Harry Leon Simpson left Dalton, but he never forgot this town. Not when he went off to Europe to serve his country in World War II. Not when his baseball career took off and he spent more than a decade playing for a long list of teams in the Negro, minor, major and Mexican leagues. Not when his time on the diamond was up and he moved to Ohio to take a job with Goodyear. Not when, after he retired, he took a keen interest in the Bible as he strove to practice his Christian faith devoutly.

All along the way, Simpson — who picked up the fairly appropriate nickname of “Suitcase” at some point, either because of his travels or because a sports writer thought he resembled a cartoon character by that name, depending on whom you ask — remembered the town he spent most of his young life in after his family moved here from Atlanta, where he was born in 1925. And he didn’t just remember it, recalls Minnie Marsh, a second cousin to Simpson, he made a point to come back again and again.

“He loved his family,” said Marsh, whose maternal grandfather was the brother of Simpson’s mother. “I remember him going from house to house, visiting his relatives. He was very humorous. He always made you laugh. And he would tell you about a lot of the travels he had with baseball.”

Because of the age difference — Marsh was still a little girl as Simpson finished out his Major League Baseball career in the late 1950s — Simpson was more like an uncle than a cousin to Marsh.

“He always called me ‘Babe,’” she said. “Most all of his family had nicknames. We called him ‘Uncle Goodie.’ In the family, he was called ‘Goodie.’”

Toward the end of his life, Simpson’s visits to Dalton included teaching Bible classes at local churches, Marsh said.

But whatever the reason for dropping in, Simpson always enjoyed his time here and that made an impression on Marsh. Simpson died in 1979, but she hasn’t forgotten her Uncle Goodie or his devotion to Dalton.

“I went over to the cemetery last week and I became a little emotional,” Marsh said. “Even after 30 years of him being gone, I still feel so close to him at heart.”

Because of that, Marsh made it a personal cause over the past few months to find a way to pay tribute to her late cousin, who earlier this year had a road near his grave in West Hill Cemetery dubbed “Suitcase Simpson Drive.”

A bit saddened by his current grave marker, a simple flat headstone issued by the Veterans Administration, Marsh worked to drum up support for a new one that would mention more about his life beyond his military service

Though that’s certainly a notable part of Simpson’s story, Marsh especially wanted to present a fuller picture of the man because Simpson’s grave, located at the west end of the cemetery, is included on a brochure for a walking historical tour of West Hill published earlier this year.

“What’s on his monument right now doesn’t tell about his life or say anything about baseball,” Marsh said.

That won’t be the case much longer.

A new monument bearing a depiction of Suitcase and much more information will be dedicated at 11 a.m. Saturday at his grave, and the public is invited and encouraged to attend the anniversary memorial service celebrating Simpson’s well-traveled life. Among the expected special guests are family members — including at least two of Simpson’s children, who are driving across several state borders to make it here — Mayor David Pennington and old friends of Simpson’s like Elbert Easley, a teammate on the Dalton Tigers baseball team, and Melvin Pender, who as an Olympic gold medalist in 1968 was no athletic slouch himself.

The ceremony is expected to last about 30 minutes, Marsh said, and will be followed by a reception with refreshments at the Emery Center, where memorabilia from Simpson’s baseball career will be on display. Because of limited parking at the grave site, for attendees’ convenience a shuttle will run from the Emery Center to the cemetery at 10:30 a.m. and back after the ceremony.

This is a great opportunity to learn about someone who represented Dalton well on the national stage — did I mention Simpson, part of the first wave of black players in the majors, was an all-star in 1956, his first of two years running as the American League leader in triples, and played in the 1957 World Series with the New York Yankees? — without forgetting where he came from.

If you’re a local history buff and know others who are as well, bring them. If you’re the parent of a kid who loves baseball, bring him. If you’re the coach of a recreation league, travel, middle school or high school baseball team, bring the whole lineup — you can even wear your uniforms for good measure. If you’d just like to pay tribute to Simpson and hear from some of those who knew and loved him best, well, you know where to be on Saturday.

“He never forgot Dalton,” Marsh said. “I still miss him coming home every year on visits. He and my mom would talk about when they were children.”

Marsh, naturally, is a little emotional and excited about the big day for Simpson. Or Uncle Goodie. Or Suitcase.

Whatever name you call the man by, those who knew him have no doubt he deserves this tribute.

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