Talking to Max Sandlin's mother, you get the sense he was a serious and mature young boy, but also had a lot of fun.
"He and the children in the neighborhood played a lot of cowboys and Indians," Margie Sandlin said.
She says Max loved westerns, he was a big Roy Rogers fan, and he loved the outdoors.
"He liked to ride bicycles, swim," she said. "He was a scout. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. He took part in church activities. If it was happening, he was a part of it, and usually, a leading part of it."
Max spent his first five years in New Boston, then moved to Atlanta, TX with his parents. During the next several years, his two younger brothers, Mark and Michael, were born.
"He was really kind of bossy," Margie said. "But they got along fine."
Margie says Max wasn't much trouble at all, and was overall, a happy child.
"Of course, when he got in high school, he didn't come in when I wanted him to."
But he apparently didn't shirk his studying. Max graduated third in his Atlanta High School class.
"Here was a young man, you know, lively, and you could see his mind working," Ruth Trumble, his senior English teacher, said. "And it was really a real joy. It was an encouragement to come in and find someone sitting in front of you actually listening."
Trumble still remembers Max sat in the first row, third seat over.
"You think there's someone you can trust to do the right thing, to think through it," Trumble said. "Even though I'm a Republican."
"His father would've been so proud of him," Margie said.
Max's father died when Max was in his late 20s, an event Margie says had the biggest impact on his life.
"I think it made him more serious and more determined to do well, to not fritter his life away," she said.
And it has driven him to succeed ever since. A few other little-known facts about Max: His mom says he always finished all the leftovers and preferred chicken fried steak to a fancy meal. Max also had a few superstitions, like not wanting a black cat to cross his path.
Julie Tam, reporting.