C harles Seymour Pettis has touched the lives of literally thousands of youngsters and adults throughout his many years of work with the Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation and Leisure Services.
A Vietnam veteran, Mr. Pettis, served as a medic in the Army's First Air Calvary in 1965.
Today, Mr. Pettis serves as the recreation department's athletic coordinator. He has worked there since 1981 -- starting out his career as assistant recreation director under-then recreation director Dwayne Poss. He has worked under current recreation director Bob Howard since 1990.
"I never knew that I'd someday have a regular job with the recreation department," said Mr. Pettis during a recent interview. "I really love my job."
As athletic coordinator, Mr. Pettis is responsible for overseeing the baseball, football and basketball programs, as well as making sure that each team has an assigned volunteer community coach. In addition, he also has to keep up with uniform inventories in each of those sports, which means finding volunteer coaches and making sure those sports operate as smoothly as possible during their respective seasons.
When those particular sports are ongoing, Mr. Pettis also attends games, assuring that everything is going just the way it should.
"I really enjoy what I do at the recreation department," said Mr. Pettis during a recent in-depth interview with The McDuffie Mirror . "I love being around little kids more than any other age group. They're so excited about it all. It's fun to watch them run around and play ball."
Watching them play makes him feel a little younger, he said.
"They've just got so much energy," added Mr. Pettis. "They are just so much fun to be around."
Mr. Pettis says children ages 5 and 6 "are the greatest in the world to be around."
He jokingly replied, "You know, I wish I knew," in reference to why he favors that age group over others. "I guess you could say they come up to my level."
Sports have played a big role in the life of Mr. Pettis.
As a student/athlete at McDuffie Training Center which was the high school for black students during the segregation era, Mr. Pettis turned out to be a star quarterback.
"Charles was one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the school, including when the building later was known as R.L. Norris," said one of his friends, Johnny Lee Norris -- he, himself, an outstanding athlete. "He could really throw that football, I'm telling you."
The football team never lost a game in the two years that Mr. Pettis was starting quarterback.
Mr. Pettis played for Coach Calvin Sampson, who long since has retired as a teacher, football and basketball coach from the McDuffie County Board of Education. Mr. Sampson and his wife, also a retired teacher with the local school system, still reside in Thomson.
"He was a super coach," recalled Mr. Pettis. "Coach loved the game of football."
At the time, Coach George Drake served as the team's assistant to Coach Sampson in both football and basketball. Mr. Drake, now retired, too, as a teacher, coach and administrator with the local school system, still lives in Thomson.
In his senior year, the Rams went undefeated, posting an 8-0 record. The team also won the region championship. They ended up bowing to Cedar Town in the first-round of the state playoffs that same season.
Mr. Pettis' junior year was equally impressive, as he led the football team to a 7-0-1 season.
During his senior season, two football players, Alvin Logan, a linebacker and Moses Golatt, who played offensive tackle and defensive nose guard, went on to play college football. Mr. Logan played at Florida A & M, while Mr. Golatt attended North Carolina Central and later played professionally with the Cleveland Browns.
"We had some real good athletes," said Mr. Pettis, who also played guard on the basketball team his junior and senior years.
After graduation, Mr. Pettis began job hunting.
He was fortunate to find one in Thomson, building floors and side walls in mobile homes that were constructed at National Homes on Railroad Street. He worked there for four years.
Another good job came his way when Uniroyal in Thomson hired him for a third shift serviceman position. The plant made a variety of athletic and walking shoes. They employed several hundred workers for many years until the plant closed.
While working at Uniroyal, Mr. Pettis worked part-time as chief umpire with what was then known as the Thomson-McDuffie Recreation Department. At that time, it was operated by Orion Sebastian, who served as director for several years.
Anytime teams got the opportunity to have Mr. Pettis call their game, they felt fortunate, because he was regarded as such a fair umpire.
Overall, he considers himself a blessed man.
Mr. Pettis has been married to his wife, Jane, for 40 years. She recently retired as a longtime counselor with the local school system.
He pointed out that he couldn't have it any better.
"I've got a great marriage and a job I love, too," said Mr. Pettis. "You couldn't have greater career moves than those."
The couple has two grown sons, Chuck, the oldest, works for Chase Bank and lives in Fairburn, Ga. The couple's youngest son, Carl, holds a doctorate degree in education and serves as interim math and computer science director at Alabama State University. Both are graduates of Thomson High School.
Mr. and Mrs. Pettis are members of Vanderhorst C.M.E. Church in Thomson, where they are both most active. Mr. Pettis has served as a church trustee there for the past several years. The church pastor is the Rev. John Smalley, who also is a member of Thomson City Council.
Mr. Pettis is a former member of American Legion Post No. 576 in Thomson. It closed its doors several years ago.