, and it's a great personal loss to me and Shirley (his wife)."
The dignitaries were testimony to the couple's impact, said Regent Donald Leebern Jr., a close friend of the Allgoods.
"Four governors, that says something in and of itself," Mr. Leebern said.
The Regents altered their schedule to attend, as did Chancellor Stephen Portch.
If there ends up being a permanent memorial to Mr. Allgood, "it wouldn't surprise me," Dr. Portch said. "It's premature to be thinking or talking" about it. Mr. Allgood also served as chairman of MCG Health Inc., a new operating company for Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics, which he spent countless hours shaping. The board will hold its monthly meeting next week as scheduled, Dr. Portch said.
"That's exactly what Tom would have wanted," he said.
Mr. Allgood had practiced law in Augusta since 1953, and that is how Mr. Barnes first met him and best remembers him.
"Lawyers are the advocates for the helpless, the leverage for the weak," Mr. Barnes said. "And our system of laws and, yes, even lawyers is what sets us apart from all other nations on the face of the Earth. Tom Allgood understood this principle more than anyone else I ever met. He was one of the toughest lawyers I have ever seen. Tom Allgood was a lawyer's lawyer.
"He was a tough negotiator, he was a tough guy but he had a heart of gold, one who would extend a hand out to anyone that would ask for it."
Through their tears, mourners remembered the Allgoods for their wit and humor.
Mr. Allgood traveled extensively on business, and Mrs. Allgood sometimes came alone to church, Dr. Shores said. And when he would visit the couple, Mr. Allgood would always apologize first about his absences.
"He would say, `I'm sorry, I wish I was there more often in church, but I'm sending my representative,'" Dr. Shores said. A few months ago, while visiting the couple, it came up again.
"Tom said, `You know, I want to be there at Woodlawn more often than I am, but I'm sending my representative.' And T just kind of looked over at him in the way that T could look and she said, `Buster, you sure are going to be in a fix if you find yourself in Heaven one day without your representative to introduce you.'"
They were buried together in Westover Memorial Park.
"They both believed the greatest blessing any of us has is each other," Dr. Shores said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or email@example.com.