The older kids told us it was an orange soda, but something didn’t look quite right. The drink looked more like Mello Yello. It’s tough when you’re 6 years old in a neighborhood tempted by the older boys.
As I stood side-by-side with my 6-year-old friends Joe Murrah and Andy Hamrick, the older kids tried their best to make us take a sip of what they called “Fanta Orange.” Thankfully, the oldest boy in the group stepped forward and saved our taste buds.
“Y’all don’t need to make them drink that,” said the oldest boy as he lectured his peers.
Then he said to my friends and me, “That’s not a Fanta Orange in the bottle.”
Suddenly, we had been rescued. Little did we know that this 11-year-old boy who stood up against his peers and saved us from the Fanta bottle would be laying the groundwork for his future career.
And so began my friendship with Judge Bill Hamrick.
Our houses were only a few yards from each other in the Chapel Heights neighborhood. Bill was the oldest of four boys in his household. When his family moved across town, our neighborhood didn’t just lose the Hamrick family — we lost four members of our neighborhood ball team. In other words, the Hamrick boys had been traded to the Sunset Hills team.
And so began our new rivalry.
Our Chapel Heights team would meet the Hamrick boys and the rest of the Sunset Hills squad at the West Georgia College track to play football in the fall and tennis ball (which is baseball played with a tennis ball) in the spring and summer. There was no adult supervision. We made up all the rules. “It never failed that with each game a close call would usually lead to both teams arguing,” said my Chapel Heights teammate Sam Haney. “As voices and tempers elevated, the one person who always ‘calmed the storm’ was Bill Hamrick.”
He never raised his voice.
Besides, most of us never knew what he sounded like because he rarely talked. But when he did — he always had a way of cutting through the arguments.
That’s just who he was. That’s still who he is.
“He’s doesn’t just enforce the rules,” said his friend, Mark Parkman. “He follows them. For example, he’s the only person I know who always keeps both hands on the steering wheel at the 2 and 10 o’clock positions that we learned in our high school driver’s education class.”
By no means is Bill Hamrick perfect. Keep in mind he has a degree from Auburn.
When I heard that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal appointed Bill to a Superior Court judgeship a few weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised. Judge Bill may have learned many of his skills while in law school and for the past 12 years he served in the Georgia Senate, but his excellent judicial traits and talents were revealed to me as a child.
Besides, he’s the reason I never took a sip of that Fanta Orange.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at email@example.com