With Father’s Day 2024 come and gone, I have had the opportunity to consider the coincidence that occurred that weekend – namely my watching two superb westerns from different decades, Anthony Mann’s Man of the West from 1958 and Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales from 1976.  As a longtime aficionado of the western, I should, of course, have already seen both films long ago.  They are celebrated examples of the venerated genre.  Some critics have hailed Man of the West the finest of Mann’s westerns, and that is saying much, considering his filmography also includes Winchester ’73, The Naked Spur, and The Man from Laramie, not to mention a series of excellent film noirs from the forties and fifties.  It would probably be accurate to say that Josey Wales is the first of a long line of masterpieces in Eastwood’s long directorial oeuvre.

Cooper plays Link Jones, a former outlaw now gone clean who is dedicated to raising money to help reform the new small town in which he lives.  However, he is drawn back into a life of crime thanks to his uncle (Lee J. Cobb) but never truly loses his sense of right and wrong and in the end chooses right.  Eastwood is the eponymous character from the Asa Carter novel, a Southerner whose home is destroyed and his family murdered by marauding Yankees in the waning days of the War Between the States.  Wales exacts revenge with almost inhuman bravery, great skill, and appropriate brutality.  Both these films are as much morality tales as they are horse operas, perhaps more so.  They depict men placed in complicated situations who never yield their sense of justice or what is right.

So where lies the coincidence of which I wrote earlier?  I watched each film on Father’s Day weekend without remembering, at first, that westerns were my father’s preferred movie genre, along with war pictures, and that Gary Cooper was his favorite movie actor.  Cooper was Sergeant York in the movie of that name; he was Will Kane in High Noon and Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees.  He played characters of few words and many actions, stoic men who faced the difficulties in life headlong, with a minimum of complaint and with much determination and ingenuity.

Those qualities appealed greatly to Daddy all throughout his life, and I suspect Cooper was an influence on much of his own behavior and outlook on life.  Like York, he was a man of quiet but unwavering piety.   Like Kane, he was a leader who knew how to bring people together to accomplish a common goal.  Like Gehrig, he faced his final illness, in his case cancer, without regret or whining.  Cooper was a Montanan, but his characters embodied a lot of what we find in the best of Southern manhood, those characteristics I have enumerated above.  Daddy was a life-long South Carolinian, and he most certainly embodied those characteristics and lived them every day of his life without having to announce the fact.  He was a man’s man if ever such thing existed, the real thing, without resort to manufactured machismo or unnecessary cruelty.

Julian Ivey was born in Union County, South Carolina, in 1936, as the Great Depression raged on.  His family was poor, very poor.  It consisted of mill-hands and cotton-workers.  Cornbread and buttermilk made up their suppers night after night.  If lucky, they might have meat on Sundays, a chicken that Daddy had to chase down, wring to death, and pluck.  Monetary desperation led to Daddy’s quitting school in tenth grade to go to work in one of the county’s then-numerous cotton plants.  He never left the profession, working for the next fifty years in various textile mills, eventually attaining, through diligence and hard work, high management positions.  He retired at the young age of sixty-five when the industry began to change, relying more on people with college degrees and less on those with experience.  Not one for idleness, he immediately transferred his energy and organization skills to the Union Shrine Club, where, until cancer felled him, he worked hard to raise money for the Shriners Hospital in Greenville.  It was a special calling for him, as he had such compassion for the afflicted children the hospital served (and continues to serve).

