Wednesday, October 22, 2014


        She's not much to look at.  Nothing about her sparks any endearment toward her homely face or cracker box figure.  The old girl (now she was a looker) was held in admiration for her enduring beauty, divine grace and elegant charm as she sat on her throne as the queen of the county.

It is hard to find anyone who can become emotionally enthused when you speak of the current Laurens County Courthouse.  But, since she turns fifty this year, I figured I might as well try to find something kind to say about the ol' gal whose lack of makeup and adornment has drawn nothing but unavoidable apathetic glances during her half century's reign in the center of downtown Dublin. This pathetic relic of the modern architecture of the Sixties  doesn't get a second notice from the hopeless romantics who admire the grand dames of our distant past.

It was in the early 1960s, when everything was supposed to be modern and new, that the decision was made to build a new courthouse.  The choice was not made out of desire to sweep away the grand courthouse of 1895, but arose from a compromise between those traditionalists who wanted the new courthouse to remain in the center of the city, those who wanted it located on a larger site with ample parking and those who plainly wanted to keep the old beautiful brick courthouse right where it had been for nearly seventy years.

After those who were against the construction of a new courthouse on Telfair Street or just in general defeated a bond issue to raise the funds, county leaders sought out and obtained a Federal grant through the aid of Congressman Carl Vinson of Milledgeville, who had served in Congress for more than a half century and for three decades had provided Dublin with a naval hospital, a POW camp to aid farmers in World War II, Interstate Highway 16 and nearly succeeded in the establishment of the U.S. Air Force Academy, a B-52 bomber base and a jet fighter base in Laurens County.

It would be the first time in the history of the United States that the funding of the construction of a county courthouse was made by the Federal government, which chipped in approximately fifty percent of the cost.

Construction, under the supervision of contractors Isadore and Harry Torch, began in the winter of 1963-64, but was delayed at first when heavy rains filled in the excavation with several feet of water, further adding to the mockery of the new building.

Architects John Cunningham and Roy Forehand, ran into a dilemma from the very beginning. How could they design a three story (with room to add a fourth in the future) building with a jail underneath on a traffic island.  The City of Dublin, which handsomely profited from the sale of natural gas, pushed the use of gas for heating and cooling.  The architects, however, went with the conventional electric design.  Their concept was to circulate the warm air from the upper floors to the basement in the colder months and the cooler air from the lower floors upward to the top of the building during the warmer months.   Needless to say the plan failed miserably.  Ask anyone who worked in the courthouse from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Designed in a time when racial segregation was still predominant in the country, one can still see the remnants of that bygone era when separate was considered equal.  The spacious, air-conditioned for the first time, courtroom was designed with a gallery section in the balcony to seat "colored" citizens upstairs in a manner similar to the way pre-Civil War churches segregated its slave members.

On the second floor there are two sets of bathrooms.  The first and largest set is located on both sides of the elevator was designated as "white only," while the other set, located at the far end of the hall adjoining the stairwell is much smaller and was designated "colored."

By the 1980s, the offices in the courthouse were becoming overwhelmingly crowded and bursting at the gerters.  The Laurens County Board of Education and the Department of Family and Children Services had to move out to separate facilities to meet the ever expanding needs of the courts.  The County Commissioners left soon after that to offices across the street.   By the early 2000s, the offices of the Tax Commissioner, the Registrar and a part of the Clerk's office moved into a new annex north of the courthouse.

Almost every courthouse you ever have seen had a front door.  Our courthouse has one, but entrants had to use the two side doors and the back door unless they wanted to walk through the courtroom to get to their destination.  The only adornments are the state seal on the north side  and a simple federal seal on the south side.  On a positive note, the efforts of the various garden clubs and veterans' organizations have given the square elements of beauty and heritage.

The county commissioners officially designated the new building as the county courthouse on July 21, 1964, which meant that the courthouse was no longer located in the Federal Building and the old Post Office.

On July 23, 1964, the first order of business was an invocation by the Rev. C.E. Vines.  The first case on the motion day calendar was the validation of the City of Dudley's water and sewerage revenue bonds.  After the conclusion of calendar call, a picture of the Dublin bar, judges, court officials, county officers and other employees was taken in the new, brighter, roomier and I might say cooler courtroom.  Gone were the electric fans and creaky wooden benches and chairs.  In were the stylish, now highly collectible,  multi-colored plastic chairs throughout the courtroom.  

The official dedication of the courthouse was held on October 15, 1964 (50 years ago tomorrow) under the direction of county commissioners S.A. Lewis, J.W. Robertson and R.A. Register, who invited Congressmen Carl Vinson and Elliot Hagan along with Georgia governor Carl Sanders and the United States Secretary of Commerce and former Governor of North Carolina, Luther Hodges to speak at the occasion.  All of the speakers pointed to Dublin's growth with its new courthouse, library and post office - all completed within a few months of each other.  I point out here that the praised progress began a process of the systematic destruction of much of the eastern end of Bellevue Avenue.

With a half century of service and the move toward annexes, regretfully it appears that our courthouse will easily break the 67-year record of her predecessor and will be sitting on her nest in the center of town as the ugly duckling of East Central Georgia courthouses for a long, long time.

Well, I guess I couldn't find anything good to say about our courthouse, except that it is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than back in a time when we used hand fans and wood burning heaters.  And, like the architects promised, there is more room than there used to be.



Friend and Foe of An American Literary Legend

Emily Whitehurst married the love of her life.  Her husband's best friend was a man she deeply admired.  When her idol slighted her husband's influence on his celebrated writings, her admiration turned to scorn.  But in her own right, she was a woman ahead of her time, a time in the South when her stands on social rights were scorned by many and admired by the very few.  

Emily Whitehurst was born in 1909 in Dublin, Georgia.  Her father, Zollicoffer, or just plain "Z." Whitehurst was a pharmacist, who later became the Superintendent of Laurens County schools.  Her mother was the former Miss Minnie Edge.  Emily graduated from Dublin High School in 1926.   After her graduation, Emily studied at Georgia State Teacher's College and Tulane University, where she obtained a degree in education. 

Emily loved literature, especially classical Greek literature.  She began to read "The Sound and the Fury," by Mississippi novelist William Faulkner.   She took a friend and set out for Oxford, Mississippi to meet her new favorite author.  She said, "here is a real live writer.  I had never seen one.  He was short, but had a great presence."  Emily stayed in Oxford, where she taught school.  She began to write her own novel.  The new single, blond, blue-eyed school teacher was the object of the town's matchmakers.  Emily's friends were all talking about a young man, a Yale-educated handsome lawyer  named Phil Stone.  "He was the most romantic person, all the girls in town were in love with him," Emily remembered.   After all, Phil Stone was the best friend of William Faulkner, the man who's writing "set her on fire."

A mutual friend took Emily's unfinished manuscript to Phil for his review.  There was something in her words that peeked the young lawyer's attention, or maybe there was something in her smile.  Phil sent a letter to Emily inviting her to come by his office.  Emily  was flattered.  "I just primped myself to pieces," said Emily, who married Phil Stone in a New Orleans church, despite the fact that she had disavowed her staunch Methodist upbringing and was generally regarded as somewhat of an atheist.  

It was about this time when Emily's admiration for Faulkner evolved into disdain. Faulkner would come by the Stone home and sit in their parlor while he read his new stories to the Stones, who acted as critics and counselors as well.  Mrs. Stone was intimidated by Faulkner.  Particularly disturbing was his opinion about women.  Emily believed Faulkner saw women as good for housework only and as parasites, who live off the men they marry.  Many times Emily bit her tongue when it came to Faulkner's faults.  She realized the importance of her husband's friendship with Faulkner and learned to respect it.

Faulkner's reputation among his critics and multitude of readers began to soar.  Many people in Oxford thought the highly respected author's work were in reality, written or at least inspired by Phil Stone.  It was generally known and accepted by almost everyone, except Emily, that Gavin Stevens, the southern lawyer protagonist of Faulkner's widely acclaimed mystery novels, was based on Faulkner's best friend Phil.  Emily hated the comparison.  "I got mad.  Phil was not," Emily remembered.  "Gavin was so garrulous and Phil was not," she said as she remembered her fury when everyone thought the lawyer in Faulkner's novels was actually her real life husband.  Emily did admit the similarity between Gavin Stevens and her husband's propensity for telling stories.  

Phil never took any credit, except for giving Faulkner a sense of humor and keeping him in Mississippi and away from New York.  When William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, he took all of the credit and gave his best friend Phil absolutely no praise for his friendship and inspiration.  This was the last straw.  Emily believed with all of her heart that it was Phil Stone who transformed William Faulkner into a writer, or at least into the writer he became.  Phil and William, a high school dropout, were inseparable.  The highly educated Stone exposed William to a diverse group of classic literary works.  Stone purchased a thousand copies of Faulkner's first book, a volume of poetry, to boost his friend's ego and fatten his wallet.  After tolerating his faults for too many years, Emily Stone no longer had any use for the once beloved icon and forever demigod Faulkner. 

