Monday, November 16, 2009

One man's gift to benefit "generations" of scholars

The Hill Freeman Library & Spruill Learning Center has exciting news to share! We recently received a generous git of over 5,000 materials--books, artwork, historical artifacts, maps, media and more--from a single donor. Mr. Don Wesley-Brown of Bartow County, a veteran of the 101st Airborne and a lifelong military history collector, has given his incredible collection to us. It will be called the Triplett Memorial Military History Collection, and will be given a place of honor in our library.

Appropriately, the library held a presentation of the collection on Veterans' Day, in honor of all who have served in our country's armed forces, and in special appreciation of Mr. Brown and his generous gift. Mr. Brown, who often speaks to groups on his favorite topic, the American Civil War, gave a short talk about how his interest in military history evolved, and how he began collecting.

Although he was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city he describes as a "living Civil War museum," Brown said he didn't fully appreciate its history while he was growing up.

"I lived on Missionary Ridge, where I believe the true turning point of the war took place," Brown admitted, "but when you grow up in a place, you tend to take it for granted." While Brown's interest in military history had not yet kindled, his interest in books and reading certainly had. Brown described himself as the kind of kid who "always lived in the library."

Brown enlisted in the military in order to pay for college, but his real interest in military history was sparked when he saw Ken Burns' acclaimed documentary on the Civil War. This doesn't mean he was exactly a fan of Burns' work.

"The political correctness of it made me want to throw a brick through the television," Brown said. He had a feeling there was more to the story than what Ken Burns described, so he started researching the war for himself. Buying and books about the war soon became a passion.

"If you want to know the truth, about 95% of these books were bought when I really couldn't afford them," he said. "But I went through a book every three or four days."

Naturally, Brown began to wonder if any of his own ancestors had fought in the war. When he researched his family name "Triplett," he found over 200 Tripletts had fought in the war (on both sides, although Brown quipped that he tries to play down his Yankee relatives). Through further research, Brown discovered that the Tripletts hailed from Mt. Vernon, Virginia, and were one of 13 families personally invited to attend the funeral of President George Washington.

"So I got interested in Washington and the Revolutionary War," Brown said. "Then I found out there had been a Triplett in the armed forces in every war from the French and Indian War to the present time." In other words, the story of his family was in a way the story of America's military history and the story of America itself. Brown was well and truly hooked on his subject.

One day, Brown said, he looked around his house and saw how many books he had stored in boxes, and realized that his collection should be somewhere it could be used. A chance drive through Waleska gave him the powerful feeling that he had found the perfect new home for his beloved collection.

"This is a great treasure," a guest at the Veterans' Day program announced, to murmured agreement from those assembled.

Reinhardt College President Dr. Isherwood thanked Brown on behalf of "the generations and generations and generations that will learn from your life's work."

"There is no greater gift that you can give to these generations," Dr. Isherwood said.

Right now practically every member of the library staff, including student workers, are busily working on getting Mr. Brown's incredible donation processed and ready for the shelves. We have boxes stacked five high and four deep, and Brown joked that more may be forthcoming.

"Unfortunately," he said, "I'm still in the habit of buying books! So just set another shelf aside for me, because I'll be coming back with more."

THANK YOU, MR. BROWN!!!!!! We are all extremely grateful to you!

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