He had a heart for the downtrodden in general, because he knew want himself.  He had gone hungry.  I will never forget one fall here at home when the yard was blanketed in pine needles.  On such occasions, Daddy would give me forty dollars if I raked the yard and piled up the needles and then help him carry the refuse in long tarps to the gully in the front yard to be carried off eventually by the city.  That one fall, he was approached by a black family down on its luck and looking for work, any kind of work.  The man had once worked for him in one of the mills.  “Let them do it,” Daddy told me.  “They need the money.  You can do it next year.”  I went to the window to watch them, a father, a mother, and two children, pulling hard at the yard with long rakes, so grateful for the chance to work.  It is an image that has stayed with me many years later, yet another emblem of my father’s devotion to his God’s admonition that we love others and treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated.  Daddy loved all genuine people, black and white, and they loved him, for he gave them work and guidance and money out of his pocket and food off his table.  When our little town was beset by snow and ice and the mill was still running that night despite the weather, he would go out in his own automobile and pick up workers who did not own cars and take them to the mill, risking his own safety.

He was less congenial to fakes, liars, and hypocrites, although, once again, he always treated them with deference as well.

Like most natural Southerners, Daddy loved history.  Although financial need forced him to quit high school in 1952, he was determined to get his high school diploma, and, in his early thirties, with a wife and two children and a full-time day job, he enrolled in night school and did just that.  His preferred area of study was history.  He was drawn to anything having to do with the Second World War.  He adored General MacArthur, whose famous line to Congress, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” he often imitated and in emulation of MacArthur’s voice.  He despised Harry Truman for firing MacArthur.  His favorite president was FDR, who in each of his four elections carried nearly one hundred percent of the vote in South Carolina.  Daddy wasn’t an ideologue, neither liberal nor conservative, although certainly more the latter than the former.  He loved FDR because he saw him as someone who got things done, who talked and then did what he said he would do and who cared for the plight of the working poor.  (He and I agreed that his other hero, Gary Cooper, nearly ruined his career by coming out against Roosevelt and the New Deal and for Thomas Dewey in the Presidential contest of 1944.)  Like most young men of his generation, he was raised a Democrat but later drifted toward political independence and was nearly disowned by his Yellow Dog father when he supported Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  He liked his politicians plainspoken and unpretentious.  He loved and campaigned for South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings, the great champion of the textile industry, and voted twice for Ross Perot.  Had he lived, he would have voted for Donald Trump.

In late September 2015, he complained of stomach cramps and constipation.  Two days later, he could not rise from his bed because of weakness and pain.  It was obvious he needed to see a doctor.  A medical examination in Spartanburg showed that he had a severe liver infection that could be traced back to his colon.  The diagnosis was stage-four cancer.  This was dismaying news, of course, but I for one held out hope that he would defeat the disease.    He was, after all, my hero, my Superman (more than once people had compared him to the latter, with his black-haired good looks and natural muscular physique).  Years earlier, he had conquered prostate cancer, and in the fall of 2014, he had undergone a successful, multi-hour open heart surgery and had come bounding back with his usual elan and energy.  He had always come back from injury and illness.  Nothing could kill him.  Or so I thought.  This time, though, he decided against treatment.  He faced the diagnosis without bemoaning it.  He did not cry or curse God for the cancer.  If he felt any pain, he kept it well-hidden.  In the meantime, we took him to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, just before Christmas.  It was his favorite place on Earth, one to which we’d been going as a family for fifty years.  (His favorite song was Patti Page’s rendition of “Tennessee Waltz,” and his chief passion as a younger man was the viewing, training, and riding of Tennessee Walking horses).  Back home, we had him transferred to hospice care in Spartanburg, where he could get proper rest.  On the last night of his life, Clemson played Alabama for the national college football championship.  Daddy was a diehard Carolina Gamecock.  That Alabama bested the Tigers for the title that night must have been a parting gift for him.

He died quietly the next morning, January 12, 2016.  His image floats indelibly before those of us who knew him and aim to follow his example.

Randall Ivey

Randall Ivey teaches English at the University of South Carolina, Union and is the author of two short story collections and a book for children. His work has appeared in magazines, journals, and anthologies in the United States and England.


  • Joyce says:

    Your daddy was a wonderful gentleman, a genuinely charitable person. My grandmother was also a lifelong Democrat because her grandparents suffered under Lincoln’s occupation of Maryland. Sadly to this day there are older Southern people who remain Democrats because of family tradition.

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