Emily simply adored and idolized Phil. She and "Mr. God," as she referred to him had two children, Phillip, Jr. and Araminta.  Early in their marriage, the Stones suffered an irreparable loss.  Their elegant home was destroyed by fire.  Most devastating was Phil's vast library, which included a fifty- foot long, more than a head tall, line of literary works.  Among the treasures lost or severely damaged were some of Faulkner's earliest works, many of which were personally inscribed by the author.  The loss of her and her husband's priceless possessions was compounded by the loss of her most prized possession, her husband.  First he lost his mind and then he died, leaving her to face a new world alone. Emily turned back to her childhood faith and found solace in her new life.  She moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi and then to Montgomery, Alabama and then to Charlotte, North Carolina. 

During the violent racial upheavals of the 1950s and 1960s, Emily Stone saw the absurdity of the cataclysms erupting in Mississippi and throughout the office.   When James Meredith became the first black student to integrate Ole Miss, Emily refused to join in the effort to deny him his rights, but instead took the offensive.  With the courage of a literary hero, Mrs. Stone chastised and condemned their barbaric behavior.  Her pleas went ignored.
Ralph Wood, a professor of religion at Wake Forest, said of Emily, "she was a woman ahead of her time.  She could have been content being a perfect Southern lady - keeping her china sparkling, her silver polished and belonging to book clubs where people didn't read books.  But she wasn't."  Emily did write, but none of her short stories and essays ever garnered any fame, except among her inner circle of friends and colleagues.  As Professor Stone, Emily was a highly respected teacher of English literature at Huntingdon College.

Emily Whitehurst Stone died on June 24, 1992 at Wesley Nursing Center in Charlotte.  In his eulogy of Emily Stone, Professor Wood described her an oxymoron,  "she was a saint without a halo.  She may have thought herself an unbeliever but to paraphrase Tennyson, there lived more faith in her honest doubt than in half our creeds."  

Sunday, October 19, 2014


King of the K's

Most of you who are baseball fans know that Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood hold the record for the most strikeouts in a regulation 9-inning major league game with 2o. You would have to be a baseball purist to know that Tom Cheney set the game record with 21 strikeouts in a 16-inning game.  Cristen Vitek of Baylor and Eileen Canney of Northwestern hold the NCAA record for 28 strikeouts in a game in sixteen and eighteen innings respectively.  But how many of you know that a former Dexter kid struck out 28 batters in a 9-inning high school game  for a world record.  Millard Whittle of Dexter remembers.  Mr. Whittle remembers a lot about a lot of things. After all, he has been around these parts for more than ninety years.  Mr. Whittle called me and related the story of Hugh Frank Radcliffe.  I was hooked and logged onto the Internet as fast as I could to see what I could find.

Hugh Frank Radcliffe was born on November 27, 1928 in Fort Valley, Georgia.  He spent his early years in the Dexter community.  Sometime during the end of the Great Depression, the Radcliffes moved to Thomaston, Georgia.  Hugh attended Robert E. Lee Institute in Thomaston.  Hugh, or Frank, or "Redbone," as his friends called him, was a four-sport star at R.E. Lee.   Radcliffe was an all state and all South  end and the best kicker in Georgia.  He was an all state guard in basketball and a state champion in the pole vault.  But his main sport was baseball.  Now you will see why.

Hugh was considered big for his day standing  six feet one and one half inches tall without his cleats on  and tipping the scale at 185 pounds.  He was as clean cut as any teenager could be.  His coach described him as unimpressed with accolades and one who disdained alcohol, tobacco and even ice cream sodas.

It was the year 1948.  Hugh was just about half way through his senior year in high school.  As a sophomore, Hugh led his team to the Georgia and Regional American Legion titles.  The game was to be played in Macon, Georgia.  The Rebels' opponents that day were the Poets from Lanier High School in Macon.  The Poets, including future big leager Coot Veal,  were no slouches.  The team had a winning tradition for many years.    The Poets no longer had Billy Henderson, a former Dublinite and a high school All-American baseball player.  Sporting a five-game winning streak, Lanier was always a strong team.  The date was April 19th. The place was Silvertown Ballpark.

Hugh struck out three batters to end the first inning.  The fans and coaches all must have said, "well, Frank's on today."  Then he struck out three batters in the second.  Somewhere during the game he struck out four batters in one inning.  Some of you might say, "how can that be?" Well, the reason is simple.  Under baseball rules, when a catcher drops a third strike and first base is not occupied and there is less than two outs, the runner can advance to first base.  The catcher, or another fielder, must retrieve the ball and throw it to first base.  If the runner beats the throw, he is awarded first base, but the pitcher is given credit for a strikeout.  Usually an error is given to the catcher or the pitcher for allowing the runner to advance. But, enough of the rules, back to the game.

Radcliffe struck out at least three batters in every inning for the rest of game.  High school boys played the old-fashioned game with nine innings.  They play only seven today  to give the boys more time to study, as if they were going home after a long ball game and crack open a chemistry text book.

But before you think that every Poet batter struck out, you would be wrong.   In all, only ten balls were touched by a Poet bat.  Seven were fouled off. One Lanier batter managed to get a hit.  Rebel Coach J.E. Richards commented on the single safety by charging it to an inattentive fielder "who was too accustomed to watching Radcliffe playing the game by himself."  Two other balls were mishandled by Hugh's teammates.  The Rebels plated ten runners and won the game 10-0.  The Macon Telegraph's very brief account of the  game credited the Poets with two hits and two dropped third strikes by Rebel catcher Whitten.

Word of "the one in a million feat" got out and scouts from colleges and professional ball clubs descended upon Thomaston like flies at a church picnic.  When these old baseball veterans saw Hugh pitch, they drooled.  They had plenty of opportunities to drool.  Not since School Boy Rowe and Bob Feller came into the limelight in the early 1930s had such a young pitcher drawn so much attention.  Scouts from the Tigers, Indians, Reds, Senators, Yankees, Pirates, Athletics and Crackers came to watch the sizzling sensation.

At the end of R.E. Lee's eighth game of the season, Radcliffe posted a record of six wins and no losses.  On May 19th, Radcliffe took the mound to face nearby Griffin High School.  Two thousand people showed up for the game, a high school game!  The right-handed hurler didn't disappoint the crowd.  Twenty-five Griffin batters were sent back to the dugout with a "K" by their name in the scorekeeper's book.  Radcliffe had an off day, giving up three, but his offensive gave him eighteen runs, so the outcome of the game was never in doubt.  Radcliffe boosted his season totals to 210 strikeouts in 81.67 innings, or 2.57 strikeouts per inning an astonishing 23.13 per game.  During his senior season, he threw three no-hitters, allowing only 18 hits and giving up three unearned runs for a mind-boggling ERA of 0.37.    During that magical season, Radcliffe struck out 50 consecutive batters and 97 in four nine-inning games. By the way, Hugh hit .450 that season.

With all of the praise and accolades piled on him, Radcliffe's high school career game to a disappointing end.  He lost in front of 4,000 fans in the first game of the playoffs, 8-6.  Many of them came to the game on the twenty-six buses parked out in the parking lots and down the streets.  The scouts blamed it on the team and their nine errors, not due to their highly sought after prize, who struck out twenty-four.

The Philadelphia Phillies won the bidding war between 14 teams,  satisfying Hugh and especially his mother.  The young fireballer was assigned to the Phillies' Wilmington, Delaware club with a forty thousand-dollar check in the bank.  Radcliffe pitched well and was moved up to Toronto.    Soon Frank became the property of the New York Yankees and enjoyed a brief stint with the big club before returning to the minor league with the Syracuse Chiefs, Kansas City Blues  and the Birmingham Barons in addition to assignments in Binghamton and Beaumont.

Hugh Radcliffe didn't make it to the current National High School record book.  I guess they don't go back that far, or they just don't have folks like Millard Whittle to remind them of that spring day nearly sixty years ago when a Dexter boy became the "King of Ks," the "Wizard of Whiffs" and the "Sultan of Strikeouts."

Friday, October 17, 2014


The Best Boxer You Never Heard Of

Time and even his own daughter almost erased the memory of Jimmy Bivins from the minds of boxing fans.  Though you have probably never heard of him, Bivins, a native of Twiggs County, is regarded as one of the best boxers of his era.  While he never won a championship, Jimmy Bivins, is regarded by experts as one of the best Light Heavyweight Fighters of the 20th Century.

James Louis  “Jimmy” Bivins was born in Dry Branch, Georgia on December 6, 1919.  His parents, Allen and Fleta, lived on their farm on the Old Griswoldville Road in the Smith District of northwestern Twiggs County.  The Bivins joined many other African American families who migrated to work in the industrial complexes of the Northeast and Midwest, leaving their boll weevil infested red clay farm behind.

The Bivins moved to East 53rd Street in Cleveland, Ohio.  Allen worked as a fireman  for the Ohio Cleaning Company.  James and his sisters Viola, Maria and Fanny May attended the neighborhood school.    It was in when he was in his  teens when Jimmy learned how to box.  In his first celebrated match, Jimmy lost to Storace Cozy in the third round of the 147-pound class in the AAU Championship in San Francisco.  

Bivins entered the world of professional boxing as middleweight.  His first professional fight came in Cleveland on January 15, 1940 with a one round TKO over Emory Morgan.  His sixth straight professional victory came in April in Chicago in an eight-round decision over Nate Bolden.  Bivin’s remarkable streak of 19 consecutive wins, highlighted by ten-round victory over Charley Burley,  ended in his last match of the year, when he lost a rematch with Anton Christoforidis.  

