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Dalton Roberts

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Services for Dalton Roberts will be announced later by Turner Funeral Home.

I got the call a little after 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

The name on the screen read "Glenda Roberts," the loving partner and rock on whom longtime local legend Dalton Roberts relied. I hadn't spoken with her in months, not since I saw her and the legendary man in the hat with a song in his heart at Siskin this summer.

It had been too long, I thought briefly, and hopefully this was a call with well-wishes for the upcoming Christmas season.

It wasn't.

"Dalton died this morning," Glenda's son Shawn said. "Mom wanted me to let you know."

Dalton Roberts did more for Chattanooga than all but a very few. His accomplishments have ripple effects still felt today.

He was making things happen in county government when the Tennessee Aquarium was devised and later dedicated. He was part of the crew that hatched an ambitious plan to clean up an old munitions plant and try to lure some big business to town. He told me earlier this year he was pleased he got to see those seeds become the VW plant, and the thousands of jobs that came with it.

After hearing the news, I thought about Dalton's many skills. He was an accomplished songwriter and newspaper columnist, his ability to bring words together in a certain melody — with and without music — almost always found an enviable connection with his audience.

He loved to watch birds and praise God, not necessarily in that order, of course, but there was an appreciation in the link between his love for nature and his maker.

And he was a leader who could be tougher than a pine knot on opponents on one issue and as tender as a love song on the next.

I found myself wondering what he might have thought about the bombastic leadership method of Donald Trump, who somehow thinks the best way to protect America is to act un-American.

Closing our borders entirely to all Muslims is Trump being Trump, playing the fiddle of fear for a growing number of firm-footed followers who have made this one-time circus act into a scary contender in the Republican Party.

Plus, Trump's remarks only further endear him to the growing number of folks who believe the "liberal media" are out to get him.

I wonder if Dalton would have called Mae Beavers, the Tennessee state senator who firmly supported Trump's trumpeted hate speech, and asked her if her rocker had cracked or if she started drinking a little early on Wednesday morning.

It's funny, too, that Trump's notoriety and momentum put him among the finalists for Time's Person of the Year, which was announced Wednesday.

Heck, here's thinking the knowledge that Trump was battling the likes of Caitlyn Jenner and the folks behind the "Black Lives Matter" movement likely would have caused ol' Dalton to get out of bed, put on his fedora and wonder what has happened to us all. (Of course, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won the once-prestigious award from Time, but with a field that watered down, it seems somewhat like being crowned the world's tallest short person.)

Sadly, those are questions I won't get to ask him, although I would love to have heard his answers.

Nope, Dalton has left the building. Moving on to better place — and as Glenda would surely agree, a pain-free place — where he can watch birds and complete the unfinished songs in his brain.

"I've had a gospel song in my head," he told me earlier this year, "called 'All Heaven's Busted Loose.' I'm still working on it."

Good luck with it, Dalton, and know your work here was done well.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343. His "Right to the Point" column appears on A2 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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