My secretary calls me in my office and she says, “Dorsey is here and wants to know if you have time to sit on the porch.” I say, “Sure, send him in.”
Dorsey Brooks remembers that his father used to sit on the porch as people rode their wagons to and from town. It was common for people to direct their horses into the yard, get off the wagons, sit a while on the porch, and talk about life before heading on their way.
What makes “my porch” a place that feels like home for Dorsey is that it used to be his home back in seventies. When he comes into the church office, he sees the layout the way it used to be and not just the way it is, commenting where the living room and the bedrooms used to be.
But long before there was ever a home on 81 Institute Street, it was the site of Martin Institute, the first privately endowed educational institute in the United States. Dorsey has a picture of the two-story brick building, crowned with a belfry, hanging in his home. He also has a picture of that place burned into his mind because that is where he received most of his education as a boy and teenager.
If you ever have a chance to sit on the porch with Dorsey, he can take you through the halls of that school and others he attended, to the basketball courts and ball fields where he played ball, into the classrooms where he later taught, to the practice fields and courts where he coached, and to the schools where he served as principal. He can recall names, stories, win-loss records, and even pitch counts of specific games as if he were a play-by-play analyst. As Dorsey’s memory bank breaks open, people listen in awe as a 99-year-old recalls details so freely.
Lately I’ve noticed a tear or two in Dorsey’s eyes as we sit on the porch. As he recalls all that has happened in his life, the good times and the difficult ones, he eventually turns his thoughts to God. He sounds like the Psalmist who wrote: “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done” (Psalm 143:5). The tears come from the well of thanksgiving and praise. Dorsey realizes that few are blessed to live as long as he has or stay as active for as long.
For most 99-year-olds, the greatest days of their lives were long ago. Yet Dorsey continues to celebrate life and others have helped him celebrate past achievements as recently as last month in Tucker, Georgia by naming the Tucker High School baseball field “Dorsey Brooks Field.”
Dorsey was on hand two years ago when the school played its first game on the field and he was honored by getting to throw out the first pitch. Last month, Dorsey, his wife Diane, Dorsey’s four children, a group from his Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church, and about 100 Tucker Tiger supporters were on hand for the dedication ceremony.
Dorsey has been given the title “Father of Tucker Baseball,” having developed the program from scratch in 1947. Not only did he coach baseball; he coached football, basketball, and track. In addition to these duties, he taught physics and had to maintain the fields and the gymnasium.
He put Tucker on the map with thirteen straight regional titles in baseball and led the baseball team in 1956 to the school’s first state championship in any sport.
Many members of the 1956 championship team, now in their 70s, were on hand for the ceremony. To these men, Dorsey is still referred to as “Coach.”
Being successful, “believing you can win,” as Dorsey puts it, gave him a platform to teach and guide young men in areas where their decisions about life counted the most. While everyone praised Dorsey for being a winner, it was clear that the highest praise was reserved for Dorsey’s character.
Dorsey has changed a lot of people’s lives by his positive attitude and encouragement. Whether it’s the children in the Incentive Reward Program he started at Jefferson Middle School in 2006 or his teaching the Baraca Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church, Dorsey has always been about trying to make the lives of other people better.
There was a time when life moved a little slower and it wasn’t unusual for people to stop and visit with others on a front porch. Whenever Dorsey stops by or whenever I visit with him and his wife Diane, I usually can count on getting some coaching. Dorsey has lived long enough to have some wisdom, so I listen like a pitcher listens to a manager when they have a chat on the mound. While he would not think of himself as a person who doles out great insight, you can’t sit on the porch with Dorsey long without picking up a nugget of truth that he has found through his long journey of faith.
My guess is that if we all did a little more porch sitting, listening and sharing with each other, all of our win-loss records might improve.