William Alexander Dabbs (11/26/1922 – 6/6/2013) was the incorrigible child who kept the family wondering whether he’d live long enough to become an adult. He jumped into a pen to grab a baby pig and was attacked by an angry mama sow. His brother, Furman, jumped in and started hitting the sow with a board to get her off and yelled at Billy to run. They called Mother Sudie, the nurse, to come quickly. Billy was scarred, but not permanently damaged.
He traipsed through the woods in bare feet looking for short cuts to the corner store and was bitten by a rattle snake. That required a hospital stay. Billy struggled with a slight speech articulation problem that his Mother tried to correct with the help of a speech therapist. Martha Dabbs Greenway tells the story of Billy Dabbs going into an ice cream store and telling the owner he wanted free ice cream cones. The owner responded that he couldn’t have free ice cream cones. Billy repeated he wanted free ice cream cones and the owner repeated he couldn’t have free ice cream cones. A third time Billy asked and a third the owner said he could not have free ice cream cones. “Well then,” Billy responded, “Give me four.”
Other male members of the family have also had similar speech problems which have generally been corrected. Many of the Dabbses do have a particular slur, or drawl, or garbled pronunciation that sometimes prompts a visitor, especially those Yankees, to give an inquisitive look and admit afterwards they didn’t understand anything that was said.
Billy enrolled in Clemson to avoid the rules and regulations of the Citadel and found that Clemson had rules and regulations of its own. So, he joined the Navy. He fell in love with his childhood sweetheart, Lynda Louise Corbett (8/03/23 - 8/23/07). They grew up together going to school in Mayesville where every week she would give him her dime allowance and he’d take it. They eloped over Christmas in 1943 when Billy was home on leave from the Navy. He returned home after the war to farm, after completing his military mission based out of New York City. Billy and Lynda had the longest marriage in the history of the family stretching across 63 years.
Lynda worked by her husband’s side raising a family and contending with the inevitable challenges of being in the center of two large families (the Corbetts and the Dabbses) in the small town of Mayesville. More than one time she would find herself caught between her husband, children, and mother-in-law over some family issue. On the surface she was the picture of a Southern lady; soft spoken, genteel; always allowing her husband to take center stage. Behind this exterior, however, lay a very resolute, strong-willed soul who had significant say-so in how things went within her home.
An expert story-teller in his own right, Billy nurtured that same talent in his children. Never one to shy away from asking questions or speaking his mind, even if it is unpopular within his community, he has never hesitated to take a hard stand. Sometimes it’s for the entertainment value and then sometimes it’s simply the right thing to do. His controversial support of John Plowden in a local court case
made a difference in turning a potentially guilty verdict into a not-guilty verdict and cemented a life-long friendship.
Ask anyone…. Billy has been known to ask anything anywhere at any time. Money is one of his favorite topics. How much did this cost and how much are you gettin’ paid for that? Being a staunch Republican he once shook Governor Sanford’s hand as he went through a receiving line. Governor Sanford is known for his endless vetoes on government spending. “Governor,” Billy said. “I really like your style. You say “No” to everything. You say “No” to this and “No” to that. You just keep saying “no, no, no.” Why if you were a woman, you’d still be a virgin.”
In 1973 Billy and Lynda’s Mayesville house burned to the ground after an electrical fire started in the attic. They lost everything they owned with the exception of a few items that they carried with them as they fled. They put a trailer on some land north of Mayesville on the
St. Charles Road
and started a long process of rebuilding.
Billy spent ten years researching the kind of home he wanted to build
and bringing in old wood, mantel pieces, mirrors and door frames from a large
variety of locations as far away as . This was all done Billy Dabbs-style on a
very limited budget with him doing most of the work. He takes great pride in showing you around
the house and telling you where he located each piece of wood. The home, which they call Windsong, supposedly resembles
the first home that Samuel McBride and Martha Ruberry McBride built prior to
Rip Raps. For a few years they ran a Bed
and Breakfast. Alabama
Billy was known for several things, but few could ever eclipse his ability to weave a good story and entertain people endlessly with his humorous recollections of his life and the lives of those around him. In a family where the joy in telling the story has always been highly valued, Billy Dabbs was king and held the spotlight at any gathering. I cannot begin to recount the numerous stories that surround Billy and Lynda and each of their children. One of my favorites is the $38 family vacation. Each story is priceless and I hope that one of their children or grandchildren will follow-up by putting together their own collection.
For the afternoon, the best entertainment around has always been a visit to their house to find out the latest of what is going on in town. A constant reader with unusual curiosity about every facet of life, Billy never stopped learning. Evenings spent over dinners that lasted for hours debating world affairs, politics, religion, literature, science or philosophy were common. With enthusiasm and humor, Lynda and Billy were both wonderful resources with oral histories of people, names and events.
Never without some project, the farm overflowed with fruit trees and vegetables, plus a never-ending array of alternative farming techniques: some successful, others amusing, but all memorable. Lynda was known for her beautiful roses which she shared with everyone who came to visit.
In his final days, Billy and his long time neighbor and friend, John Plowden, had plans for a fish farm, an outdoor kitchen for processing and a new addition to his house so that he could write.The week that Lynda died she told her son, Bill, that she was worried about how she was going to find her mother, “Mama Sadie”, when she got to heaven. She feared it would be too crowded and there might not be anyone to give directions. “Mama,” Bill responded, “Heaven isn’t going to be all that crowded. Basically, there’s just going to be you and Mama Sadie. You’ll see each other right away.” I feel certain that she did