Legacy of a Loving Father

Behind a successful person we often find the legacy of a loving father.

We may not know their names. Some are shopkeepers or farmers or shoe salesmen. Nothing they did in their jobs made them famous or successful. But what they did as fathers changed the course of history.

A writer once described the goal of fathering as this: to ignite a spark in the life of your children that lights up the rest of their lives. In honor of Father’s Day, here are four dads who did just that. Each gave their child a character quality that lit up their lives.

Luther Powell

Luther was a jaunty, confident man, small in stature but large in love. He lived in the South Bronx of New York, and worked first as a gardener on estates in Connecticut. Later, he went to work at Ginsburg’s, a manufacturer of women’s suits and coats. He started out working in the stockroom and moved up to become a shipping clerk. He worked hard to raise his daughter, Marilyn, to protect her from the streets, and to make sure she “ran with the good girls.” To his son he gave a legacy of good character and hard work. Luther’s son, General Colin Powell, says this: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my father.”

Alfred Roberts

Alfred Roberts was a small-town shopkeeper. He managed the grocery store in a place called Grantham. For his daughter Margaret, he was a fount of wisdom and knowledge, even though he had little formal education. She remembers fondly a time when she wanted to go out and hang around with friends rather than do her school work. “He said, ‘Never do things just because other people do them.'” It was a simple expression, but something she carries with her to this day. She also recalls his commitment to serving others. “Service was engraved in his heart,” Margaret says. It was that commitment to service that helped Margaret pick her career. Today we know little Margaret Roberts as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

George Patton

George was a lawyer who lived with his family on a gently sloping plain next to the San Gabriel Mountains in California. Handsome and slim, he wore a floppy mustache. He was elected district attorney of Los Angeles County, but you will remember him more because of his son. His children–George, Jr. and Nita–adored him. He took them fishing and sailing, taught them how to ride a horse and shoot a rifle. “We spent hours in his lap,” recalled George, Jr., “listening as he read aloud.” The reading was particularly important because George Jr. was dyslexic and had trouble reading. But his father worked hard with him on his reading, and helped to wipe away the tears that came from the cruel laughter that accompanied his mistakes in school. George, Jr. said his father taught him everything he knew, but especially the value of courage. A high compliment when you consider it came from General George S. Patton.

Frank Graham

Frank had a small place in Sharon Township, North Carolina. It was a dairy farm, but it wasn’t much of a living. His children often remember him with a sun-browned face, walking up the hot, dusty path back to the farmhouse. In the 1929 stock market crash, he lost his entire life savings–$4,000. But his children, especially his son William, remembered how he persevered in his faith, knowing that things would get better. “He never complained about the rigors of life,” his son wrote later, “he was always hopeful about the future.” Frank’s son credits his father with teaching him about practical faith. And it’s a good thing he did: we know Frank’s son as Billy Graham.

Each of these four individuals observed in their father a quality that became the key to their own success. For Colin Powell it was hard work. For Margaret Thatcher, a commitment to service. For George Patton, courage, and for Billy Graham, faith. We like to think that these great qualities somehow just appeared in these successful people. But they didn’t. Each quality was a gift from their father.


Mark W. Merrill

Mark is the president of All Pro Dad and Family First , a national non-profit organization. He is also the voice of a daily radio program called The Family Minute.

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