As is my tradition, I like to seize on this last column to look back on the year.

I didn’t write as much because of the pandemic. You likely barely noticed, but the paper put me on the sideline in April, which lasted about four months.

That was because of COVID-19, which played a central role in all of our lives in 2020.

For a history buff such as myself, the parallels with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 were obvious. According to the CDC, that pandemic lasted 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing at least 50 million people worldwide.

The first cases in Georgia occurred at Camp Gordon in Chamblee, a World War I training camp. On Sept. 18, 1918, officials began isolating soldiers when they showed symptoms of the flu.

Within a few days, with cases spreading, half the camp was under quarantine. Nearly 2,000 enlisted men were admitted to the infirmary for influenza and pneumonia during the epidemic, and 94 died due to the disease.

The camp also issued a call for 100,000 handmade masks made by the public for the soldiers. Newspaper articles gave instructions on how to make a “flu mask.”

“Masks are made easily at home,” one article stated. “A piece of gauze the size of a full letter sheet folded twice; tape or string attached long enough to reach around the head and tie, attached to corners is all there is to it.”

That is eerily similar to what we were reading in March of this year, as we endured a national mask shortage.

These columns should never be controversial. My aim is to write about subjects you won’t find anywhere else, like history. But it wouldn’t be 2020 without a few dust ups.

I touched the third rail in a column on the Lake Forrest Road controversy. I tried to give some historical perspective for the road name, but a few readers let me know I should have left well enough alone.

Then there was the coronavirus. As we had a senior at Lovett, I wrote about our experience with two teenagers in the house during a global pandemic. I reflected on how I would have behaved as a teenager in similar circumstances.

That led to more attention than it warranted, from which I did not shy.

I don’t regret writing the column or the fallout. As with all things, I was honest and it was from the heart, which can get me in hot water. That being said, it was a tempest in a teapot.

Highlights from 2020 include a column about the origins of the Bert Adams Scout Camp in Vinings, and finally — after nine years — finding the connection between the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Dickey and the James Dickey who built the house across from the Governor’s Mansion in 1918.

The poet is the early Buckhead resident’s nephew.

Looking for a laugh during these challenging times, I wrote a column about Buckhead comedy legend Jerry Farber, who was riding out the pandemic in his ‘’new’’ hometown of Columbus.

The 82-year-old ran Jerry Farber’s Place on Pharr Road, which drew celebrities and helped launch the careers of Jeff Foxworthy and Brett Butler. Most recently, he had Jerry Farber’s Side Door on Roswell Road.

He didn’t have a joke for me, but he did have a piece of post-pandemic advice. He recommended going to the jazz club Cafe 290 in Sandy Springs and hearing Joe Gransden play.

You know how sometimes when you are hungry — starving — and someone mentions a specific food or restaurant, and suddenly you have to have that meal, even after your hunger is satisfied?

Similarly, Cafe 290 is wedged in my mind after nine months of sheltering in place, and is the first place we will go when everything opens back up.

Here’s to a more chill 2021.

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Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is the president of PR South and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at


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