Oakhurst in Childhood

I grew up in Decatur, Georgia - where the city motto was "A City of Homes, Schools and Churches." Besides my grandfather's pastorate in Thomaston, all of the churches of meaning for me in childhood were in Decatur:
  • Clairemont Hills Baptist, where my boy scout troop met. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany and St. Thomas More Catholic church.
  • Decatur First United Methodist, where I went to "Parent's Morning Out" and then preschool (taught by some mothers of classmates). I still recall the fear when I lost track of time and lost left outside during recess while in the tire swing. I found my way back in and some adults got me back to my teacher. I remember the morning routine of getting dropped off and going inside the preschool, along with the cubbies for our bags.
  • Decatur First Presbyterian, where my great grandfather and great aunts/uncles were longtime members. Our family used to host our holiday gathering in their fellowship hall each year, where my great aunt would ask my dad to MC.
  • North Decatur Presbyterian, a church my grandfather helped to plant and foster, where my dad was in boy scouts. I came here for events with my cousins and grandparents; these days my visits are typically for funerals. Previous pastors knew my college chaplain.
  • Decatur Friends Meeting, my father's spiritual home throughout childhood. I remember the smell of the library, the size of the worship space, the pipe cleaners my dad let us play with to keep quiet, the playground, the giant kudzu patch behind the church, and the culvert up to the parking lot. The Friends Meeting is also where I learned about adopted kids, and that children don't have to look like their parents.
And Oakhurst, my church.

In childhood, Oakhurst was my impression of what all churches were like. Walking into the main doors in the back of the building and up some stairs, you'd reach a large foyer with the fellowship hall to the left, as well as a staircase (reached by ascending three other steps). Walking straight ahead, and up a few stairs, you'd be below the sanctuary, with various sunday school or extended session classrooms and the choir room, where I did Children's Choir all through elementary school. I learned patience standing on those risers, and managed to memorize enough lines and music to pay Saint Francis in a church musical. There was a playground at the side of the church that I don't recall much about.

On the second floor, you'd enter the building on a "bridge" over the light well, go up some stairs, then down two stairs, and you'd be in the floor of the church offices and library - with doors to get into the back of the sanctuary or a staircase after three steps up.

I mention all of this to say, it wasn't very handicap accessible, and it was good to build a new secondary building in my youth.

I remember sitting on the floor, facing backward onto the pew, playing with quiet toys during services, then being dismissed to extended session. The first year I "aged out" of extended session, I remember consciously wanting to act like an adult and stop playing with toys. I therefore taught myself how to wink in church over several Sundays.

I remember going to youth sunday school after the new building was completed, in the basement, and learning about the historical bible, which fascinated me - especially the idea of the "Q" book that textual analysis tells us acted as an ancestor to Matthew and Luke, alongside Mark.

I remember Monday Night Youth Group, which met in the homes of young adults in the Atlanta area. I am so grateful to those adults for providing us guidance and role modeling what kind of people we could grow into being.

And then, I remember learning about Okahurst's history. It turned out that Oakhurst was special, because most churches in the south didn't stick around when the neighborhood changed, and Oakhurst had been almost entirely black for decades. Most churches didn't have black and white members worshipping together. This history is chronicled in The Turning Point, a film about Oakhurst's choice to remain in Decatur as white flight rapidly changed the composition of the neighborhood.

Most churches didn't have someone like Jim Brooks to bless the babies (see 0:47 here) or folks like Annie Harper, who brought her beloved daughter Ernestine most Sundays. Oakhurst helped me meet folks with all sorts of disabilities and learn about their lives as we welcomed them (and still welcome them).

Most churches don't turn away a child seeking to be baptized because they don't think the child understands the decision he's making. Oakhurst did. Oakhurst sought and drew out that questioning - pulling on me to understand what I thought about the world. Oakhurst helped me to discern that my baptism in the Presbyterian Church mattered, though I don't think its the best spiritual practice.

I have been to Orthodox, Catholic, American Anglican,  Congregationalist, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Calvanist, Quaker, LDS, Lutheran, Pentacostal, UCC, and Unitarian churches, but after all of that listening, I am and will always be a Child of Oakhurst, so grateful to those who came before and showed me the way.

Roy Moore Accusers and Evidence: A Comprehensive Summary

Here is the evidence and background of the various allegations against Roy Moore. There are at least nine women on record who dealt with him and at least nine other specific sources who spoke on the record about him and his reputation.

