I was born in Charleston, SC in the spring of 1949. I was named after my uncle George who died in the Battle of The Bulge. He was the apple of my grandmother’s eye. She was dying of a brain tumor and made my pregnant mother promise to name a boy George. I grew up on Johns Island, just south of Charleston, a working class, still semi rural suburb girded with natural beauty. I accepted the prejudices of my environment until I experienced integration in high school, and over time I became a strong supporter of Civil Rights. On conservative Johns Island, for a white person, I was about as far left as it got, which wasn’t all that far. I was always an avid reader. I went to college at the University of South Carolina in the turmoil of the late sixties and, after a year working as an apprentice pipe fitter in the middle to earn some money, graduated with a degree in Government (with heavy emphasis on International Studies). Graduating in the middle of a recession, I worked very hard, sixty hours plus a week, as the manager of a leased shoe department in Jacksonville, Fla. for a couple of years. The parent corporation considered me a rising star, next stop the corporate headquarters in St. Louis. I hated the job. Also one getting to know you visit to those Orwellian headquarters terrified me. I decided to apply to the Peace Corps kind of as a lark, a wishful thinking thing, just tossing out a lifeline. To my surprise they offered me the job in Chad drilling wells. I’m guessing that year as a pipe fitter rang the right bell. At first I dismissed the idea, but then thought what the hell, give it a try.
I spent three plus years as a volunteer installing water wells in Chad on the border of the Sahara, the subject of many of my stories. I loved it. After that I worked as a contract employee for USAID in Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Togo. In northern Cameroon I provided administrative support to the US Embassy in Chad during the civil disturbances there, and I actually got paid to live in game parks near the border for about five months. How’s that for a nice gig? Later I worked for private companies and NGOs in Guinea, Washington DC, and Zaire. I either worked on or oversaw from the bureaucratic side, potable water projects, agriculture projects, small enterprise projects, and forestry projects, among others. As the Senior Program Officer for a major NGO, I traveled extensively in Africa, and a little in the Caribbean, and Central America. Since retiring I enjoy container vegetable gardening, fantasy baseball, and writing about my experiences both in Africa and South Carolina. In addition I have written a few fables based loosely on the anthropomorphic characters in traditional Congolese folktales. I may toss one of the those in from time to time.
At present my one year younger brother Charlie and I, two retired bachelors, and our varying number of dogs live on a nice wooded cul-de-sac in Douglasville near Atlanta. Charlie was a store manager for various big retailers over many years. Since his retirement he reinvented himself by doing volunteer work with The United Way and local organizations, and he is now a recognized and appreciated community activist and a local expert on homelessness, as well as a certified non-attorney disability representative. I guess I did my share of personal volunteering in the past. I do supply the neighborhood with tomatoes and peppers. This year (2016) for the first time I donated to various local charities involved in feeding the needy over 200 tomato seedlings for their gardens, and in the case of the Douglas County Master Gardeners for their annual fund raising plant sale. I just sort of stumbled into that when I went overboard with my seedlings. They were all extremely appreciative. I write, garden, walk the dogs, connect with old and new friends on Facebook, and play fantasy baseball which I love, the beneficial social aspects of which are often overlooked. The best fantasy baseball allows social interaction over a period of years with people from all walks of life and all age groups, a rare thing these days. By and large those activities are enough for me.
I consider myself an amateur writer who does it for fun. I did win first prize for an essay at The Space Coast Writers Conference in Coco Beach one year, and I had a few pieces published online at the Peace Corps Writers Worldwide site. You can best access them by googling George Branson Writer. I hope you enjoy the blog. Use of the UFO Coffee House cartoon and flyer are courtesy of Sir!No Sir!, Displaced Films. Thanks to Carol Moreland for the Angel Oak photo in Botany Island. Special thanks to Mark Heffernan for digging out a technical and historical report on the wells program that I wrote with the valuable assistance of Kevin Wiedmann back in 1985, to which I owe my long lost pump drawing. Thanks to Bill Quale for use of his African Sunset photo in Detente, thanks to Marden Phelps for the use of his great acacia photo for the blog header, and many thanks to fellow Chad RPCV Stephen Grant for the thirst inducing Gala bottle photo, and to Greg Greenwood for the great Chad photos. Special thanks to Susannah Glover Black for her on demand elephant/songbird illustration. Thanks to Gregory Greenwood for the photo of David Given, and to William Patrick Heenan for hi pirogue on the Logone River photo. Further I acknowledge my shameful exploitation of the bird and mammal paintings by Audubon, which are in the public domain. All the other art work shown is simple African art that I’ve picked up over the years. It’s kind of my thing.
2016 GARDENS ON MEMORIAL DAY
2015 EASTSIDE AND WESTSIDE GARDENS LATE MAY