COCHRAN, GEORGIA: If you ask anyone in Cochran, if they know who Willie Basby, Sr., is, more than 90 percent of those asked will say ‘Sure.’
Basby, age 84, because of his humble attitude, was one of the first people in the community to cross racial lines as a minister, a city councilman, a business owner and a family man.
Known as the “shoe man,’ Basby has been the one to go to whenever you had a problem with your shoes. You could walk into his shop with a hard to fix issue, and he’d look it over.
Nine times out of 10, he would have just the right thing needed, and could have you back in your shoes and out the door. Sometimes, it might take a little longer, but Basby would get it done.
That type of work ethic, perseverance and drive also helped Basby in his advocacy for the betterment of Bleckley County, and its people.
His kindness and infectious inner joy has infected many positively through life in the rural community. And it is not a put-on kind of happiness. After five minutes of conversation with Basby you feel his genuine concern for his ‘fellow man.’
People would say his compassion was because Basby is a preacher.
Others who know him well would say, that is just his natural personality.
Though Basby and his late wife had their own children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to love, the couple “took on” many in the community to mentor and ‘love on.’
As a minister, each congregation that he led had a special place in his heart, and he always stressed the importance of sharing God’s love to all people. During the late 1990s, he and his church hosted a backyard Vacation Bible School led by a group of ladies that my mom directed.
Though his schedule isn’t as busy as it once was, according to his granddaughter, Willie Basby, Sr., still preaches on two Sundays a month. He still opens up his shoe shop.
In his spare time, Basby tinkers in his garden, and enjoys getting together with his large extended family.
And of course, you can bet, he is out being a good neighbor somewhere.
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