I write of James Douglas Freeman, devoted friend, counselor, and, yes – sponsor, during some dark days in my life.
Doug died August 11, 2018 at 94 years, with a memorial funeral August 16th at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church; he was the son of Dr. Douglas S. Freeman, Civil War historian; Editor, Richmond News Leader; radio commentator on WRNL-AM.
For some astonishing reason, that second generation of Freemans crossed my path from my adolescent years until recently. Doug and I came together in those early Ronald Reagan 1980’s – as I wallowed in my miserable mid-forties, trapped with addiction and partnerships in business, which were seemly problematic. He was my strength all the way.
Douglas Freeman High School opened its door, mid-summer 1954, under W. Howard Mears. The school’s name sake, Dr. Douglas S. Freeman – “The Doc” – had died several years earlier; his roles as commentator, major historian, author of R.E. LEE, carried deep creds. As Doug often said, “my father used every moment of every day to be productive.” And so it began.
Mary Tyler Freeman Cheek (McClenahan) was the eldest of the Freeman second generation; she was deeply involved in Richmond community projects; she was responsible for bringing CBS’ Ed Bradley to Richmond for a forum, and earlier, in the 1950’s, hosted a youth-issues radio show on WRNL-AM. It was an honor for me to be a weekly guest representing Douglas Freeman High School. We’d arrive Thursday afternoon; tape the hour long presentation for broadcast on that Saturday morning. It enabled me to meet and get to know Roger Mudd – yep, that CBS’ Roger Mudd; the talented Bill Morrison, who went on the VMFA; and Ray Schreiner – a favorite disc jockey of Richmond teens. Decades later, Mary Tyler would play a significant role in publishing the book, Douglas Southall FREEMAN by David E. Johnson – then a senior counsel to the attorney general of Virginia.
Anne Freeman Adler Turpin, the second sister, became very special to me; Gladly, I shared this experience with both son and daughter at Doug’s funeral reception. In her final years, she had been director of special learning at St. Bernard’s School in Manhattan. Anne Freeman was a graduate of Vassar College, 1945, with a master’s degree from Columbia University. Babs Stettheimer Adler, her mother in law, shared her concern for this sensitive young lady, who became her son’s wife. “I’m worried about this marriage, because she is such an intelligent girl”, she told several friends. After reading this from The Private and Powerful Family behind the New Your Times, THE TRUST, I understood my positive personal experience with her. In 1956, Anne F. Adler brought her mother, Inez, to the new Douglas Freeman H.S. for a visit. As a student, it was my assignment to show them around. Her graciousness to me was so unforgettable on that morning school tour, I’ve never forgotten it – in my mind she was a gem.
Then the youngest, James Douglas (Doug)….the son.
Closely observing Doug Freeman’s funeral service at St. Stephen’s Church, I realized how many AA program people filled the pews. Doug’s last third of life was devoted to hundreds of others in addiction trouble. Once his own decades-long personal fog lifted, “recovery” became his mission. He returned to the classroom becoming an alcohol rehab counselor at St. John’s Hospital – then at Tucker Pavilion. Freeman went on to serve on the Governor’s Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and assuming his board membership at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College as a privilege. This addiction business was the fight of his life, finally losing his son, James Douglas Freeman, Jr. (Jamie), to the dreaded disease…but helping along the way those thousands of souls who’d simply lost hope. Doug had served in the Pacific Theater in World War II as a coxswain or helmsman aboard the USS Audubon; he would often put those regimens and challenges to lead others on a path to sobriety. The Rev. William L. Sachs picked up on this in his homily. Doug always kept it simple…90 AA meetings in 90 days – one hour at a time. The measure of Doug’s life reflected well on this second generation Freeman clan. Many walk the streets of Richmond healthier today. Clearly, he was passionately a “Friend of Bill”.