Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pictures of the Week




Dublin City Hall - 1905-1959, north side courthouse square.



South Jefferson Street looking north toward courthouse.







West Jackson Street looking west from courthouse, late 1930s.


Laurens County Courthouse - 1895-1962


From my postcard collection: Please feel free to download, print and share.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FIFTY WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE, CONTRIBUTIONS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS TO LAURENS COUNTY AND BEYOND

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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Preserving Our Heritage - Old Dublin High School



Workers from Dublin Construction Company carefully removing the concrete sign of the old Dublin High School (1952-1970). Ben Hall, the company's president and graduate of Dublin High School, came up with the idea to remove the sign and the columns and move them to the site of the new Dublin High School, estimated to be complete in the spring of 2010. Hall, at his own expense, plans to refurbish the stones into an attractive sign along the entrance way into the new high school. On behalf of the more than 10,000 students who attended the high school and the junior high (1970-2002), I say thank you!


Old DHS Marquee to Get a New Home


Columns, Sign to be Incorporated into New School
01/30/09
By JASON HALCOMBE



When Ben Hall walked out the doors of Dublin High School in 1961, he never forgot how those four years impacted his life.

Or what the campus, set on the corner of Moore and Calhoun streets, meant to thousands who crossed the main entrance during their middle or high school years.

So when the city made plans to raze the structure to expand local park grounds, Hall decided to try and save a portion for posterity.

And during the last week, Dublin Construction crews rose up in bucket trucks, carefully extracting the Dublin High School marquee, along with the Romanesque columns at the buildings main entrance, with plans of incorporating both into the new high school currently being built on Hillcrest Parkway.

“We’re trying to tie in the history of both the old Dublin High and Oconee High schools,” Hall said.

The idea crossed Hall’s mind nearly two years ago, when he was working on completing the DHS field house located beside Shamrock Bowl.

A conversation with then BOE chairman Bobby Willis about the field house shifted toward history and preservation, which gave Hall the idea of building display cases for both high schools, who officially merged in 1970 with the opening of the current facility.

“And that has evolved into trying to save the old marquee,” Hall said.

The Marquee, erected atop the structure in the 1950s, was the centerpiece of a building that has been a part of the Dublin City Schools system for the better part of six decades.

Plans for the marquee, the columns and potential Oconee High memorabilia are still up in the air, but Hall said the current thinking would use the marquee and Oconee pieces as a low-resting monument to both schools’ past.

Along with Hall, the Dublin City Schools’ board is feverishly searching for Oconee memorabilia to be included as a monument at the sight of the new school.

“We don’t have any pieces of Oconee High School,” said Scott Thompson, board member and county historian. “We’re going to try and find a Trojan head and try to make a memorial to Oconee as well. We just don’t have any pieces to carry out there.”

“Again, we’re trying to keep the history of Dublin for the people of Laurens County,” Hall said. “We need people to recount Laurens County’s fond memories. And continue to support them (and the schools) as they get older.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Laurens Native Major Herndon Cummings Attends Inauguration of President Obama

Major Herndon Cummings


Tuskegee Airman attends inaugural, recalls racism

(AP) WASHINGTON - H.M. Cummings, one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, never thought when he was arrested in 1945 that he would live to see an African-American president.


Yet here he was at Tuesday’s inaugural ceremony for Barack Obama, bundled in a wheelchair at age 89, a long way from the April day when he experienced the humiliation of racism by the military.

Cummings, a B-25 pilot, was among 103 African-American airmen taken into custody at Freeman Field, Ind., for refusing to sign a letter promising to stay out of the all-white officer’s club.

"I couldn’t sign my rights away, my civil rights," said Cummings, of Columbus, Ohio, who recalled the arrest as he sat in a reserved section on the West Front of the Capitol, with a good view of the inaugural stand. He was one of hundreds of surviving Tuskegee Airman, the nation’s first black military pilots, invited to attend the inauguration.

Cummings said each member of his unit was called individually to the commander’s office. Those who refused to sign the letter promising to stay out of the club immediately were placed under house arrest.

