“I’D LIKE TO BE A DENTIST”
Barton thomas corbin was born in jacksonville, Florida, on December 22, 1963—just three minutes after his fraternal twin, Bradley Ray. Their father, Gene Corbin, was a military policeman and their mother, Connie, a bank teller. When the twins were 4 years old their parents had a third son they christened Robert, and from then on the family always referred to the twins as “Bobby’s brothers.”
When the Corbin twins were 7 years old, their father moved the family 360 miles north to Atlanta, Georgia, where they settled in the suburb of Snellville. Lying eighteen miles east of Atlanta, where Interstate 78 crosses Highway 124, Snellville was a boom town in the early 1970s, with a long and colorful history.
The Cherokee Tribe had once roamed the scenic forest of chestnut oaks, before the early American pioneers settled there. They initially named it New London, but Snellville owes its modern name to an adventurous Englishman named Thomas Snell, who sailed across the Atlantic to Georgia in the late Nineteenth Century. He eventually settled in New London, starting a general store which printed its own money for exclusive use on the premises, with Snell’s portrait on it.
His store soon served all the neighboring communities, becoming so well known that the town adopted the name Snellville in his honor. The business continued to prosper until 1960, when it finally closed to be replaced by a gas station.
As young boys the Corbin twins dressed identically and were inseparable, sharing the same room until after they graduated college.
Soon after moving to Snellville, Barton saw the 1962 NBC Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The little boy totally related to Hermey, Santa’s elf who was too slow painting the toy trucks to be given to children as presents. When the supervising elf admonished him, Hermey complained that he did not like his job.
“What?” declared his astonished supervisor. “You don’t like to make toys?”
“I’d like to be a dentist,” came Hermey’s reply.
He then ran away to the Island of Misfit Toys, having various adventures before finally fulfilling his dream.
And that children’s program—according to Corbin family lore—first sowed the seeds of Bart Corbin’s ambition to become a dentist.
Bart and brad both went to south gwinnett high School on East Main Street in Snellville, and younger brother Bob would join them several years later. Brad was the more academically inclined of the twins, with Bart preferring sports, excelling at football.
Bart later told friends that he’d suffered from low self-esteem in high school. He was overweight and mercilessly teased by his classmates, so he began working out. Even as an adult he considered himself fat, although he was in superb shape.
He soon made a name for himself as a member of the successful Comets football team. The 1979 Cometa yearbook shows the 16-year-old freshman with a wide, toothy smile, wearing a hooped tee-shirt and a fringe. But a picture of his twin brother alongside is a study in contrasts, with the fuller-faced Brad looking the more serious of the two.
From early childhood, friends later remembered, Bart Corbin was unpredictable. Without warning, for no apparent reason, a dark cloud would come over him, giving rise to a display of his ferocious temper.
Years later Brad’s future wife, Edwina, would try to explain Bart’s mercurial nature, observing that all the Corbin brothers were highly excitable on occasion.
“All three boys speak loudly by my standards,” she observed. “I think it is born of being a part of a busy home. When they get excited or upset about something, they get louder. I think people could interpret this as anger when coupled with the odd swear word or five, but it isn’t. The only times I have seen/heard any of them really get upset is when they themselves have done something wrong.”
And family members jokingly refer to this excitable Corbin family trait as a case of “pseudo-Tourette’s.”
As the youngest, Robert always looked up to the twins, who protected him at school.
“We played together,” Robert would later remember. “They looked out for me.”
Both twins were musical. Bart was a good guitarist and Brad played classical piano to competition level. They also loved to draw pictures.
The 1980 and 1981 South Gwinnett yearbooks show that the twins were both on the high school’s football team, but Bart’s only other mention was as an aspiring actor in the annual school play, where he was pictured as a monk in a long robe. Brad, on the other hand, was a member of the French Club, the Beta Club, the Science Fiction Club and the Chess Club. He was also on the honor roll and awarded a Georgia Certificate of Merit.
But although Bart was just an average student, he made up for it with his stunning good looks and razor-sharp wit. By his sophomore year the tall handsome teenager was never short of female admirers.
