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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WHEN DEATH CAME KNOCKING AT THE DOOR

When Death Came Knocking At The Door


It all started long before that fateful Friday, one hundred Aprils ago. Steve Thompkins and Ella Doston, it was said by those who knew them well, enjoyed the company of each other. Ella's sons, the Dean boys, increasingly grew tired of Thompkins and his bothersome ways, or so they said. It all ended with four people shot, one dead, one dying, and two hurting. All those who survived the fracas agreed on one thing, that there had been an argument. But, that's when the stories of what transpired began to differ.

Thompkins and his family lived very close to the widow Doston and her sons along the Laurens and Montgomery county line. It appeared the families got along well, especially John Dean and Sallie Thompkins, who were engaged to be married later in the year. There was this one time when Thompkins and his daughter's suitor got into a scrap, but all enmity between the two men appeared to have died out.

The Dean boys, Edgar, John, and Arthur, had entered into an arrangement with Thompkins to raise beef cows and equally split the profits. Thompkins showed up at the Dean house on a room-temperature, fair Friday afternoon just before sundown to discuss the division of the revenues.

Edgar Dean testified that his brother John got into a fuss about a different matter. Dean stated that Thompkins stomped off to the smokehouse, took the key, and proclaimed that he would sell the meat inside to satisfy the debt owed to him. Thompkins left the premises. All appeared to be settled, at least for the time being.

Mrs. Doston began the preparations for supper, while the boys discussed the matter most upmost at hand. After supper, the sons of the late James Dean sat around the fireplace discussing their next course of action. John Dean made a remark that he would not allow himself to be "run over that way all the time." It was at that very moment, just about 9:oo o'clock on that moonless evening, when Thompkins, standing by a window, was said to have stated, "You are liable to be run over worse than that right now."

Edgar Dean stated that Thompkins first went to the back door, but was refused admittance to the house. Edgar later stated, "I was lying down at the time that Thompkins spoke." Dean said, "I got up and put my pistol in my pocket and invited Steve Thompkins to come inside." The eldest of the Dean boys, in justifying his actions, maintained that he told John's future father-in-law to put up his gun as he did not want any trouble.

Edgar Dean swore that Thompkins came up the steps, his cocked pistol in his hand, and stated, "I come to play Woolfolk with the family." Thompkin's alleged remarks were a reference to the murder of nine members of the Woolfolk family in Bibb County a quarter of a century before in 1887. Those murders still rank today as the largest mass murder of a Georgia family.

Purportedly, Thompkins took aim at his antagonist, John T. Dean. Ella stood between the two combatants. Thompkins was frustrated at his attempts to shoot around his good friend Ella. After making some insulting remarks toward Ella, Thompkins was stated to have renewed the attack on John Dean.

Edgar Dean pulled out his pistol and fired at Thompkins, striking him in his shoulder. Thompkins, hardly disabled, returned two effective shots, hitting Edward in the chest, breaking his breast bone and a collar bone. Edgar fired back. Thompkins spun around and blasted John Dean and Ella Doston, both of whom were unarmed. John Dean was dead when he hit the floor. Mrs. Doston, struck with a mortal wound in her left lung, lay on the floor, paralyzed from the neck down.

After regaining his strength, Edgar Dean knocked Thompkins down onto the wooden floor. The two men wrestled until Edgar, with the aid of sixteen-year-old Arthur Dean, threw Thompkins onto a bed. Edgar and Arthur took Thompkins' .45 pistol and escorted him to the front porch, where they threw him over the banisters onto the ground. Shot, bruised and in no mood to continue the fight, Thompkins retreated back through the darkness to his home.

Laurens County Sheriff J.J. Flanders and Dublin City Court Sheriff, B.M. Grier were summoned to arrest Thompkins on charges of murder and attempted murder. The suspect told his captors that Edgar Dean shot him during the argument and that he went for his gun in self defense. He maintained that the Deans attempted to wrestle his pistol away from him and it was during that struggle that Edgar Dean, John Dean and Mrs. Doston were hit by unintended gunshots.

Two Fridays elapsed while Ella Doston lingered near death. On Friday, April 20, 1912, Ella Doston became the second victim of the highly regrettable incident. Edgar Dean, however, made a quick and remarkable recovery.

In those days, trials were amazingly swift. Within three weeks of the incident, Steve Thompkins stood trial before a jury on April 25. On the night before the trial, Sheriff Flanders narrowly averted an attempt to lynch Thompkins.

