By Connie Denney
As you have been reminded many times, it is an election year. Still, allow me to add a reminder to vote tomorrow. As this piece is published on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, some voters will have already taken care of this responsibility, either for convenience or as part of a stay-safe routine in light of the dangers of the COVID-19 virus.
Aug. 6 is the official date of our state/federal primary and county general elections. We know from media outlets and our own personal mailboxes and telephone answering devices that many dollars have been spent on advertising. Certainly, candidates have had to compete for attention! A pandemic that has invaded our daily lives, along with demonstrations in the streets of our country’s cities come to mind.
As folks struggle with fear for their families’ health, uncertainty about whether children will go to school, how bills will be paid without assurance of jobs, stress mounts. Regardless of politics, the need for a brighter day is unanimous. That’s the backdrop for leadership choices.
I re-read a piece recently about one of this community’s early leaders. He knew manual labor. He served in leadership roles in elected office. He is honored today, as the building housing our public library bears his name.
J. Frank Toney Sr.’s granddaughter, Dorothy Toney Fortune, shared his autobiography, a few typed pages stapled together. In late 1937 he wrote about plowing and hoeing corn on Longmire Farm, land “where the principal business of the town is now transacted, also where the courthouse, jail and municipal buildings now stand…” Having been born in 1859, he wrote of his family, business, and public service career ventures and special recognitions.
Among these is the establishment in 1891 of the Erwin Magnet, predecessor of The Erwin Record, and being appointed Colonel by the governor in 1921—a first for someone from Unicoi County. He was also elected to county and state offices. A respectable legacy, indeed.
I want to leave you with a thought from an article written about him upon his death in December 1941, in which he was referred to as a civic leader who saw history of Unicoi County in the making. It further states: “Col. Toney as a political leader never relinquished his reigns as long as health permitted activities in that field. Only a couple of weeks ago, following the Nov. 5 election, he sent an article to the newspaper urging unity of people of the county, regardless of how they voted or whom they supported prior to the election.”
Unity of the people is a goal worth our effort.
Be safe. Stay safe.