Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Tribute to My Dad, #16

Our family enjoyed a treat this week.  North Greenville University retired my father's basketball jersey yesterday at one of his favorite spots - The Original Stax Restaurant in Greenville.  Dad, Robert “Dag” Wilson, attended and played basketball for NGU from '56-'58 and then Furman from '58-'60.  At North Greenville, his 1957-1958 team finished second in the nation.  North Greenville was then a two-year junior college.  Press Maravich, coach at Clemson at the time and father of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, tried to get Dad to come play at Clemson, but Dad chose Furman instead.  (Dad later would play pick-up-games with a young Pete Maravich when Mom and Dad would visit their friends the Bagwells , neighbors of the Maravich family.  Howard Bagwell would go on to be the Atheletic Director at The Baptist College of Charleston for many years.)  That ended up being a very good choice for him.  At Furman he broke school and conference records as a basketball player, including being named the best player in the state of South Carolina.  The best blessing he received at Furman, though, was meeting and eventually marrying my mother, Marian Hendrix.  Dad and Mom attended Furman the year that they moved to the “new campus,” as my mother has always referred to it.  She says that Dad helped plant a lot of the towering trees that now grace the campus.

When I was a boy in Greenville, I thought Dad was celebrity-status, because so many older men in town would recognize dad - men who had watched him play ball when he was at Furman.  Many times I recall going into restaurants and stores and Dad being greeted by men who recognized him.  Dad played in the first game to be held in the old Greenville Memorial Auditorium.

I well remember the angst my mom and dad went through in the mid-1980's when Furman disassociated herself from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and began moving in a different route.  That severing was a regular topic of conversation at our supper table.  They were grieved that Furman, which had strong biblical-Baptist roots, chose to move away from that heritage.  As I grew into young adulthood, Dad talked less about Furman and more about North Greenville.  He became a regular encourager to Jimmy Epting and the coaches at NGU.  Dad was very proud of their small mountain school sticking with the inerrancy of the Word of God, keeping Jesus Christ central, and staying solidly associated with Southern Baptists.  Of course today, that small mountain school has become a large and thriving private school, training champions for Christ.

North Greenville sponsored a ceremony on Monday for the retiring of the jersey.  Some of Dad’s family and friends attended.  Dr. Epting shared yesterday that once my dad told him, Jimmy, I hope we have a good athletic program.  But just make sure and keep the Bible and Jesus Christ the main thing. 

Of course, Dad was pleased when I fell in love (in seminary) with a beautiful North Greenville graduate!  Tracey and I enjoyed returning to NGU a few weeks ago for her Joyful Sound reunion. 

When I think of Dad and the way he related to many people, I remember the word from Proverbs that says a cheerful heart is good medicine (17:22).  The Bible exhorts us to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today (Hebrews 3:13).  Dad was an encourager to many people, as has been evident by the many people who have communicated to me and mom since his death.  (I recall three or four senior adult men coming to me with tears on their faces after Dad died and all saying, Dag was my best friend.)  I do not think there was ever a night that I spent in the same house with him that he did not tell me before I went to bed, “I love you.”  Those are words of an encourager.

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