Women that allege Roy Moore assaulted them

Leigh Corfman alleged Moore sexually assaulted her as a 14 year old. Roy Moore denies ever knowing her and says everything from her is fabricated. Two childhood friends including Betsy Davis confirmed that she talked to them about Moore. Her mother confirms she talked about Moore's assault in the 1990s as Moore became more known, and that she and Leigh met Moore in a courthouse when he offered to watch her during a custody hearing. Her ex confirmed she discussed Moore in 2009. It is absolutely clear from these four additional witnesses that Moore did know her (showing he lied) and that she's been talking about the assault for decades with her family and friends. Other reporters from conservative outlets have confirmed her account and that she didn't approach the media - she was approached, along with the other three women from the initial story. She said in a live interview that she was not compensated in any way for her story and that she didn't come forward before because her children were worried about being ostracized. She is a Republican who voted for Donald Trump.

Beverly Young Nelson approached Gloria Allred after the first four women came forward and alleged in a detailed statement at a news conference that she met Moore at 15 while waiting tables at old Hickory House  in Gadsden, Alabama. She said he flirted and after she turned 16, signed her yearbook “Merry Christmas” and “Love, Roy Moore, D.A." She further said he sexually assaulted her in his car one evening and when she didn't go along, said "You are a child. I am the district attorney of Etowah County. If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you." Moore denied ever knowing Nelson and alleged the yearbook is a forgery. However, Nelson claimed she told her sister and mother about the event within a few years, which Allred confirmed. She also told her husband before marrying him, and he was at the news conference. She was attacked by Moore's lawyer as biased because Moore heard her divorce case, but this was untrue: another judge dealt with the case and there was no hearing as the couple reconciled, though Moore's stamped signature appears on one form. Moore supporters also alleged the restaurant wasn't open at the time, but this was proven via an old city directory. She and her husband supported and voted for Donald Trump.

Tina Johnson
 alleged that Moore complimented her looks multiple times and sat within close proximity to her in a meeting with him in 1991 to review a custody petition. After the meeting, she alleges Moore groped her buttocks ("He didn't pinch it; he grabbed it"). She has done further interviews, including one with Megyn Kelly. Moore hasn't responded to this allegation beyond a general denial: "If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you. If you are a conservative and love Judge Moore, you know these allegations are a political farce.” Johnson has pled guilty to writing bad checks and theft of property. However, her sister confirmed that Johnson told her about being uncomfortable years ago and the court documents bear Moore's signature. She is not political but is a devout Christian who attends church regularly in Gadsden.

Gena Richardson alleged Moore approached her at the Gadsden Mall in 1977, just before or after her 18th birthday, when he was 30, and asked for her phone number, which she declined to provide. She says he then called her school ("What are you doing?" "I'm in trig class.") and asked her out again on the call, then again at Sears. She says she relented and went on a date that ended with an unwanted kiss with "very forceful tongue." Moore has not responded to this allegation beyond a general denial: "If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you. If you are a conservative and love Judge Moore, you know these allegations are a political farce.” However, her childhood colleague Kayla McLaughlin confirmed that she saw Moore "visit" with Gena repeatedly. Richardson is a Republican who did not vote in the 2016 election.

Women that allege Roy Moore was interested in them or dated them as teenagers

Gloria Thacker Deason alleged that Moore approached her when working at Pizitz in the Gadsden Mall when she was 18 and that they dated for a few months, but didn't go beyond kissing or hugging. She also said that Moore bought her alcohol when she was underage. Moore confirmed knowing her and her family, recalling her as a "good girl," and did not contradict her account about dates. However, he stated that purchasing alcohol would have been impossible because the county was dry, but this is a proven lie with evidence: the county allowed alcohol sales 7 years earlier, Gadsden’s municipal code permits liquor sales and the press confirmed alcohol was for sale at the pizzeria where she recalls Moore ordering bottles of rosé for their table.

Debbie Wesson Gibson told The Washington Post that she was 17 years old when she met Moore after he spoke to her high school civics class and that Moore asked her out on several dates “that did not progress beyond kissing." Moore confirmed knowing her and her family, recalling her as a "good girl," and did not contradict her, but said he could not remember specific dates with her or speaking to her in a civics class. She was attacked because she provided sign language translation for Hillary Clinton and other democrats, but Moore hasn't denied her account.