He was also ambitious and driven, graduating in 1982, with far lower grades than his twin brother. In their graduation pictures Bart is impeccably dressed in a black tuxedo and black bow tie, whereas Brad has a flashier gray velvet tuxedo, black lapels and a white frilly shirt.
Soon after moving to snellville, gene corbin had started a chemical company. Bart and Brad regularly visited the offices, with Bart striking up a close friendship with a salesman named Richard J. Wilson. Over the next few years, Bart and Wilson would regularly meet for extended fishing trips on the water.
Gene and Constance Corbin always encouraged Bart to become a dentist. And in 1983 they were proud when he enrolled at the University of Georgia’s pre-dentistry program, along with his twin brother, who majored in neurobiology. The boys immediately joined the UGA Georgia Bulldogs football team—the Dawgs—as walk-on defensive linemen. Several years later, younger brother Bob would follow them, before injuring his leg during a game. All three brothers would share a lifelong passion, as “hard-core” supporters of the Dawgs.
During his early twenties, a leather-clad Barton Corbin cut a dashing figure on the UGA campus, riding a mountain bike that he also raced. He played guitar around campus and loved disco, sometimes frequenting Atlanta clubs with friends on the weekends. Considered an eligible bachelor and quite a catch, he suffered no lack of girlfriends. He and Brad shared a room together and seemed inseparable.
Soon before the twins graduated, their parents had a “messy divorce,” according to one of Bart’s friends. Although Connie and Gene were now barely on speaking terms, their three sons would remain close to both of them.
In 1986, Bart graduated from UGA with a BS degree, with an emphasis on pre-dental. His grades were good enough for him to be accepted to study dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
Finally, at the age of 25, he was on his way to achieve his childhood ambition to become a dentist.
It took almost a century for the medical college of Georgia (MCG) to establish a school of dentistry. The idea was first mooted in 1868, but not taken seriously, with dentistry then considered a “non-vital” branch of medicine.
It was not until 1960—three years before Barton Corbin’s birth—that several dentists banded together to form the Augusta Dental Society, to campaign for the establishment of a Georgia dental school.
Five years later, the MCG School of Dentistry was initiated, accepting its first students in two temporary buildings, its stated mission to “educate dentists in order to improve overall health and to reduce the burden of illness in society.”
In June 1971, the present dental facility was completed on the corner of Fifteenth Street and Gwinnett, in downtown Augusta.
By the time Bart Corbin joined MCG in summer 1986, the school of dentistry was thriving. It drew students from all over the state and was highly competitive, with a demanding workload. During the four years of dental school, Corbin and his fellow students often studied together, getting to know each other very well from classes and laboratory studies.
“We were under a lot of stress,” his classmate Dr. Alfred Aguero would tell The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “[Bart had] an explosive temper. He got mad pretty easily.” Another old classmate, Scott Stillman, also remembered Corbin as always on a short fuse and extremely unpredictable.
On one occasion, Corbin become so “frustrated” over a lab experiment, he hurled his equipment against the wall in a fit of anger. This incident gave birth to a running gag, with his fellow students reenacting his tantrum behind his back for the next three years.
Eric Rader shared an office with Bart Corbin for several years and they became best friends. Corbin would spend most of his free time at the home of Rader and his wife often asking advice and confiding in him.
Rader thought him insecure, with an “unstable ego” and problems with his self image. Bart told him about being fat in high school and how he now worked out to bolster his low self-esteem. Rader felt that Bart always needed a nice car, a beautiful girlfriend and fancy clothes in order to feel good about himself.
Derrick Hampton, also in his class, recalls Bart as being one of the “funniest guys” he’d ever met.
“He’s been known to embellish,” noted Dr. Hampton, “using the art of words you probably wouldn’t use around your grandma.”
Soon after starting his second year at dental school, Corbin met a beautiful freshman dental student named Dorothy Hearn. Before long they were embroiled in a wild passionate affair.
Copyright © 2007 by John Glatt. All rights reserved.