The Definition of a Southern Gentleman

A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out. George Bernard Shaw

Dear Genteel Readers,

Since my father’s death (a phrase I still find staggering), I have received wonderful kind cards from people I don’t even know. Many, many of them say the same thing:

Your father was a true Southern Gentleman.

What does it mean to be a Southern Gentleman? I scanned the Interwebs, asked some friends and here’s what I found.

He cherishes southern food and traditions passed down from his grandmothers and grandfathers. He is always well dressed and debonair even on the hottest southern days. A real southern man…has guns passed down from generations, but rarely uses them.

Holds fast to tradition. Says “yes maam and no maam” and “yes sir and no sir”. Has a “quiet confidence”. Is not flashy, loud, rude, or tacky.

They are debonair and charming beyond belief and know how to turn a lady’s head in the twinkle of an eye. They also recognize instantly when they’re headed for the doghouse.

This is my favorite, though:
A southern gentleman has a reputation as one who can be counted on to do the right thing, the right way. Why? Because his mother taught him from the moment he was born to obey a higher calling. To be an authentic Southern Gentleman, you must cultivate…
  1. Reverence for God and women,
  2. Strength of Character, including Integrity, Magnanimity, Chivalry,
  3. Respect for family, heritage and traditions
  4. Becoming an excellent provider and protector
  5. Being Responsible, Ethical, and Just
  6. Impeccable manners,
  7. Exuding warmth, kindness, and charm,
  8. And most of all, possessing a servant’s heart.
My ole sweet dad was all of those things. He never traveled on an airplane without wearing a suit and tie, even if he was flying across the world. He put the suffering of others before his own. He opened the door for any and every woman. He loved his mama like God. He collected guns, but kept them under lock and key. He read vigorously, but there were no “airs” about him. He apologized for any bad behavior and expected you to do to the same.
There was a spring in Beau’s step, even if he walked with a cane or rolled in a wheelchair.
Alzheimer’s disease can bring out the worst in its victims. Anger. Hate. Fear. Rage. Hubris. Paranoia. Understandable for someone losing their memories, their history, their lives. Heck, I still have my memories, but grapple with those feelings every 27 seconds.
Yet Beau managed to be a Southern Gentleman right until the end. He giggled. He had good manners. He exuded warmth, kindness and charm…and, always, always, possessed a servant’s heart.
And now that gracious heart serves my grieving mind well.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Diane says:

    Thank you for this description. A man on described himself this way when I had some reservations. Your description was very helpful. Your father sounds like a wonderful man.

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