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Mason Darrell Barrett is a federal administrative judge now, but he still remembers the highlight in his life when, as a 12-year-old, he power shifted that new 396-horsepower Chevrolet Malibu.
“I remember it like yesterday,” said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administrative judge whose Birmingham District Office oversees Alabama, Mississippi and northern Florida.
Barrett, a 1973 Linden-Kildare High School graduate, said he loves his work of almost 30 years in hearing employment discrimination complaints relating to disability, race, age or gender. He has a home in Linden and one day will retire there.
He was in Linden on Saturday to help clear the Old Macedonia Cemetery, and several of the local sights reminded him of growing up here and his love of car speed.
In those days he would come to town with his school librarian mother, Audrey Mae Barrett, and her teaching friend Mary Shurn. The two would shop while he would go hang around with Dub Body, the make-ready car employee for Tom Lanier’s Chevrolet Company.
“I would go there every chance I could. I was fascinated with cars,” Barrett said.
“One day this transport truck came in with an ice-blue Corvette roadster and white convertible top. When they backed it off, the driver said, ‘Get in.’ He turned it around on the street and stomped on it, power shifting it down that road so fast that I begged him to stop. My knees were shaking, but I was hooked on speed.”
Some time later, Barrett got the chance again, this time with a new 396-horsepower Chevrolet Malibu belonging to a cousin.
“They let me drive it, so at the stop sign on Highways 8 and 11, I stomped on it and power-shifted it and could feel that big block engine come to life.
“‘Your dad is going to get you,’ they told me, but I could tell they were surprised I knew how to speed shift that car.”
Perhaps those experiences transferred somewhat to the fast lane of life for Barrett because he soon left Linden-Kildare High School for Prairie View A&M University to earn a degree in mathematics. He became a computer engineer, but later, in 1984, decided to attend law school at the University of Denver in Colorado.
“My dad had wanted to be a lawyer,” Barrett said.
Instead, M.J. Barrett had been an important local educator. He was a former principal at Macedonia school in Linden as well as a Perfection Elementary principal in Kildare from 1958 until integration in 1969. His wife, Audrey Mae, was librarian.
Darrell Barrett had one sister, Audrey Elaine Sam, who graduated from L-K High School in 1972 and became an assistant principal in Houston.
Brrett was tall at 6 foot 4 inches and wanted to play football, but his dad had been injured playing and wouldn’t allow it.
“So I played tuba in the band and we were sweepstakes winners for four years, and I was in the all-district band,” he said.
He had two sons who played football, however. One earned a full scholarship to a Colorado school and the other walked on to the team at Texas A&M University. One is now a banker in Colorado and the other is successful in Europe.
Barrett said he’s simply a country boy and glad to be back. He’s had a long association with the Macedonia Baptist Church founded in 1894—the one African-American church inside the Linden city limits, he said.
Like a number of Linden buildings, the church had been made of the red rock, which is substantial and thus the building still serves as the church’s annex.
Barrett also has a great-grandfather who was one of the four Rambo brothers who helped form the Rambo community near McLeod. These were Alonzo, Benjamin, Nate, and Darrell’s great-grandfather Monroe.
His work with the heritage and cemetery associations is an effort to help preserve the heritage of the African-Americans in the area, he said.
“We’ve tried to clean it up before, but now the interest has blossomed,” he said. “We want to fix it up so it won’t be forgotten again.”