Here’s a milestone that I can’t let pass unnoticed: My friend, mentor and inspiration George Sizemore celebrated his 100th birthday this week.
Uncle George, as he is known to his large extended family, is the title character of my book Uncle George and Me: Two Southern Families Confront a Shared Legacy of Slavery. He was a fountain of family history and homespun wisdom for me as I pieced together the long-buried story of how his ancestors were once enslaved by mine.
Uncle George still lives in the weathered farmhouse on land his parents bought when he was 1 month old in 1919 near Clarksville, Va., about 5 miles from the spot where my great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Sizemore raised tobacco with the help of 16 enslaved people, including Uncle George’s father and grandfather.
He is still physically vigorous and mentally alert, and still belts out solos in the men’s choir at Wharton Memorial Baptist Church. I can only marvel at the strong genes in that family: He has two nieces who are in the same age bracket as him.
I also marvel at his good humor, horse sense, moral clarity and remarkable lack of bitterness about the fraught history that links his family and mine.
I wish him many more joyful and carefree days as he embarks on his second century.
In other news, Uncle George and Me and my other books will be on sale at a “pop-up bookstore” Dec. 2-13 at the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal, 6625 Main St., Gloucester, Va. I’ll be there for book-signing sessions Saturday, Dec. 7, 1-4 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 8, noon-4 p.m.
I’ll also be at the annual Brew-Ho-Ho book fair sponsored by Chop Suey Books at the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 2408 Ownby Lane, Richmond, on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2-5 p.m.