Here are some things I know to be true about Doug Bachtel, the UGA professor of Housing & Consumer Economics who died on Thursday morning at St. Mary's Hospicel. I knew and admired him for a long time. He was a true mensch.
1. Doug was funny and liked playing with language. He was the first person I ever heard use the term "half back" to describe people who wintered in Florida and summered in North Georgia instead of Michigan. I also heard him say, "She doesn't know big wood from brush."
2. Doug was generous. As a reporter with the AJC and Patch, i could call him anytime and leave a message. If he wasn't there, he would call back. No matter when. He didn't just help reporters from big papers--he helped people from smaller papers, weeklies and even shoppers. And he would talk to any group, civic, service, religious, whatever.
3. Doug was courageous. He would speak truth to power. Once, in McDuffie County, I saw him almost get lynched for telling a group of people how many outhouses they had and how many residents without indoor plumbing. He was trying to persuade them to merge with another county to save on the cost of services. He thought they would see the sense of what he was saying.
4. Doug loved Georgia. He loved the numbers generated by Georgians, the conflicting information, the gulf separating various regions economically and culturally, the changing demographics of metro Atlanta. He told me once that by 2016, Gwinnett County would likely go Democrat, based on the number of immigrants settling there. We shall see if he were correct.
5. Doug was fearless and tireless. If you didn't know he had M.S., he certainly wouldn't tell you. He didn't talk to many people about the pain he experienced. Instead, he just came to work every day and focused on data, on making it real so people could understand what the economic and social trends mean for their communities.