His grandfather was a doctor and businessman who drank too much.
His father named him Victor Hugo Hobbs, after the French poet and novelist best-known for writing "Les Miserables," a work that "encourages compassion and hope in the face of adversity and injustice."
He grew up in Fort Valley, Ga.
He has degrees from Berry College, Georgia State and the University of Georgia. He has an honorary doctorate from Georgetown College in Kentucky. His studies included religion, special education and psychology.
He taught at Georgia College, Mercer and Wesleyan. He worked for the New York Times Co., making talks to large groups of psychologists, trying to convince them to buy his company's brand of IQ test. Through the Bibb County school system, he was the resource person for a seven-county area in working with children who had behavior problems.
He and his wife Rebecca have lived in the same house in Milledgeville at the corner of North Jefferson and Montgomery streets since they moved here more than 45 years ago.
He was a Sunday School teacher at the First Methodist Church for 44 years until he gave it up a couple of years ago. He still subs.
Jeff Owens, who has known Hobbs since the late '70s and attended his Sunday School class for about 35 years, calls him "warm, sincere and humorous. He's been a friend and confidant for most of my adult life.
"He teaches Sunday School with stories and illustrations. He seldom uses the correct book, but his lessons take you to many situations you feel familiar with. And he somehow always brings you back where you are supposed to be as he wraps up the lesson."
So consider this Victor Hugo Hobbs' Sunday School lesson, in his own words, about his life.
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"Way back when the Methodist church was still downtown, the preacher asked me to teach a young adult class. I told him I had no business teaching a Sunday School class because I was a committed sinner and that there were some of my sins that I was not ready to give up. He said, 'Just teach the class, Victor.' He wanted me to shut up. So I taught the class. I'd always get up and say, 'I'm a sinner.' I would present myself as the worst of the worst, so you ought to feel comfortable here. We share this with Paul. We are all struggling.
"I knew as a child that my grandfather drank a lot, but I loved him so much. We were like buddies. We were having these adult-like conversations. He had a store, and his doctor's office, pharmacy and ‘surgery,’ as he called it, out back. One day I came home from school and I couldn't find my grandfather. I looked all over for him, and I finally found him in the back alley on the ground, his face in the dirt. He had passed out. He was drunk, drunk. I thought he was dead.
"I got him turned over and he groaned. I got mad at him. I started lecturing him. I was not 10 years old. I was lecturing him, telling him this was not good. He looked up at me and started to cry. He had my heart. Toward the end of his life, he tried to change. He'd go six months and then fall off. Once he summoned me back to surgery with him. He said I might learn something. I went and stood there the whole time he operated. I had no business being there. I was not afraid. It was abnormal (for a child) to be there, but it was just a normal part of my life.
"When I was 8, my father gave me a complete set of Victor Hugo's books. All those fine books the French author wrote. They were a little bit controversial because they talk about the downtrodden, they talk about justice. My father was the kind of man who would say, ‘I wonder what you thought about chapter 3 in Les Miserables, when the chapter gets to this point.’
"That's the world I grew up in. It's not a normal thing. It's not normal, and, my gosh, my name was Victor Hugo. People around me were named Buddy, or maybe Chip, but not Victor Hugo. What a name. What a terrible thing to do to a person. It's almost a curse.
"I actually give credit to my father and grandfather. I truly believe that God, in his magnificent care, already knows you before you were conceived and already had in mind for you the ways he was to uplift you. He shapes you and forms you and has a purpose for you. You have some input, but basically you are a sea of water, a sea of God's purpose that you can't stop. You can try your best to hold onto things, it doesn't matter. You simply say, 'God, what is your purpose for me?' Even as you might be thinking, I've done everything I can to stop this.
"When I was 12 or 13, my grandfather died of cancer. He was the money maker. All my family had worked at his store. All of a sudden, things began to fall apart. Bills began to show up that we didn't even know we had. Granddaddy had made some bad decisions, some that were probably made when he was drunk. The point is, he had made them. They were legal. We were forced into bankruptcy. They took the house, the store — everything.
"That first Christmas, my mother, Daddy and I were working at a Sinclair Service Station. We sold gas, 24/7. So on Christmas Eve, we were there. We needed the money and somebody was kind enough to give us the job. People were coming in to buy batteries and cigarettes. It was dark and a car drove up and parked on the edge, away from the gas pumps. A lady got out, a black lady and man, and he was carrying boxes. They came in and I recognized her. She was Granddaddy's cook. We called her 'Cook.' They came in, and in the boxes were chicken, ham, all sorts of vegetable dishes, breads, cakes and pies. She brought us a Christmas feast, and I was so ashamed because I didn't know her name.
"When you have been studying the works of Victor Hugo, you recognize magnificent human beings. She was a magnificent person in her own humble way. She was better than any of us. You can't ever repay her. After that, I communicated with her and learned her name, but the point is, I changed. I'm going back to the thing that God is in charge of your life. Those things happened to me, and they changed me. I had nothing to do with it. I would not have chosen that. But it happened. Incredible.
"Grace is a wonderful thing, and when you receive grace, you are uplifted."