"POWs had more freedom than we did," said Cummings, a second lieutenant at the time. "We didn’t feel good about it. We had trained. We were combat ready."
The airmen had volunteered as part of an Army Air Corps program that taught African-Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. They trained as a segregated unit at an air base in Tuskegee, Ala.

Cummings, then 26, never made it to the war.

The former pilot said he wasn’t surprised that an African-American would become president, but didn’t think it would happen in his lifetime.

"I never thought I’d live to see it," he said. "I knew it had to happen, but I didn’t expect it so soon."

Fifty years after the incident, Cummings was among 15 of the original 103 officers arrested who were notified their military records had been purged of any reference to the incident. The one airmen who was court-martialed and convicted was told the conviction had been reversed.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

To

Tuesday, January 20, 2009



Lt. George W. Spicer, USAAF
375th Fighter Squadron,
361st Fighter Group
World War II



A TOAST TO GEORGE SPICER
The Fastest Man in The Sky

He didn't like to talk about war. Many vets don't. When I asked George W. Spicer to talk to me about his experiences as the pilot of a P-51 fighter plane in Europe in World War II, he hesitated and said, "I had a friend in the Pacific who was a fighter pilot and he had some tough times and he didn't want to talk about it, and neither do I." "I will say, that I flew a P-51 and it was the fastest thing in the sky. I could fire at my target on the ground and be gone before anyone on the ground knew what had hit them," Spicer added.


When World War II began, George was on guard duty outside his frat house, with a broomstick in his hand and a lampshade on his head. When he left Lowell Textile College to visit his parents during the Christmas holidays, George begged them to allow him to become a cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps. His father exclaimed, "If God had wanted you to fly, He would have given you wings." They reluctantly signed the papers, still damp with Mrs. Spicer’s tears. And, in January 1943, George left home and went off to win the war for his country. "It was the only time I saw my dad cry... I guess we both did," Spicer wrote in his memoir, which he entitled, "Reflections of a World War II Fighter Pilot."



After three months of testing, George began real training at Fort Maxwell in Alabama. Senior cadets hazed George and the other new cadets by making them salute Coca Cola boxes among other humiliating acts. All of a sudden, George’s father died of a brain hemorrhage. He got a week off for the funeral before he returned to Maxwell to finish his ground training.

The long awaited day finally came at Souther Field in Americus, Georgia. George was about to fly a Stearman biplane trainer for the first time. George was exhilarated. After all, this was the place where the most famous pilot of all time, Charles Lindbergh, made his first solo flight some twenty years before. George learned to spin, stall, dive, roll and loop. And he loved it, although he did comment, "Only my laundry knew how scared I really was."

George safely made it through basic training at Greenwood, Mississippi without a scratch. As a part of his mandatory requirements to graduate from Advance Flight Training School, Spicer and the other cadets were required to fly a cross-country flight to fields in Opelika, Selma, and Dothan, all without the use of flight instruments. Cadet Spicer described the flight conditions, "It was a hazy day, rather like flying in a milk bottle." He joked, " But my friend and I thought that it was easy enough that we could do a little dog fighting on the way." Soon the boys lost sight of each other. George set out to find the line between his last two landing sites. Instead, he wound up way down in Marianna, Florida, with little fuel in his tank and red all over his face. For a few days after his return, he wore the horse collar of harangues, jokes and ribbing.






Graduation day came on April 15, 1944. George’s mother pinned a pair of wings on her officer son’s uniform for the first time. But graduation didn’t mean it was time to go to war, not just yet. Lt. Spicer returned to Georgia, where in Thomasville he trained some more in P-39 and P-40 fighters.

Just after Christmas, George and his squadron were sent to England aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth. His orders read that George was to report to the headquarters of the 375th Fighter Squadron of the 361st Fighter Group in Little Walden in East Anglia. Lieutenant Spicer practiced for a few days, flying in close formation, taking off from the leader’s wing, and maneuvering in inclement weather.

