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CLUB 444: A Death! Somebody DO Something

August 25, 2022

Jim McIlrath lived this, wrote about it, and has graciously given me his expressed permission to share it with you here —

“Theres a dead boy at the pool!” she screamed as she ran into the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Birmingham
It was 1975, Debbie and i were married just over a year. We took some time from our jobs in Perry, Ga to go over to Birmingham to a church conference that my inlaws were attending. Rev Ben Haden, the great Presbyterian pulpiteer, and Church Pastor in Chattanoooga, was the featured speaker of the 3 day event.
We went to their hotel to take Debs mom out to a birthday dinner, and ice cream, before the evening service. She loved ice cream, and we couldnt afford much else as a birthday present.
It was warm out, and i was holding my sport coat. Remember when we used to think enough of worship to present ourselves before the Holy One in our best? I didnt say expensive, i said our best. Does He still deserve that or am i confused? Biblical studies for 3500 years make my point, even in the desert!
Anyway, we were in the lobby waiting for them to come down. A young lady ran from around the side of the H. INN, screaming that a boy had died, drowning in the pool!
I threw my coat at Deb, she said “Hurry, see what you can do.” I took off to the pool.
A little background here. Mrs McIlrath and I had left Asbury College a year before this. Me with a BA Degree, her with a ring and a promise. Now, lest you think im being condescending, she had left school to marry me after only one year of college. When she went back to school at GSU, she graduated Magna Cum Laude. She got her Master’s at VSU, and is currently a PhD candidate. She never made another B. One of the most brilliant people i know. (Bragging I know, but its her birthday!)
At our last quarter at Asbury we were a part of history-making. We took the VERY FIRST mixed sex Life Saving Course at the college pool. Mixed bathing had NEVER happened before that, in the history of the college! I think it had to do with the stipulations for the gift of money given to the school in the 1940s to build the gym, and the pool. To this day i dont know if there was a statute of limitations, but there we were 15 guys, and 15 girls taking life saving from a Marine ex-DI. (Youre never an ex Marine, Semper Fi)
As i ran around to the pool, there is an image in my mind that i cant forget. About 25 people, various ages were standing in a circle looking down at the deck. As i ran up and pushed through, i saw a long, lanky, youth, probably 6-2, 110 lbs. You get the pic. A young black man named Anthony, i later found out.
He worked at the H Inn, had gotten off work, and was going for a swim. The pool was not that deep, and apparently he had dived from the board, struck his head on the pool bottom, knocked himself unconscious. There was an angry, bloody spot on his forehead. Somebody pushed him over to the edge of the pool and rolled him out.
And 25 people stood looking at his body. I got down beside him, my mind racing….what do you do first in this situation? I was trained and certified! They dont train you to pray in that situation…but i said Lord help me!!
Clear his air passage!! No pulse that i could feel. Putting my fingers in his mouth to clear his tongue from his throat, i started mouth to mouth. His jaws clinched involuntarily. I thought i was going to lose four fingers. Please dont criticize my technique, i was trying. I began to pump his chest…lets see was it to the rhythm of Croce’s Time in A Bottle?? No, BGees, Stayin Alive!! Anyway i was pumping his chest to get breath, or hearbeat, anything!!
He erupted! Water, food, whatever came out of every orifice in his head! We helped him to sit up, and about that time, EMTs arrived and loaded him on a stretcher, took him to the hospital.
Why am i telling this story? Well, im no hero. I stopped a riot one time, but thats another story. Ive thought many times about the people standing around, watching that boy die. Nobody did a thing! They just watched as his life was ebbing away.
For the past 2 days our Council on Bishops has been meeting. 66 men and women are standing around looking down at the dying body of a once great Denomination.
Nobodys trying to breathe life into it, in fact they seem to be trying to add to its misery and destruction by their own disobedience! Somebody do something! Repent of sin, ask for forgiveness, pray that God will hear, Christ will love, and the Holy Spirit will breathe life into a dying Church!
All i know is that tonite there is 60 something man named Anthony in Birmingham who’s alive because a scared young preacher was willing to do something!

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