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The person that I admire most.

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Portrait of the person that I admire most.

  • Nov 22, 2009
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Around his hometown of Belmont, N.C. Jethro Mann was known as "The Bicycle Man".  He was a North Carolina State worker living a quiet and unassuming life until one day in the early 1980's Charles Kuralt of CBS News knocked on his door. For nearly a quarter century beginning in 1967 Kuralt's "On The Road" segment was a regular feature of the CBS Evening News.  Over that time he filed more than 600 stories focusing on the goodness of the American people and about the countless "unsung" heroes among us who do extraordinary things each and every day.  Jethro Mann was one of those people. 

Jethro Mann never had a bicycle as a child.  His parents were simply too poor to afford such a luxury.  His heart went out to youngsters who found themselves in the very same predicament and he vowed that one day he was going to do something about it.  As he approached retirement age Mr. Mann had an idea. He began collecting discarded and broken old bicycles and started fixing them up in his garage.  If the bikes needed parts or new tires he purchased them with money from his own meager income.  As his fleet of refurbished bicycles grew he began lending them out to the children in his neighborhood whose parents could not afford to buy them a bike.  Charles Kuralt described it as "sort of a lending library of bicycles."  The children would simply sign a bike out in the afternoon and then sign it back in again when they returned it at the end of the day.  It was more or less the "honor system" and Mr. Mann explained that aside from giving the youngsters a bicycle to ride he was trying to teach them to be responsible for something. Other lessons were being taught in Mr. Mann's garage as well.  He would teach the older children how to repair the bikes being used by the younger kids.  As Charles Kuralt pointed out in his story "a lot more than bicycle mechanics is being taught here."   At its peak Mann's garage was filled with 35 such bicycles.  Kuralt goes on to say "Along about supper time the bicycles return.  When it gets dark each night and the kids go home Jethro Mann goes in for his own supper.  But he'll be out there later working on the bicycles,,,,usually until 1 or 2 in the morning." 

The segment featuring Jethro Mann first aired on the CBS Evening News nearly three decades ago.  It had a profound influence on the way that I view the world.  This feature crystallized for me the set of values that I wanted to embrace in my life. Mr. Mann had it about right I told myself.  I have not changed my opinion all these years later.  For I view this country a whole lot differently than the politicians in Washington D.C.  There are millions of average folks like Jethro Mann out there working in the trenches in paid and unpaid positions for civic and religious organizations, non-profits or simply as individuals, solving problems and making a difference.  I know because I see them every day.  Just take the time to look around and I am confident that you will too.   Thanks again, Mr. Mann.   And thanks to all such good people.    

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Jethro Mann was the subject of an episode on reporter Charles Kuralt's long running segment "On The Road" on the CBS Evening News in the early 1980's. 
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