Then came the day of his first mission. His thumping heart rose into his throat. George’s greatest hope was that whatever happened, he would not disgrace himself, his flight, his family, his country and his God. He got up early, received a blessing from chaplain Father Joe, ate a light meal and set out for the flight room. Dressed for the below zero weather at normal flying altitudes, George ran through his checklist and waited for the signal to take off in his fighter plane.



And he was off. The target was Kiel in northern Germany. The mission was to escort a flight of B-24 Liberators on a bombing run. The bomb crews were glad to have fighter escorts. In the early years of the war, fighter planes had a relatively short range. Tens of thousands of Americans lost their lives in the skies of Europe. In point of fact, one of sixteen combat deaths in all of World War II were attributed to members of the Eighth Air Force. Spicer described the five-hour mission as "four hours and fifty-seven minutes of boredom and three minutes of pure panic." As flack exploded about him and shook his aircraft, George all too quickly realized the fact, "that someone is trying to kill me." Most of the missions were the same, escorting bombers to and from their target, but others included strafing airfields, a task George feared because of the well-armed anti-aircraft guns surrounding them.

In looking back on his year of combat duty, George Spicer was thankful to a great number of people who helped him wrestle with being in the killing business. After all, he was to his final day a devout Presbyterian and his God told him that it was wrong to kill. He was never vengeful though he lost his childhood friend in a flight training accident. George’s heart, and it was a big one, sunk every time a fellow crew member was killed in action and his belongings were removed from the barracks as if he had never existed. Most important, George, the pilot, was always grateful to those on the ground who made his plane fly, and George, the Christian, always took comfort that every time he was in the air, he felt the presence of his two co-pilots, his earthly father and his heavenly father.



George Spicer moved to our town of Dublin three times during his life. First he came here with the love of his life, Miss Barbara Whittier. George worked as a textile engineer with Textile Aniline & Derby Company along with his good friends Dick Henry and Joe Uliano. It was here where George and Barbara chose their daughters Candy and Heather to join their family on the days they called "their happy days." The Spicers left Dublin for North Carolina, but only after more than a quarter of a century of giving back to the community who had welcomed them so kindly and whom they loved so much. They returned nearly a decade later when George came back to work for J.P. Stevens & Company - only to move to their second home in Charlotte once again.

The last time was last summer. This time George came back without Barbara, who had died in 2006. He made one last trip back to Massachusetts to visit Barbara's grave before returning back to Dublin to visit with his old friends. But without Barbara, life in Dublin was just not the same. Very soon, a long life took its toll on George.

At 11:30 hours on the morning of November 22, 2008, sixty-one years to the day after he and Barbara walked down the aisle in marriage, the great flight controller in the sky summoned George to the flight line. George, to whom romance with Barbara was never hopeless, put on his best flight gear and a new set of wings, started his P-51, and raced into the eternal skies of heaven as fast as he could to join his beloved bride for an evening of dining and dancing in the clouds. It was the first day of a new life where every day will always be a "happy day."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beverly D. Evans, Justice Served


Judge Beverly D. Evans in his office in Sandersville, Georgia, circa 1907.

Photo from the Georgia Department of Archives and History, Vanishing Georgia Collection.




JUDGE BEVERLY D. EVANS, JR.
Justice Served

Beverly D. Evans and his family served justice in these parts for nearly three quarters of a century. And, they served it well. This is the story of a family of lawyers, and in particular, Judge Beverly D. Evans, Jr., who is still one of the most renowned lawyers ever to practice in East Central Georgia.



The first of the Evans clan to appear before the bench in Washington County was the family’s progenitor, Beverly D. Evans, Sr. A native of South Carolina, the senior Evans removed himself from his home and moved to Sandersville, Georgia in the early 1850s. After being admitted to the bar at Dublin in 1852, Evans began his successful and illustrious forty-five-year career as an attorney and counselor at law. His profession was interrupted during the War Between the States. As commander of the 2nd Georgia Regiment of State Troops, Lt. Col. Evans led a valiant, but futile, attack on the right wing of General William T. Sherman’s army at Griswoldville.



