In this 1974 photo, Roger can be seen walking along Main Street near the Aqua Hotel sign. (Photo Courtesy Wallace Rice Collection)
"Sir, can I have a word with you?"
When most folks hear the name, Roger Whitfield, immediately what comes to mind is a hitchhiker along the side or the road in Dayton.
Clyde Fitzgerald once stated in an interview that "Anybody in Dayton, Tennessee, that didn't know Roger Whitfield had just gotten here". Everywhere Roger needed to go, he hitchhiked. And he could always be seen with a grocery bag containing some cash and other personal items.
Roger would typically greet a person saying, "Sir, can I have a word with you?" or "Sir, can I ask you a question?" according to Fitzgerald. And the question was usually, "Which way are you going?".
When Roger was younger, it was much safer to hitchhike. He was even known to have hitchhiked from here to California and back quite often to see his parents. His parents eventually moved back to Dayton and Roger stopped making trips west around 1960.
He could still be seen locally and throughout Tennessee on the road hitchhiking. Roger was once spotted in Nashville alongside the highway and later that afternoon back in Dayton. In later years, Roger started keeping close to home where he resided in one of the housing authority units behind Richland Park Shopping Center.
Several years before his death, merchants in the Richland Park Shopping Center found Roger lying in the parking lot after two young men had hit him in the head and robbed him near his apartment. Sadly, after the robbery, Roger didn’t venture out as much. He had became afraid and kept his doors and windows locked.
Roger was born on Oct. 15, 1928, and was one of six children. He spent the last two weeks of his life in a nursing home after suffering from kidney failure. He passed away on July 25, 2001, at the age of 72. He was laid to rest in the French Cemetery in Dayton.
Roger was a friend to all who knew him. He will always be in our memories, hitchhiking up and down the streets of our little town.
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