As everyone nervously waits for time and cancer to take their sad course with Charlie Norwood, local officials are scrambling to set up honors on his behalf.
Saturday, during "Family Day" at the Georgia Capitol, state Rep. Barry Fleming announced a resolution recognizing Norwood's service, and invited other lawmakers to sign on. The invitation evoked an outpouring of support for Norwood, who returned home last week to hospice care after rejecting further cancer treatment.
Then, on Monday, Columbia County commissioners voted to name the plaza in front of the courthouse and the short road that runs alongside it in Norwood's honor.
The significance of those locations is that Norwood's last speech to a general Columbia County assemblage was May 27, 2006, during the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration in front of the courthouse. (He also spoke to the county's Republican Party at their breakfast meeting three months later, in August.)
What's a little awkward about all this is that many people - me included - have long-standing opposition to naming things after people who are still alive.
We lost that philosophical battle when the commission renamed the street in front of the courthouse Ronald Reagan Drive while the former president was still living.
Norwood certainly has more local significance than Reagan. I suppose we could say there's now a precedent for the Norwood honor, and I couldn't think of a person more worthy of it.
Meanwhile, the Athens paper this weekend took state Sen. Ralph Hudgens to task for displaying "overweening ambition" as he revealed his desire to replace Norwood.
"With a stunning lack of tact, Hudgens let it be known that he would be interested in running for Georgia's 10th District seat in Congress," the editorial in The Athens Banner-Herald said. "Trouble is, the seat is not vacant."
The editorial noted that Hudgens' comments came in an interview with the Gainesville Times, in which this offending quote appeared: Hudgens said his "prayer for Charlie has been that he would get well and continue to serve and thereby keep me from having to make a decision (about running)."
In spite of Hudgens' fig-leaf remarks that "right now, there is no vacancy, and there's nothing to talk about," the cat was out of the bag, the editorial said. "That doesn't blunt the impression that Hudgens' only real interest in Norwood's health is whether it will have any bearing on his (Hudgens') decision to seek higher office.
"Whether Hudgens' comment to the Times was an unfortunate misstatement or an inadvertent admission of naked political ambition is of little consequence," the editorial said. "In either case, his comments show he simply doesn't have the political skills, or the people skills, to be an effective advocate for this area in Washington."
Ouch. It's going to be hard enough for an Athens-area candidate to win the seat; it certainly won't help Hudgens if he doesn't have the support of the hometown paper.
It's no secret that people are figuratively hovering around Norwood's death-bed, waiting to go through a perfunctory period of mourning before declaring their intention to seek his vacated office.
I wrote about it, in fact, Jan. 24 - exactly two weeks before Norwood's office announced he was coming home for hospice care.
At that time, I noted the number of "politicians and wannabees" who were "clearing their throats for their announcement speeches that would follow their obligatory condolence messages."
I'm just stunned that someone would skip the throat-clearing and go right to the announcement.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.