When street rumors of a lynching reached the courthouse, Sheriff Flanders personally took Thompkins out of the city under the cover of darkness. Flanders then announced that Thompkins was no longer in jail. Sure enough, and just as the sheriff expected, two of the suspected ringleaders of the lynchers showed up on the front porch of the jail just after it was good and dark outside. After satisfying themselves that Thompkins was not inside, the men left and made their way back to the river bridge were as many as one hundred accomplices were congregating.

Observers reported that the seventeen-year-old courthouse had never been more crowded. The highly sensational, all day trial lasted until ten o'clock in the evening, when the case was sent to the jury for deliberation. The jurors considered the evidence until midnight before being sequestrated to their hotel rooms. Within a hour of reconvening their deliberations the next morning, the jury sent word to the court that they had reached a unanimous verdict.

Thompkins was found guilty of two murders. As he heard the verdict against him, Thompkins stood motionless. The emotionless felon was sentenced by Judge Hawkins to be hanged by the neck until dead on Friday, May 24, 1912. Thompkins' attorneys immediately moved for an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. Had he been hung, Thompkins would have been only the second white man ever hung in Laurens County, the only other being Jackson Terry, who was convicted of murder in 1840.

After three successful challenges to his grand jury indictments, Thompkins stood trial for the fourth and final time on November 19. Fifty one defense witnesses would not alter the jury's decision as to his guilt, but the jury did find that Thompkins did not kill John Dean and Ella Doston with malice aforethought and that he should be guilty of manslaughter.

Judge Kendrick J. Hawkins excoriated the jury's decision calling the verdict as contrary to the facts of the case and one which was handed down because of sympathy for Thompkins family. Judge Hawkins cited sympathetic verdicts as the reason that Georgia had more murders and homicides in one year than any other state and more than the entire United Kingdom.

A second attempt to lynch Thompkins was thwarted just before Christmas while Thompkins was serving on the chain gang in a camp at Garetta, Georgia, near the geographic center of Laurens County.

When word came to the guards at the local prisoner of work camp that another lynching was going to be attempted, Thompkins was put aboard a train and transported to Eastman for safekeeping. The threat was real for shortly after Thompkins was put aboard the evening train, several buggies filled with revenge-seeking men descended upon the camp. The prisoner returned to the camp the following day and no further attempts to exact revenge were ever reported.

Eventually, Thompkins was moved to Telfair County to serve the remainder of his twenty year sentence.

Thus ended one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of Laurens County when death came knocking at the door.



Monday, May 14, 2012

THE DAYS OF JOSHUA CODY

He was big and tall - as strong as man could come. He could knock down any tackler, blast a baseball way out of the park and stuff a basketball into the net. Joshua Crittenden Cody had already proved himself as a three-sport athlete. It was time to prove himself as a coach. But, before taking the reigns as head coach of Mercer University’s football team, Josh Cody put his baseball uniform on one more time to lead the Dublin Irishers to a successful, albeit short, season in the summer of 1920.

Joshua Crittenden Cody was born on June 11, 1892 in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee. At the age of twenty-two, Cody, a son of self employed house painter James Cody and his wife Elizabeth, enrolled in nearby Vanderbilt University and joined the football team. You see, although he was a grown man, Josh Cody was a very big man, as tall as 6'4" and weighing 220 pounds or more, characteristics that would have made him a giant in his day.

Cody, playing tackle on both sides of the line of scrimmage, made his mark early when in his second game, drop-kicked a 45-yard field goal against the always powerful Michigan Wolverines. Later that year, the towering tackle dropped back into the backfield and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass against Virginia.

The Vanderbilt Commodores reversed their fortunes in 1915, going 9-1. Cody, a big part of the team’s turnaround with his powerful blocking and quick tackling, earned his first selection to the All American team. Cody and the boys from Vandy (7-1-1) posted another fine season in 1916. Once again, Cody was named to the All American team.




The coming of World War I took Josh Cody away from football to serve his country as an infantry lieutenant. Lt. Cody took off his Army uniform and put his football uniform back on for one final season in 1919. The Commodores lost only a single game. Cody topped off his collegiate career with his third selection to the All American team. He was one of the first and the very few persons ever to be named first team All American three times.

Josh Cody wasn’t just a superlative football player. His letterman’s jacket was covered with a lucky thirteen letters in football, basketball, baseball and track in his four seasons at Vandy.

