Mac Secrest is a modest man. That is apparent from his memoirs, Curses and Blessings: Life and Evolution in the Twentieth Century South.
He devotes his book largely to two themes, neither concerned with himself: One is the heroic struggle of members of his family, especially his mother, to live full lives despite the effects of clinical depression. The other is an extraordinary range of affectionate memories of family, friends, and chance acquaintances. The chance acquaintances are especially intriguing, and range from the famous - like Richard Nixon, who as a young law student let Mac crash with him while visiting the Duke campus, or a young boxer who would later change his name to Muhammed Ali, next to whom Mac sat on an airplane - to people in pre-World War II Monroe, North Carolina who would be totally forgotten if Mac did not tell their tales.
But Mac cannot tell these tales without recalling things he has done. And even his modesty cannot prevent the simple telling of the tales from revealing that he too has the e normous heroism he so much admires in others.
Nowhere is this more evident than the huge if unsung role he played in averting a tragic bloodbath in Selma, Alabama at the time of the 1965 demonstrations that changed America, a role Mac modestly tries to downplay.
Mac would probably laugh at the idea that he is "modest." He is not shy, something clear on even the briefest acquaintance - and I, now 54, met him when I was 16. He is also self-analytical and has spent a lot of time trying to understand what Carl Jung would have called his "dark side." But if he is not modest in the sense of being shy about displaying his wit and humor and sense of fun, he is modest in not exaggerating the importance of his own contribution to things. Which is why, in an age of shameless self-promoters which he most definitely is not, he will probably remain an unsung hero. But a hero he is, and I will try to "sing" some of the reasons why.