Jimmy picked up right where he left off in 1941.  As a light heavyweight, he won six of eight bouts.  In his fourth and probably the most important match of his early career, Bivins beat Joey Maxim in a ten-round decision in a match fought at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.  Maxim won the world light heavyweight championship in 1950.  In defense of his title in 1952, Maxim, a native of Cleveland,  beat challenger Sugar Ray Robinson in the only one of his 201 matches where he failed to answer the bell.  Bivins ended 1942 with a record of seven wins and one loss.  Ring magazine named him the number one contender in the heavyweight and light heavyweight classifications. 

In his opening bout of 1943, Bivins defeated Ezzard Charles, a fellow Georgian and regarded as the third greatest light heavyweight of the 20th Century, in ten rounds.  Bivins continued his meteoric career completing the year with eight victories and no defeats.  His win over Ami Mauriello earned Jimmy the Duration Heavyweight Title.  Bivins won his only match in 1944, a year which saw few matches while he served in the United States Army.  During that last full year of the war, Jimmy Bivins was known as the interim or unofficial  Heavyweight Champion of the World. 

Jimmy’s greatest victory came on August 22, 1945 in his adopted hometown of Cleveland.  In a six round technical knockout, he defeated Archie Moore, selected by the Associated Press as the best light heavyweight of the 20th Century.  He ended the war years with an astonishing record of 48 victories,  two defeats and a draw.

Bivins ran his win total to fifty-two before a devastating loss to Jersey Joe Walcott in the winter of 1946.  Until that point, Bivins had not lost a boxing match since June 22, 1942.   Jimmy lost again in June and didn’t fight until two weeks before Thanksgiving when he was defeated by Ezzard Charles  in the tenth round for his third consecutive loss.   

In 1947, Jimmy Bivins regained his winning style and won ten matches and only losing one.  He carried a five match winning streak into a rematch with Archie Moore, which he lost in the 10th round.  Just sixteen days later, he lost another ten round bout with Ezzard Charles.  After a six round exhibition match with the great Joe Louis on November 17, 1948, Jimmy lost his third match of the year, a defeat by fellow Clevelander Joey Maxim.  

Jimmy Bivins continued to win, garnering six wins in eight matches in 1949.  By 1949, his competition was becoming less noteworthy.  After winning one of only two bouts in 1950, once again Bivins put together seven match winning streak, which came to a screeching halt on August 15, 1951, when he lost a heavyweight match to Joe Louis.   His only consolation was his winnings.  Though he lost the match to one of the greatest fights ever, Bivins was paid $40,000.00 his largest cash prize ever.  His last great fight came in Chicago on November 26, 1952 when he lost to Ezzard Charles.  For the rest of his career, Jimmy could only manage to fight small time fighters.  He won his last four bouts, his final victory coming at home in Cleveland on October 28, 1955.    

After his retirement, Jimmy drove a bread truck for his day job.  But boxing was in his blood.  He trained amateur boxers in the Cleveland area for many years.  

One of the darkest moments in Jimmy Bivins’ life came not on the mat of a boxing room, but in the home of his own daughter.  Forced to live with his daughter after the death of his wife, Bivins was horribly mistreated by his daughter and her husband.  When Bivins failed to show up at the local gym, concerned friends went out to look for him.  Bivins was found in the attic of his daughter’s home, bundled in a urine-stained blanket, missing a portion of his finger, blind in one eye and emaciated down to 110 pounds.     It was the athlete in him that guided him through one of the toughest battles of his life.  Just like he did in the 1940s, Jimmy battled and won, regaining his old fighting weight.  His former pupil Gary Hovrath helped to bring his mentor back to the gym.  

In his 112 fight career, the 175-pound 5-foot 9 inch tall Bivins posted an illustrious record of 86 victories (thirty one by knockouts,) twenty-five losses, and one draw.  He fought seven members of the Boxing Hall of Fame, defeating four of them.  He squared off against eleven world champions, defeated eight of them, including Joey Maxim, Archie Moore and Ezzard Charles. 

Though he never won a boxing title,  the voters of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999  recognized the remarkable achievements of Jimmy Bivins during the 1940s.   A five-man panel appointed by the Associated Press named Jimmy as the fifth greatest light heavyweight boxer of the 20th Century.  In commenting on his induction, the quiet Bivins remarked, “I knew one of these days they would recognize me.  I did the best I could.  I’m glad it was appreciated.” 

Monday, October 13, 2014


Dublins Around the Country

What do a soft drink, a hamburger and an almanac have in common?  They all come from the city of Dublin, not Dublin, Georgia, but from other Dublins around the country.  During this St.  Patrick’s Festival, the nation’s longest celebration of Irish heritage,  let’s take a look at three Dublins and what they are famous for.

All Dublins in the world derive their name from the ancient capital city of Ireland.  Dublin, Georgia holds the distinction of being the second Dublin in the United States.  It was named by Jonathan Sawyer, the town’s first postmaster.  Sawyer named the post office in the summer of 1811 in honor of the ancestral home of his wife, the former Miss Elizabeth McCormick.

Dublin, Texas, with it’s population of 3,250, lies near the geographic center of the Lone Star State.  Of all of the Dublins in this country, its history is most like that of Dublin, Georgia.  James Tucker opened a store there one year before the southern states declared their independence from the North.  J.M. Miller laid out his cotton field and began selling lots in 1881.  By the end of the 1880s, Dublin was home to two railroads, a bank and a newspaper.  Like Dublin, Georgia, Dublin, Texas owed its life to cotton and the railroads, which kept the money flowing and people coming.

For all of the 1940s and 1950s, Dublin, Texas was the home to the World Championship Rodeo, made famous by Gene Autry.  The nearby “Lightning C” ranch covered a dozen thousand acres, making it the largest rodeo ranch in the world.  Dublin is the home of Ben Hogan, one the greatest legends of golf.

But by far, Dublin, Texas is known as the home of Dr. Pepper, which was first bottled in Dublin in 1891 by Sam Houston Prim.  Every June the citizens of Dublin and surrounding areas turn out by the thousands to honor the soft drink and its plant, which is the only plant which still uses the original pure cane sugar recipe.  There is a circus with shows at “10, 2 and 4" in keeping with the slogan of Dr. Pepper.

Dublin, Texas also holds a St. Patrick’s festival.  The three-day affair features a carnival, food festival, softball tournament, art & quilt show, parade, Little Miss Dublin contest and tours of the town museum and bottling plant.  Dublin, which is located 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth, is known for its dairy farming, peanuts and cattle farms.

Dublin, Ohio,  the second largest of all Dublins in America, lies among the northwestern suburbs of Columbus.  During the 1970s, Dublin was engulfed by the urban sprawl of Columbians, the completion of I-270 and the development of Muirfield Village Golf Club,  a course designed by Jack Nichalaus.  This Dublin’s origin dates back to a 400 acre village on the banks of the Scioto River in the second decade of the 19th Century. On every Memorial Day weekend, Dublin hosts a golf tournament which draws the best players on the PGA tour.  Dublin, Ohio is also the home of Wendy’s Hamburgers, founded by Dave Thomas.

Dubliners from Ohio love festivals.  There is the requisite St. Patrick’s Festival, where the Lion’s Club hosts a pancake breakfast followed by a 5K Leprechaun run and a parade.  Sound familiar?  Dubliner’s let it all hang out at the Rockin’ Barney Blash.  But the celebration of Irish heritage doesn’t end there.  In early August, there is the Dublin Irish festival, an event which began in 1988.  There are Irish goods of all kinds, as well as exhibits which feature the cultural heritage of Ireland.  Of course, there is a feast of Irish food and drink. What kind of festival would it be without stew, breads and beer?  On the first weekend of each December, known as Holly Days, everything that glitters is green.  The lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree opens the festival before the city’s merchants throw open their doors where nearly everything is on sale.

The first Dublin in the United States was founded as one of the highest villages  in New Hampshire in 1771.   In 1792, another Thomas, Robert Thomas, began publishing the Old Farmer’s Almanac.  The annual almanac is the country’s oldest continuously published periodical.    Despite also being the home of The Yankee Magazine, which publishes a variety of travel magazines, Dublin, New Hampshire’s population is around 1500 people.

Dublin, North Carolina, located in Bladen County, is located between Fayetteville and Wilmington in the southeastern part of the Tar Heel State.  About a quarter of a thousand people live in Dublin.  The big festival in the community comes during the third week of September, when everyone celebrates the harvesting of the peanut crop.

       A few hundred miles to the northwest is Dublin, Virginia.  Founded by the Henry Trollinger family in 1776, the community was first known as Newburn Depot and later Dublin Depot.   On May 9, 1864, southwestern Virginia’s most vicious battle of the Civil War took place in and around the depot.  Confederate troops under the command of Gen. J.C. Breckenridge foiled Union attempts to capture the vital railroad depot.

               The area around Dublin, California was first settled in 1822 by Jose Maria Amador.  In 1877, a church, two hotels, a blacksmith shop and a shoe maker’s shop was built.  The community, first known as Doughtery’s Station, is located in the Armador Livermore Valley.  Dublin, California was incorporated in February, 1982 and is located 35 miles east of San Francisco. It’s population, now the largest of any Dublin, is buoyed by the fact that Dublin lies at the intersection of two major interstate highways.  The country’s westernmost Dublin is driven by rapidly growing technological and medical businesses.

