David Lauderdale

Lauderdale: Six things Phil Henry would say

Phil Henry
Phil Henry

Phil Henry is being mourned by a lot of people since the co-owner of the popular Jump & Phil's Grill and Bar passed away last Thursday at 63.

Apparently, I'm not the only one he treated kindly, and with a sense of humor.

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He used to pick up the phone in his Hilton Head Island world headquarters and call me with urgent news, like osprey building a nest on the Cross Island Parkway sign.

After going through old emails, I want to share six things Phil Henry actually said:

"David: Why is there no kudzu on the Island? You're my go to guy."

I thought I answered Phil, but maybe not.

Sally Krebs, aka The Tree Lady, knows a lot of stuff like this as the longtime tree protector for the Town of Hilton Head Island.

Her best guess is that the island's salt-dominated habitat isn't kind to all plants. Dogwoods don't grow natively in our woods, for example. Sweet bay magnolia is another one. Perhaps the dreaded kudzu -- the vine that ate the South -- is another.

Laura Lee Rose of the Clemson Extension Service in Beaufort agreed with that.

But she's seen a pretty good stand of kudzu along Parris Island Gateway real close to the salt marsh.

Laura Lee suspects the helpful U.S. Department of Agriculture agents who pushed kudzu as an erosion control measure didn't need to do that down here where it's so flat. Kudzu was pushed to cling to hillsides and gullies in the early 20th century after cotton farmers sent all the topsoil down the Savannah River.

"You are the guy that added 'puff mud' to my vocabulary."

That would be pluff mud, Phil, and I'm still stuck in the pluff mud of life.

"David: Do you have a photo of the Golden Rose? Do you know anyone who does have one? Your Fan, Phil Henry."

The Golden Rose was a restaurant, bar and pool hall beneath the tall pines of what is now Port Royal Plantation. Gene Wiley ran it, and it was a favorite place to go after midnight on Saturday night. The Rose had a great jukebox, full of jazz and rhythm and blues. It remains a moon-bathed image in the minds and hearts of those young dreamers who lived on Hilton Head in the 1970s. Maybe it's best that the Rose stay that way. But I, too, would love to see some pictures.

"Look for me on the floor Sept. 6th when The President gives his speech at The Democratic Convention. Representing the Great State of South Carolina."

This was in Charlotte when Barack Obama was nominated for his second term. Phil was a diehard Democrat, but his business partner, John "Jumpy" Griffin, urged him not to talk politics at Jump & Phil's, where he was outnumbered.

By the way, Phil was not there as a delegate, but he was there.

Phil also sent emails about getting personal tours of the White House and U.S. Capitol, something that filled him with pride. It was arranged through former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, whose late mother, Betty Batson, was a real estate force on the island. "Hope he doesn't find out I'm a Democrat," Phil wrote.

"David: Great article on 1975. I moved here that spring because no one would hire me fresh out of college. ONE big difference I see today that is different from then is that back then Walter Cronkite told us how bad our lives were at 6:30 pm. One time only. Today we get 24 hours of just how bad things are in our lives every day. Doom and gloom. We are all going broke, the country is at war, and people are getting hit on the head cooking steaks in the back yard. Think I will turn the tube off today and go off line for just a little while. Maybe things just aren't that bad. Great article. Phil Henry"

Maybe we could do that in memory of Phil. We could limit our doom and gloom to 30 minutes a day.

"David: Monty Jett just gave me a copy of 'Baptized in Sweet Tea' by Ken Burger. It is wonderful. Have you read it?

"Dear Phil, yes, I have. Love it. I wrote about it when it came out. Ken is the Cadillac of Lowcountry writers. Always was. Thanks a lot, David.

"David: YOU are the Cadillac of Lowcountry writers."

Thanks, Phil. Thanks for everything.

Follow columnist and senior editor David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale and facebook.com/david.lauderdale.16.