Hugh Cleland, a child of the Great Depression, adhered to a simple maxim:
Use it up. Wear it out. Make it last. Do without.
"That's what he lived by," said his only child, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia. "He was raised in abject poverty except that they had plenty to eat 'cause they raised everything on a farm."
On Wednesday, Joseph Hughie Cleland of Lithonia died from complications of congestive heart failure in the house he'd lived in since the mid-1950s. He was 95. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Friday in the chapel of Henry Funeral Home of Lithonia, which is in charge of arrangements. A private burial will be held at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.
When he was around 18 or so, Mr. Cleland signed up for a stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program for 18- to 24-year-old men. He worked out of the Clayton camp for a year, earning $35 a month.
While in the program, he learned how to drive a truck, which led to a job as a route salesman for Atlanta Linens. He held that job for 10 years, then served in the Navy during World War II.
In 1945, he returned home after a three-year military stint. The following spring, he moved the family out of an apartment on Moreland Avenue and into a house on Lithonia's Main Street that he bought with $2,700 in cash.
It wouldn't be the last time the elder Cleland paid upfront. With the help of an architect, he designed and built his current home in 1955. He never held a mortgage on it.
"He picked out the site," his son said. "He liked the breeze on top of that hill. He put in a screen porch where plans had called for a carport. And he paid for it all in cash."
Cleland the son represented Georgia in the Senate from 1997 to 2003. He was defeated by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican. Currently, the decorated Vietnam veteran serves as secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, an agency that oversees American burial grounds. Regardless of what role he played in politics, his father stood proud.
"Daddy thought I did a good job," his son said, "and that I was suited for what I did. Any skills I have about speaking or relating to people, I got from him. The Clelands make great preachers, politicians and salesmen."
In the early 1950s, the elder Cleland sold wax and car polish to automobile shops, dealerships and service stations. Whenever he changed the type of products he sold, he kept the same customers. He was a salesman for nearly 60 years, and didn't come off the road until he was 80.
Mr. Cleland was married to Juanita Wilda Kesler Cleland for 66 years. She died from complications of a stroke three years ago.
In the community, he belonged to Turner Hill Baptist Church and Masonic Lodge No. 84 F.&A.M. He loved to fish and grow roses and tomatoes. This was the first year he didn't tend a garden.
"A friend across the street planted in the garden where he'd normally plant," his son said. "He enjoyed a world-class garden."
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