Capt. A. Glenn Wortham was born March 1, 1911, in Centralhatchee, Ga., and died April 4, 1977 in Beaumont. This year marked the 102nd anniversary of his birth.
As a child growing up in the back woods and red clay dirt of West Georgia close to the Alabama state line, Glenn marched to the beat of a different drummer. Kids made their own fun in those days, and family was the center of your life. Starting as a young child, Glenn would sing and play the piano in the Baptist church choir. He started finding trouble at an early age by jazzing up the hymns, putting a lot more rhythm in the songs. His oldest sister, Mable, loved to run home and tell on Glenn. While Glenn was a young boy, rural electrification projects brought power to remote areas of Georgia. The first building in the Centralhatchee area to have electricity was the Wortham home. In the evenings, large groups of people would come by the house to watch the light bulb on the porch burn. This was major entertainment for their community in those days.
He appreciated music and often as a young boy would play the piano and sing for groups both at their home and at church. He enjoyed the challenge of learning how to play new instruments when the opportunity presented itself. Seldom would it take more than 30 minutes for Glenn to learn how to play new instruments. When Glenn was in the 10th grade in high school, the band director died. Being a small community, it was difficult to hire a new band director, so the school asked Glenn to take charge of the band until he graduated. Band practice became much more interesting once Glenn was in charge. Only his granddaughter Brittney Wortham Teakell has carried on Glenn’s love for music.
His next interest in life was building an airplane, which he did out of wood. His creation was a beauty, but when he tried to take off the plane was far too heavy to fly, and two large Georgia pines removed the wings. While others were riding horses or a Model A, Glenn was riding in the wooden body of a wingless airplane with a propeller blade motor. This mode of transportation was short lived. He could not stop the monster. A crash or so later, Glenn gave up on planes.
His father, Albert Glenn Wortham, was a country doctor who traveled by horse and buggy to treat all the people in their community. There was a small office across the driveway from the house that was his medical office. In the country, nurses were a luxury. When it came to treating patients, the medical assistant was whichever child was present and clean at the house. Glenn was usually chosen to help Dr. Wortham when surgery was to be preformed. This experience at his father’s side helped him in life many times to help others.
Glenn’s first real job was that of a merchant marine. He shipped out as an ordinary seaman and ultimately worked his way up through the ranks. This process took many years but he became captain of a deep-water vessel. When World War II began, Glenn was on a tanker carrying fuel to many of our allies in Europe. Crew members were not allowed to leave their ships and enlist in the military, so he spent the entire war hauling fuel to the troops in either Europe and the Pacific – dangerous work with enemy submarines preying on vessels. On one of the tours, a fellow shipmate’s appendix ruptured while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Glenn, with his experience from working with his father assisting in surgery, was able to operate and remove the appendix and all its poison and saved his shipmates life.
After the war when Glenn returned home, he went to Atlanta to visit his sister Sara and when he arrived at her apartment, he met her roommate, a young Polish Catholic girl, Lauretta Kujawa. In less than a year, she became Mrs. Glenn Wortham. In the ’40s there was great prejudice against a Southern Baptist and a Polish Catholic from Wisconsin having an inter-faith marriage. Only their strong will and love for each other could overcome all the obstacles they faced.
Capt. Wortham was offered a job by a small, up-and-coming business to be their port captain and be in charge of all oceangoing vessels and crews. This gave him an opportunity to have a land-based job and stay at home. Glenn soon learned to love working for Magnolia Oil Refining and started his family. About two years after their wedding on Sept. 8, 1947, they had a son and named him after her father and brother. Robert John “Bob” Wortham could not have had a more loving and caring set of parents. Glenn was a devoted husband and father. His child and wife were the most important people in his life. He was totally an unselfish father and husband with his family; he always wanted to do what it would take to make them happy.
After a few years working for Magnolia Oil and Refining, management was able to help Glenn be appointed a Sabine pilot. He remained a pilot the rest of his career and served as the president of the pilot association during many of the growth years. He was respected as a fair and honest businessman for the associations and, because of his reputation, was able to negotiate wage contracts for the pilots that allowed their business to grow rapidly.
Capt. Glenn Wortham died in 1977. He had no enemies and was well respected by all that knew him — including me. He was my father.
Robert “Bob” Wortham is judge of the 58th District Court in Jefferson County. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas and served a dozen years in that post.