For those who believe there are no coincidences in life, we give you Dunwoody’s Clint Harp and two occasions when his life took a fortuitous turn.
You might know about the first one, when Harp bumped into Chip Gaines at a gas station in Waco, Texas, seven years ago. At the time, Harp was broke and trying to make a go of his passion for custom furniture-making. One thing led to another, and within months the woodworker and Chip and Joanna Gaines were filming a pilot for “Fixer Upper,” which became a hit show for HGTV, airing for five years.
You probably don’t know about the second one, which happened way back when Harp was a teenager and part of a youth group at Dunwoody Baptist Church. Allen Jackson — then the church’s youth minister, now its senior pastor — had a soft spot for Harp, and both of them were part of the church’s mission trip to inner-city New Orleans.
“Somehow, we ended up at Café Du Monde together,” Harp recalls of the trip. “As we talked, he said, ‘Clint, there’s three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what just happened.’ And he also said, ‘Your integrity is the most important thing about you.’
“Those words of wisdom define me today. I’m a person of integrity, and I’m one who makes things happen.”
Harp’s ability to make things happen — by making things — has resulted in a measure of national fame and will bring him to the 41st annual Atlanta Home Show for speaking appearances on March 22 and 23 at the Cobb Galleria Centre. (For more information, go to AtlantaHomeShow.com.)
None of Harp’s success — he’s also the author of a book, “Handcrafted: A Woodworker’s Story” — comes as a surprise to Jackson, who says he remembers a boy earnestly “trying to figure out his family” in the wake of his parents’ divorce.
“He was in the process of deciding to live a life of integrity, no matter where his journey took him,” Jackson says. “I remember picking him up so that he could be at church on Wednesday nights. I remember him being easy for everybody to like. He was friends with everybody.
“Clint is such a good, good guy. He was authentic then, just like he is now.”
We explored Harp’s Georgia days with him in a recent phone interview.
Q: How does Dunwoody fit into your life story?
A: I’ll always consider Dunwoody home. I was born at Piedmont Hospital in 1977, and in about 1980 I moved with my mom and stepdad to Asheville, North Carolina. For about eight years, I spent every other weekend back in Atlanta with my dad. At age 11, I moved back to Atlanta. I went to Woodland Elementary School, Ridgeview Middle School, Peachtree Junior High School and Dunwoody High School, graduating in 1996.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories of those days?
A: One of the best memories is the time I spent with my family on my dad’s side in the Paces Ferry and Vinings area. My granddad on my mom’s side, I got my genes for building from him. He built a house off Spalding Drive on the Chattahoochee River. I was constantly canoeing on the river and playing on a rope swing and hanging out on the sandbars. There were peacocks walking around the yard. My grandmother, Ann Callaway Martin, worked for President Carter at his library and knew the Carter family.
Q: What’s the first thing you ever built?
A: In shop class in the ninth grade, I built a trashcan out of pine for my mom.
Q: When you speak to an audience, as you will at the Atlanta Home Show, is there a message that you try to leave with them?
A: I try to tell a story. I believe that as we share, we find that we have a lot in common. Everyone has themes in their life, and family struggle was a theme in mine. But people stepped up in my life, as well. I’m where I am because of all the things that happened in my life. I’ve used all of it to get to where I am today. I was married with two kids when I quit a six-figure job (in medical sales) to go for my dream. We went for it. I chose years ago to make something happen with no promise of anything. I never would have met Chip Gaines if I hadn’t been going for it.
Q: What are the Gaineses like?
A: Joanna is just as talented as you think she is. She’s the real deal, insanely gifted and a great person. Chip is just as funny in person [as he is on TV]. You want to have barbecue and a beer with him. He has an energy that attracts people to him.
Q: What are your thoughts about coming back to Atlanta for the show?
A: I’ve wanted to do the Atlanta Home Show for a long, long time. I told them, “I don’t care what date it is, put me down for it!”