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

Thursday, October 27, 2011


When you think of fall, you think of cool nights, turning leaves and fairs. Our first fair in the fall (I still can't believe our English teachers taught us not to capitalize the seasons) came in the last week of October 1911. That first fair was a prelude to the 12th Congressional District Fair which came a year later. But for a premier autumn event, the fair was a tremendous success, much of which was due to its sponsor, Daniel W. Gilbert.

Technically it wasn't the first fair held in Dublin, but it was the first county wide fair. The first known fair was staged in early October 1905 when the Colored Agricultural Fair was held at the City Pavilion on lower East Madison Street. There were prizes for agricultural products with ball playing and riding every day. The Acme State Brass Band of Macon provided the musicial entertainment.

The people of Laurens County had good reason to take a few days after the end of the harvest to celebrate in 1911. In the early years of county fairs, agriculture and home economics dominated the exhibition halls. The cotton farmers of the county had produced more than thirty million pounds of cotton, more than any other county in the history of the State of Georgia. And, the local cotton crop that year, not counting farmers who took their cotton to gins in other counties, was larger than that of the entire state of Missouri.

Daniel W. Gilbert, proprietor of Gilbert Hardware Company, wanted to promote agriculture in the county through a fair, even if he had to do it all by himself or with a lot of help from the youngsters of the Boys' and Girls' Farm Life Club. With no large lot to stage his fair on, Gilbert cleared out his massive hardware store at 123 W. Jackson Street, a building which would become the center of Farmers and Merchants Bank.

Gilbert invited every farmer in the county to bring an exhibit to show his best crops and livestock. To ensure the crowds would be big, Gilbert enlisted the aid of the young ladies of the Poplar Springs Industrial School and Bethsaida Baptist Church to serve free lunches every day during the six-day fair, which began on Monday, October 23 and ended on Saturday, October 28.

Free food wasn't good enough, the people of that day were addicted to speeches. Any time there was someone who would stand up and speak about politics, better agricultural methods and good roads, a crowd would gather.

Food and speeches still weren't what fair exhibitors were after. They wanted prizes. So Gilbert picked out some of the better items from his store and put them up for prizes. Top prize categories ranged from plows to a cotton stalk with the most open bolls to a corn stalk with the most ears of corn. Swiss razors went to those bringing in the best pecks of wheat or oats. The largest pumpkin or the best half peck of peanuts would bring the winner a choice of any one-dollar item in the store. If you made the best jar of preserved peaches, pears or watermelon rinds, you walked off with a set of teaspoons to eat your prize winning entry.

Animals were on the prize list as well. The best of everything from chickens, to cows, horses, turkeys, ducks and geese all won an award. These prizes were given by the boys and girls themselves.

Wednesday was "Ladies Day." All women were invited to come and see the domestic exhibits. The day turned out to be a far better day than Gilbert had ever hoped for. The Dublin Courier-Dispatch reported, "The exhibits in the main building comprise almost everything ever shown at a county fair. The agricultural exhibit is especially fine and deserves recognition." The reporter especially cited the fine display of canned fruits, vegetables, preserves, and pickles as well as a splendid display of needlework, handmade especially for the fair.

Friday, the next to the last day of the fair, was billed as Education Day. Just as promised by Gilbert, there were speeches. County School Superintendent Zollicoffer Whitehurst, known to those who couldn't spell his first name as "Z. Whitehurst," joined Robert E. Martin, the manager of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, City School Superintendent R.E. Brooks, and Congressman Dudley M. Hughes of Danville on the dias.

Hughes, more than any other local congressman, was the best expert on agricultural and agri-business issues. Dr. Flanders of the Georgia Prison Commission addressed the crowds on the issue of good roads, a hot topic of the day.

Wanting to get in on the action, other businesses offered their facilities to fair goers. The Dublin Buggy Company on the courthouse square and Ogburn Buggy Company on South Lawrence Street displayed several of their finest buggies on the sidewalks of their stores as well as pens of prime hogs in pens near the rear of their warehouses.

Although Daniel Gilbert received quite a bit of recognition for conducting the fair, the real success of the fair came because of the efforts of his young assistant and secretary, Peter S. Twitty, Jr. Twitty, with the help of an efficient staff, made a name for himself that week. Within six years, the young merchant would be elected Mayor of Dublin. He later became the head of the Georgia Department of Game and Fish.

