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(DAILY Photo by Delores Delvin)

Article taken from THE DAILY(1987)

Writing letters lets man's 'voice from the wilderness' be heard


HARTSELLE - Ed Summers believes that being an American means more than just being - it means doing. He proves it every time his 121 Bethel Road address appears in newspapers and magazines in the letters to the editor section. From trash on the highways to supreme court decisions, Summers lets his "voice from the wilderness" be heard. Since the early 1980s, the Hartselle resident has penned more than 400 letters to different publications. About 100 of those have been to THE DAILY. "I write because I read," Summers said. "If I didn't read, I wouldn't have anything to write about. A lot of people might not read a full article in the newspaper, but they would take the time to read a 200-word letter to the editor. That's the reason I write. After retiring from Redstone Arsenal in 1977, Summers increased both his letter writing and community involvement. . "A lot of people think it's completely crazy when a 65-year-old retiree would bat his brains out like this," Summers said and laughed."I get up at 4 a.m. a lot of times. Sometimes I have up to eight projects going at once."

Summers writes from his living room, where he is comfortably surrounded by many of his favorite things. His cap collection is neatly stacked around the room, his stamp collection sits on the shelves, and several versions of the Bible are within his reach. Hanging on the wall are three framed documents: the Constitution, the Declaration of In-dependence and the Bill of Rights. Summers is a firm believer in staying informed and said that looking back is the best way to know what lies ahead, "I've always loved history," he said. "We can learn from history; in fact, it's about the only place to learn." Summers gets many of his letter- writing ideas from his favorite historical documents and from the Bible. Other ideas come from people he meets on the streets. "A lot of people call and want me to write a letter for them," Summers said "I get a lot of them interested in writing their own letters, "I also get notes from people saying how much they like my letters. One fellow from South Morgan County called and said it's not proper to call what I do letters to editor. He said I was the voice in the wilderness. He said that I express the will of the people." A woman wrote to Summers: "I look forward to reading your input in the letters to the editor. I agree with so much you have to say. Keep writing - for there is one person in Hillsboro that reads them. " It has gotten to the point that everywhere I go, somebody says something about it," Summers said. "If I get my car fixed a mechanic will say, 'I sure did enjoy your letter on so and so. Why don't you write a letter on so and so?... Summers said most letter writers are one-issue people. "I'm interested in anything. I think you can shake a tree at any level - city, state or federal - and something will fall out. " To prove his point, Summers recalled the time he was puzzled by the soldiers tax placed on a business forced to sell because of failure to pay property taxes. He discovered that half of the tax was appropriated for widows of Confederate soldiers, all of whom are now deceased. The other half helps fund a Confederate cemetery in South Alabama. ."The man told me that half of the money now goes to Pensions and Securities," Summers said. "I wrote a letter to the editor saying that the least that should be done, is for our state legislators to restructure the tax for the right purpose. Only half of it is going to the purpose it was set up for." Summers' letter writing is not limited to the media. He also writes to his mayor and his congressmen. "I write my, congressman constantly. If we don't let them know how we feel, we have no right to complain. Most people would rather complain than do something about it. The just blame everything on that big inanimate object called the government.

"But, 99 percent of the time the blame lies on us. We the people aren't doing our part. We sit on our cans and the federal government usurps power. Now we work for them instead of them working for us. "A former congressman told me I should have a nationally syndicated column because I put the blame on we the people."

When Summers addresses an issue, he does it in simple terms. He said he hates to read something that requires a dictionary to understand it. Ten principles that he learned in a clear writing course still stick in his mind. "Big men use little words. Write to express, not to impress," he recited from the course. "I try to express my point of view. I think everybody is obligated to do that. We're also obligated to being informed on the issues and the candidates. I don't believe our founding fathers ever envisioned the masses voting, only the educated and the landowners. "I wrote a letter to the editor one time after only 7 percent of the people voted in an election. It still came out all right because only the informed voted." When not writing letters, Summers said he enjoys time with his wife, Bevelye. They spend lunchtime every day watching Summers' favorite soap opera, "The Young and the Restless. "

"I believe if all people would watch it they could find answers to all of today's problems," Summers said. "They cover everything from teenage pregnancy to drugs, and show the consequences. That's why they win all the awards." Summers has been post commander seven times at the American Legion, John F. Thompson Post No. 52, where he now serves as post adju- tant and Americanism officer. He is active in the Legion's Boys State, school awards and scholarship programs. He is also a 32-year charter member of the Hartselle Civitan club and teaches Sunday School at First United Methodist Church. Summers said he still strives to put God at the top of his agenda. "I try to say something in the newspapers in a way that is not overly religious, but still tells us what God says to do in the matter, "The most important thing I can write about is to tell people how to live better and happier lives. We all have troubles. I try to show a way to solve our problems."