Wendy Miller alleged that Moore approached her in the Gadsden Mall at a photo booth at the age of 14, told her that she "looked pretty," and that he asked her out on dates when she was 16, which her mother forbade because of her age. Her mother confirmed the account, saying she told Moore: “Let’s not rob the cradle." Moore has not commented on this allegation beyonds saying to Sean Hannity, when asked if he recalled asking our teenagers, "Not generally, no. If did, you know, I'm not going to dispute anything but I don't remember anything like that." He also said "I have never dated or engaged in any inappropriate conduct with an underage girl."

Becky Gray alleged that Moore asked her our repeatedly at Gadsden Mall when she was 22, despite her repeatedly turning him down, and continued to hang out in her section in Pizitz. She said she complained to her manager, who said others had complained then came back later and said he was banned from the mall. (Note: Barnes Boyle, who managed the mall four years later, does not remember Moore being banned.) She also said she told the story many times over the years with coworkers and family members. Moore has not responded to this allegation beyond a general denial: "If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you. If you are a conservative and love Judge Moore, you know these allegations are a political farce.” His attorney also stated his name never appeared on the mall "ban list." She is a Democrat.

Kelly Harrison Thorp alleged that she was 17 and working as a hostess at Red Lobster when Roy Moore asked her out. She says she asked him "Do you know how old I am?" and that he responded "Yeah. I go out with girls your age all the time." She turned him down and later told a family member. She lives in Gadsden and knows and believes Leigh Corfman.

Separate Corroborating Witnesses and Commentary

Delores Abney said that Moore talked to women in high school in an exercise class in the YMCA gym, and that it didn't look "appropriate."

Glenn Day managed two stores in the Gadsdan mall and said that Mr. Moore had a strong reputation for approaching young women. He's amazed that its a surprise to people. “I can’t believe there’s such an outcry now,” Mr. Day said, “about something everybody knew.”

Faye Gary was a Gadsden police officer for 37 years. She said that Moore’s reputation for pursuing underage girls was widely known throughout the community. She also said the department never received a formal complaint about him. “It was a known fact: Roy Moore liked young girls. It was treated like a joke. That’s just the way it was.”

Greg Legat was an employee at the Record Bar in the Gadsden Mall; he recalled police officer J. D. Thomas telling him "If you see Roy, let me know. He’s banned from the mall" and his boss Eddie Hill also telling him to look for Moore. Thomas refused to comment when reached for corroboration.

Teresa Jones said that Moore's "propensity" for teenage girls was common knowledge when she was a fellow deputy DA in Gadsden. She said “It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls. Everyone we knew thought it was weird.”

Jason Nelms said that a concession worker at the Gadsden Mall movie theater told him that the managers were worried about Roy Moore trying to pick up younger girls outside the theater.

Janet Reeves worked at the mall in 1978 at a variety of jobs as a teenager. She said "We knew, that Roy was, we considered him as teenagers the creepy old man that roamed the mall, trying to talk to the young girls.” She said he asked a friend of hers out who was 17 or 18.

Kathleen Sisson is a retired teacher in Gadsden. She said that she's known for years about Leigh Corfman's account.

Patti Spradlin grew up in Gadsden with Leigh Corfman. She said, "Everyone knew there was something to avoid [with Moore] that was creepy and icky and it was something that my friends didn't want anything to do with." She also said she has known since childhood that something happened between Corfman and Moore.

Phyllis Smith alleged that teenage girls working at Brooks in the Gadsden Mall counseled each other to “just make yourself scarce when Roy’s in here, he’s just here to bother you, don’t pay attention to him and he’ll go away." “I can remember him walking in and the whole mood would change with us girls. It would be like we were on guard. I would find something else to do. I remember being creeped out.” She was never approached personally by Moore.

Kathleen Warren shared office space with Roy Moore in 1984. She said she heard gossip about him and young women.

Kyle Whitmire stated on CNN that there have been rumors over the years, which the press was unable to confirm or report.

Two sources from Luther Strange's primary campaign said the campaign heard that Roy Moore "liked to chase women around the courthouse," but was unable to confirm the rumors with names.

Two unnamed police officers said that they heard stories about Moore and the small. One said, "The general knowledge at the time when I moved here was that this guy is a lawyer cruising the mall for high-school dates....I was told by a girl who worked at the mall that he’d been run off from there, from a number of stores. Maybe not legally banned, but run off.” Another said “A friend of mine told me he was banned from there."