Sadly, few written accounts of that first fair have survived. Coverage by the Macon Telegraph was nonexistent. Its editors opted instead to cover the more widely popular Georgia State Fair in Macon.

Even more sad is the fact that the days of county fairs disappeared way too long ago. Gone are those good old days when thousands of people left the farms and the homes of the county and gathered in town for a day of fun, food and prizes.

The success of that first fair wasn't at all lost on the movers and shakers of Laurens County and the Emerald City of Dublin. Almost immediately, plans for a fair the next year were being set. Every businessman around the town tried to get in on the planning. The 12th District Fairs in 1912 and 1913 were two of the biggest and most successful fairs ever held in this area of the state. But, it was a century ago when we had our first fair and the days of autumn were all clear, cool and fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The Fastest Man on the Field

The folks of the twin cities of Graymont and Summit didn't call their star running back "Flash" for nothing. Jim Fordham could fly up and down the gridiron with ease. And, he was big and strong too. He may have been one the greatest University of Georgia running backs that you never heard of. And, I will bet you that you didn't know he was only the second Georgia Bulldog running back to be drafted into the National Football League.

Fans of the Emanuel County Institute's football team back in the mid 1930s knew Jimmy Fordham could run, block and tackle. His opponents couldn't stop him as he galloped up and down the gridiron on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Fordham's senior season at E.C.I. came in 1935. That year, the boys from Twin City easily defeated their opponents, including their intra county rivals from Swainsboro, whom they beat twice.

In the first game with Swainsboro, half back Fordham came into the game, broken arm and all, and was responsible for the winning score. In one of Fordham's most outstanding games, he scored seven touchdowns to lead his team to a 50-0 shutout of rival Millen High. Standing on the sidelines, salivating at the sight of future college running back, was University of Georgia coach, the legendary Vernon "Catfish" Smith.

A rematch with Swainsboro was played on Thanksgiving afternoon. A large crowd was hoping for another upset like the city boys put on the highly touted eleven under the tutelage of Coach George Hagans. Once again, the E.C.I. team left the field as the champions of Emanuel County.

In the days before Georgia high school teams competed for true state championships, the pinnacle of success was the winning of the District Championship. Teams within each congressional district competed each against other regardless of the size of their student bodies.

The First District championship was settled on the afternoon of December 6, 1935. The team from Vidalia, which had not lost a conference game in three years, squared off against Fordham and E.C.I. After a twenty-yard run, "Flash" Fordham snagged a "bullet pass" from Tommy Vandiver. Fordham caught the ball and did what he did best, run. Fordham's 40-yard touchdown reception led to the only score of the game. Fordham, in his last game in high school, once again was the deciding factor in the game. Oh, by the way, Fordham played the entire game with a sprained ligament in one of his legs.

Cate, Salisbury, Fordham, and Mimms

Jim Fordham chose the University of Georgia to continue his love for the game of football. After playing for the freshman team in 1936, Fordham lettered in the 1937 season as an understudy to Bill Hartman, Georgia's first NFL player and an All-American. Fordham's Bulldogs finished a respectable 6-3-2 under Coach Harry Mehre in the last of his ten-year tenure at the helm of the Bulldogs. Mehre was proud of his three sophomore backs, Jimmy Fordham, Vassa Cate and Oliver Hunnicutt, all of whom were known far and wide for their tremendous speed.

Jim Fordham started at fullback and the spinner back position in the single wing formation during the 1938 season. Georgia coach Joel Hunt, in his first and only season as a head college football coach, had Georgia headed in the right direction. After wins against smaller schools, Georgia was 5-1 after a victory over Florida. They never won another game that season, losing to Tulane, Auburn and Miami and enduring a 0-0, sister-kissing tie with Georgia Tech to finish 5-4-1.

Fordham comes up to make the tackle.

Fordham's third head coach in three years was Wally Butts, the legendary Georgia coach, who coached the team to its first national championship three years later in 1942. Despite the swift running of Fordham and Vassa Cate, the Bulldogs fell to a losing record of 5-6. The season ended on a high note with a victory over Miami, a game in which Fordham scored a touchdown. Fordham ended his collegiate career as a member of the Gray (South) team in the annual Blue-Gray game.

