A Sherman Cline Christmas
I remember the day I noticed that my friend Mr. Sherman Cline’s usual $25-a-month gift had not been mailed in to Family Council in several months. For the past two years he had lived in government-funded apartments for senior citizens in Paris, Arkansas. Not able to locate him, I called the local utility company to see if he had moved. Instead, I learned that he was deceased. I sat quietly at my desk and thought for a little while.
Before moving to Paris, Mr. Cline lived alone in a small apartment in downtown Little Rock. I clearly remember the Christmas morning when I loaded up our young boys, and we drove down to Mr. Cline’s apartment to invite him to come to our house for Christmas dinner that evening. He had no phone, no family, and no plans for Christmas—he would just be alone. It told him we’d be back later to pick him up for dinner.
Later that day the boys and I arrived to pick him up. He was dressed in slacks, a shirt, and his best jacket. We had such a great time that evening.
After dinner, Mr. Cline took out a hard-backed book filled with pictures of The War. “I was there,” he said. My boys were wide-eyed when he told them about marching and fighting—wearing his boots for a solid month without ever taking them off. He talked a little about the horrific scenes he saw as he helped liberate the concentration camp at Dachau. He told about guarding German prisoners near Nuremburg.
As it turns out, Mr. Cline and his younger brother and sister were from Coal Hill, Arkansas. They were orphaned during the Great Depression. His mother died. His father caught a freight train to south Texas looking for work, and was never heard from again. When his grandparents died, he and his brother and sister were placed in an orphan’s home. Life was hard there. His sister was adopted, and they mostly lost touch. Soon, he and his brother struck out on their own to get jobs, but his brother was killed in an auto accident. Sherman Cline was all alone. Mr. Cline ended up picking cotton at the Dyess Colony, a place in east Arkansas made famous by the fact that singer Johnny Cash and his family lived there. Then the war came.
Mr. Cline served, survived, and came home. But he never married. He never had a family. He worked blue collar jobs and made a living until he retired to live only on his small, monthly Social Security check. Sometimes he ate only one meal a day. He didn’t own a car or have a telephone.
Mr. Cline was a Christian and pro-life. Back in the 1980’s he served as a volunteer, helping us pass the Unborn Child Amendment, a law that prevents public funding of abortions in Arkansas. I clearly remember the night we won that election. By the time the final results came in, there were just a few people left in the room. As we gathered in a circle to join hands and thank God for the victory, there was Mr. Cline, probably the poorest person in the room, joining hands with some very wealthy people who had helped fund the effort, but it didn’t matter to him or to them.
That Christmas when Mr. Cline came to our house for dinner, I thought we were doing something to bless him. As it turns out, he blessed us. Over 20 years later, Doris, my boys, and I still cherish the memories of that evening around the fireplace with Mr. Cline—a real hero that hardly anyone knows.
Today his cremated remains rest in a cemetery in Magazine, Arkansas. When his ashes were interred, only about 10 people were there. But there was ninety-one-year old Polly. Her late husband and Mr. Cline had been good friends. Only one of Mr. Cline’s earthly possessions remained—his Bible. We presented Polly with Mr. Cline’s worn-out, marked-up Bible for her to keep.
The manager of the apartments told us more about that Bible and about the night Mr. Cline passed away. “We found him alone,” he said, “sitting in his chair with that Bible open on his lap.” Apparently he had suffered a stroke. I thought, What a way bring this life to an end—reading God’s word one moment and in His presence the next!
As I wrap up this year and look forward to a brand new 2019, I am so grateful to those in our country’s greatest generation for their sacrifice, their hard work, and their quiet heroism that paved the way for so many who don’t even know it. Even today, there may be those in Heaven who say thank you to Mr. Cline and others like him who fought their way across Europe and saved lives by ending the Holocaust and then worked here at home to end our own holocaust of abortion.
Mr. Cline’s life counted for something important—things eternal. That’s what we’re about at Family Council and the Education Alliance—things eternal. Like Mr. Cline, you have helped us make a difference. For this, I am eternally grateful. I am confident that, if not in this life, in the one to come we will see how our work on earth made a difference for eternity.
Thank you. May God bless you for standing with us! I hope you and your family have a very merry Christmas.
Jerry Cox is the founder and president of Family Council.
12-24-18 3:30 p.m. kawx.org