During February, we celebrate Black History Month. We also celebrate American History Month. For the next three weeks, I will reveal to you my list of fifty, not necessarily the top fifty and not necessarily in order of their accomplishments, Laurens County African-American citizens, who have made a difference, not only in the lives of those who live in the county, but across Georgia and throughout the nation as well. This list is not exclusive of other persons, who have made outstanding contributions, but it is inclusive of fifty people, whom to this point in my research have gone beyond their duties, unshackled their society imposed limitations, and who have exhibited the triumph of the human spirit.
1. Sugar Ray Robinson: Born Walker Smith, Jr. in Montgomery County, Ga., this part time Dublin resident left the farms of Laurens County and streets of Dublin to Become oneBof the greatest boxers of all time regardless of weight class. Robinson won six world championship bouts.
2. Quincy Trouppe: Born in Dublin in 1912, Trouppe left Dublin at an early age. He was a star catcher in the Negro Leagues for twenty seasons. Trouppe managed world championship teams in the Negro Leagues and in 1952, became the first Laurens Countian to play for a major league baseball team, the Cleveland Indians.
3. Gen. Belinda H. Pinckney: Belinda Higdon Pinckney attended both Oconee High School and Dublin High School, before graduating from East Laurens High School. This thirty three plus year veteran of the United States Army is currently head of the rmy’s Diversity Task Force and is one of the highest ranking female African American generals in the history of our country’s armed forces.
4. Dr. Robert Shurney: This Dublin native and a high school drop out, went back to college and obtained a degree in physics from Tennessee State University. He worked or N.A.S.A for more than two decades. Dr. Shurney invented the mesh tires of the Lunar Rover used in the Apollo Moon missions and is credited with a large number of other inventions of processes, equipment and implements used in the Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle missions. Considered the most important African American scientist in N.A.S.A.’s history, Dr. Shurney trained many of the agency’s early astronauts in zero gravity aboard a specialized designed military aircraft.
5. Bill Yopp: Born as a slave and owned by Jeremiah Yopp, Bill Yopp was a full fledged private in Co. H., 14th Ga. Infantry, C.S.A. Despite his llegiances to his dear friend and master, Capt. Thomas M. Yopp, Yopp was known to Have rescued dying and wounded soldiers, both Confederate and Union from the battlefield in the midst of battle, earning him the title, “the Dark Angel.” Also known as “Ten Cent Bill,” Yopp, in his last years, raised money for Confederate Veterans, who honored him by inviting him to live with them in the Confederate Soldiers Home in Atlanta. Yopp was further honored by being buried in the Confederate National Cemetery, making him the only African American Confederate soldier to be afforded such respect and honor.
6. Dr. Eleanor Ison Franklin: This native of Dublin and graduate of Spelman College was, according to one Internet source, the first woman, black or white, to serve as the head of a university medical department in America.
7. Dr. Brailsford Brazeal: Born in Laurens County, Dr. Brazeal erved as Dean of Men at Morehouse College for nearly four decades. As Dean, Brazeal facilitated the entrance of one of his students into his pastoral studies at a seminary. That student was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Brazeal was a well known writer of social studies articles on a wide variety of subjects from education to politics to labor. His definitive work on the Railroad Porter’s Union was the first of its kind to chronicle an African American labor union in the United States.
8. Mel Lattany: This former Dublin Jr. High industrial arts teacher was a former track and field star at the University of Georgia. For a brief time, Lattany posted the fastest time in the 100 meter dash, making him the fastest man in the world.
9. James Bailey: This former Rutgers basketball All American and Dublin native played in the final four tournament and played nine seasons in the NBA.
10. Bishop Imagene Stewart: Formerly Imagene Bigham, Bishop Stewart has been an advocate for the homeless and the downtrodden, especially veterans. She was elected Vice President of the National American Legion Auxiliary. Bishop Stewart has been nationally recognized by President Clinton and both Presidents Bush for her work with homeless veterans in Washington, D.C.
11. Barbara Sanders Thomas: A graduate of Oconee High School, Barbara Thomas was the first African American female senior vice president of CBS News. Today, she serves as the CEO of the National Black MBA Association.
12. Robert Brown: Another graduate of Oconee High School, Brown is a leading Atlanta architect and a former Chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Brown is also active as a director of many other prominent boards across the state.
13. Claude Harvard: A native of Laurens County, Harvard was accepted into the all white Henry Ford School for Orphans for his mathematical ability. As an engineer for Ford Motor Company, Harvard patented more than three dozen inventions and was the company’s representative at the 1933 World’s Fair.
