Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 4, 2006


Fig tree grower touching the clay of young lives

in a wonderful way


      In the category of “the unexpected,” this week I received by email a picture of a fig tree. That is a “first” in my life. The sender was my friend Ed Williams. The healthy tree thrives “like crazy” in his backyard on Cedar Brook Drive in Auburn.

          Ed is one of the reasons Auburn University is such a great school. Ed touches lives. He helps young people find their way. That is what he lives for. To pay the bills he serves as a professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism

          Since 1985 Ed has been the beloved and effective faculty adviser for The Auburn Plainsman, the student newspaper recognized nationally for its excellence. Among other major college newspapers, only The Daily Texan (University of Texas) has received more Pacemaker Awards than the Plainsman.  The Pacemaker Award is the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.

          Like legendary James Foy, Ed makes Auburn people thankful for the University of Alabama. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Capstone.

          Ed’s personal home page on the Internet alerts one quickly to the professor’s easy going nature. The picture of a dog driving a car removes any likelihood that Ed is overly impressed with himself. In fact he says, "The most important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative, and the second disastrous."

          Recently I heard a man say that his goal in life is to make a positive difference in the people whose lives he touches. He gave me a phrase I want to remember: “I try to touch the clay of other peoples’ lives in a wonderful way.” That, I think, is what Ed is doing at Auburn every day.

          Perhaps you are wondering why Ed sent me a picture of the fig tree in his backyard. The reason says a lot about Ed. He remembered an article I wrote some months back about the fig tree in my backyard. He knew I would be blessed to know that he had recalled something I had written!

          You can count on it – a smile broke across my face a mile wide and it stayed long enough to brighten my whole day! Every writer knows how difficult it is to compose something people will remember for three hours. I would probably faint if someone told me they remembered a comment I made in a sermon preached a year ago.

          Yet Ed remembered my article about a fig tree. I re-read my article looking for a clue as to why Ed recalled it. Then I had a good chuckle. The point of my article was that a jar of figs might save a man’s marriage. Hot buttery biscuits, with fig preserves dripping inside, might persuade even a college professor’s wife to stick around for a while longer.

          I could be wrong about Ed’s reason but, until I find out differently, that is my story and I am sticking to it. I know those figs helped to save my marriage and I am an Auburn man too.

          Today is the 54th anniversary of our marriage. We started our married life in student housing at Auburn. There was no room for a fig tree back then, but for more years now than Ed has been at Auburn, I have nurtured fig trees in my backyard. Those fig preserves, a healthy sense of humor, the Herculean patience of my wife, and a whole lot of grace have kept our marriage alive.

          Thanks Ed for remembering and for reminding me why my wife still loves me. One of these days I want to meet your sweet wife. We could even have breakfast together some cold, winter morn and enjoy, well you know, some hot biscuits married to some good figs.

          Until then, Ed, keep on doing what you do best – touching the clay of other lives in a wonderful way. + + + +