All right, I didn’t know Harry Dent personally. So I urge you to read the op-ed piece we ran today from Bob McAlister, who did. We’re considering other submissions about him now.
But this is South Carolina, and everybody in South Carolina touches everybody else. We don’t have to play "Six Degrees" around here, even with Kevin Bacon. We are usually no more than a degree or two away. That’s true even of someone like me who didn’t grow up here, except in the summers when I was with my grandparents in Bennettsville and Surfside. All you need is to have your roots here, and three-fourths of my family tree grows out of our poor soil (my father’s father’s people are from Maryland).
Harry Dent — the one who died last week, not the son — was my Dad’s fraternity brother at PC. In fact, in keeping with his pursuit of worldly superlatives in his early life, he was the president of the fraternity. My Dad wasn’t close to him, and even wondered how he ended up among the Pikes, since he wasn’t a jock. Dad was there on a tennis scholarship in the days when the Blue Hose were a tennis powerhouse, and most everybody in the fraternity played ball of some sort. (Dad informs me that his football-playing brothers were in the "smart" positions; the linemen belonged to Sigma Nu.)
But I had never heard of him when I left Hawaii for my one semester at USC in 1971. I first heard of Mr. Dent one day in Prof. Dolan’s world history class. A student had asked the prof during class whether a certain historical situation he was describing (I forget what) didn’t have an interesting parallel with the Nixon Administration. The prof had brushed the question aside. After class, the questioner went up to the prof and asked why he hadn’t answered the question. He said, "I’m not answering a question like that with Harry Dent’s kid sitting there in the class."
I don’t know which son that was because I don’t remember his first name. But after having him thus pointed out, I made the connection when it turned out he lived on the same floor of the Bates House — which was brand-spanking new that semester — with several friends of mine I referred to collectively as the Bates House Gang. (I lived in the honeycombs, with the hard core.)
Once after I came to work at the paper, Harry Dent came to see us about some worthy cause or other he was promoting, and I got to chat with him briefly. I can’t remember now whether he already knew of our connection (the one through my Dad) or not.
One more thing: Whenever his name has come up, Dad has always referred to him as "Harry Shuler" — first name and middle name. I asked him why the other day. He said he didn’t know why; he just always had.
I guess it’s kind of a South Carolina thing.