Jim Fordham was drafted 67th by the Chicago Bears in the 7th pick in the 8th round of the 1940 NFL draft. Fordham, the second Georgia Bulldog back ever to be drafted into the NFL, followed by his former mentor, Bill Hartman, who was drafted in 1938. Despite being drafted, Fordham left football during the early years of World War II.

Fordham finally joined the Bears in 1944. With their legendary coach, George Halas serving in the armed forces, the "Monsters of the Midway" fell from the top of the NFL ranks. In his first season, Fordham running out the fullback position, played behind future Hall of Famers, quarterback Sid Luckman and center Clyde "Bulldog" Turner. Fordham, playing in eight of ten games, scored four touchdowns on the ground. Fordham pounded out a respectable average of 4.5 yards per carry. The former Bulldog returned two kickoffs for an average of 21 yards per return.

Under temporary coach, Hunk Anderson, Fordham and the Bears finished a respectable 6-3-1. Among the memorable highlights of the year was the Bears 21-0 shut out of their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers. In a match against the team's other bitter rival, the Bears lost to the Detroit Lions. Playing for the Lions that day was none other than Frank Sinkwich, the University of Georgia's first Heisman Trophy winner. Fordham did right by his Bulldogs with one of his best games of the season by carrying the ball 13 times for 82 yards, not bad for a man who was primarily used as a blocker and runner on short yardage situations.

Fordham's last season in football came at the end of World War II. With many of the league's veteran players coming back to the game after the end of the war, players like Fordham found themselves out of a job. In his last season, Jim carried the ball 45 times for 153 yards. He managed to score one touchdown that year.

In one of the more odd records, Fordham tied a record held by a few, but not by many. In a game where few people ever win their last games, Fordham's teams won his last game in high school, college, and the pros.

Sadly, I could not find much at all about the life of Jim Fordham after football. Maybe someone out there will come forward and I will tell the rest of the story of the man they called "Flash," the fastest man on the field.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



Marshall A. Chapman

During the mid 1930s, most of the voters of Dublin wanted Marshall A. Chapman to be their mayor. He was a good man and an outstanding servant of the people. One man disagreed. He didn't like something the mayor did. He employed an attorney and found that the mayor was illegally elected for his second two-year term. So he sued. And, he won. That's when a lot of Marshall Chapman's friends stepped forward and found a way to let him stay, just a little bit longer.

In the early months of 1936, John A. Walden filed a petition of quo warranto in the Superior Court of Laurens County requiring Dublin mayor, Marshall A. Chapman, to show the authority he had to act as mayor. A.L. Hatcher and Henry Taylor, the attorneys representing Walden, claimed that city of Dublin's charter, enacted in 1911, prohibited any person from serving as mayor for more than one term unless additional terms came after an interval out of office.

Dublin Judicial District Judge J.L. Kent recused himself because of his relationship to the petitioner. Judge Kent asked Judge Eschol Graham of the Oconee Judicial Circuit to hear the case against the highly popular mayor. Upon the presentation of all the evidence by Hatcher and Taylor, Chapman's attorney, C.C. Crockett attempted to show that his client was qualified and certified by the city clerk as qualified to be mayor and that in fact, the people of Dublin elected him in 1933 for a two-year term and again in 1935 for a second two-year term.

Judge Graham issued a finding that the law of the state was clear in that the city's charter clearly prohibited any person from serving more than one term as mayor, unless the left office for at least one term, before being eligible to qualify for a second term.

Mayor Chapman refused to comment to the media on the judge's ruling, but directed his attorney to announce that he would immediately appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

After hearing the case, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on October 14, 1936, seventy five years ago this week. In holding for the petitioner, Chief Justice Richard B. Russell, Sr., father of long time U.S. Senator from Georgia, issued the opinion for the court. The Chief Justice discounted Crockett's argument that his client was his own successor since no one else qualified for the 1935 city election.

Crockett reiterated his argument in the trial court that in the previous quarter of a century, that the restriction buried in the city charter had been previously ignored. Herbert Moffett was elected in 1923 and served two consecutive terms. Even Chapman's predecessor, T.C. Keen, held office for two terms from 1930 to 1933. The justices held that argument without merit, holding that the law was the law and variances from it do not constitute a repeal of the city's charter and state law in a unanimous decision.

