Arts & Culture

How an Alabama Farmer’s Secret Act of Charity Turned Contagious

Every month for a decade, Hody Childress quietly delivered cash to a local pharmacy for those in need. In the wake of his death, strangers have picked up the tab

Photo: courtesy of Tania Nix

Hody Childress (middle) and his daughter, Tania Nix, and son, Doug Childress.

Hody Childress was the hero we didn’t know we needed. We didn’t know it because he never told anyone.

Childress, who passed away on New Year’s Day, was many things during his eighty years on earth: husband, father, grandfather, Air Force veteran, product manager at Lockheed Martin, and farmer in the town of Geraldine, Alabama (population: 910), which is some sixty miles southeast of Huntsville. But he had a secret he nearly took to his grave: For the last decade, Childress had been anonymously paying for the medications and medical expenses of the people in his town who couldn’t afford them.

One day in 2012, Childress walked into Geraldine Drugs and asked for the owner, Brooke Walker. He handed her a folded $100 bill. “This $100 is for anyone who can’t afford their prescription,” he told her, according to Birmingham’s WVTM13, which broke the story. “Do not tell a soul that the money came from me. Tell them it’s a blessing from God.” 

Childress, living off just a small pension and Social Security, continued the practice on the first of every month for the next ten years, sometimes giving more than $100—which means his donation total came to more than $12,000. His generosity helped an average of two people per month, according to a story in the Washington Post, with prescriptions, medications and EpiPens. His only condition was that the money not be used for pain pills. 

Childress’s selfless compassion may have been influenced by some of the hardships he had faced in life. He grew up dirt poor, with no electricity in his house until he was seven. His grandfather and middle son died in a tornado in the 1970s, and his first wife had multiple sclerosis and died in 1999. (On many Fridays in the fall, Childress would carry her to her seat in the bleachers to watch the local high school football games.)

In late December of last year, when Childress became incapacitated due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he finally confided to Tania Nix, his daughter, about what he had been up to. “He was always a great man and a great father,” Nix says. “But I found out that he was more amazing than I ever knew.” It was at her father’s funeral on January 5 that Nix revealed his secret.

It turns out Childress’s kindness is contagious, even posthumously. Geraldine Drugs has received a flood of donations—first from locals and then from people around the country—in his memory. With that money, the pharmacy has created a Hody Childress Fund, which will continue his legacy of helping out those in need. 

If interested in contributing, you can mail a check made out to the Hody Childress Fund to:

Geraldine Drugs
P.O. Box 158
Geraldine, AL 35974