The Union Recorder

July 4, 2014

‘I could just tell how great it was to be an American’

Usery hopes citizens stay educated on meaning of Independence Day

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The second president of the United States, John Adams, was a guiding force behind the passage of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Adams said the day should be a great anniversary festival “solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”

W.J. “Bill” Usery Jr. and the Milledgeville Country Club have a 45-minute fireworks show at 9 tonight over Lake Sinclair that will honor Adams' request and spread the true meaning of the holiday.

Usery's commitment to country is hard to match. He went from Hardwick to become the first Georgian to serve as Secretary of Labor when U.S. Pres. Gerald Ford appointed him to that position in 1976.

During his notable career, Usery received five presidential appointments to serve the national interest in resolving labor-management disputes.

He can nearly recite The Declaration of Independence and like Thomas Jefferson, who actually wrote the document in 17 days, is aware that later generations must be educated and informed in order for that hard won liberty to survive almost 240 years later.

After a Georgia Military College education, Usery served the U.S. Navy as a master welder during World War II aboard the “Tutuila” in the Pacific Fleet.

“It was a frightening time, but also a learning time,” he said.

Afterward, Usery began working for the Armstrong Cork Company in Macon as a machinist, where he got his first taste of union politics.

For Usery, every move was about equal rights for the fellow man or woman.

He eventually joined the International Association of Machinists and held a series of local union posts.

By this time the U.S. and Soviet Union were in the midst of a space race.

Usery became the union's representative on Pres. John F. Kennedy's Missile Sites Labor Committee from 1961 to 1967.

“I got involved in equal rights in the country. If you are working for America, you are equal. That's what I stood on all the time,” Usery said.

By 1969, U.S. Pres. Richard Nixon appointed Usery as the assistant secretary of labor for labor-management relations prior to becoming the head labor man under Ford.

“I constantly tried to pull people together to build relationships for our country,” he said.

Usery spent his entire professional life trying to understand workers and forms of government. Throughout his travels, he still feels the U.S. is the best country in the world for all of its guaranteed freedoms for which key founding fathers suffered.

“Anytime I did anything, I could just tell how great it was to be an American,” he said. “You did all you could to keep what we had safe and sound. No other nation was founded in the same sense that we had been founded.”

Usery said everyone should pray and give thanks this Fourth of July. He hasn't seen a better document than The Declaration of Independence, which led to the U.S. Constitution.

“The documents that we have there is true freedom for people in a society,” Usery said. “We should do the utmost to keep building America as it was and should be. We have so much to be grateful for.”

Usery asks are we doing what we can to stay a world leader?

You have to know where you came from to answer that question, he believes.

“We have to dedicate ourselves to supporting our nation,” Usery said. “There is nothing that exceeds what we have.”