This short documentary about Richard Blackwelder, an autistic man in Davidson, N.C., has been up on YouTube for 2 1/2 years, but I’ve only just discovered it. Both Richard and barber Ken Norton, one of the people interviewed in the film, were fixtures in town when I left Davidson almost 30 years ago (Norton cut my hair, and his father cut my dad’s hair in the early 1950s). I knew Richard by name because I often ran into him on Main Street, but a lot of my friends referred to him primarily as “the walking man” because we tended to see him walking up and down Main Street, often in something of a hurry and always looking as if he knew exactly where he was headed.
Richard tells his own story engagingly, but the comments of other Davidsonians also are interesting. Documentarian James Billy Hill has neatly captured a kind of community that tends to get discounted in the age of social media — and how easy it would be for a person like Richard to fall through the cracks, or worse.