Sunday, February 17, 2013

Black History Month Great Black Person #10 of 28




Black History Month Great Black Person #10 of 28:
Walter Banks

Walter Banks isn't exactly famous. His primary claim to fame is that he's the only usher or employee of any kind to work for the Braves every season since they came to Atlanta in 1966. However, I know Mr. Banks from his years working as an usher at Georgia Tech football games. When I was young, my family ran a concession stand at Tech home games and I always tagged along because I loved (and still love) Georgia Tech football. It was there that I met Mr. Banks; a kind gentleman with a welcoming smile and patience enough to deal with a rambling (no pun intended) young Tech fan. It became a tradition for me to visit Mr. Walter in his section before every game. I'd talk to him excitedly about our hometown team and he'd listen and nod and respond without any hint of condescension. I think that's why I was drawn to Mr. Walter; even at that young age, I realized that his kindness and humility weren't commonplace. Anyone who knows him will tell you the same thing; he's a genuinely friendly person.

As the years passed, I eventually started working at the concession stand myself. I was a teenage boy and things were changing fast all around me, but Mr. Walter did not. Walker Banks was the same. Same job, same smile, same humble heart. I'd still drop by to say hi and he'd still talk with me and enlighten me with some of his famous sports trivia. It should be noted that he's a veritable encyclopedia of Atlanta sports knowledge. It's funny what sticks with you when you get older. I don't remember the scores of those football games or the names of all the players or all of those sports facts, but I can remember Walter clear as day.

It had been years since I had seen Mr. Walter when I spotted him at a Braves game not too long ago. I was sure he would have no recollection of the young man he use to chat with on game days nearly a decade prior, much less recognize me all grown up. To my surprise, he did. I was treated to a warm smile and kind words, just like when I was a kid. The years of hard work at a tedious job hadn't changed him a bit.

Looking back, maybe it wasn't that surprising that Mr. Walter remembered me. When you care for others the way that Walter Banks does, you tend to have a good memory. I guess it's also not that surprising that I remember him so clearly either. When you care for others the way that Walter Banks does, you tend to be remembered.