With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the gangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing: Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside let freedom ring!
--Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his I Have a Dream speech, August 28, 1963
My grandfather John Thomas Jefferson (Tom) Yates was a baptist preacher and the community blacksmith, renown in the community for his physical and moral strength. His Brother William Arthur Yates was also a preacher and a very physically strong fellow.
The stories passed around when I was a child of their physical and moral strength were always amazing to me. It was told often that either man in his prime could have easily lifted an automobile engine out of an automobile with their bare hands.
The story that amazed me the most as a child was the time they were cutting timber at Bucks Pocket. They had been working hard all day cutting trees, pruning off the branches and using their mules to snake the trees out of the holler. Close to the end of the day their mules gave out but they still had a log to snake out. Instead of pushing their mules any more my Grandfather Tom and his brother harnessed up themselves and pulled the last log out using their own strength.
By the time I was old enough to remember my Grandfather he had become feeble because of old age and diabetes. But even in his weaken state I still thought he was God, an honest mistake for a six year old. I thought that because he would sit in his big chair and give orders, people would jump at his bidding. He fit the picture I had of God at the time so it seemed a logical conclusion. His no nonsense call it like you see it preaching always made you feel like the fires of hell were going to consume your sinful life.
Even though I may have painted a gruff picture of my grandfather there was never any doubt in me that he loved me and would have done what needed to be done to protect me. My grandfather was a good and honorable man who raised a large family of honorable and God fearing people, no easy task by itself.