THE DEFENSE REPORT
WHAT A LIFELONG PILOT CAN TEACH A LAWYER LESSONS FROM MY FATHER
My father started flying when he was just 15 years old. Growing up in Rome, Georgia, he had a conviction that he belonged in the clouds. So, his mother secretly got him flying lessons because his father did not want him to be a pilot. I know mothers are supposed to help their kids chase their dreams, but I can’t fathom the amount of trust it takes to put your teenager in the cockpit of an aircraft. I’m glad my grandmother gave him this chance. Her act of parental bravery helped shape who my father is today. My father’s passion for flying made the military a natural choice, and pretty soon he was flying missions in the skies above Vietnam. After his service, he became an airline pilot for Southern Airlines and would stick with the job though multiple buyouts and shakeups in the airline industry. During the strikes of the early 1980s, his paycheck was cut ridiculously low, but he stuck with it. At the end of the day, he was still doing what he loved. Flying was in his blood. My father medically retired when I was 16, which meant I got to see him a lot more. I didn’t inherit his passion for flight, but that didn’t matter as much to him. My father cared more that I learned the discipline, self-respect, and accountability that he’d learned during his service. To this day, I remember him telling me “You have one name in this world, protect it.” He taught me to be straight with people from a young age and instilled in me the idea that how I present myself makes a difference. I never quite picked up his eye for detail though — at least when it comes to clothes. Years of keeping his dress uniform immaculate gave my father an eye for small details, especially poorly polished shoes. His old fashioned spit-shine can give even the most scuffed pair of formal loafers a mirror finish. Try as I might to achieve that level of perfection with my own shoes, I can never get them to the point of seeing my own reflection. Beyond just his rejection of store-bought shoe polish, my father has taught me the value of doing things the old-fashioned way. He was a navigator during the war, using rudimentary equipment and landmarks to guide his flight crew. Now he likes to joke that he’s been replaced by a hand-held
Photo courtesy of RuthAS [CC BY 3.0]
device. Still, he’s taught me there’s value in using your own eyes to find your way, of knowing how to do things for yourself.
This lesson has directly impacted my work as a lawyer. Some of my biggest cases have been won thanks to small, rudimentary details that may have been overlooked if I didn’t take the time to look for them with my own eyes. It may be old fashioned, but my father has shown me there’s still value in that approach. It’s often the straightforward fundamentals that can win you the day. At 6 feet 4 inches with a strong, quiet demeanor, you might mistake my father for being stern at first. The truth is he’s got a great sense of humor and is actually quite approachable. People compare us all the time, telling me I’m the spitting image of him. While I don’t personally see the resemblance, I don’t mind. I couldn’t think of a better man to be compared to.
Happy Father’s Day,
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