Granddaddy probably really did grow up in a house without a ceiling, a house so cold that “when papa would talk through the hall to the other side of the house his mustache would freeze.” And he was sweet to me the few times I met him; I’m the “pixyish brown-haired great-granddaughter” he tells the reporter about.
But based on the stories I’ve heard, most of the platitudes ascribed to him here — apart from “save something out of every dollar you earn” and “I was always conservative” — are offered for posterity, not from the heart. He was, by all reports, incredibly racist; so it’s hard to know where to begin with lines like these: “I have touched the lives of many, both black and white during this span of years. Because I have done so, it has made me a better person.”
When my mother first met the Newton patriarch, he took the whole family to dinner at a local restaurant — and then he instructed everyone at the table what to order. (This did not sit well. You don’t tell a Texan woman what to do.)
She also claims that my grandpa told her that Granddaddy fairly often sent him get out into fields to pull a plow. While Grandpa was dragging it through the earth, in the sweltering heat, Granddaddy would sit under a tree, drinking lemonade and laughing at him.
Grandpa is in no condition now to confirm or deny this story, and he probably wouldn’t be inclined to talk about it with me anyway. But he does tell everyone in his Nashville assisted living facility that he grew up pulling a plow in the Mississippi Delta.