During the action, Evans was wounded. He returned to resume his law practice in Sandersville, where he died on March 26, 1897, some two years before his son and namesake Beverly D. Evans, Jr would take office as a judge for the first time.




Beverly D. Evans, Jr. was born at Sandersville on May 21, 1865. A brilliant young man, Evans graduated from Mercer University in 1881 at the age of sixteen. A year later, the school conferred upon him a Master of Arts degree. Beverly had high ambitions. He was accepted into the prestigious School of Law at Yale University. By the age of nineteen, Evans was back at home in Sandersville and ready to follow in the footsteps of his father. He wanted to do more than to be just another small town lawyer. Just after celebrating his twenty first birthday, Evans was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in his first political race. As one of the youngest state representatives in the history of the state, Evans served in the sessions of 1886 and 1887 as the first legislator in Georgia to be born after the end of the war.



On February 2, 1891, following the death of Oscar H. Rogers, the twenty-five-year-old Beverly Evans was sworn in a Solicitor General of the Middle Superior Court Circuit of Georgia. As solicitor, it was Evans’ place to prosecute criminal cases in the Superior Courts of Jefferson, Washington, Johnson, Screven, Warren, Tattnall and Emanuel counties. Evans served until the end of 1896.



Evans made it his goal to his practice law without compromising his ideals. Justice Andrew J. Cobb told the story of his colleague’s compassion, even for the guilty. Once upon a time Evans prosecuted a man, who was sentenced to pay a substantial fine. The defendant’s wife, appearing poor and pitiful to the empathetic solicitor, laid out all of her numerous bills and her pittance of coins on Evans’ desk. She begged him to allow her husband to work out the remainder of the fine. Evans handed the money back to the lamentable lady, paid the fine from his own pocket, and remanded the defendant back to the custody of his loyal and loving wife.



At the age of thirty-three, Beverly Evans was elected to the bench of the Superior Court of the prestigious Middle District. Evans succeeded some of the most well known judges in Georgia history. His predecessors included William Few, who signed the Constitution on behalf of Georgia, George Walton, who signed the Declaration of Independence for the state, Georgia governors William Schley and Herschel V. Johnson, and Confederate field officers, William Gibson and Reuben Carswell. Judge Evans sat on the bench until March 19, 1904, when Governor Joseph M. Terrell appointed him to replace the retiring Henry G. Turner to the Supreme Court of Georgia.



At the time, Evans was the second youngest Georgia Supreme Court justice in the history of Georgia. Justice Evans easily won renomination by the voters and was never seriously challenged in an election. During his thirteen-year term on the bench, Evans wrote more than a thousand opinions and participated in several thousand more cases.



Being a lawyer seemed to have run in Justice Evans’ family. His brother, Andrew Willis Evans, practiced law in Sandersville. His son, Thomas Warthen Evans, practiced law in Dublin during the World War I years. Judge Evans married first to Bessie Warren and last to Jennie Irwin. The Evans suffered a great personal tragedy when Beverly D. Evans, III was killed in action on November 1, 1918, just ten days before the signing of the armistice.



Beverly Evans was more than just a lawyer. In 1888, he served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, which nominated Grover Cleveland. He was a curator and President of the Georgia Historical Society. A devout Baptist, Evans often served as a vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention and as a trustee of Bessie Tift College.



Justice Evans resigned from the Supreme Court on August 31, 1917. The following day, he took the oath of office as District Judge of the Southern District of Georgia. At the pinnacle of his career, Judge Beverly Evans was one of the few persons, if not the only person, to serve his state as a State Representative, Solicitor, Superior Court Judge, Supreme Court Justice and Federal District Court Judge.



On May 7, 1922, Judge Evans was suddenly struck with his third heart attack and died. He was only fifty-seven years old. Who knows what this gifted and faithful man could have achieved? Judge Evans was eulogized by his friend and colleague, Judge Marcus Beck, who proclaimed, "Probably no man in Georgia was held in such esteem as so loved by his associates as was Judge Evans. He was one of the ablest lawyers and jurists in the country. Judge Evans life was an exemplification of all that was good. Truth, love and courage in all things pertaining to the idealism of perfect citizenship - these were his, all of them."






