by: Jesse S. Lyons (Delta Alpha – Western Carolina ’98)
On March 25th, I had the opportunity to meet Zac Brown (Zeta Kappa – West Georgia ’97). At the Zac Brown Band’s unconventional but widely lauded fan event dubbed an “Eat ‘n Greet” band members serve the food then dine with you like you’re family. While the food line formed, I snagged a couple minutes with Zac. I was able to bring him a copy of his paper Report 2 (Induction) card from when he joined the Order in 1998.
The dinner was amazing, as was the following concert with the band. The band is off to a great 2012 with a new album due out this summer. The next day, after the tour busses had taken the band home overnight to Georgia, Zac and I were able to connect via the phone. We had a great conversation about his appreciation for KA values, essential support an alumnus provided him, and his most important passion in life beside his family—surprisingly, not his music!
EDITOR of THE KA JOURNAL: Did you make it back to Georgia all right?
ZAC BROWN: Yes! Hopped off the bus, threw the kids in the car, and we’re headed to the Lake.
You’re likely the most well-known KA today. Brothers across the country are proud of you and want to know about your values and success.
I know that I owe a lot for everything that I have. I owe a lot for my family, for my life, and for my career. And my way of giving back is to help build Camp Southern Ground. I worked at camps similar to what I’m trying to build in Dahlonega at Camp Glissen, at Camp Mikell in Toccoa.
I’ve seen the impact it (a camp) can have in one kid’s life in one week. If you can plant a seed in a kid’s head to give them something they can carry forward, it’s amazing that in one week you can change their perspective and the way they look at everything.
(Editor’s note: The Mikell Camp and Conference Center was established in 1941 by the Right Reverend Henry Judah Mikell (Alpha Alpha – Univ. of the South 1904), Bishop of Atlanta—and Former Knight Commander).
What are some of your aims for Camp Southern Ground?
We want to help the kids with developmental disorders, including Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, even ADD and ADHD. We want them to understand that there is actually help now that can them improve their lives. That’s the primary function of my whole camp—to connect the kids with some of the smartest people in the world. We want to educate our kids and teach them the things that matter. Also, sometimes these kids don’t have the opportunity or resources to go do special things such as attend a camp. We want to help provide that by giving underprivileged scholarships for kids to attend.
This camp sounds pretty special. How much effort are you personally contributing?
This is my life’s work, and besides my family, it is the most important thing in my life, to get this camp built. This camp stands on all of the same standards that a KA would stand on – the way you treat other people, the way treat your lady, the way you’d be a servant unto your people in a gentlemanly fashion.
How can your fellow brothers help with Camp Southern Ground?
It would be very welcome and very appreciated from the KA community, alumni and students, to come and be a volunteer. We also need donations. We need a lot of help to get it done and I’m helping to make sure we see it through.
When do you hope to open Camp Southern Ground?
April 2014 is the goal and we have a lot of fundraising to do between now and then. We’re in the architectural phase now. We’ve received zoning approval with the county. It is going to be state of the art—like something that’s never been built before.
Why did you join Kappa Alpha Order?
You know, the chapter at West Georgia, when I was in school there, was a group of guys that were all genuinely good people. They took care of each other and cared about being respectful, about opening doors, and really just understanding that the heart of a KA is a gentleman. That meant a lot to me as far as being a person. It’s a southern hospitality trait and after traveling all over the world and seeing everything that I’ve seen it’s so nice to come home where people have those qualities. I remember that the brotherhood that I found with KA instilled that.
I remember that anytime there were ever problems with fraternities and girls at school whether it was a sorority or others, we were kind of the justice squad. They (the women) would come talk to us about any issues and we would actually go confront the people in the situation and try to, you know, defend the honor of the ladies—in a very respectful way.
I just loved the things that a KA should stand for. Proud to be a KA.
As KA is a lifetime experience, do you still stay in touch with your brothers from the chapter?
Yeah I am. Adam Chance (Zeta Kappa – West Georgia ‘98) sells us insurance for my whole company, for all my companies. Bo Palmer (Zeta Kappa – West Georgia ‘97), some people call him Shawn, I call him Bo. We’ve remained really close. Randy Green (Zeta Kappa – West Georgia ‘99) and Eric Warren (Zeta Kappa – West Georgia ’97) are a couple more. Justin Dial (Zeta Kappa – West Georgia ‘98) is actually out on the road working with one of my artists Nick Cowan, on my label (Southern Ground). I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of them and I see a lot of from time to time out at the shows. I’ll reconnect with some I haven’t seen. We all still cross paths and help each other out when we can, its great.
Do you ever see other KAs at your concerts, from time to time in the crowd?
I do, yeah. Every once in a while I’ll see the (KA) flag out there. I’ll see somebody holding it up in the crowd.
Are there any KAs that really helped you out or helped you get started?
You know, one of the guys that believed in me when no body else would and one that has been such a great friend to me when I was young was Dr. Richie Bland (Alpha Sigma – Georgia Tech ‘78) who lives in Carrollton and is a Radiation Oncologist.
When I came to him hat in hand early on, and asked him to loan me some money, he did it. Without any guarantee of getting paid back, he did it. He took a chance on me. And later on, he did it again. He’s been nothing but a great friend. That’s a great example of a bond that started off as being a fraternity brother. I had a meeting with him and he believed in me enough to help me. I can attribute a lot of the beginnings of pulling together my success to Dr. Bland.
I know you’ve got some time off with your family and I want to let you go. Is there anything you’d like to share with all KAs?
The biggest thing I can say to them as a mentor, is you really do get what you give. So the better you can be as a person and the more gracious you can be to everybody in every possible scenario, the more that your life will be rewarded for it and the more that it will unfold for you. So that’s the basis of what I feel like a KA should be, dedicating your life to the service of others and doing things with good intentions. And, if you have to wonder whether or not you should do something, you probably shouldn’t do it. That’s been the guiding force for me and since I have been living my life with that law everything has been taken care of and beyond blessed.
Thank you Zac, we sure appreciate your time and best wishes on your future.
Thanks brother, come back to a concert and eat with us, hangout, and see us again…
For more information on how to donate, volunteer, or otherwise contribute to Zac’s most important work, please check out:
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tell us which brothers we should keep an eye on; share with us our future leaders. Head over to www.kappaalphaorder.org/excellence and submit the names and stories today.