Dublin, Indiana, a small town of less than a thousand people, is located along the Ohio line in the middle of the state.  It was the site of the first women’s rights convention in Indiana in 1851.   The annual highlight of the year is the volunteer fire department’s fish fry on Memorial Day weekend.

Once there were or still are Dublins,  post offices or just places along the road named Dublin in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania. What you may not know is that there have been two other Dublins  in Georgia.  There was once a Dublin community in Butts County, which changed its name to Cork. The third Dublin, Georgia is now known as Resaca. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014


No, this is not a move review.  Despite the headline, I am not going to write about Patrick Swayze, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  I am going to tell you a few stories about our forgotten past.  I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

It was one hundred and five years ago when the editors of a newspaper saluted "one of the most pleasant social events the young people of the city have enjoyed in some time."  Fifteen couples danced in the dance hall of the Henry Building until their self-imposed curfew sent them home after their Friday evening fete.  But, times change.

It was in the months following the end of World War I, called by victorious politicians and generals as "the war to end all wars."  Young men were jubilant and wanted to celebrate, especially in the company of the city's most attractive young women.  These men formed a club and called themselves "The Stags."  No, it wasn't the first instance of a gang in the Emerald City, but it was an association of young men seeking to have a good time by ignoring their inhibitions and dancing until, well until their dates had to go home.

The Stags did not just want to have a dance once a month.  They wanted to dance with the young ladies on every Friday evening.  They even had the audacity to stage a street dance as the finale of "Dollar Days," a downtown wide mercantile event.  The leader of the Stags secured permission to stage a dance in front of the courthouse on a Wednesday night.  It didn't take long for word to reach the pastors of the local churches.

Dr. R.L. Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church, warned his congregation that any member caught dancing in public would be subject to banishment from the church.   Rev. L.A. Hill of First Methodist Church was more blunt on the subject.  Rev. Hill called the event a "public hugging game, which would be a blot on the fair name of the city."  He asked the men if they would allow their wives or daughters to dance with hoodlums, ragtags, and bobtails from all over the county.  He denounced the houses of ill fame located just across the river in East Dublin.  Rev. Hill believed that the women of Dublin would enter into a public dance with all innocence.  However, according to statistics in his possession, nine out of ten fallen women began their fall by dancing in public.  Rev. Hill was not directly opposed to dancing in public, as long as the men danced with men and women danced with women.  It's funny how things change. 

John A. Harvill and his wife had just sat down by the fire on a cold December evening in 1882.  The newly wed couple were distracted when they heard a noise which sounded like a squeaking old wagon.  They ignored the discord as a mere passerby.  After a moment, Harvill thinking the continuing commotion to be strange, sprang to his feet and opened his front door.  

To his utter dismay Harvill observed what appeared to be a very large dog with a torch or lamp attached  to the top of its head.  He called out thinking that he must have been the brunt of some of a candid camera joke, of course, television cameras wouldn't be around for more than five decades.  When no reply was received, Harvill did what most terrified men of his day would do, he picked up his gun and shot at it.  He shot. He shot again. The dog didn't move.  In the words of a writer of the Dublin Gazette, "there stood the specter as steadfast as the rock of Gibraltar."    Harvill couldn't believe his eyes.  Was he seeing things?

It didn't take long for the neighbors to come rushing to the scene of the skirmish.  Harvill pointed out the apparition to friends, hoping that they would see it as well. Reportedly, they did.  The brave generals in the crowd consulted each other and devised a plan of attack.  Everyone who could, grabbed a torch and began their advance.  As the first wave of the assault reached the ghostly canine, the pooch resumed his squeaking stride into the oblivion of the night.  While the reporter for the Gazette was covering the calamity, a neighbor came up to him and confirmed that he had also seen the dog, without the squeak.  

Minnie Howell and Charles Jones were deeply in love.  They couldn't wait to get married.  They rode into Dublin on a Sunday morning in February 1914.  As they drove their buggy through the streets of Dublin, they desperately looked around for a "man in black," either a minister or judge, both of whom traditionally were donned in a black suit or wearing a black robe.  They wanted someone to marry them and quickly.  It was then when they spotted the newly elected Judge K.H. Hawkins, judge of the superior court of the Dublin circuit, walking to the First Methodist Church for its morning service.  The startled judge honored the anxious couple's request and legally joined their hands in marriage as they sat on the seat of their buggy.  Had Minnie and Charles been able to wait until January of the following year, they may have spotted one W.H. Brunson on his way to church. Brunson, who had only been practicing law for three months, easily outpaced a field of older and more well known candidates to win an election to fill the vacancy in the office of Justice of the Peace of the Dublin militia district following the death of Judge Chapman.  Brunson, a twenty-two-year-old attorney, was the youngest Justice of the Peace in the State of Georgia.

It was a quiet day at the Park-N-Shop in the Shamrock Shopping Center on the last day of January 1974.  City Alderman Glen Harden was manning the cash register at his store as he usually did.  A trio of customers came through the door.  Harden didn't pay too much attention.  He thought he recognized them, or at least one of them.  But that wasn't unusual  because Harden knew a lot of folks.  

But there was something strangely familiar about the man.  Glen knew he recognized him.  He asked the man if he was who he thought he was.    He had seen the tall dark stranger on television before. He had listened to his voice on records.  The man acknowledged his identity and introduced his wife and mother-in-law to Harden.  The trio were on their way to Savannah for a concert that night.  In today's day of interstate highways, we tend to forget that most people traveling to Savannah from anywhere west of the port city had to come through Dublin to get there.

The customers purchased some groceries and had a good time talking with Harden, so much so that they promised to stop back by on their return to their home in Nashville.  Oh, they also bought a pair of scissors, a pack of needles and a few spools of thread, possibly black thread.  For you see the trio who stopped in one of the city's first modern convenience stores was June and her mother Maybelle.  The man, of course, was the world's most famous "man in black," the iconic legend, Johnny Cash.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014



Eleanor Ison-Franklin  grew up in a home where education was paramount.  From the day she was born until the day she died, this Dublin native dedicated her life to studying and teaching others in the science of medical research in an effort to heal the sick and keep the living alive a little longer.  This is the story of one Dublin native who overcame the odds against her to rise to the pinnacle of her profession as a dean of the department of one the nation's most prestigious university medical schools.  

Eleanor Lutia Ison-Franklin was born in Dublin, Georgia on Christmas Eve in 1929.  Her father Professor L.L. Ison was a well-known educator in South Georgia.  While I do not know what brought the Ison family to Dublin, I  surmise that Professor Ison was involved in the school system or the vocational/agricultural  education system.  Professor Ison was a frequent lecturer and was chosen by the Works Progress Administration to supervise a program of Negro Education in Georgia.

Eleanor graduated as the valedictorian of Carver High School in 1944 at the age of fourteen.  Four years later, the superlative student graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in biology from Spelman College, just six months after her eighteenth birthday.  Miss Ison continued her studies by obtaining a Master of Science degree in 1951.  In 1957, Miss Ison became Dr. Franklin when she was awarded a Ph. D degree in zoology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  While working on furthering her college education, Dr. Franklin followed in her father's footsteps by teaching biology at Spelman and the University of Wisconsin.  For her efforts, she was awarded a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. 

Dr. Ison was hired as an assistant professor in Tuskegee Institute's Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the School of Veterinary Medicine.  In 1963, she transferred to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she worked in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. In the late summer of 1965, Dr. Ison took the hand of George W. Franklin in marriage.   While at Howard, Dr. Ison-Franklin excelled in her administrative duties.  In 1971, she was elevated to the position of professor a year after she had been named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  Her appointment marked the first time a woman had been appointed a dean in one of the nation's oldest and most highly respected black universities.  According to one Internet source, Dr. Ison-Franklin was the first woman, black or white, to serve as the head of a university medical department in America.    

The doctor's success continued in 1980 when she was chosen to serve as director of the Edward Hawthorne Laboratory for Cardiovascular Research.  After serving for five years in that position, Dr. Ison-Franklin was selected to head the school's Department of Continuing Education.  She retired in 1997.  A year later, Dr. Ison-Franklin was honored with the title of "Magnificent Professor." 

Dr.  Ison-Franklin dedicated the last two decades of her life to the improvement of cardiovascular medicine to combat heart disease, the nation's number one cause of death.    She concentrated on the relationship between hypertension and the nervous system.  In 1991, she published many of her findings in a symposium entitled Myocardial Hypertrophy. The doctor also worked diligently to improve the technical facilities at Howard.  

Dr. Ison-Franklin's list of awards and grants are too voluminous to list, but among the most prestigious of these were  grants from N.A.S.A., the National Institutes of Health and the Washington Heart Association.   Eleanor Ison-Franklin served on the Spelman College and Howard University Board of Trustees and as president of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College.  She was an organizing director of the Women's National Bank of Washington as well as a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  In 1986, Dr. Ison-Franklin was selected as the third recipient of the Hall of Fame Award by the National Alumnae Association of Spelman.  She was a member and frequent presenter of programs for The National Institute of Health, The National Academy of Sciences, The American Physiological Society, The American Society of Hypertension,  The American Heart Association, The Congress of International Union of Physiological Sciences, the New York Academy of Sciences, Sigma Delta Epsilon, Phi Sigma Honorary Biological Society,  and The National Science Foundation.  