Young goat on top of large hay bail on Thompson Road, southwest of Dexter, Georgia. Photo by Scott B. Thompson, Sr.


"A talking tree?" This shot was taken of a dead tree on Claxton Dairy Road, just south of it's intersection with the northeastern end of Brookwood Drive in Dublin, Georgia. Photo by Scott B. Thompson, Sr.

WE WERE THE HOME
WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAMED

If you think that the American Buffalo only roamed on the plains of Kansas and the plateaus of Montana where the deer and the antelope played, then think again. These shaggy bovines once lived and thrived across almost the entire North American continent, including right here in East Central Georgia.
For nearly a century and a half, historians and scholars have disagreed about the southeastern limits of the ranges of the buffalo. Conspicuously absent from the meticulous journals of the expedition of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in his journey across the central section of Georgia in 1540 is any mention of the presence of buffalo. The fact that no mention of the harry bovine suggests that none were seen. In 1876, J.A. Allen published his monumental work which proposed that the Buffalo's migratory path from the west dipped only into the northeastern section of Georgia. A decade later, William Hornaday modified Allen's line to include all of the state's territory above a line running in a southeasterly direction from Carrollton above Macon through western Laurens County and ending thirty miles west of Savannah. Fifty years ago E. Raymond Hall and Keith R. Nelson extended the line of the buffalo's domain to include nearly all of Georgia except the coastal region.

Since the Native Americans who inhabited Georgia left no written records, any evidence of the buffalo's presence must be drawn from early colonists and explorers. On July 31, 1739, a ranger in a troop under the command of General James Oglethorpe reported in his journal, "We killed two buffaloes, of which there were in abundance, we seeing several herds of sixty or upwards in a herd." Upon his arrival in Georgia in 1733, Oglethorpe in describing the fauna of the Crown's newest colony, "There are wild beasts are deer, elk, bears, wolves, and buffaloes." In his definitive work, The Geographic Range of the Historic Bison in the Southeast, Erhard Rostlund believed that Oglethorpe's men saw the massive herds in what is now Laurens County.

That same year, it was reported by a soldier, "We killed several buffaloes, of which there is a great plenty." Rostlund places the kill in present day Screven County within Hornday's 1886 line. Just up the Savannah River in Effingham County, Varron Von Reck reported, "As to game, here are turkeys, stags and buffaloes."

In 1740, Thomas Spalding wrote that William McIntosh told him that he had seen a herd of ten thousand buffaloes between Darien and the Sapelo River. As late as 1746, General Oglethorpe himself, a highly reliable source, wrote in a letter that he and Chief To-mo-Chachi and desire to go out and hunt buffalo in Glynn County. Charles C. Jones, one of Georgia's most preeminent 19th Century historians wrote that in the early years of the 19th Century, James Hamilton Couper shot a wild buffalo near the head waters of Turtle River, a short distance from the port city of Brunswick. In 1735, Francis Moore discovered no bison on the barrier islands, but he recounted that there were large herds on the mainland.Edward Kimber, in his 1744 account of General Oglethorpe's march through southeastern Georgia to northeastern Florida, wrote, "There are in the province abundance of deer and buffaloes."

It was in the years before the American Revolution that the American naturalist William Bartram explored the virtually uninhabited central regions of Georgia. In 1774, Bartram, who traveled through present day Wilkinson and Washington counties wrote, "The buffalo, once so very numerous, is not at this day to bee seen in this part of the country." Bartram's hypothesis of former occupation of the area resulted from his observation of "heaps of white, gnawed bones of ancient buffaloe, elk, and deer." Although few remains of buffaloes have been found in Georgia, there are authentic reports of bones and fragments across the southern part of the state from Chatham to Brooks counties.

