A Good Man

The country was just coming out of the “Great Depression.” We were living at Tinsley’s Mill in an old house that had no electricity or plumbing. As a matter of fact it was just a shack, not too uncommon in the rural South. My daddy was a very industrious man but making a living was hard. No one had any money and jobs other than farming were not available. Daddy was operating the mill where corn was ground into meal. It was on Flat Creek where today Peachtree City is located.

Doc Tinsley owned the mill. Mr. Tinsley seemed to have more money than most. He operated a large auto salvage place down near Senoia. He had a reputation of being able to fix most any kind of automobile or machinery. Mr. Tinsley was a cheerful man about as wide as he was tall with a belly laugh that was contagious. He always smoked a cigar and in the front pocket of his overalls he kept a huge roll of money that he liked to show off. He always paid cash for everything; and when he bought something, he’d take out that wad of bills, chomp down on his cigar, and peel off what he needed. With money so scarce to everyone else, this was quite impressive.

As the mill started being used more and Daddy started making a little money, Mr. Tinsley decided to get his father to operate the mill leaving Daddy without a job and the family without a place to live. My mother’s family lived in a house on Greer’s Mountain, so we went and lived with them while Daddy looked for a job.

On the Courthouse Square in Fayetteville, Mooney’s Department Store was for sale. Daddy was interested in it but he had no money, no collateral, not even an automobile. Claude Swanson was a man that lived by himself on a large track of land very near Tinsley’s mill. He was quite wealthy, though not in outward appearance. Out of desperation and having mustered the courage, Daddy went to Mr. Swanson and asked if he might borrow the money to buy Mooney’s store. Mr. Swanson, being rather gracious, said he might consider the loan if Daddy could get two people to sign a note with him. Of course to find two people would be almost impossible. Daddy told him that he only knew one man that might consider signing a note with him and that was Mr. N.W. Kelly. Mr. Swanson responded, “ If you can get N.W. Kelly, you won’t need anyone else.” Mr. Kelly agreed to sign the note with Daddy and that was the salvation of our family.

I told this story to illustrate the respect that everyone had for Mr. N.W. Kelly. Mr. Swanson loaned Daddy the money on Mr. Kelly’s honor and not because of his wealth, for he was not a wealthy man. He was a gentleman’s gentleman. I can see him now, a -distinguished, neatly dressed man, tall and always standing very erect. He was witty, good humored, very intelligent, and willing to help any and every one. He was the County Clerk of Court. This was an elected office, but no one ever ran against him. No one could beat him anyway. He was not a lawyer, but probably knew more about law than lawyers of that day. He seldom charged for legal services that he performed for the poor or the rich. I’ve heard many say that had he charged a modest fee for all of the services he performed, he would have been a very wealthy man. In a way he was wealthy for his word was like gold. He was respected by everyone. Mr. Kelly never married. He lived with and cared for his mother until her death. By this time he was an older man and the prospects of having his own family were in the past.


I can say with all that knew Mr. Kelly, “This was a good man.”

*Picture from files of the Fayette County Historical Society