I was attending a district-wide 4-H Club competition on the campus of the University of Georgia. I was a teenager at the time.
The man was huge. He drove a big, white, convertible Cadillac around the campus. When he would see 4-Hers dressed in their 4-H uniforms — green and white seersucker two-piece dresses — going from one building to another, he would sometimes stop. Then he asked where they were going and if they wanted a ride.
I was one of those 4-Hers and I can assure you we accepted his invitation. Not only were the buildings far apart, we were country kids with few, if any, opportunities for riding in convertibles or Cadillacs.
Since the man was so big, the front seat of the Cadillac was pushed all the way back to the rear seat. Because there was no room between the seats, we would be on our knees on the seat as he carried us where we were going to give our competition-worthy demonstrations.
Everyone called him “Fat” or “Mr. Fat” That did not sound right to me, so I never called him anything.
By now you are probably thinking, “Why would young girls get in a car with a man they did not know?”
So let me explain. First, the adults seemed to know him and did not object to our riding with him.
Plus, things back then were different. Kids did not need to be suspicious of every stranger they met.
That week in Athens at the 4-H Club competition was the only time I ever saw “Fat” Baker.
A few years later, I saw his picture in the newspaper. Believe it or not, he was identified as “Fat” Baker. He was a state representative and was announcing that he was running for governor of Georgia.
I asked my parents to vote for him, but since Herman Talmadge was on the ballot I know that did not happen. It was well known that they, like most everyone else in Sparta, were big Talmadge supporters.
While a volunteer at 4-H Club Camp at Rock Eagle a few weeks ago, Hal Jones, Janie Ray, others and I at our lunch table were talking. They were there for the week as volunteers, too.
In the conversation, I told them about that summer in the ’50s when “Fat” Baker was at the 4-H meeting in Athens and how I did not know his real name.
Soon after lunch Hal called me aside to look at pictures of major donors to the 4-H Rock Eagle Program. Believe it or not, one of the pictures was of “Fat” Baker. For the first time I saw his real name. Under his portrait he was identified as Compton Otis “Fat” Baker.
Also there was the legacy of “Uncle Fat” as written by one of his nephews.
He had been born in Twiggs County. Later the family moved to Macon. There was where he became a member of the 4-H Club.
He loved it all of his life.
“Fat” was very successful in business. He was a lawyer in Athens and had been active in many civic organizations that provided for needy children.
I was not surprised to learn that his generosity had continued after his death.
He had created a trust. First, the proceeds were to pay college expenses of his niece and his nephews.
After the niece and nephews had finished college, the proceeds went to his brothers and sisters for as long as they lived.
Then, as designated, the proceeds began to go to the 4-H Club to be used each year to provide scholarships for needy children to attend 4-H Camp at Rock Eagle.
I have been told hundreds of children have been able to be campers at Rock Eagle because of the funds he provided. Each year, more 4-Hers are able to attend camp because “Fat” Baker’s trust continues to grow.
While writing about his “Uncle Fat,” one of his nephews aptly described him as a big man with a big heart.
I now know that “Fat” Baker was an exceptional man. His heart was even bigger than that big white, convertible Cadillac he gave us rides in more than 50 years ago.
Like Janie Ray, Hal Jones and me, he was a product of the 4-H Club and loved and appreciated it all of his life.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.