Be careful with the name

By: By Mac McPhail - Contributing columnist

“What’s in your wallet?” You probably quickly recognized that question from the credit card commercial on TV. There’s Samuel L. Jackson, wanting to know the contents of your billfold, and if that special credit card he especially wants you to have, is in there.

So, what’s really in your wallet? There’s probably some cash, a credit card or cards, driver’s license, insurance information, and other stuff. There may be some pictures, some information you need to keep handy, like phone numbers. You keep stuff in your wallet that you feel you need to keep nearby. It may not be important to others, but that stuff is important to you.

Recently, my cousin, Cliff, phoned me about a wallet. In cleaning out items while working through his late mother’s and father’s estate, he came across our grandfather’s wallet. He thought I might be interested in it. I was.

It was interesting to go through the old wallet. Our grandfather, Lonnie McPhail, passed away around 1990. We grandkids always knew him as Daddy Mac. In the wallet was his last driver’s license and his wife’s driver’s license. There were several old cards relating to the Masons and Eastern Star, which they both were actively involved. His social security card, along with several other various old cards and receipts in the old billfold. But we didn’t find any cash or credit cards. (He probably never used a credit card.)

But in the wallet we found something more interesting than those items. It was a folded up, yellowed, cut out piece from a newspaper. It’s hard to tell how long he had carried it around in his billfold. But from how yellowed it looked, he must have had it tucked in there for quite a while.

It was a poem. I don’t think Daddy Mac was much into poetry, so what the poem said must had meant a lot to him. After reading it, I knew why. The poem is “Your Name,” and it was written by Edgar A. Guest. Here it is:

You got it from your father, t’was the best he had to give.

And right gladly he bestowed it. It’s yours, the while you live.

You may lose the watch he gave you and another you may claim,

But remember, when you’re tempted, to be careful of his name.

It was fair the day you got it, and a worthy name to bear,

When he took it from his father, there was no dishonor there.

Through the years he proudly wore it, to his father he was true,

And that name was clean and spotless when he passed it on to you.

Oh, there’s much that he has given that he values not at all.

He has watched you break your playthings in the days when you were small.

You have lost the knife he gave you and you’ve scattered many a game,

But you’ll never hurt your father if you’re careful with his name.

It is yours to wear forever, yours to wear the while you live,

Yours, perhaps, some distant morning, another boy to give.

And you’ll smile as did your father, with a smile that all can share,

If a clean name and a good name, you are giving him to wear.

It was important to Daddy Mac that he carry on in the right manner, the McPhail name that was given to him by my great grandfather, Iverson McPhail. He instilled that into his son, my daddy, L.F. McPhail. And daddy passed that on to me. That doesn’t mean that all three generations of McPhail men, Sr., Jr., and III (that’s me), didn’t ever do anything stupid. We all did. But it was always important to try to not do anything that would be a bad reflection on the family name.

It was so important to Lonnie McPhail that he carried the poem around in his wallet. There are probably many fathers reading this today who feel the same way. So, this Father’s Day, along with that shirt, maybe you can tell him that you’ll do what you can to be careful with his name. I bet he’ll appreciate it much more than the shirt.

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at

By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at