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Rodney Barton Mauldin

(1946–2012)

Remembrance by Clark Church (with Barbara Bamberger Scott)

I first saw Bart Mauldin in Tijuana Fats’ Restaurant, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the fall of 1971, smoking a French cigarette and engaging in amusing, brilliant conversation. Little did I guess that this man would become my dearest friend. 

Bart had a charming voice, a zest for life, and seemed to know something about almost everything, but he was also a humble man, sensitive and generous.

By hanging around Tijuana Fats’ with numerous Baba lovers, Bart very soon became a devotee of Meher Baba. He visited the Meher Center in Myrtle Beach, SC, and for a time lived in North Myrtle Beach. During that time, he was privileged to meet Adi K. Irani as well as Kitty Davy and Elizabeth Patterson.

Rodney Barton Mauldin grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had a faint Southern accent and considered himself “down home.” But he was also erudite, gregarious, fun-loving, and just about the smartest man I have ever known. He was incredibly fast with his hands; his eye-hand coordination was deadly on the tennis court and with pinball machines—he won the Chapel Hill, NC, bar pinball championship one year. In high school football, he had been a lineman; the coach placed him in that attack position because, he declared: “Mauldin, boy, yew fast, yew fast.” Later he would play golf with big bankers for whom he was making millions by playing the market in derivatives.

After high school Bart joined the US Army, where he taught Vietnamese to young U.S. soldiers, hoping it might help save their lives one day. He then joined the Peace Corps, learned Arabic, and went to Marrakech, Morocco, where he taught English. There he met and married Aisha El Elam. Aisha had been told by a Moroccan fortune-teller that she would marry a handsome, blue-eyed American, and so she did. Bart and Aisha had two children, Malika and Kamal.

After finishing the MBA program at UNC–Chapel Hill, Bart sold stocks for Bache in Raleigh, moved to New York, to Myrtle Beach, then to the Bahamas, then finally to London, working for various international financial institutions. He was working as a financier in Tehran, Iran, when he sensed the political unrest towards the Shah. He told his college chum, Karl “Rick” Inderfurth (then an ABC news reporter and later to be a US Ambassador), that Iran was doomed. Soon afterwards, the Shah was deposed.

Bart was fluent in several languages. (Rick Inderfurth, who had been Bart’s college roommate, recalled in a 2001 interview that Bart suddenly switched majors to French because “I like it.”) He studied the Koran in Arabic and spoke that language fluently along with French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Vietnamese. 

Bart could easily have become a sommelier, such was his love of wine; he was a gourmand who prepared delicious multicultural meals for friends and family. When he was working as a financier, he dined with sheiks, European dignitaries, and international money brokers, able to converse charmingly with all.

He never forgot his friends, though. Barbara Scott recalls that while she was living in London, Bart treated her and her two daughters, who had come for a visit, to a sumptuous meal at his favorite, very expensive French restaurant. And once, when Barbara was nearly broke and had her purse stolen, Bart invited her for lunch: “I was in awe when I saw the huge office where Bart worked in London’s financial district. When I arrived, announced by a secretary, the first thing Bart did was to take out his wallet and give me the exact sum I had had stolen, saying, ‘Barbara, I don’t want you to get discouraged.’”

Bart visited Meher Baba’s home in India once, and told me this one occurrence from that visit: as soon as he saw Eruch Jessawala, Bart began to weep uncontrollably.

His love for Meher Baba opened the door for Bart to explore all religions. His wife’s influence drew him strongly to Islam, and he often declared himself to be a Muslim. Yet while I was visiting him in France we toured cathedrals, and at each one, he put money into the coffers, saying to me, “It is always good to hedge your bets.”

Bart died in November 2012, of a heart attack, survived by his wife and children, and a small group of Baba lovers who remember him with greatest fondness.

 

 

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