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The Blessing of Adoption

June 18, 2012

During the Civil War, Zachary Taylor Hutson fought in the Wilderness Campaign with Robert E. Lee. When the War of Northern Aggression ended, Z.T. Hutson was mustered out of the Confederate Army. He took a train south to Spartanburg. From there, he walked all the way to his family farm in Barnwell County. He made the 130-mile journey hobbling on a wounded leg and suffering from tuberculosis. The trek took a full week.

In time, Z.T. and his wife, Simpie, had two sons, Willie and Joe.  Joe, the younger son, moved from Barnwell County to the Upstate where he attended Getsinger Business School. Joe changed the spelling of his name from Hutson to Hudson.  While in the Upstate, Joe met Belle Haynsworth from Darlington. Following their marriage, the couple lived in Spartanburg where they reared five sons and one daughter.

Willie, who eventually took responsibility for the farm, served as a representative from Barnwell County to the State Legislature. After his first wife died, Willie married Mollie Woodward.  Her father was Robert E. Lee Woodward.  Willie gained a stepdaughter from Mollie’s first marriage. Willie and Mollie had four sons and then a daughter, Louise.

When little Louise was only six weeks old, her mother died.  Following the burial in the cemetery of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Willie handed his infant daughter across Mollie’s grave to his sister-in-law, Belle.  She and Joe had traveled from Spartanburg to Barnwell County for the funeral.

Willie lamented, “I don’t b’lieve I can raise this little girl on a farm with these four boys.  I’d like for you to take her to Spartanburg. I’d ’preciate it if you’d rear her as your own.”

That baby girl was my mother. 

Because her adopted parents and her birth father were so closely related, she always regarded both families as her own.  In essence, she was the youngest of twelve children in the two combined families.  Throughout her life, she had a good relationship with all of these older brothers and sisters from both families.  She thought of both Willie and Joe as her daddies, calling them Little Daddy and Big Daddy.

Clare and I are delighted to be adoptive grandparents.  Our family regards adoption as a blessing.   As adoptive grandparents, we try to teach the children that their adoptive parents love them and are providing for them in ways that their birth parents could not have.

For some, adoption carries a lifelong stigma. People for whom being adopted has been a painful experience have difficulty. Most have questions about their birth parents.

In the church I serve, we are fortunate to have several adoptive families. It has been my privilege to dedicate children who are chosen through adoption at birth. I have baptized young people who were first foster children and later adopted by their foster parents. In these situations, adoption is a blessing to the child, the parents, and the church.

Those, like my mother, who are adopted, have a special place in the world. In a very real sense, they are the chosen ones. 

A list of famous people who were adopted includes people of diverse backgrounds and occupations. Moses, the biblical leader of the Jews, the Lakota war chief Crazy Horse, and the comedian Art Linkletter are on the roll.

Among the politicians on the list are John Hancock and Nelson Mandela.

The list includes inventor George Washington Carver, naturalist John Audubon, founder Dave Thomas of Wendy’s, and Steve Jobs of Apple computer.

Philosophers Aristotle and Jean Jacques Rousseau were adopted, as were authors Edgar Allan Poe and Langston Hughes.

My grandmother Belle Hudson, whom as I knew as Granny, included these words in her Last Will and Testament, “And to my niece Louise, whom I have always regarded as my daughter, my desire is that she share and share alike with my other children.”

When the will was read, my mother wept tears of joy.

Granny’s estate was very modest. Her love for her family was extravagant.

My mother’s inheritance was not wealth. It was acceptance and a sense of belonging.

Adoption is indeed a blessing!


Kirk H. Neely
© June 2012


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