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Remembering a fearless, friendly fighter

I have written about my beloved law partner. Woody Dinning, Sr. on more than one occasion, but just finding out he is receiving yet another honor so many years after his passing, I had to sit down at the keyboard once more.

Big Woody will be inducted into the Alabama Boxing Hall of Fame in Tuscaloosa on Feb 15, 2018. I was so honored to be the nominator and presenter when he was posthumously inducted into the Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 for his unselfish and tireless work as boxing coach, trainer, encourager and chauffer for the Demopolis boxing team for untold years, time and miles.

He always found a way for the boys, including having them swap places in the trunk of his car ever so many miles, due to not enough room up front.

There have been many words, and many more to come about his well deserved honors in Halls of Fame, so I will not dwell on that more at this time.

What a fighter Woody was, and so many times I have remarked to other lawyers or clients that the best part of practicing law with Woody Dinning was not having to practice against him. He was fierce in his representation of a client, and didn’t give a hoot whether it was a case of ten thousand dollars or a dime, and that is where the friendly part came in. He was a friend… to his law office folks, his clients, church members, boxers, golf partners, or whoever needed a friend.

I am intentionally not going to rustle up other columns I have done on Woody, so as not to repeat everything I might have said, but there is so much to be said.  My own lawyer father died shortly after I started practicing with Hugh Lloyd and WW. Dinning, and Woody stepped right in as a father figure to me. What wonderful memories of encouragement, teaching, and some fierce reprimands when needed. One time the three of us were discussing a matter where Woody and I were on opposite sides of the question.  After one exchange between us, 1 made the mistake of uttering the word, “Bull.” Dang, I never made that mistake again with Lawyer Dinning.

As I remember one instance soon after Woody, Jr. started practice with us, the two Woodies were embroiled in a lawsuit with two very burly and muscular men on the other side. It got heated, and Little Woody expressed concern to his daddy. Without blinking an eye, Big Woody replied, “1 think we can take ‘em. Son.” Little Woody didn’t realize that his daddy was actually talking about fisticuffs, but that did not become necessary.

Woody, or Woodrow as his good friend. Cruse Braswell, called him, certainly could be fierce, combative, and a winner, but he was humble to the core.  I went over to the Dinning Christmas gathering one Christmas Eve to present to him a framed Combat Infantryman’s Badge he had earned during World War II, but never received. As a soldier myself, I expressed to the gathering what that really meant, but Woody, although appreciative of my gesture, shrugged it off as though nothing at all.

He was so funny with a special sense of humor.  He and I would sit in the library and talk for an hour or more after others had left the office.  I brought up his service in Europe during World War II. He gave that little tight grin of his, and let me in on a story. “Thomas,” he said. “I never fired my weapon in anger but one time during the war. One time I was slipping around a house, and I heard a noise that sounded like a German Burp Gun behind me. I swung around, and fired my carbine in that direction, only to find out it was a Billy Goat.”

He loved to tell the story of two Englishman meeting on the street, and one said to the other, “I understand you buried your wife.” Without blinking an eye, the other Brit simply replied, “Had to. Dead, you know.”

That small of stature man taught me, and others, the meaning of fight, compassion, understanding, loyalty, dedication… and the importance of a chuckle from time to time.

He was my friend, and I loved him.  I love him still.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

 

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, January 2 issue of the Demopolis Times.)