Spelman College honored one of their most illustrious graduates for her extra ordinary contributions to the development and strengthening of the Alumnae Association. Howard University honored this pioneering woman with citations for Outstanding and Dedicated Service in 1980 and for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education. While at Howard, Dr. Ison Franklin served for thirty years as Porter Lecturer from 1967 to 1997. 

Dr. Eleanor Ison-Franklin died at her home on October 2, 1998 after suffering a heart attack.    She survived her husband by two years and was the mother of Dr. Reginald K. Franklin of Atlanta and Clita R. Anderson of Muskegon Heights, Michigan.

In a 1979 interview, Dr. Franklin said that a black woman seeking a place in science and medicine must be "one whose identity of self is strong, whose coping mechanisms have been nurtured within a supportive ethnic environment, whose career choice is incidental to the more important need to achieve academically, and who entered an institution which traditionally accepted the fact that women have a role in the medical profession."  At the same time, Dr. Ison-Franklin's leadership in administration made it easier for the black woman to succeed in the medical field.   

In her obituary published in The Physiologist, Dr. Ison-Franklin was remembered mostly for her great love of teaching and her devotion to helping hundreds of minority students to achieve their goals and realize their dreams of practicing medicine.  She was committed to excellence in all things with an attitude of respect toward all people.  In summing up the rewards of her career in education, Dr. Ison-Franklin said, "It is axiomatic that the only true rewards of an academic career are the successes of one's students.  Therefore, I am a witness to my rewards as I look around.  They sit in chairs of departments, directors of programs, chiefs of divisions, deans, vice-presidents, and researchers.  I hope that in some small way, I have stimulated their development and have imparted to them a modicum of their knowledge.  I hope that through all of the many engagements with my students that I have succeeded in imparting time-honored values  . . .  among these that I hold most high are integrity and continuous learning." 

Monday, September 29, 2014


Seventy Seasons of Superior Sounds

For the last seventy football seasons the Dublin High School Band has supplied the sounds which epitomize the atmosphere of football on Friday nights.   As one of the oldest high school bands in the state, the Irish musicians have proved themselves to be champions on the football fields, the parade avenues and concert halls throughout the state and nation.  The tradition of superior sounds  all began on an autumn evening seventy years ago this week.

Actually Dublin’s first marching band was organized in 1901.  Local sponsors would hire band directors to a one year contract to mold young men into a band of talented troubadours, who would entertain during local parades and concerts.  In reality some of the musicians were students, while many were adults.  The Dublin Military Band was organized under the direction of Professor Carl Leake of Jackson, Mississippi.    The band dissolved, only to be resurrected in 1908 by conductor Paul Verpoest.    Verpoest built the organization into one of the state’s finest marching bands.  The Dublin band represented the State of Georgia at the reunions of the United Confederate Veterans in Little Rock, Arkansas, Macon, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia in 1911, 1912 and 1914.

In 1936, the Dublin Green Hurricane was enjoying a resurgence.  School officials decided that what the team needed was a band to spur the football team on toward greater success.  The first unofficial marching band performance occurred on October 23, 1936 during a football game with Eastman High School.  During a football game in Vidalia on  November 20, 1936,  the first uniformed Dublin High School Band took to the field  under the director of James Wilhelm Wiggins.

The first to join the band were alto saxophonists Anthony Lewis,  James Hamilton, Charles Horton, and James Carroll; tenor saxophonist McGrath Keen, trumpeters Luther Word, Pat Roche, Isadore Bashinski,  Clifford Harbour, Bill Jones and Frank Hancock; trombonists  Menzo Barron and Joe Grier, Trombone; percussionists Billy Keith, Edith Mae Tindol (Allgood) and Alma Grace Harbour.  Thomas Curry, Jr. played the French horn, while J.L. Perry carried the bass line on tubas.  Other early members of the band were Paul Watson, Cecil Waters, James Carroll, Ivan Prim, Jimmie Burnam, Ed Thomas, Mary Jean Jernigan, Charles Horton, Moffett Kendrick, Milo Smith, Gene Scarboro, Barbara Bedingfield (Shuler), Lester Porter, Clarence Burch, Majeed Jepeway, Blanche Coleman, Robert Thompson,  Cliff Prince, Jr., Hymie Stinson, Buford Page, Betty Page, John Griffin, James B. Hutchinson, Blakely Parrott and Zeke Etheridge. Tragically Luther Word, James B. Hutchinson and Blakely Parrott would all be killed in World War II.

Money for uniforms was scant at best in the last years of the Great Depression. The Dublin band’s uniform consisted of white trousers and shirts, adorned with a green tie,  draped with a green cape and topped with a white military style hat with a green band and shamrock on top.   The girls wore white dresses.   Moffett Kendrick and his fellow band members paid ten dollars for the hat and cape.  The band mothers sowed two-inch green stripes down the side of the band to top off the outfit.  “We thought we were hot stuff,” Kendrick said.    These uniforms were used until after World War II when the traditional military style green and white uniforms were worn.

Bands were high in demand for almost any occasion.  Moffett Kendrick remembered traveling over to Bartow to play in a parade.  The festivity was organized to salute the first planting of Sea Island cotton in Middle Georgia.  “There was great fanfare, high-sounding speeches and much jubilation.  Politicians were everywhere,” he said.  The effort proved to be fruitless as the much heralded variety of cotton never thrived in the area.

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, music was a big part of teenage life.  Billy Keith, a veteran swing musician, joined Kendrick, Paul Watson and Zeke Etheridge in a quartet which played popular favorites along with special versions of New Orleans style ragtime selections before the morning chapel programs.  Like many of us Kendrick put down his instrument after high school.  His first trombone was an “el cheapo,” costing him a relatively high price of $30.00.  Later he bought a Bundy trombone for which he paid $110.00.  In 1947, he hocked it for $20.00 to buy a tuxedo for a fraternity dance.  To this day, he regrets that mistake.  Thirty-two years ago I laid my tenor saxophone down.  Oh how I wish I still could play the instrument that my father deemed to be , “the best $350.00 he ever spent.”


Jack Powell and James Townsend  took over for J.W. Wiggins in the early 1940s.  After Powell left for military service, Florence Stapleton Flanders became the band’s first female director in her first year of teaching.   Trumpet player Johnny Floyd still remembers the 1942 6th District Concert in Milledgeville.    District rules required that each band have an oboe player, “which we didn’t have.”  Mr. Powell got Dorothy Brown, one of the clarinet players, to fake playing the oboe, a trick which worked, despite the fact that one of the judges was an excellent oboist.  “Jack said the judge told him she did a very good job on the oboe,” Floyd  chuckled.    Floyd, a first year player, was also instructed to “fake it,” an order which he partially obeyed, playing the notes he knew “every now and then.”  Cliff Prince remembered “we always got a superior rating in Milledgeville.”

During the latter years of World War II, the band program was put on hold.  The following directors have led the Dublin band since the early 1950s;  Henry Tate (1949-50), Brett Hope (1950-1952), A.M. Adkinson (1952-53), B. Sinkus (1953-54), John Huxford (1954-1957) John Hambrick (1957-1966), Ruth Odom (1963-65 ),  Jim Willoughby (1965-1969), Paul Carpenter (1966-1969), Robert Dowdy (1969-1970), Gary Dawson (1969-1970), Johnny Williams (1970-1972), Charles Molnar (1972-73), Boston Harrell (1973-1985), John Boles (1973-74), Cecil Pollock (1975-1991), Stuart Stanley (1985-94), Carlos Hand (1987-1991), Sammy Hawkins (1989-1990), Kerry Rittenhouse (1991-2004), Bob Clardy (1994-1997), Johnny Shumans (1991-2004), John Richard (1998-99 ),James Nuss (1999-2007), Greg Minter (2000-  2002) , Roger Etheridge (2002-2003), Lewis Foster (2003-2007) and Reginald Ferguson (2004-2007).

It was during the term of John Hambrick that the Dublin band rose to the vanguard of high school bands in Georgia and throughout the nation.  Known as “The Dixie Irish Band,” the band was cited as one of the best bands in the South, performing in bowl games and parades and festivals throughout the Southeast.  The band performed its signature song “Dixie” as it took the field.  With the consolidation of Dublin High School and Oconee High School, the song which once thrilled everyone in the stands, was dropped in consideration of the feelings of new members of the band and the student body.

For the last seventy years many of Dublin’s finest young people have joined the band.  Many former band members have gone to achieve many remarkable accomplishments after they left the marching fields and concert halls.  Musical programs in the schools help to encourage and foster the attributes of dedication,  competition, leadership and teamwork. In the words of novelist Pat Conroy, “life without music is a journey through a desert.”  So support the band and music programs in your local schools, now, frequently and forever.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Better Than Anyone Thought He Could Be

The wood paneled walls of Bob Shurney's home office are nearly covered with an eclectic array of plaques, presentations and proclamations, all in a testament of his thirty-six  years of public service to his country.  Overcoming the tragedy of his mother dying at a young age, this Dublin native served his country admirably both on the ground and in the air.    This is a story of a man who was given an equal opportunity to show his abilities and became one of the most important men in the history of manned space flight.  

