Originally created 04/22/01

Leader's portrait stops time



He will go down in history as one of the best we've ever produced.

- State Rep. Tyrone Brooks

It is probably the most famous photograph ever taken in the Georgia Legislature.

The year was 1964.

It was the last day of a session on reapportionment.

The hour was late. Very late.

And the forces of Gov. Carl Sanders appeared to be on the verge of winning the day.

In fact, a Capitol workman had stopped the clock in the chamber so the governor, an Augustan, could address the Assembly and make his points before the clock and the day and the session ran out - a clever act of gubernatorial oblige.

But state Rep. Denmark Groover was having none of that.

The Macon lawmaker, who had seen action in World War II with the famous Black Sheep Squadron, raced to the House balcony, hooked a leg and arm over the railing and reached for the clock to try his own hand at political time management.

He failed.

Mr. Groover's effort pushed the clock off the nail that connected it to the wall and it began to fall.

He grabbed at the cord, he recalled years later, but that, too, slipped from his grasp.

The timepiece plummeted to the floor below, smashing with a noise that startled onlookers, lawmakers and newsmen.

Bob Cohn, a writer for The Augusta Chronicle, took a photograph that showed Mr. Groover stretched horizontally over the balcony rail, reaching for the clock and looking like someone doing an impression of a Michelangelo figure - the Sistine Chapel meets the Three Stooges.

Mr. Cohn, who went on to become a very successful Atlanta public relations executive, displayed an enlarged print of that photograph in his office for years.

Mr. Groover had a copy in his office, too, an office now darkened with his death last week at age 78.

With his passing came a torrent of eulogies. Most people remembered him, it seemed, not for the clock incident, but for his years under the Gold Dome displaying one of the state's sharpest lawmaking intellects.

"He had the keenest legal mind I have ever seen," said Gov. Roy Barnes, himself a lawyer, "and his ability was beyond anything I have witnessed."

He could easily disable the weaker efforts of legislators who crossed his path while crafting legislation of his own that needed little defending.

When he decided to put these considerable talents into a piece of legislation, his colleagues said the bill had been "Grooverized."

And as Ron Woodgeard wrote last week in The Macon Telegraph, when a politician's name becomes a verb form, we may assume he has arrived.

And now he has passed.

But Denmark Groover lives on in the laws he help craft and causes he favored. And he lives on, too, in a photograph taken by an Augusta reporter.

We all know you can't stop time.

But that doesn't mean we don't sometimes try.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 107.