Originally created 04/09/06

Augusta's mayor enjoys his job



Augusta's boy king, actor, poet and mayor, Deke Copenhaver, has been like a kid in a candy store the past week, zipping around with the likes of 1976 Masters champion Raymond Floyd and Augusta's own Vaughn Taylor, Charles Howell and Jim Dent.

The mayor, then 8 years old, was at Augusta National Golf Club when Mr. Floyd won the Masters 30 years ago. He was 15 and working at the tournament when he met the golfing great for the first time. On Monday, he was the host of the Mayor's Masters Reception honoring Mr. Floyd and had the time of his life.

Boarding the bus for the Red Carpet Tour on Wednesday morning, someone asked him how he was.

"I'm mayor of Augusta during Masters Week," he replied, as though that was answer enough. And it was.

Mr. Copenhaver said he told his wife, Malisa, there are no guarantees he will be mayor next year, so he planned to enjoy himself this year.

"And I really have," he said.

Golfer John Engler was his guest for the dinner honoring Mr. Floyd.

"How great is that, that Augusta has three people on the PGA?" the mayor asked.

On Friday, Mr. Copenhaver was interviewed by a Canadian radio station for the Roy Green Show, which reaches 3 million people in Canada and the U.S. He said:

"I got to share that the mayor was born in Montreal. I loved the fact I was able to promote Augusta to 3 million people."

ALL-WORK-AND-NO-PLAY JERRY: Most Augusta Commission members have enjoyed walking around the links, except for Jerry Brigham, an accountant who is working against the April 17 tax clock. He went to the course to greet visitors on the Red Carpet Tour, then went back to work. He, Commissioner Joe Bowles and the mayor were the only city officials there, along with state Sen. Ed Tarver, Reps. Ernestine Howard and Quincy Murphy, Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross and Burke County Commission Chairman Jimmy Dixon.

Each official receives two complimentary badges. (It never hurts to keep City Hall and the lawmakers on your side.)

WORKING FOR ANOTHER MASTER: Even Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams took time off from renovating the warehouse on Deans Bridge Road that will be the new home of his church, Friendship Baptist. Renovating the old Atlas Recycling Co., originally the Canada Dry bottling company, is a daunting undertaking. But, Mr. Williams said, people who question the wisdom of the project just don't understand who he's working for.

Besides, he's done so much for so little for so long that he's now qualified to do anything with nothing, he said.

TIGHT SECURITY: The only thing the volunteer guards at the VIP party for the Mayor's Masters Reception last week lacked to be mistaken for Secret Service agents were the ear pieces.

The dozens of similarly dressed men in navy blue sports coats, khaki pants, white shirts and ties guarded the professional golfers to keep the crowd from getting too close.

NEVER LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH: Willie Jones made what he thought was a nice gesture. At a golf clinic last week before a tournament for handicapped golfers, Mr. Jones, who is blind, clasped hands with Charles Howell, a PGA Tour golfer and Augusta native who helped lead the clinic.

"Let me bless you," Mr. Jones said with mock seriousness, "and let me give you - third place" in the Masters Tournament.

"Why not first?" Mr. Howell asked. "They don't give a green jacket for third."

He might take it now. Mr. Howell shot 80-84 on Thursday and Friday to miss the cut.

THE HOUSE OF CARDS HAS A HANDFUL OF JOKERS: James Brown Soul of America Music Festival Chairman Charles Walker Jr. is threatening legal action to force the Godfather to come to Augusta and be honored.

HOW SLOW WAS IT? So slow at City Hall last week that Administrator Fred Russell went rushing to the fire at the Days Inn on Gordon Highway. On the scene, he went to work, retrieving empty oxygen tanks from firefighters and returning them filled. He was a natural for the job, although it's a different kind of hot air than he usually deals with.

"THEY HAD IT COMING TO 'EM": If it's slow around City Hall, it's slow here at City Ink. So I will tell you about a story I wrote 20 years ago when I worked for the Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times. The newspaper reprinted the story March 26 in a special edition called "Back to the Future, Look How Far We've Come," and my old friend former Sheriff G. Robert Carter sent me a copy.

It was about an old man who lived in a 10- by 10-foot shack he'd built himself 40 years before on the edge of a field in south Lowndes County.

It started out: "George Guzey didn't go looking for trouble. He lived alone, grew his vegetables and sold them. Tended to his eight cats and minded his own business. Trouble came looking for Guzey."

Well, old Mr. Guzey, who had only one leg, got tired of being robbed by three men who would catch him away from his shack. They had hit him with a hammer; stuck him with a knife; threatened to beat his brains in; stolen his Social Security check money, his shotgun and his pistol; and had even taken off his wooden leg to search for money.

So, one night when he was awakened by his dog barking and saw them rifling through his truck, he loaded the single-barrel shotgun he had bought from a pawnshop the week before and fired three times through his screen door, killing two of them.

"They had it coming to 'em," the old fellow said. "They really had it coming to 'em."

The coroner's jury must have thought the same thing, because they deliberated about 15 minutes before ruling he was justified when he killed the men.

Mr. Guzey said he didn't remember how he lost his leg but thought he must have fallen under a train when he was hoboing from Pennsylvania to Florida as a young man.

"I've made it on my own ever since," he said.

Now, anybody could write a story like that. All the elements were there. It's the ones you have to fill in the blanks for that are the challenge, like interviewing a woman on her 102nd birthday who couldn't hear it thunder. That takes imagination.

Anyway, I remember going into that little house even Mr. Guzey called a shanty, and feeling sorry for him. The cot took up half the room. But now I understand how happy he must have been. He owned his own home. He lived where it was peaceful and quiet. He was free to putter around with his plants, listen to the birds sing, enjoy his cats.

In addition, I venture to say he's now resting in peace just as comfortably as the richest dead man in Lowndes County.

City Ink thanks Staff Writers Tom Corwin and Greg Gelpi for their contributions to this week's column.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.