Sunday, December 20, 2015

George Singleton explained his love for history in 1982 feature story

George Buster Singleton
(The feature story below about George Buster Singleton was originally published in the Dec. 2, 1982 edition of The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville, Ala. Written by reporter Jim Plott, the story appeared below the headline, “Singleton gladly stays behind the times.”)

George Singleton won’t complain if you call him a man behind the times. In fact, he’s likely to agree and tell you that he’s “about a hundred years” behind.

Singleton loves history. Much like the early settler, he blazes beyond the well-trodden names and dates, where he finds the real intrinsic value of the past.

“I’m not against all the modern conveniences, but I believe the real value of our lives can only be found in tracing back our ancestors and researching those early people who had to live off the land,” Singleton says.

And so you’re likely to find Singleton in his spare time walking along the banks of the Alabama River among the remains of an early Indian village or a now-forgotten settlement, picking up bits and pieces of the past.

Singleton, a 54-year-old warrant officer with the Monroeville National Guard unit, doesn’t quite remember when the lure of history entangled him, but he surmises that the first etchings may have begun when he was a child in Marengo County.

He recalls cool summer-night porch-sittings and winter nights by the fireplace when his grandmother would talk about the family background.

“We weren’t necessarily wealthy,” Singleton says. “but we were proud people. Our grandparents just naturally thought our past was important.”

Singleton’s passion for history followed him through the Korean War, and shortly afterward he joined the National Guard. In 1961, by fate or fortune, he was transferred to Monroe County, known for its colorful history.

North Monroe hills

“I’m glad I came here,” Singleton says. “There are some very fine people here, and I like the hilly area in the north part of the county. It’s some place just to get away to.”

Singleton, the author of a Monroe Journal column that has run recently under the title “Somewhere In Time,” and of a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County in Alabama Life magazine, says he has walked around practically every known historic site in the county, and some that are unknown.

“Mainly, I just love to get outdoors by myself and wander along a wooded hilltop,” he says. “At times, I even go to my old home place in Sweet Water and camp there a few days.”

But Singleton is worried about Monroe County losing most of its rich heritage – something that, he says, must be restored.

“So much is growing up and being forgotten,” he says. “Take, for instance, Claiborne, which was the focal point for practically every settler coming into this area. It’s being forgotten, and it’s one of the most historical spots in the state.

“I hate to say it, but we probably know more about the Belgian Congo than we know about Monroe County.”

Singleton, who hopes to restore some of the county’s past with a book someday, also believes that a search into the background of the nation may provide answers to modern problems.

“Americans have got to pull together through a united effort. They’ve got to be willing to help each other like our ancestors did, and they’ve got to realize that some of the problems we face now are the result of the nation getting older,” he says.

Singleton, comparing the country to an aging man, says natural resources are being exhausted and suggests it’s time to return to some old ways.

‘The only solution’

“We need to conserve, get back to the simple things, utilize what we’ve got, and get back in harmony with nature. That is the only solution I see.”

For Singleton, the future may be a written book, with the past as a table of contents.

“We as American people don’t know where we’re going until we find where we’ve been. It’s as plain and simple as that,” he says.

If that’s the case, Singleton knows where he’s going.

(Photo caption: Singleton examines artifact shaped like human head.)

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