Many historians believe that place names are indirect evidence of the buffalo's presence in Georgia and the Southeast. In nearby Washington County, west of Sandersville is the Great Buffalo Creek. Along the coast of Georgia are two Buffalo Swamps and two Buffalo Creeks.
Up in northeast Georgia in Oglethorpe County is the long documented "Buffalo Lick," which according to some historians is the best known buffalo place in the Southeast.Buffalo and other large mammals were attracted to exposed areas of clay. By licking the clays, the animals could ingest salts, which were vital to their bodily functions. In 1812, Johann David Wyss wrote in his classic novel, Swiss Family Robinson, "We ought to establish here a buffalo lick like there is in Georgia. It is a spot prepared by nature for the capture of certain animals. There is one in New Georgia, between the Savannah River and the Alleghenies. It is not more than three acres in extent, and its peculiarity is that the soil is mixed with a kin of marl, or saltish earth, which ... wild animals, particularly the buffalo, take great pleasure in licking, so much so that large cavities are the results of their visits.

Buffalo were prized by the Native Americans who occupied the lands of Georgia in the third quarter of the second millennium A.D. Though the Creek Indians were no longer classified as "hunters and gatherers" as their Archaic period predecessors, the buffalo dwarfed all of the large mammals in the woods and natural pastures of Georgia. The Indians used all parts of the animal. A mature buffalo could feed many people for several days. After the animals were slaughtered and cleaned, the hide was used for clothing and accessories as well as the construction of houses. The coarse hair of the buffalo was cut away from the skin, twined into ropes and braided into bags, belts and other accouterments.

The current consensus as to the period of when the buffalo roamed the coastal plans and Piedmont regions of Georgia began after de Soto came through the region in the mid 1500s and peaked about the year 1700. After a century of decline, the buffalo was hunted and killed into extinction by the end of the 18th Century by the Creek Indians and early English and Spanish explorers.

So, now you know. You have a home where the deer still play and the buffalo once roamed. By the way, there were never any native antelopes in Georgia or anywhere else in North America. Believe it or not, the antelope is more closely related to the buffalo than the deer. If you don't believe me, google it.
FRED ROBERTS HOTEL, ca. 1930
Photo from the postcard collection of Scott B.
Thompson, Sr.




THE FRED ROBERTS HOTEL

A Reflection of Our Society



American essayist Joan Didion sees hotels as social ideas, flawless mirrors into the particular societies they service. That analogy accurately characterizes the Fred Roberts Hotel in Dublin. It began as project to capitalize on the new influx of travelers into the city. Through the decades of depression and then prosperity, the hotel rose, fell, and rose again. Today, the building stands on the precipice. Will it fall, or will we as a community take a look backward to its history and take a giant step forward to reflect what kind of society we really are?




If you have lived in Dublin for any period of time, you know the building. It is the four-story hotel at the apex of the Carnegie Plaza in downtown Dublin. You may have asked yourself, "Just who was Fred Roberts and why did someone name a hotel after him?" More than a century before the hotel was built, there was another Fred Roberts in these parts. Frederick Roberts, a veteran of the American Revolution, lived in the southeast quadrant of the city and died there. His remains lie somewhere near the intersection of South Franklin Street and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bypass. His descendant, Fred Roberts, was a son of David Montgomery Roberts, a Dodge county jurist, lawmaker and native of Laurens County, came to Dublin, leaving behind his automobile business in Eastman for a new one on Jackson Street.



Although Dublin's fortunes began to wane with the coming of the boll weevil and the virtual destruction of the cotton crop, the location of U.S. Highway 80 through the heart of the city gave city fathers and supporters a promise of prosperity. They felt that the highway, which ran the length of the country from Savannah to San Diego, would rejuvenate the faltering economy in the city, which was once the seat of the state's sixth largest county.



It all began as a project sponsored by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Fred Roberts was named chairman of the project. The hotel was situated on the site of the home place of Dr. Robert H. Hightower, one of Dublin's leading physicians of the late 19th Century. The new Hotel was planned to supplement, if not replace, the aging New Dublin Hotel, which occupied a more preferable location, just one block from both of the city's railroad depots. But railway passenger traffic was declining, more and more people were traveling by auto and the project's promoters found a prime spot between the main line of business houses and the rapidly growing residential neighborhoods to the west, but still within walking distance of the railroad.