14. Jerome Bullock: A native of Laurens County and graduate of Oconee High School, Bullock was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Marshall of the District of Columbia. As a part of his duties, Marshall Bullock escorted James Earl Ray, the killer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to court proceedings in another state. Bullock is recognized as one of the leading security experts in our nation’s capital.
15. Otis Troupe: This native of Laurens County led his Morgan State football squad to an undefeated season and the Black College National Championship in 1935. Troupe, who was named to the Black All American team, played for the New York Brown Bombers, under the leadership of Fritz Pollard, the NFL’s first black head coach. Troupe, an accomplished singer, was later named to the Black All American Hall of Fame.
16. Sharon "Nyota" Tucker: A graduate of Dublin High School, Sharon Tucker was the first African American female to obtain a law degree from the University of Georgia. Today, sheis a Professor of Political Science at Albany State University.
17. Dr. Annie Yarborough: Dr. Yarborough was the second African American female to practice dentistry in Georgia. This Dublin dentist patriotically offered her services to her country during World War I.
18. Rev. Charles Holliman: A veteran of World War II, Holliman served as an officer in the United States Army for several decades. During the Korean War, Major Holliman treated several hundred casualties in the field without a single death. After retiring from the Pentagon, Rev. Holliman returned to his native county where he served his community as Minster of the Gospel.
19. Major Herndon “Don” Cummings: A native of the Millville community, Major Cummings served in the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II as a member of a unit known as the “Tuskegee Airmen.” Major Cummings was a leader in the effort to integrate the United States military. After the war, he flew civilian aircraft. Along with his fellow airmen, Major Cummings was recently awarded the Congressional Gold medal. At the age of 89, Cummings attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
20. Kara Coates: A native of Laurens County, Coates was a member of the legendary basketball team, The Harlem Globetrotters.
21. Lucius Bacote: A long time educator and Principal of Oconee High School, Bacote served as President of the 9,000 member Georgia Teachers and Education Association. In 1959, Bacote was elected to head the national American Teachers Association.
22. Willie Hall: A native of Montrose, Hall was named a captain of the University of Southern California football team. He was also chosen the team’s Most Valuable Player and selected to the All Pac-10 Conference team. Hall received the ultimate collegiate football honor when he was a First Team NCAA All American. Hall played in the 1971 Shrine East West Game and the 1972 College All Star Game. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 1972 NFL draft, Hall played at linebacker for two seasons for the Saints (1972-3) and four seasons with the Oakland Raiders (1975-78.) Willie Hall led the stalwart Raider defense in their victory in Super Bowl XI.
23. Willie Jones: A former Dublin resident and F.S.U. linebacker, Jones was chosen to the All American team in 1978 and played for the Oakland Raiders, who won the Super Bowl in 1981.
24. Alfred O. Pearson, Sr.: A native of Wheeler County and Pennsylvania State University, Wheeler is a member of the Georgia Agriculture Education Hall of Fame. Pearson, a long time resident of Dublin and owner of Dudley Funeral Home, served as an educator for thirty three years, teaching in Telfair County, Toombs County, as well as a term as a professor at Fort Valley State College. Pearson was the first African-American to serve on the Dublin City Board of Education.
25. Thomaseanor Pearson: The long time Dublin resident has been a strong supporter of the community in a wide variety of aspects for more than six decades. Mrs. Pearson, the wife of Alfred O. Pearson, Sr., is the most successful African-American businesswoman in the county.
26. Pearl Cummings Davis: This native of Laurens County was one of the first African American female pharmacists in Georgia.
27. James K. Davis: A former football coach at Oconee High School, Davis became thehighest ranking African-American corporate officer of the Georgia Power Company.
28. Herbert H. Dudley: One of the most successful businessmen in the history of the county, Dudley was a calming force during the racially tense middle decades of the 20thCentury. Known as “Hub,” Dudley built the largest group of black-owned businesses,including a funeral home, a motel, a service station, a restaurant, an investment firm, a sawmill, a beauty shop, a shoe shop, a U.S.O. building and a skating rink Dudley was wellrespected by both the black and white communities and was called a friend by George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King.
29. Emory Thomas: This Laurens County Farm Agent helped thousands of African American farmers through the Depression and the hard economic times which still plagued African Americans. Thomas was one of those responsbile for the establishment of theGeorgia 4-H Club for black youth in Dublin.
30. Effie Lampkin: Mrs. Lampkin was a beloved Home Demonstration agent, who was tragically killed when a church, in which she was presenting a program, was destroyed by a tornado.
