The Georgia House of Representatives seems an unlikely place for poetry to sprout. So does the soul of a funeral home director.
But that’s just what has happened in the form of state Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Ambrose), a South Georgia lawmaker with a penchant for rhyme. During the legislative session, Sims kicks off each day at the Capitol with a bit of topical verse for his fellow House members.
“Our budget has kept us all on bended knee,” he concluded one recent morning, echoing the state’s budget woes. “I do wish there was such a thing as a money tree.”
Sims is chairman of the House Information and Audits Committee, a role that requires him to verbally announce the House journal is in order at the beginning of each day’s session. The vice president of Sims Funeral Home in Coffee County, however, has elected to do it with a bit of oratorical flair.
The 51-year-old Citadel graduate and Desert Storm veteran has brooked everything from state finances to state politics to the earthquake in Haiti.
“I would remind us all, that Haiti is still an island of woe,” he read on the day after the quake. “Please pray for those people, and the volunteers that go.”
The daily rhymes have won the affection of some House members.
“Based on what we’ve accomplished so far, they’re a highlight of the session,” said Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody). “When you don’t have any money, you need a little humor.”
Said state Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta): “It’s the one time every day when we’re all quiet. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say every morning.”
Sims limits his House poems to four lines and occasionally includes a few gentle jabs. He tries to include humor in most of his offerings. He usually jots them down the same morning he delivers them, writing in longhand, often on the back of used state stationery.
“I try to not be pointed with it,” he said. “It’s never my intent to put anybody down.”
A divorced father of three college-age children, Sims said he reads poetry to relax, preferring the rhythmic offerings of Rudyard Kipling.
“I majored in business in college, but I probably should have been an English major,” he said.
Sims also pens serious poems, usually for close friends or family members. He wrote a poem for his mom last year when she was terminally ill with a heart condition.
“I’ve written them for friends going through some terrible times,” he said. “I hope they helped, but I don’t know if they did or not.”
He plans to write a poem celebrating the 100th anniversary of his family’s funeral home, a project, he said, that could stretch the bounds of his creative urges.
“Trying to make a funeral home a bright place is a little hard,” he confessed.
Sims has never attempted to publish any of his works. Most are too personal, he said.
But he does have the concepts for three novels, potential books to which he has given more than a little thought. One would be about a late relative who flew on five glider missions in World War II and lived to tell about it. Another would center on small-town politics (He would call it “Judgment.”). And the third (“The Last of Murphy’s Boys”) would be about the state Capitol when Tom Murphy, one of Sims' mentors, was the House speaker.
“I think I’ll wait on that one a while,” he said.
In the meantime, Sims plans to continue composing his four-line poems for each day of the 40-day legislative session.
“I haven’t had anybody tell me they didn’t like one,” he said. “If it makes people happy, I’ll continue to do it.”
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