Chapman's one saving grace was that Judge Graham did not require him to leave office immediately. In fact, Judge Graham's order allowed Chapman to stay in office until a special election could be held.

Crockett immediately filed a motion for a rehearing which the Supreme Court denied in mid-December. Because of the holiday season, no city council meetings were scheduled to be held until early January.

At the first city council meeting of 1937, city attorney, W.W. Larsen, Jr. recommended that the council schedule a special election to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling.

No council member seemed to be ready to call for a special election. If a majority of the council voted to do so, then it would take at least forty-five days before a new election could be held. Still presiding over the council session, Mayor Chapman issued a brief comment. "It is mob psychology to kick a man when he is down," said the mayor.

By then, Chapman was already half way through his second term. No action could be taken any earlier than January 18. Meanwhile, Mayor Chapman went about his duties by appointing council members to committees.

And, it was about that time when Mayor Chapman's friends decided to make an end run around the court's decision. State Representatives W.A. Dampier and W.W. Larsen, Jr. introduced a bill to repeal the clause of the 1911 charter to allow Dublin's mayor to serve two consecutive terms.

Smelling a rat, Walden filed a mandamus to require the city council to call a special election. The council reluctantly decided to discuss the matter on February 1, five days before Judge Graham was to hear Walden's petition. The judge issued a summons to councilmen M.Z. Claxton, Dee Sessions, E.B. Mackey, C.A. Hodges, R.L. Tindol, E.F. Moxley, and F.C. Hutchinson to show cause why they shouldn't be ordered to schedule a new election to replace Mayor Chapman.

Rep. Dampier introduced a bill to allow Mayor Chapman to remain in office until the expiration of his term for which he was elected. The bill expressly prohibited Chapman from qualifying for the special election as well as any candidate from seeking an additional term beyond New Year's Eve. Rep. Larsen initially announced his opposition to Dampier's bill.

Meanwhile, the council was still debating if and how to legally schedule a special election. The issue became moot. For on the 4th of February, two days before Judge Graham was scheduled to hear the petition for a mandamus, the Georgia legislature unanimously passed local legislation to allow Dublin's mayors to succeed themselves for unlimited terms.

Mayor Chapman returned to the mayor's office in 1944 and served a single two-year term, making him the second longest serving mayor until that time, only behind Lucien Quincy Stubbs, who served five two-year terms around the turn of the 20th Century. The tradition of four years as mayor continued until Bobby Cochran, Albert Franks and Bob Walker each served as mayor for eight years. Phil Best, the current mayor, is now the longest serving mayor completing his twelfth year as the Mayor of the Emerald City.

Monday, October 03, 2011


James Jackson Runs Amuck

COCHRAN, GA. - July 14, 1915 - No one alive knows why James Jackson ran amuck and killed a deputy, an overseer, and a young farmer. Those who did know what happened, could not or would not tell the whole story of James Jackson and why he killed three men and then was shot at and later blown up by a staggering posse.

The sun was scorching the fields of W.O. Peacock in Bleckley County, some three statute miles from the county seat of Cochran. James Jackson got on the very bad side of his field boss, Mr. Lem W. Sanders. Boss Sanders reprimanded Jackson and sent him back to his quarters in not too good of a mood. Hearsay repeaters swore that Sanders told Jackson that he would have to start working or quit his job on the farm. The rumor mongers consistently maintained that Sanders slapped Jackson, who stomped off in a huff. Some say he went back to get a gun, but the pervasive account is somewhat different.

It was nearly pitch dark when Sanders went to the Negro quarters to deliver some medicine to one of his sick workers. Sanders just happened to pass by Jackson's shack. After a long hard day in the hot fields, Sanders took a seat on the side of Jackson's front porch. Sitting with his back toward Jackson, Sanders' pistol was visible in his back hip pocket in the dim porch light.

Suddenly, and with no warning, Jackson sprang from his seat, grabbed his boss's gun, and pointed it point blank at his antagonist. Sanders, according to Hollis Blackshear, an occupant of the house, begged Jackson not to shoot him. Jackson grabbed Sanders by the arm and held him with one hand. And, with two shots into his heart, killed Lem Sanders dead with the other. Noticing that Blackshear had witnessed the murder, Jackson turned toward the trembling Blackshear and pulled his pistol trigger three times, all misfires. Jackson then fled to the home of one Peter Fambrough.

