Good Manners, Good Parenting and Tom Selleck

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Parents and loved ones teach us daily by their examples; words aren’t always necessary. If you’re a fan of CBS-TV’s “Blue Bloods,” like Chelsea and I are, you know Tom Selleck is the patriarch of the Regan family and he poses an amazing example of parenting, doesn’t he?

Turns out in real life, actor Tom Selleck isn’t that far away from the character he plays. I know Chelsea and I like Tom (for different reasons), but here’s my reason. Tom is one of a family of three boys and one girl. His dad, Bob, was an investment executive and his mom took care of home and family. Bob challenged his children: If each could reach the age of 21 without drinking, smoking or swearing, he promised them a gold Rolex watch. All four Selleck children received watched. Their habits carried forward the rest of their lives.

In the 1980s when Tom was filming “Magnum PI,” producer Don Bellisario gave an interview where he said that Tom was such a truly nice man that the harshest word he’d say when he was upset was, “Oh shoot!” and he actually was uncomfortable when the script called for a harsher word, which it occasionally did. That’s a great example of parenting living on decades later.

Recently I attended a National Funeral Directors Association Meeting and met some new friends and colleagues. One said, “You’re from the South, right?” I smiled and said, “Yes, why?” They said, “It’s your manners. I just knew you were from the South.” I guess I looked puzzled. They said, “You just said ‘Thank you, ma’am’ to your server.”

I thought about it. We just celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend and again I had to smile, thinking of my Dad and hearing him say “Yes, sir” and “Thank you, ma’am.” I don’t, remember Dad “telling me” what to say. Just learned by his and mom’s examples. Those important life lessons stay with us, and for that, I’m really grateful.

As I stare at the picture of my dad, my mind rushes back to when he taught me to tie my tie for the first time. I remember how he said we get dressed up for church and how I was supposed to stay out of the yard until time to leave for church. I did, most of the time. I did love my back yard.

Dressing for business is something I learned from my dad; he said that how you present yourself to the world speaks volumes about your business. Consequently, before we went out to eat for dinner (or even at home), my hair was combed and my hands were clean. That was a given.

As I grew older in life, I picked up on the nuances of his manners. If I was seated in a room and watching him, also seated, whenever my mom or any other lady walked into the room, he stood up instantly, not in a weird way, but just by instinct. I learned that a man never sits while a woman is standing. Of course, I learned that the man walks on the outside of the lady when walking down a sidewalk, or stands first and steps back to allow the woman to exit the church pew first, and so many other little lessons that started flooding into my mind that I’d not thought about since I was 10 years old.

So when I read about Tom Selleck again recently, and started thinking about the promises he made to his dad, I started thinking that it really doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, as children we learn how to be adults by observing the behavior of all those around us. The adults who are most present and influential in our lives as we grow up are indeed the role models after whom we model behavior.

Tom Selleck Senior Year 1962

Thinking on it further, I did a little research into Tom Selleck’s background—found this quote:

‘I try very hard to conduct myself in an ethical way, because that’s important to my stability now. We’re a culture that’s so centered on the individual,’ Selleck complains. ‘The culture that says basically nothing is more important than the way you feel. We’re living in an age that celebrates unchecked impulses.’

I wanted to know more. I then learned that Tom was advocate from the beginning for an organization called “Character Counts!” working with one of Texas’ own crown jewels, the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. That intrigued me to know even more. I went over to the CBS biography files to learn more.

As you all know, Tom currently stars as New York City Police Chief and family patriarch, Frank Reagan on CBS’s “Blue Bloods.” In a recent “11 things you may not know about Tom Selleck” article, CBS notes that he is a “spokesman for the National Fatherhood Initiative, a Board Member for The Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics, a committee member for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Mission (serving the homeless). He’s been presented the Distinguished American Award for the Horatio Alger Association,” among all his honors.

Thinking back, then, and reviewing Selleck’s high school picture, his early career photo as Magnum, and his current promo picture as Frank Reagan at age 72, what his father said to him and his brothers and sister about the importance of character as a child was the turning point in his life. It shaped the man he became, his manners, and how he is as a parent today.

We teach with words, we teach by example, but for most of us, we learn ethics and values as children that we embrace for the rest of our lives. I’m proud to have the parents I do, and my grandparents before them, and the generations before theirs. I’m the fifth generation of the Callaway-Jones family, so it’s firmly established in my DNA who we are and what we believe and how we treat others. And that’s what’s been on my mind for a few weeks now.


Cody D. Jones ‘02

Owner & Community Member