We lost a part of our community’s soul when Jack died

Published 6:32 pm Friday, December 9, 2011

A piece of our community’s soul was lost Thursday. Jack Wingate, who you can argue has done more than anyone to promote Bainbridge, Decatur County, and Lake Seminole to people all over the country, died at the age of 82.

Jack was a great husband, father, friend, fisherman, historian, author, promoter, conversationalist and all the other good things you can think of all rolled up in one. He will absolutely be greatly missed.

In my short three and one half years in Bainbridge, I was unlucky enough to only have the opportunity to be around Jack a handful to times, but each time was memorable and each time I learned something about this area that I didn’t know.

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I’m about to poke fun at myself a little, but let me tell you about the first time I learned of Jack Wingate. I began work at The Post-Searchlight on a Monday in June 2008. Before my family arrived in Bainbridge, I spent a few weeks at the Jameson Inn and late on evening, I was going through The Post-Searchlight’s website and began reading Jack’s column, “Seminole Ramlins,” online.

“What in the world?” I thought to myself. “The spelling and grammar in this column is atrocious.” Little did I know, that was Jack and that’s the way our readers liked Jack’s column to appear, in his colloquial style.  Jack’s column first appeared in The Post-Searchlight in 1966 and only ended recently when he became too ill to continue writing it. Well, he must have been doing it right.

I spent some time yesterday with Kevin Dowdy, operator of the radio stations of Flint Media, at a chamber of commerce meeting. Kevin, who many people know is a grand collector of artifacts, told me a story about Jack, who also had a passion for collecting Native American artifacts, and his interaction with some kids at an artifact show.

Jack had a table at the show with numerous Native American tools, arrowheads, and artifacts. Each child at approached Jack’s table would get a one-on-one, detailed demonstration. The line was a mile deep with kids to see, hear, and learn from Jack.

About a year or so ago, we developed and starting publishing the Rifle & Rod magazine. In the premiere edition, a story appeared outlining the influence Jack had, along with his long-time friend Ray Scott, founder of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), in the development and birth of professional bass fishing. His influence and foresight will be felt for generations.

Ray Scott has become a friend and a big help to us with Rifle & Rod. Each correspondence we have ever had with Ray, either through telephone, letter, or email, would end the same each time. “If you see Jack Wingate, tell him I love him.”

Please say a prayer for Jack’s wife of 59 years, Joyce, his children, and grandchildren. See you down the road, Sage of Seminole.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of The Post-Searchlight. He can be reached by emailing jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com