Homecoming Reflections

I don't get back to Decatur much at this point in my life. I see family regularly at least three times / year, but two of those gatherings are not in my hometown. My adulthood's regular rhythm is in those visits, along with trips to Massachusetts twice a year for board meetings.

So coming back this weekend, for a homecoming game and to manage a few other errands, has been really neat. My high school classmates are army captains, practicing physician assistants on 12 hours shifts, PhD students, engineers creating car parts, successful artists, practicing lawyers, full time parents, shift workers, elementary school teachers, and so much more. Some have passed away, as well, and however much technology is irrevocably changing our society, I am thankful for these binding ties - especially for these people who came up with me through elementary, middle, and high school. There are only so many old friends like this that we get.

The band plays the same stand music, but in new stands over a field that looks different on every side now compared to my graduation over a decade ago. The student body is much larger - and growing - thanks to Decatur's success. But, some people - my middle school gym coach, the media clerk that's known me since preschool, the yearbook teacher - continue to enrich the lives of students and continuously build anew the community that birthed me. I look forward to the rest of the weekend's events.

It's in these places - the small communities where we all know each other, where reputations are built slowly and stories are told for decades - that we create the social bonds that nourish lives. I'm not a natural "social bonder" - so I'm so so so grateful to those that are - that have willed Decatur into the place it was and is, and who live out these secularly sacred words:
I pledge to be an active American
to show up for others
to govern my self
to help govern my community
I recommit myself to my country’s creed
to cherish liberty
as a responsibility
I pledge to serve
and to push my country:
when right, to be kept right;
when wrong, to be set right
Wherever my ancestors and I were born,
I claim America
and I pledge to live like a citizen
Oh and also - the Bulldogs won the game.

Memories of My Grandparents

All of my grandparents have passed, and I don't know if I've ever recorded memories of them in writing. I was reminded to finish this piece by my aunt's Mother's Day post.


This weekend, I made a trip to western Massachusetts, where I had a board meeting at my alma mater for a fund I help to oversee. That visit was lovely and normal.

The trip there and back was extraordinary. It's been busy at work, but without any planning, I was able get there and back easily, driving past beautiful countryside in NY and PA, on well-maintained roads (so smooth I didn't realize how fast I was going at some point), and with a thousand choices about where to stop.

I had freedom. I have freedom.

It might sound normal, but in so many countries around the world, its not normal, whether because of dictators regulating travel or lack of resources or corruption that diverts those resources from public roads. That freedom is my Right, and everyone's right, but its not a broad experience across humanity and I will always be thankful for it.

Outside Media, Outside Spending

I am a Georgian, and I don't like how long its been since I lived full-time in my home state. I subscribe to and read the news from my hometown (Decatur just agreed to buy a lot of land from a historic children's home and got named as a "good suburb" by some website), and keep up with friends in Atlanta who have seen multiple interstate disruptions in the past few weeks. I see high school classmates when I do get back, and I treasure the wonderful upbringing I had, flavored by places all across Georgia: Savannah, Jekyll, Cumberland, Rome, Athens, Valdosta, Columbus, Warner Robins, Augusta, Amicalola Falls, and the main trails in North Georgia maintains by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club.

I say all this because despite my residency in DC for this tour inside the government, I feel much more like a Georgian than a "District of Columbian" or whatever the right term is, and the amount of outside spending and interference in the 6th district astounded me from afar, while the press coverage all seemed focused on the horserace and not the real, substantive issues that matter for the people voting. I heard of buses chartered and plane tickets bought so people could fly in and canvass, and the amount of paid media has apparently been choking mailboxes for weeks, while robocalls have swamped phone lines.

Ugh. I accept that "ground game" matters in politics, but persuasion should matter so much more - which is why volunteer phone calls and canvassing are the best form of political work. But so often, the "scripts" for volunteers treat the political landscape like its fixed or frozen, instead of being responsive to people as they read the news and keep up with events. When things are so nuts that a Georgian from outside the 6th district (native of the 4th here), living in DC, starts feeling a little resentful of all of the outside nonsense, you know its bad. The national press seemed so interested in a certain narrative that they turned a 30-year-old never-candidate into the effective incumbent.

Anyways, I think there's work we can all do, wherever we are, to support and oppose important policies. Let's let the Georgia Sixth make its own decisions, please.