Just before the hotel was set to open, tragedy struck. Fred Roberts, the popular Buick dealer, met with an untimely death on April 23, 1926, just weeks after his 40th birthday. The membership of the hotel voted to name the new hotel in honor of a man who was eulogized by the Dublin Courier Herald as "a man who was in the forefront of every movement for the betterment of social and business conditions in Dublin." Shortly thereafter, the first customers signed the register and a new era in hostelries began.



Dubliners had never seen anything like it. The New Dublin Hotel was built in an era when plumbing and electrical fixtures were in their infancy. Architect C.W. Shieverton followed the usual hotel plans by adding retail spaces in the front of the building. Over the next four decades, these two spaces, which occupy the front corners of the building, were used for barber shops, beauty shops and even a soda shop. A dining room was placed in the rear of the first floor to accommodate patrons and as a meeting place for civic clubs.



The exterior of the building features several architectural designs which are unique to Dublin. Three basket handle arches, hand made by Master brick mason Jens Larsen of Dublin, adorn the front entrance. In the center of each of the building's front three sections are three sextettes of ornamental Tudor arches. Above the entrance on the second floor is a large balcony, designed for outdoor parties and as a perch for viewing parades. Located near the top of the top fourth floors on each side of the structure are two Egyptian sarcophagi. These stone mummy-holding coffins were used as symbols of new birth and everlasting life. At the top of each side of the center section are two shields, which carry no emblems. The top center of the building carries the inscription 1926 Hotel Fred Roberts.



Without a doubt the hotel's most famous guest, or group of guests, checked in the waning days of March in 1933 and 1935. Known as the "Gas House Gang," the 1934 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals stopped in town to play the Oglethorpe University and the University of Georgia on their way back home from spring training in Florida. Among the guests were the legendary hall of fame players Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick, Rogers Hornsby, Leo Durocher and Jesse Haines.



A decade later, history was made from the front rooms when radio station WMLT, the city's first, went on the air in January 1945. When motels along Federal Highways 80 and 441 sprang up in the early 1950s, travelers began to seek the convenience of the new and improved rooms. After three decades, rooms in the hotel, which was once called the Stage Coach Inn, were no longer being rented. Newer and brighter buildings and motels were being constructed near the Interstate highway and the Mall. Rubert Hogan and Carl Nelson, Sr. bought the building and transformed some of the ground floor into professional offices, a practice which lasted until the early 1990s.



In one of its first major projects, the Dublin Downtown Development Authority, the City of Dublin and Laurens County under the Main Street Program in 1991 sought out and was granted a half-million dollar Community Development Block Grant, which provided the necessary funds to begin the restoration of the hotel toward its original grandeur. The city's new philosophy of restoration of historic buildings for a better future was espoused by the Main Street director, Rev. Joan Kilian, whose efforts led to the project's recognition by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation with its 1994 Outstanding Rehabilitation Award. The first phase of the construction project included a full restoration under the supervision of architect Bruce Jennings. Garbutt Construction Company of Dublin carefully removed the modern covers which hid the true architectural gems throughout the 8,500 square foot first floor of the building.



The first floor was designed to house the Senior Citizens Center, which was managed by the Dublin-Laurens Recreation Authority. The facility included a lobby, dining area, kitchen, arts and crafts room, library, and television room, in addition to several office spaces. Hundreds of meals were prepared in and delivered from the facility daily for needy seniors through the Meals On Wheels program.



Today the building stands at a cross roads. The Downtown Development Authority is seeking requests for proposals for the future use of the building. The question the Authority and the citizens of Dublin must ask themselves is "What do we want the Fred Roberts Hotel to reflect about us, pathetic apathy or a Fred Robert's dedication to better his adopted hometown with all of his heart and soul?