Ned Baynham is a member by marriage of my wife’s family. He lives in North Augusta, South Carolina with his wife Kay. Ned is a big affable man with a delightfully subtle sense of humor. We were somewhere together years ago when a woman within earshot was chatting fast enough to break the sound barrier. Ned leaned over and said, “I think that lady may have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.”
A co-worker, who was much younger than Ned, made a comment one day bemoaning that he was growing old. Ned put things in perspective by telling the man, “I have socks that are older than you.” He has a natural talent for quietly saying amusing things.
Ned grew up digging clay from the banks of the Savannah River for their family business. His great-grandfather started South Carolina Pottery in the little town of Eureka in the late 1800s. Ned’s grandfather and father continued that process of turning that wet river clay into pottery. Antique pots from their kiln still surface occasionally with the company name inscribed on the bottom.
When Ned was a child their family made red clay pots as small as two inches in diameter to as large as ten inches. He got his driver’s license at age 14 and would sometimes take their truck, loaded with thousands of pots packed in straw, to their buyers in Florida. He and one of his brothers spent an unscheduled night in Daytona because of some trouble with the truck. Their daddy told them not to use that line again.
On his first day of grammar school Ned’s teacher called roll. “George Edward Baynham,” she said, to which no one responded. “George Edward Baynham,” she repeated. After a brief pause, she said, “That’s you Ned. You’re George Edward Baynham.” He said, “No mam. My name is Ned.” It was the first time he was made aware of his given name.
Ned went to North Augusta High School. He and his four older brothers were an integral part of North Augusta football teams for many years. Football was the one sport their father would excuse his sons from work to participate in. The most grueling practice was better than digging clay by hand and firing kilns to 3000 degrees.
The Shrine Bowl is an annual event that matches 33 of the top high school football players from South Carolina against 33 from North Carolina. Ned, two of his brothers, and a first cousin were selected at different times to play. During his senior year trip to Charlotte, Ned learned that toughness has its limitations. Both teams visited the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Greenville. They were told that it could be an emotional experience and asked not to cry in front of the young patients. Ned felt the water pooling in his eyes and excused himself to the hallway. He found about half his teammates and coaches already there. Some moments stay with us for a lifetime.
Ned played tight end well enough to attract the attention of Coach Warren Giese with the University of South Carolina. In the fall of 1960 Coach Giese made a recruiting trip to meet with Ned and his good friend, Jerry Priestly, the quarterback for North Augusta. Their high school coach, Cally Gault, went with them to Town Tavern, a fancy restaurant unlike any place Ned had ever been.
Ned and Jerry stared at the menu but had no idea what to order. Coach Giese asked them, ”Do you boys want a shrimp cocktail?” They looked quizzically at each other, unsure how to respond. Jerry whispered discreetly, “You better say no, Ned. He’s trying to find out if we drink.”
Coach Giese signed Ned to play with the Gamecocks and turned him into a linebacker. Jerry Priestly went to Georgia Tech to be their quarterback. Jerry lettered in three sports for three years, football, basketball, and baseball, and is in the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame.
Those two coaches have left the stadium, but Ned and Jerry are still laughing about shrimp cocktails almost 60 years later. Some moments stay with us for a lifetime, and George Edward Baynham has more than his share. Maybe it’s because he got an early start. “No mam,” he said to his first-grade teacher. “My name is Ned.”