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Aikin Home » Harvill Journal » Tribute to Dr. Hayden

Tribute to Dr. Hayden

Posted 05.24.10 at 9:05 AM

I mourn the recent passing of my good friend, Dr. William deG. Hayden, who was truly a great friend of his adopted city, Paris, Texas, as both a medical doctor and an historical preservationist of the utmost dedication. He is still much on my mind, as over the years, I had the opportunity to work with him and to know him as a friend.
I have many fond memories of him. I often called him for a bit of information that I needed, and likewise, he’d call me to look up something for him.  One time he called me to do a program on Sidney Lanier, the famous Southern poet, for the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, and I said that I didn’t know that much about Lanier, and he said, “Well, you can look him up, can’t you?” Indeed I did and enjoyed working up the program, which I gave for the Sons in the second floor meeting room of the museum on the grounds of his home.
I’ll never forget being at his interview of Mary Atkinson, now deceased, in Clarksville, Texas. She was the last remaining descendant of Frederic Douglas. He brought her to Paris for the Smithsonian Exhibit “Before Freedom Came” at the Hayden Museum.
Dr. Hayden was a Southern gentleman, in my book, and his charming, courtly manner didn’t hurt him a bit. It was always a pleasure to hear that deep, softly-accented voice, and it was surely a pleasure to see his many treasures at the museum and to enjoy the beautiful grounds of Belle Cheniere. I have a particular place in my heart for the Bayou Teche country of Southeast Louisiana, and when I could start him talking about it, because he came from there, it was just so much fun for me. I loved to hear about New Iberia, Shadows on the Teche, and the Southern writers he had known.
He told me once that the first time he ever saw Betty (who became his wife), he thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Betty, too, has told me much about the Louisiana where she grew up, and I concur with Dr. Hayden. Betty is a rare and precious woman, and she took loving care of Dr. Hayden until the end. I thank her for that.
Farewell, Dr. Hayden. We’ll never forget you, and we’ll try to follow your motto, printed in every issue of The Maxey Dispatch: “Stand firmly by your cannon / Let ball and grape shot fly. / And trust in God and Davis, / But keep your powder dry.”

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