Tupper Lightfoot: The man behind the name

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 28, 2002

Features Editor

This summer, during a flurry of "youthful" activity at the Tupper Lightfoot Memorial Library in Brundidge, some of young people have asked, "Who’s Tupper Lightfoot?" and that is a question that deserves to be answered.

Daniel Webster defines "father" as a male parent, an ancestor or one who stands in relation of a father.

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Tupper Lightfoot was never a biological father, but he was a father to many young people in the Brundidge area for many years.

As the only child of Mary Ella Snider Lightfoot and Matthias Lightfoot,

Tupper Lightfoot lived a sheltered life and once said he would not have chosen to live life as a bachelor. However, by leading a bachelor’s life, he was able to "stand in relation of a father" to many young people.

He was named for his father’s favorite English poet and, although such an unusual name would have been reason enough to remember the young man from Brundidge, it was his giving spirit that set him a part from others.

Lightfoot’s personality was most unusual. In a world where most people were focused on getting and spending, he was more concerned with giving away.

In a 1957 newspaper clipping, the late William Watson, who served as the city clerk in Brundidge for 25 years, was quoted as saying, "If there’s a man who will give you the shirt off his back, it’s Tupper. He has given away a fortune helping others. I’ll always have a tender spot in my heart for Tupper because, when I came back from World War II, cars were hard to get and I couldn’t get one. He placed his car at my disposal and usually it had a tank full of gas."

Rosalyn Holmes, recently retired head librarian at the Tupper

Lightfoot Memorial Library in Brundidge, was fascinated by the man for whom the library is named. She did research to find out more about the kind, giving gentleman.

Holmes said Lightfoot attended school in Brundidge and was an honor student. He attended Southern Methodist College in Greensboro. He served in the Army during World War I and was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

When he returned to Brundidge, he worked for a year in his father’s bank. He then managed a clothing store but gave away so many things to his customers that he could not make a profit.

Later, he sold insurance, but paid the monthly premiums for those who could not pay at the time.

"That was the beginning of a lifetime of giving to others," Holmes said.

As a young man, Lightfoot became very active in the Brundidge United Methodist Church, serving as Sunday school teacher and Sunday school superintendent and on the board of stewards and the church board of lay activities.

In the late 1940s, he served on the board of trustees a both Huntingdon and Birmingham Southern colleges.

When Lightfoot’s father died in 1928, he inherited a fortune.

He and his mother lived together in their lovely Victorian home on Main Street until her death in 1945.

After his mother’s death, Lightfoot, who was well-known for his generosity, began giving away the furnishings in his home to those he thought needed them.

Holmes said Lightfoot thought nothing of writing $2,000 checks to men who were entering the ministry or those who wanted to attend college.

He paid the memberships for many young boys who wanted join the Boy Scouts. He bought groceries, clothes and paid utilities for those in need.

Lightfoot was a strong supporter of the fine arts and would buy concert tickets for those who would enjoy the arts programs and provide them with

subscriptions to cultural magazines and other publications.

Perhaps, Lightfoot greatest contribution to is community was his willingness to loan or give books from his extensive collection to anyone he thought could and would benefit from them.

He would sit on the front porch of his Main Street home, which was actually a private lending library, and visit with people of all ages. As he discovered their interests he would loan them books to encourage those interests. Tupper Lightfoot’s home was a lending library long before it was purchased by the city for use as the public library.

It is said that the spirit of the library existed there through the generosity of Lightfoot and his spirit lives on through the library today.

Perhaps, the Pike County High School Class of ’54 best expressed the community’s sentiments toward Lightfoot when they dedicated their yearbook to him. The dedication read, in part, This one man probably touches the lives of our student body more than any other. Inevitably, some of his dignity, his sincerity and his warm regard for his fellowman has rubbed off on each of us."

Lightfoot died penniless in 1962 at the age of 67.

Holmes said it was appropriated that his home be chosen as the public library and that it be named in memory of Lightfoot, a man who held books and education in such high regard.

A quote from Sir Winston Churchill sums up Lightfoot’s life, "We make a living out of what we get, but we make a life out of what we give."

Tupper Lightfoot gave it all.