31. Jackie Martin: This former Dublin High basketball star and a member of the Kansas Jayhawks women’s basketball team, was named to the All Big Eight basketball team. Tragically, she died of leukemia in her mid twenties
32. Jermaine Hall: A Dublin High graduate , Jermaine Hall was one of the greatest players in the history of Wagner College and the North East Athletic Conference. He appeared on the collage cover of Sports Illustrated as his team took part in “March Madness,” the NCAA championship.
33. Dr. Benjamin Daniel Perry: The county’s most well known African-American physician, Dr. Perry was a leader in civic, religious, social, and educational organizations in the county. In the 1950s, the Laurens County School Board honored him by naming school in his honor.
34. Dr. Ulysses S. Johnson: Dr. Johnson served the county for more than four decades, as a minister and physician. Dr. Johnson began publishing a newspaper, The Record, for black citizens in 1924. He was one of last of the old line Republican African-Americans and was a delegate to the 1960 National Republican Convention.
35. Jessie Anderson Brown: Brown was posthumously honored by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. Coach Brown was a GAIAW Coach of the Year, SIAC Coach of the Year and a member of the SIAC Hall of Fame.
36. Capt. Thomas J. Simmons: A sixteen-year veteran of the Army, Captain Simmons was named as Adjutant of the Armed Forces Press, Radio and Television Service. Capt. Simmons entered the army as a private and worked in the Pentagon in implementing the integration of the armed forces during the Korean War.
37. Rev. W.A. Dinkins: A graduate of Paine College, Rev. Dinkins was a well respected leader in the C.M.E. Church in Georgia. In 1905, Dinkins founded the Harriett Holsey Industrial School, Dublin’s first college. He edited his church’s statewide paper, The Christian Herald of Dublin, for more than fifteen years. Rev. Dinkins served for six years as the President of the Epworth League of Georgia.
38. Professor William L. Hughes: Professor Hughes was the first African-American mail carrier. A strong supporter of his country during World War I, Hughes was elected as a delegate to the 1940 National Republican Convention.
39. Rev. Norman McCall: A native of Dublin, Rev. McCall was one of the most beloved pastors of Dublin’s First African Baptist Church. Rev. McCall, who’s day job was as a hand on a river boat, was so beloved by the members of our community, that his funeral procession of was more than a mile long.
40. Rev. Bridges Edwards: A Presbyterian minister, who served Washington Street Presbyterian Church, Edwards was the first African-American to be elected to the Dublin City Council.
41. Warren McLendon: McLendon, a native of Laurens County, was the first African- American Laurens County Deputy Sheriff.
42. Ben Ellington: Known as “Laughing Ben Ellington,” this Laurens County native was known across the nation for his “Uncle Remus like” story telling and laughing.
43. Rev. James Travick: A Laurens County native and Baptist minister and construction company operator, Rev. Travick was the first African-American member of the Laurens County Board of Commissioners.
44. Dallas Allen: Graduate of Dublin High and Morehouse College, Allen was a member of the 1978 NCAA Division III championship team in the 440 relays and an All-American in track. After graduation, Allen played in several exhibition games with the Atlanta Falcons. Allen, coach of Westlake High School, was honored as having coached the most active NFL football players (6) during the 2005 season.
45. Lt. Col. Holman Edmond, Jr.: In his two tours of duty in Vietnam, Edmond was awarded 2 Bronze Stars and 17 Air Medals.
And there are many more. There is not enough room to recognize the thousands of others. So, let me include them in categories.
46. The Minister: These are the men who preached the word of God. They comforted their parishioners in times of trouble. It was their duty to keep the community together. They were often called upon to teach in the schools, which were usually associated with churches. They were often called upon to resolve disputes in the community, both within and without the black community. With the exception of the school teacher, they were the most educated members of their community.
47. The School Teacher: These are the women, or mostly women until recent years, who molded the minds of the children. They were the glue that held the community together with little resources and a whole lot of faith. Any of us who have been privileged to known have these people can certainly count our blessings.
48. The Farmer: These are the people who put the food on our tables. These are the folks who were up and working before dawn, sweating and aching during the day, and still working after the Sun went down.
49. The Maid: These are the people who cooked our food and cleaned up the mess and filth we left behind. They often worked for dimes a day, left over food and hand me down clothes. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mrs. Evie White Coney. We called her “Ebbie.” I loved Ebbie and I always will. She raised me from a small child to a grown adult man. So close was our bond, that I never thought of her as being black. It was my love and friendship for her that taught me the color of one’s skin is never important.
50. The Mother: Without a shadow of a doubt, these are the women who kept the family together. No number of accolades can adequately credit what these women have done.
I invite you to contact me if you know of any other persons who should be added to my list. I invite you to send in a list of your own.