My parents, David and Helen Self, were great role models; they were committed to public education. They had strong beliefs, both active in the United Methodist Church and both coming from long lines of Methodist preachers.
They taught their children (I was the second of four and on the cutting edge of the Baby Boomer generation) to be independent, stand up for our beliefs and pursue our dreams. We could do and be anything we wanted, and whatever that turned out to be was fine with them. They also taught us to treat everyone with dignity and respect, to be tolerant and to appreciate diversity. (As superintendent of schools in Phenix City, my dad was quietly integrating the faculties in the school system in the early 60s preparing for integration before the federal government intervened.)
For more than 20 years, since my father died suddenly in 1986, I've been mulling over the idea of writing a book about him and the contribution he made to public education and the laity in the Methodist church. Then when my mother died in 1998, I realized that she had a legacy of her own that should be preserved as well. She was a strong, independent woman who left her teaching job in Vermont in 1943 to join the war effort. My mother, Helen Huckabee at the time, met my father
in Pensacola during World War II when she as a link trainer in the WAVES taught him as a young naval cadet how to fly an airplane. They were married a few months later on March 15, 1944, in Springville, AL., by my grandfather, the Rev. James Thomas Self. The following year, Daddy was on the USS Franklin
aircraft carrier when it was attacked by a Japanese bomber.
The more I dug into their young lives together and their fascinating backgrounds, the more I realized this is the stuff I'm made of and it was absolutely worth preserving for future generations. I'm knee-deep in the process now. I've perused hundreds of notes my father made on scraps of paper for the talks he gave over four decades at churches, civic groups, educational meetings and various other gatherings in the United Methodist Church.
I've also studied the stories my maternal grandmother wrote of the "Grapes of Wrath" trek her family made from California to Oregon during the Depression when my mother was a young teenager and other family adventures. Those stories may have to wait for a future book. But it's no wonder the women in this family have turned out to be so strong and independent - they had no choice.