Perhaps I’m getting old in my old age.
But I can still remember some things, such as a procession on a Saturday around 1999.
It started on MacArthur Drive, and ended up near the Sabine River where the boat ramp is now.
I needed a ride back to my car, and Mr. Roberts said, “Come on. I’ll take you.”
We rode in his vehicle, and he said, “Hey, are you hungry? I know where we can get some gumbo for $1.”
We went to D.J’s over at Bluebird Fish Camp, and got a couple of bowls and some Cokes.
A few years later, I interviewed him at the courthouse, in one of those concrete benches they put there.
He told me about seeing the Martin Luther King “dream” speech “live.”
He was famous for bringing the newsroom announcements about the NAACP, or other groups, handwritten on a piece of paper.
In an age when e-mails and IBM Selectrics were common, it was our private joke that, one day, I was going to buy him a typewriter.
Roberts told me of many places over the years, such as the times he flew to New York to see his family.
He liked to ride the subways, but was always glad to get back home.
We had lunch at the Golden Dragon once.
His hands shook quite a bit then, from the Parkinson’s.
He correctly predicted Obama would be president, one of his “own dreams,” he said.
He barely mentioned being let go from a car dealership after a change in management.
He was probably too proud.
“You know, when I first heard your name, I thought it was James A. Roberts,” I said.
“Yeah,” he noted. “I get that quite a bit.”
I visited with him often, at the post office or commissioners’ meetings.
He even attended those where there were perhaps three things on the agenda.
He enjoyed voting and being a part of government, more so than some of us younger folks who might take these things for granted.
At the time of his stroke, he was living in a FEMA trailer, but never said anything to me.
Again, he was probably too proud. And when Obama was inaugurated Jan. 20, Mr. Roberts was in a coma.
It was a sad ending to a great life. Of course, there are no happy ones.
But it’s good he was able to see his “own dream” come to pass. James Zay Roberts: 1946-2009.

[Readers may e-mail Robert Hankins at]