Robert Ellerston Shurney was born in Dublin, Georgia on December 29, 1921.  His parents, Vance Shurney, Sr.  and St. Clair Weston, were also the parents of Vance Jr., Green Weston and Edna Louise.  Vance Shurney,  a native of Cochran, Georgia, lived at various places while he in lived  in Dublin.  After World War I, he moved from his home at 302 N.  Washington Street to another home on Cooper Street. Vance, Sr. worked as a fireman for the Dublin Lumber Company during World War I while St. Clair  was a teacher.   St. Clair Shurney died when Robert was only ten years old.  Robert was devastated and reportedly never knew how his mother  died.  Robert and his siblings moved to San Bernadino, California to live with their grandparents.  It would be another quarter of a century  before Robert would see his father again.  Vance Shurney returned to Dublin, where he died on January 16, 1991 at the age of one hundred years.   

  Robert Shurney always had a talent for building and designing things.  He worked as an auto mechanic as a teenager.  Economics forced Robert to withdraw from school to help support the family during the Great Depression.  His grandparents wanted Robert to be a minister, but he wanted to be an engineer.  Robert was able to fulfill his parent's dream of his receiving a Christian education.  He was sent to Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, where Shurney still lives today.

Robert Shurney moved to Washington, D.C. and was drafted into the service in World War II.  Shurney seemed to have a natural born aptitude for medicine and helping others and became a medic in the United States Army at Camp Meade, Virginia.  He served in the army during the invasion of France and endured the horrors of war on a first hand basis as the Allied forces moved across France and Germany.  After his three-year hitch in the Army, Shurney retired to civilian life.

He returned to California after he married the former Miss Susie Flynt.  Robert and Susie were blessed with three children twins, Glenn and Glendon Patricia "Peggy," and Darrell.  Afterwards the Shurneys moved to Nashville, Tennessee where the course of Bob Shurney's life would change forever.  It was in Nashville where their last child, Ronald "Ronnie," was born.  

Robert returned to the medical field when he took a job as an engineer in the Riverside Hospital.   It was at the hospital where Shurney's life's mission was steered in another direction by Dr. Carl Dent, the hospital administrator.    Shurney wanted to help others and to become a success to support his family in the process.  Dr. Dent and some of Shurney's other colleagues and friends urged him to attend college.   One friend told him it was impossible, a statement which spurred Robert to enter college.   In the 1950s, it was nearly impossible for a man of thirty-five years of age with four children to attend college, much less a black man in the South.  But Shurney persevered.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Electrical Engineering from Tennessee State A & I University in Nashville in 1962.  

The most exciting field of engineering in the late 1950s and early 1960s was the space program, which was begun in 1958 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  Shurney applied for a job at NASA, but was turned down.  The only jobs at NASA on those days were for only menial tasks.  Shurney called upon his sister-in-law who waked with Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Kings contacted U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who along with the powerful African American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, convinced the Space Administration to hire Robert.    Shurney  returned to Huntsville, where he was hired after a favorable interview in the latter months of 1962.  The faces of engineering labs and test facilities was about to change for ever.  No longer would every engineer be a white male with a buzz cut, black framed glasses and a slide rule in his hand.  Many times the white workers believed he was the janitor. On many occasions, he was the only African-American in the briefing rooms. 

In an interview with John G. Radilowicz of the Buhl Planetarium and Observatory,  Shurney recalled his first meeting with the Mercury astronauts.  "They said they were looking for the one in charge of weightlessness training, and they went to every white person in the room asking if they were the person who ran the program," he said. "And when they finished asking all the whites, the whites pointed to me. It was my program," Shurney recalled.     In his career at NASA,  Shurney trained 90 percent of the program's early astronauts.  Shurney worked in the Apollo program coordinating aircraft and hardware schedules and testing systems and components.   

 Gemini and Apollo astronaut James Lovell in writing of his experiences with African-American in the space program lauded the roles that people of color played in the early days of the space program.  Lovell said, "many people I meet think the space program was the exclusive domain of white, middle-aged men with crew cuts. But the reality is that African-Americans have played an active and important part in space exploration since the very beginnings of the program."  In his essay written for NASA Quest, Lovell first cited  Shurney for his contributions to the Apollo Program.     

Another of Robert Shurney's first major assignments at NASA was to work with the weight distribution of the Saturn V rocket.  The precise flight of the gigantic rocket, the most powerful ever designed by the United States, was absolutely critical to the agency's accomplishment of the goals set by President John F. Kennedy of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth by the end of the 1960s. 
All of  Shurney's hard work on the Saturn V rocket culminated on November 9, 1967 with the successful launch of the first rocket on November 9, 1967, for which he received a personal citation from Dr. Werner Von Braun, Director of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.    Shurney participated in all of the Apollo flights including man's first moon circumnavigation on the Apollo 8 mission on Christmas Eve in 1969 and man's first landing on the moon on July 20, 1969.

   Perhaps Shurney's most well known and most heralded contribution to the space program came during the Apollo 15 mission. Mission planners were charged with the design of missions which would require the moonwalkers to seek out and retrieve the greatest variety of moon rocks as possible. Though the moon's low gravity allowed the astronauts to move easily across the lunar surface, it became imperative that the astronauts be able to move long distances without arduous and dangerous hikes across alien surfaces. Though three successful moon landings yielded a tremendous amount of data about the lunar surfaces, engineers were still uncertain as to the stability and composition of the moon's soil under the weight of the vehicle, its cargo of moon rocks and the two astronauts.

NASA assigned Shurney to design a tire for the vehicle which would allow the rover to move across the moon's surface free of bogging down in the thin soil. Shurney studied all of the available data and came up with a design with metal chevrons giving the rover the greatest traction possible, all the time keeping the vehicle within the weight restrictions during the launch. "There were a lot of things we didn't know about the lunar surface. We didn't know the dust profile. And so we took from the information that we were able to obtain and eventually came up with the idea of the chevrons that are on the lunar rover wheel. We designed it in such a way that it would keep the dust off the crewmen and they could see where they were going. The wheels left a trail like a rooster's tail. That's where we got the idea," Shurney said. 

Shurney's design proved to be a success on July 31, 1971 when astronauts David Scott and James Irwin became the first men to drive a vehicle on the Moon. The Apollo 15 astronauts traveled slightly more than twenty-seven kilometers during their three-day visit to the Moon. The rover was used on the final two Apollo missions, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 contributing greatly to the success of the missions and the entire Apollo program as well. 

As a part of his studies of the moon's surface, Shurney also developed a device to measure the depth of and any vibrations emanating from the lunar surface. Until future visitors return to the moon and retrieve the lunar rovers, they will remain on the surface, along with their tracks. 

After rebounding from the devastating premature end to the Apollo program, Shurney and other NASA scientists went to work on the Skylab program, which utilized the hardware left over from the cut Apollo missions. Perhaps the most important part of the missions, aside from their technical aspects, was the strain on the human body during extended periods of weightlessness. Once again, Shurney was called upon to design systems and devices to allow the astronauts to function in a gravity free environment. 

Early astronauts trained in pools of water to simulate weightlessness. NASA converted a KC-135 airplane into a flying laboratory to provide astronauts with twenty to thirty seconds of actual weightless conditions by flying upward at a forty-five-degree angle and then rapidly descending. The plane would fly "roller coaster" style for hours leading to its nickname of "The Weightless Wonder," or more affectionately, "The Vomit Comet." Shurney reportedly flew more than six hundred hours in the training aircraft, more than any other NASA employee, primarily during the Skylab flights and early flights of the Space Shuttle. 

Basic human functions had to be addressed in a zero gravity environment. Just going to the bathroom in a toilet could become a messy and difficult process. Shurney designed and successfully tested toilets aboard the KC-135 for the Skylab missions, which lasted until the latter years of the 1970s. Just eating could also be an arduous task. Without gravity, some foods would simply fly apart before they could be eaten. Some sort of binding agent was necessary to keep the foodstuffs together. Once again, Shurney analyzed the problem and devised a solution to keep the astronaut's meals together. He even designed a special container to store the food in and utensils to eat the food with. 

Spacecraft orbiting the Earth face the problem of intense heat on the sunny side of the craft and intense cold on the dark side. Shurney, along with others, designed a solar shield and solar panel. The shield insulated the spacecraft from the heat, while the panel helped provide a constant source of energy to power the orbital station's batteries and equipment. Many of Shurney's designs like the commode and food utensils have been utilized on the shuttle missions. 

Shurney continued his education while working at NASA. In 1986, at the age of sixty-five years, Dr. Shurney received his PhD degree in physics from Columbia Pacific University in San Rafael, California. Shurney wrote, "During my time as an aerospace engineer, I kept abreast of new innovations in space by attending many colleges and universities, including Meharry Medical College, Howard University, the University of Michigan, the University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma." He wrote many technical manuals and scientific journal articles. In 1990, after thirty six years of government service, twenty-eight of them with NASA, Dr. Robert E. Shurney retired. During his years in the space program, Dr. Shurney was awarded the First Lunar Apollo Flight Award, the Apollo Achievement Award and the Skylab Achievement Award along with a myriad of certificates of appreciation and letters of commendation. 

After retiring, Dr. Shurney's service to his community did not stop. The doctor has lectured on college campuses around the country and as a judge at numerous science fairs. He has volunteered whenever and wherever he could. He is an ardent fund raiser for his alma mater, Oakwood Junior College. 

