I remember as a child reading Gone with the Wind for the first time and becoming acquainted with the idea of the Southern Gentleman. There was of course Ashley Wilkes but there was also the dashing scoundrel from Charleston, Rhett Butler. Of course much of the Southern Gentleman persona is looking the part. This man is always impeccably dressed and his accent is charming. He is the essence of kindness and respect where women are concerned. He is typically a wonderful dancer who waltzes with every woman in the room. Unless he is the Rhett Butler type who does not apologize for his flaws, the true Southern Gentleman loves God, country, and family and seeks to be known for his integrity. The problem here with the original Southern gentlemen was that unpleasant subject of slavery. I had trouble reconciling that as a child.
I remember that around the age of 10, I attended my Uncle Milton’s funeral. Uncle Milton was my daddy’s oldest brother. A successful businessman in Hickory, North Carolina, he was known and respected in the community. I remember to this day the eulogy given by his pastor. He said that one word best described my uncle- the word cordial. He went on to explain that the root of the word was Greek for heart. He described my uncle as an authentic individual, a man of no pretense, who cared for others and acted from his heart. I remember his quiet, kind manner and thought to myself, “Maybe this is what a Southern Gentleman is.” It was interesting that years later when my father died, the editorial headline was about my father. It read, “Carlisle Traywick- a man of no pretense.” The editor went on to describe his selfless volunteer work on behalf of economic development in his community. So my Daddy was a Southern gentleman as well.
The Southern Gentlemen I have known have always respected women. James Dickey said it best:
“We love women here, they give us hope, and above all, they give us grace.”
Jericho, The South Beheld