In my years of reporting there are many memorable stories and people, but perhaps none more fascinating than my interview with 104-year-old Henry Bryant.
Mr. Bryant was born in 1907 in Columbia, Tyrrell County. His mind is as sharp as ever and he can recall details about his life and history like it was yesterday.
In talking with Mr. Bryant it is clear that he has been a hard worker all his life and is no nonsense.
Mr. Bryant told me he started working at age fifteen to support his family after his father died. He continued working until finally retiring at the age of ninety. In that time he did everything from farming, construction, building bridges and working for the Defense Department. He of course was alive during the Great Depression, but says he doesn't ever remember leaving the table hungry. Perhaps that is because of his disciplined work ethic.
I asked Mr. Bryant, a man who worked many jobs for 75-years, about people who don't want to work. He said, "We got plenty of that," in a disapproving tone. I could see it was a source of disgust for someone who worked so hard to provide, no matter what the circumstances.
We talked about many things, from his life and the changes he's seen, to U.S. history and the future of our country. As he went into detail about the Great Depression, policies and U.S. President's, I decided to ask him if there was any political party that he favored. He told me he is a lifelong registered Republican. But he also said just because he is Republican doesn't mean he doesn't vote for Democrats. Mr. Bryant went on to explain that people should vote for the best candidate, not just a political party.
I asked Mr. Bryant what he thought about the future of our country. He said, "We're in trouble, we're in trouble. Yep, we're in bad trouble." I asked why he felt this way. He said it basically boils down to becoming less of a God fearing country. He said, "This world we live in belongs to God. He gives us regulations of what to do, what not to do. We need to follow God's direction."
The fact that Mr. Bryant still drives to the post office, store, or his backyard to check on his garden is certainly amazing. But it's not the most remarkable thing about him. One of the greatest things about him is that the integrity with which he lived his life is what he expects from people today. He told me about a young man who did some work for him at his home recently. At the end of the day the young man told Mr. Bryant he was owed $80.00. Mr. Bryant says he looked around and told him, "You haven't done anything, I'm not going to let you rob me. Here's $40.00, now get out." And with that, he says the youngster left. Hopefully he learned a thing or two from Mr. Bryant as well.
Mr. Bryant told me he doesn't really have any secrets for living a long life, but offers this advice. "Try to live right. Treat the other fellow as you wish to be treated."
I can tell you after talking with Mr. Bryant there is a lot we can learn from him as individuals and as a country. It's up to us to follow his example!!