Nearly a half century ago, Robert Shurney must have felt the whole world was against him. Today, he is just now receiving the recognition he so richly deserves for leading men into space and to the surface of the moon. He battled the obstacles in his way with dignity, perseverance and natural intelligence. Shurney believes that other underprivileged kids like him can still succeed with the right motivation and determination. " You don't have to do drugs. You don't have to stay out all night long. You don't have to prove anything to anybody but yourself. Have some plan for your life. Strive to be better than what people might expect you to be," Dr. Shurney contends. He ought to know. He's been there and done that more than anyone could have ever imagined that cold December day when he entered this world in Dublin, Georgia nearly eighty-five years ago.  

        Dr. Shurney died in the autumn of 2007. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



     For the last 517 Tuesdays I have chronicled the events of the past which have shaped our lives and guided us through the uncertainty of the future.  Today, just for
once, I ask leave to explain what the game of football means to the community of Dublin and what some of our senior players have meant to me personally.  Football is more than a game.  It is molded around many of the basic essentials of a successful life. Among these are teamwork, finishing a job, achieving a goal, perseverance, honor, dedication, contributing, problem solving and admittedly, having a great time.  A friend of mine, Pete Tyre, was a member of two of Dublin's state championship teams.  He was at every practice and every game but never played a down.  When asked about the impact that football had on his life, Pete said that "football and Boy Scouts got me through the horrors of Vietnam."

     This Saturday afternoon, in the first day time and the first Saturday game in Shamrock Bowl history, some of Dublin's finest young men will strap on the "green and the gold"for the last time  in the first state championship game ever to be played in Dublin.  The first three state championship games, all victories, were played on neutral sites.  The last three, all losses, were played on the opponent's field.  There is a saying that  everything bad or good happens in threes.  So we've lost three in a row.  Now is the time to begin another trio of state championships.

     My connection to this year's team comes through my son Scotty.  Through baseball, Boy Scouts and the band I have come to know, and yes admire, many of the
seniors of this year's team.  Over the last ten years, I have watched these young boys
mature into young men.  They are a part of me.  They will always be a part of me.

     I first met Chris Williams on the ball field at Little Hilburn Park.  He was a little
chubby and not very fast on his feet.  But immediately Chris showed one of his most
endearing and enduring qualities.  It seemed like he always had a smile permanently
cemented on his round face.  Well mannered and always well behaved, Chris was and
still is a compliment to his parents Luther and Valencia Williams, who were there at
every ball game and every Cub Scout outing.    Chris got stronger and faster and could knock a baseball as hard as anyone.  Chris is one of those kids you might not think of as being a member of the band. He played saxophone in the band until he settled solely on football as his number one extra curricular activity. This once teddy bear like kid will now knock your head off if you aren't wearing a green and gold uniform.

     I also met Tyler Josey on the ball field.  At the age of eight, Tyler, with his "Boog
Powell" physique and a buzz cut  towered over the rest of the kids in the league. I think I actually ordered him an XL jersey.    Tyler played first base and could catch nearly every ball thrown his way.  He never managed to get under the ball to lift it out of the park. But, I'll guarantee you if there was no fence and no Big Hilburn park next door, his line drives would have rolled into C.W. Anderson's side yard on Hodges Street.  I'll never forget the sight of Tyler rambling around the bases, his freckled face smiling and his parents cheering him on.   When I saw him four years later in the halls of Dublin Middle School, Tyler was as tall as I am.  I knew right there and then that this kid was going to be a very good football player some day.

     There is a  trio of seniors who never seem to draw the attention of the sportswriters.  I never coached only one of these young men, but my teams did play
against two of them on many occasions.  Thomas Cox was always as fast as greased
lightning. As a pitcher, Thomas had one of the best and most wicked breaking balls
you've ever seen in a young kid.  On the soccer field, where his true talents shine, Thomas is always one of the first to get down the field, with or without the ball.  Just
watch him on the kick off teams, he is usually the first one down and always manages to perform his assignment.  He's also a pretty fair defensive back in his own right and
somehow despite the rigors of football and soccer, he manages to be one of the top
students in his class.  Then there's Josh Tarpley.  "J.T.," the consummate team player, has persevered and this year took over the job of being the team's short snapper. Considering the fact that in the Dome the Irish set the state all time season scoring record, "J.T." just may have snapped more extra points in a season than anyone in Georgia high school history.   Izell Stephens and Miles Allen are also team players.  These kind young men with kind hearts l unselfishly play wherever it is necessary to help their team win.

     The team's quarterback, Ben Cochran, carries the dogged intelligent athleticism
of his mother and the courage and leadership of his father.  As an 8th grader, Ben
pitched a near-perfect game and was snaring nearly every ground ball in the second
game of a doubleheader to lead his team to the Middle Georgia Middle School Championship.  At last year's graduation ceremony, I observed Ben, dapperly dressed in a tux as a part of his duties as a marshal, take the arm of a special ed graduate who lost her way back to her seat.  Ben escorted the young lady back to her seat as if she was the queen of homecoming.  I have never been more proud of Ben than I was that night.

     No one and I mean no one, plays with more determination than Jesse Coxwell.  I have seen Jesse time and time again, dive, push, throw, stretch, play while hurting and hustle with the best of them.  Hampered by a nagging injury this season, Jesse is a smart sentinel in the defensive backfield.  Making less mistakes than his father has hairs on the top of his head, Jessie is more than aptly ready at a moment's notice to take over the duties of quarterback if necessary.

     If you don't believe in angels in the outfield, then you don't know Drew Griggs.
At the point of death two springs ago and buttressed with an army of empathetic supporters, Drew battled back to excel both on the diamond and on the gridiron.  Check him out as the long snapper.  After he snaps the ball, he is almost always the first Irish defender to reach and tackle or hinder the receiver.   Drew has stepped up and taken his place in the long line of place kickers in Dublin football history. Will Griffith is a combination of Larry Csonka and Dick Butkus.  It's too bad that the good Lord didn't see fit to bless him with an enormous frame to accommodate his bullish style of play.  Pound for pound, no one runs harder and hits harder than "Willie G."

     Brian Wilcher, another former sax player in the band, might be considered the best athlete on the team.  I once watched him lead a seven-man baseball team into a close contest with the best nine-man team in the league.  Had he stayed with baseball, he would have certainly been a star in that sport as well.  If you do the math and Coach Holmes let Brian carry the ball twenty five to thirty times a game as many team's number one tail backs do, Brian would easily be approaching 3000 rushing yards by now.     I used to watch Thomas Barnes as he would come into elementary school.  There was something about his demeanor that stood out from many of the other kids.  Now sporting a goatee and the bronze face of a Roman warrior, this quiet man came almost out of nowhere three years ago to become one the most important driving forces in this team's successes on both defense and offense in the last three seasons.  His leadership and aggressive style of play was a leading factor in the Irish basketball team's state championship this past spring.

     I think I met Michael Hall one time.  I hope to meet him on more occasions.  This
young man, with blazing speed, brute strength and a brilliant mind, spends many moments of his precious spare time after practice to tutor those kids who can't seem to keep up with the arduous standards of school work.  Michael has helped to organize a S.W.A.T. team and enlisted other seniors to help others in their studies.  I really don't know Tony Smith, though I hear Billy Beacham calling his name over the loudspeaker a lot.  I do know he loves to come by the concession stand after the game and ask for a piece of left over pizza.  Tony, if we have any pizza left Saturday night, you can have a whole one.

     I don't know Brandon Edmond or Jamon Morris.  I do know it's difficult to tell them apart as their single digit numbered uniforms are hard to differentiate as the fly down the field.  I would like to get to know Brandon Taylor and Tim Wells.  I hear great things about them as  players and  persons as well.   As for Nick Davis, Sammie Daniel, Grant Hingst, Derelle Lewis and Kenyardo O'Neal, I wish I knew you better as well. I do admire your dedication to the team.
     The boys in the band are pumped too.  It's their last football game as well.  Scotty
will eat his turkey sandwich for lunch instead of supper as he has for the last three
seasons.  It didn't work against Cook last year and he had to eat a standard Bryan's sub before the dome loss to Buford.  He will join Paul and Heath in driving  the fight song rhythms.  Sris and Tim will sing melodies on their saxes.   Jeremy, Matt, Joey and Josh will be blasting their horns rooting their classmates on.  Meanwhile Kentaro, on tuba, will keep the bass line pumping.  Nelson Carswell, IV, the unofficial leader in the student section and the team's 12th man, will be painted in green and waving the Irish battle flag.  Nelson's indomitable spirit and unbridled enthusiasm has become a special and integral part of Dublin Irish football.

     Here's my prediction for the game this Saturday afternoon.  Dublin will play with
the same intensity, determination, heart and discipline they have displayed in the past three seasons.  Many people associate luck with being Irish.  This year's incomparable team has relied on meticulous and exhausting preparation rather than an enchanted pot of gold.  Nevertheless, bring all your good luck charms.  Our angels will be there too.  They sit up in the trees in the north end zone in the bowl's best seats.  Look carefully. You may see a few of them rattling limbs and whistling after every Irish first down.  

     I do know this. When I turn off the light in the concession stand for the last time,
there will be tears in my eyes and the eyes of many others.  For no matter what the final scoreboard reads, ours will be tears of joy and our Irish eyes, well as always,  they will be smiling, and you'll hear the angels singing "Go Irish!"