Fambrough took Jackson to the home of Jackson's brother, who lived near about three crow fly miles from Hawkinsville. When word got out that overseer Sanders had been shot, a small, but highly incensed, posse was organized by night marshal, W. Sumpter "Sump" Hogg. Oscar Lawson, a young farmer, went along with Sump Hogg up to the house to convince Jackson to give himself up.

Marshal Hogg approached a window of the shack and demanded the fleeing felon give himself up. Oscar Lawson went around to the back of the house. Jackson fired an instantly mortal rifle shot straight into the marshal's chest. Jackson walked across the interior of the house and fired a second mortal shot into an eye of Oscar Lawson, who never knew what killed him. Another member of the posse returned fire and temporarily disabled Jackson.

It was about that time when Bleckley County Sheriffs J.A. Floyd and Pulaski County Sheriff J. R. Rogers arrived with a very large posse of law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens. One of the officers grabbed Peter Fambrough and through the most persuasive acts of coercion, forced the terrified accomplice to go to the house and remove the corpses of Jackson's victims. All the while, Jackson kept up his fire from the inside of the embattled abode.

After dragging the dead men out of the line of fire, Fambrough was compelled to crawl under the house with a bundle of dynamite, which had been rushed in from a Hawkinsville store. When it appeared that Jackson was never going to give himself up voluntarily, the dynamite was ignited and Jackson's fortress was blown into various sized smithereens. The posse swarmed the shattered shanty, firing as thy approached. The point men found Jackson dead. Despite reports to the contrary, the Cochran Journal reported that James Jackson's death came at the hands of legally authorized law enforcement authors and not a lynch mob. Some reports suggested that Jackson was dragged from the splintered ruins of the flattened fortress and strung up in a tree by a vengeful mob of as many as six hundred men.

In the passion of the moment, Peter Fambrough and Jackson's brother were also killed when they resisted arrest. One published report maintained that the men had a shot gun, a pistol, and plenty of ammunition.

Lem Sanders, W.O. Peacock's 42-year-old trusted overseer, was buried with honors by the Woodmen of the World the next afternoon. Young Lawson was laid to rest in the cemetery at Antioch Church the next morning. Sump Hogg was known as one of the best officers of Bleckley County, whose sole fault was that he was too careless with his own safety. Mrs. Ludie Hogg and her three children sobbed as her husband was buried in the Weeping Pine Cemetery that afternoon.

Reports of the tragic events were often contradictory. Names of the principals were often misspelled or interchanged. One thing was for certain. Six men were dead. And, many Bleckley Countians were grieving as they closed their business houses for the three funerals.

Although there appeared to be no connection to the killings, the Bleckley County Sheriff announced his resignation within days after Marshal Hogg was killed. Sheriff Floyd stated that he could no longer perform his duties because he was unable to stand the financial strain. "During my first term, I wore out a good horse and buggy and a good automobile in the service of the county, and so far as I could determine, without any adequate financial return," the sheriff wrote.

Floyd maintained that his fees were based on sixty year old costs of operating the jail. He enjoyed his term as sheriff but urged the county to develop a more equitable form of salaries for sheriffs.

The exploding of a desperado by Bleckley County lawmen wasn't confined to James Jackson. Just four days before Christmas, some two and one half years later, Frank Hall was killed by Pomp Wiley. Hall reportedly attempted to break up a fight between Wiley and another man. Enraged at Hall's interference with his business, Wiley fired three true pistol shots into Hall's heart, killing him instantly.

Sheriff Jones and a band of fifty citizens located the accused felon, who had barricaded himself in the home of his brother-in-law. As soon as the posse came into the range of his weapon, Wiley opened fire, striking and wounding Vicar Meadows and Dewitt Morris.

While the main force kept a steady fire in Wiley's direction, a small group of men snuck around to the rear of the house. Sheriff Jones directed the men to place a charge of dynamite under the house just as his predecessor had done to keep James Jackson from killing any more people. And, not surprisingly, the plan worked with similar results - Pomp Wiley was blown up and would never, ever kill again.