I was right in my prediction of the outcome of last Saturday's state championship game at the Shamrock Bowl.  The Dublin Irish played with the same intensity, determination, heart and discipline they have displayed in the past three seasons. All season  long the players and the coaches kept their eyes on a single solitary goal.   They did not set out to score more points in a single season than any other team in the history of Georgia, colleges and professional included.  They did not desire to score more points in the playoffs than any other team in Georgia history.  Nor did they make it their goal to score more points and win by the largest margin in the history of high school football play in the Georgia Dome.  Their ultimate goal was to finish what they had started and win a state championship.  In the cooling darkness of a warm mid December evening they did just that.

Most people can't understand the concept which the Georgia High School Association has adopted concerning ties after the end of regulation play of championship football games.  It is a rule which has been in effect for at least forty-nine years.  It first happened in 1958 when Avondale and Thomasville were named co-champions.  It happened again in 1969, 1978, 1991 and as recently as 2004 when Hawkinsville and Clinch County, two great teams, battled to a draw at the end of the fourth quarter.  Last Saturday, it happened twice.  Roswell and Peachtree Ridge were named co-champions of Class 5A following a tie in their championship game.  Regardless of the reasoning behind the rule, a rule is a rule.  It is just as much a part of the game as having two feet in bounds or being able to interfere with a receiver on a Hail Mary pass in the end zone and give the offended team the ball back fifteen yards from the original line of scrimmage.

I first arrived at the Shamrock Bowl just after 8:00 on Saturday morning.  I had been there with my son and two of my loyal band boosters three hours the night before getting the concession stands ready for the game the next day.  As I topped the hill by the fire department, I began to notice the tailgaters were already there.  A motor home had been in the Century Club parking lot all night, parked in a strategic location on the slope outside the fence  where it's occupants and guests could shed their shoes, climb on top and get an optimal and free view of the spectacle about to unfold.     My trusted and loyal fellow band boosters had six hours to get ready for the onslaught of thirsty and hungry fans who were scheduled to come through the gate at 2:00.  Did we have enough food?  We ordered as much as we could store.  When I think about it, every restaurant in Dublin could not accommodate eight thousand people in four hours.

I walked up the hill to see a line forming sometime around 11:00.  My friends Ronnie and Renee Green were the first to station themselves within inches of the gate.  I noticed everyone was sitting down, enjoying the moments.  Someone even brought along a bingo game to pass the time.  As we scurried about trying to meet the deadline, the aroma of steaks and burgers on the grill and the rapidly warming sunlight made things more pleasant.  It was as if the Super Bowl had come to Dublin.  By 12:30, the line continued to grow as if there was a big sale going on inside.  Everyone in the line began to stand.  By 1:45 the line was so enormous the game manager decided to open the gates fifteen minutes early.  I saw hundreds of people running or walking as fast as they could to stake out their usual seats.  It seemed like a bomb had gone off out in the parking lot.  Only the reserved seat holders knew they had a seat for sure. Within thirty minutes and with one hundred and five minutes before kickoff to go,  the home stands and the imported baseball bleachers  were crammed to near capacity.  One by one and then by the dozens people began to line up at the concession stand.    Drinks were sold so rapidly, you might have thought that the stand was in the middle of the Arizona desert.  There wasn't enough ice to cool the thousand gallons of drinks.

But at 4:00 the highly anticipated match between Dublin and Charlton County began.  As I focused my camera toward the south end zone, I was amazed at the immense congregation on the hill.  Never before had so many people come to a football game in Dublin.  I was dumbstruck.  I couldn't believe what was unfolding before my eyes.  I was nervous. We were all nervous.  Those nerves subsided once Dublin jumped to an early 10-0 lead.  I will admit that I laid down face up on the slope next to the band.  It was the near the same place where I used to sneak under the fence forty years ago on Sunday afternoons to play football where my heroes did.  In the clear blue late autumn sky I noticed a jet airliner passing above, its occupants and crew oblivious as to what was going on thirty thousand feet below them.

As the second quarter ended, Irish fans were smiling.  The band stepped it up and put on one of its best performances of the season.  I could have announced the show from the booth but I wanted to be on the field with my kids for one final time.  I checked back in the concession stand and we had made it through half time.   We did sell out the supply of all the peanuts we could order.  Everything was going well and then it happened.

Charlton County, the two-time defending state champions, roared back with a vengeance. The state appointed public address announcer kept on calling out positive plays as the boys from South Georgia moved the ball with relative ease.  With a touchdown within their grasp, the Irish defense formed a stone wall and kept the ball out of the end zone when Thomas Barnes intercepted a pass and kept the Irish ahead. Drew Griggs kicked the ball through the middle of the uprights in the south end zone to give the Irish a 13-0 lead.  Buried between the "B" and the "L" in that end zone was a shiny penny, found heads up lying next to the curb of the Friendly Gus Store  on Claxton Dairy Road just two days before.  I buried it there as a good luck piece early Saturday morning while no one was looking.  My son Scotty said he hoped that Drew would kick the winning field goal. Well he did.

Dublin couldn't move the ball against the stingy Charlton defense.  Once again Charlton came back down the field. Charlton's champions would not relent and scored.  Another touchdown brought the score  to 13-13.  Dwight Dasher, the Indian quarterback, punter and place kicker lined up to put his team in the lead.  Brandon Edmond managed to get the tips of his fingers  on the ball and the conversion attempt failed.  The score was still knotted at 13-13. Maybe the lucky penny worked.

Then the Irish stepped up like the true champions they are.  One time-consuming play after another exhausted the score board clock.  The drive stalled in the middle of the field.  Coach Roger Holmes made a decision.  It was his decision, the right decision.  He was not conceding defeat, he was playing to win.  Let every true Dublin football fan shun the doubters,  nay sayers and skeptics.  Many of them couldn't coach a team of grown men and beat the Dublin Irish.  After all, a major reason why there were some eight thousand people there Saturday afternoon was the countless days of preparation and brilliant planning that Dublin's coaching staff put in to get our team to the championship game.

As the clock ticked down to 0:00, I knew our team had just won the state championship. Many were expecting an overtime session.  As I looked around, I saw no cheering, only wide eyes and open mouths in stunned disbelief as the announcer proclaimed both teams as state champions.  As parents, classmates and friends swarmed the field, I remained with the band.   When director Louis Foster announced the next band song was "Last Night," I made my way down to the field.  Just as I promised, I danced the twist on the field after we had won the championship.  My partners deserted me and I was forced to dance solo and endure alone the laughs on the faces of those around me.

I then walked to the center of the field trying to congratulate the kids whom I have known and grown to admire over the last ten years.  No one was smiling.  Tears were streaming down from their eyes.  Ben Cochran was sobbing uncontrollably as Johnny Payne attempted to get his thoughts on the game.  It seemed as if he had let the team down. He didn't.  I saw Tina Cochran crying.  She couldn't understand why her son was crying.  I tried to comfort her.  I hugged her.  We hadn't been that close since we slow danced to the long version of the Beatles' Let it Be some thirty eight football seasons ago on the dance floor of the un air-conditioned Shanty.  Guy Cochran was holding back his tears as well.

I found nearly everyone I hugged was crying. I kept looking for Chris Williams, but never found him.  I only found out later that he injured himself twice during the game and was unable to play at the end of the game.  I too began to sob when I hugged Tyler Josey, whom I coached ten years before.  He smiled a little as he towered over me.  Other mothers were crying.  Some daddies were too.  But I kept on saying, "It's a win! It's a win! It's a win!"  Few remember that the first game ever played in the bowl was a 13-13 tie.

I turned off the light in the concession stand and got in my truck to go to Ruby Tuesday's to celebrate another Irish victory with my fellow band boosters.  I took the long way around to avoid the long caravan of vehicles headed south to Folkston.  It has been a tradition for the last two years.  This time the place was crowded with a mixture of Dublin and Charlton fans.  We complimented our guests at the next table on the play of their team and their band.  They returned the compliment.  They were happy and we were happy.

On Sunday morning I drove out to the Shamrock Bowl just to see the place one more time. Forty years ago I did the same thing on the morning after the game.  I expected to see a gang of probationers stuffing trash into bags.  The bowl was empty.  The only evidence that a game had been played there fourteen hours before was the saturation of the bleachers with peanut hulls, spilled popcorn, empty nacho containers, candy wrappers and partially eaten slices of pizza. As I scanned the concrete for extra copies of over priced generic programs, I observed newspapers, magazines and other items brought in by fans to pass the pre game hours.  I picked up shakers and gold megaphones, their shouts long dissipated.  I must have picked up two dozen discarded tickets, the once highly desired piece of paper that caused people to stand in line for hours and criticize school officials, who sold all the tickets they could get their hands on.  There was an empty drink bottle under nearly every seat.  But my eagle eyes never spotted a single cent lying on the ground.  Maybe everyone kept their lucky pennies in their pockets. I do have to say that the band sections on both sides of the stadium were literally free of litter.

As an alumni, band booster president and school board member, I am extremely proud of the young men of the Dublin Irish football team.  Through the leadership and dedication of a unparalleled coaching staff, these champions finished the job. They achieved their goal. No asterisk, no "yea, but," no vent poster, and no one,  and I mean no one, can ever take it away from them.  They are champions, true champions.