“When I think of Josh in his college days, I get a mental picture of this great big fellow playing catcher in the spring and between innings running out beyond the outfield to throw the shot or the discus in his baseball uniform. He was unbelievably skillful and nimble for a big man in basketball, and in football where he’s a legend, said sports writer Fred Russell about Cody.

Mercer University hired the multi-sport star to coach their athletic teams beginning with football in the autumn of 1920. But before beginning his duties in Macon, the owners of the Dublin Irishers semi-pro baseball team hired Cody, along with then current Vanderbilt baseballers catcher Mims Tyner and third baseman Woodruff, to play on the team.

Cody did quite of bit of managing from behind the plate, catching the Irishers’ first game and garnering two of the team’s four hits in a losing effort against Millen. After going an outstanding 16-7 in five weeks of baseball, the Irishers surprisingly disbanded due to lack of financial support and attendance.

After several lackluster seasons at Mercer, Coach Cody was easily lured back to Vanderbilt as head basketball and assistant football coach under his mentor and former coach, the legendary Dan McGugin, on the gridiron. During his tenure at Vandy, the gridiron Commodores were just mediocre at best. Cody’s hardwood five (20-4) won the Southern Conference championship.

Clemson University was the next stop on Cody’s climb to the top of his game. In four seasons with the Tigers, Cody’s footballers never lost more than three games in a season, beating South Carolina four straight times and in the process, making Coach Cody the only Clemson coach with more than two seasons who never lost to their hated intrastate rival.

Josh Cody desperately wanted to return to Vanderbilt as the head football coach. He did return in 1931, but when another coach was chosen to lead the team, Cody looked elsewhere. His Florida Gators suffered through four losing seasons. Once again Cody was on the move.

The Tennessean wound up at Temple University in Philadelphia as line coach under Ray Morrison, the former Vandy alumni who had taken the head job at Vandy away from him in 1934. The highlight of his basketball coaching career (1942-1952) came in 1944, when Temple made it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament. A football assistant, Cody became the university’s athletic director in 1952.

The unforseen resignation of the school’s football coach in 1955 gave Joshua Cody one final chance to coach football. His team lost every game.

Joshua Cody, known as “Big Man” to his friends and fans, was known far and wide as a champion eater. Fred Russell once said, “When he was at Clemson he had a contest with Herman Stegman, the coach at Georgia. Josh weighed about 260 then. He out stripped Stegman by 11 chickens. He wasn’t satisfied just to win. He just went on to a decisive victory.” Said Cody on the eating contest, “I got two chickens ahead of him early and just coasted.”

A teammate of Cody in 1919, Atlanta Constitution publisher Ralph McGill said about Cody, “He was a great big fellow and one of the most seriously dedicated fellows I’ve ever met. He was a farm boy and he didn’t have any polish but he was very honest and sincere. He didn’t have scholarship——we had none in those days——but he had a real job. He literally cleaned the gymnasium every day, cleaned up the locker rooms and the showers, and tended to the coal furnace after practice.”

Nearly two months after his death on June 17, 1969, Joshua Cody, along with Wilbur Henry, was selected as the tackles (both ways) on the All Time 1869-1918 Early Era All American NCAA Football team.

Cody was posthumously enshrined into the National College Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. He remains Vanderbilt’s only three-time (1915, 1916, 1919) All-American football player.

On a personal note, Coach Cody was my grandfather Howard Irving Scott’s football and basketball coach at Mercer University in the 1920-1 seasons. It will also be noted that a decade later, another quite legendary coach, Wally Butts of the University of Georgia, played for Dublin’s semi-pro team, only to see his season cut short when he injured his leg in the second game of the season.

But it was in those bright, warm, twenty-three summer days, the days of Joshua Cody, when Dublin’s baseball team was led by one of college football’s greatest linemen.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE


The Story of the Savannah, Dublin and Western Shortline


It was going to be the railroad which connected Savannah to the rest of the world. There were already several railroads leading in and out of the port city which laid claim to that boast. Money poured in. Money poured out. And, when it's day was done, the greatest railroad which would never pass through Laurens County faded into a bad dream. It disappeared into the nighttime and never even made it more than one hundred fifty miles. It was gone, just another in a long line of highly hyped rail lines which never made the grade.

Many attempts were made and just as many failed to build another railroad from the port city of Savannah to Central Alabama and beyond. In the spring of 1882, capitalists from New York conceived the Savannah and Pacific Short Line Railway Company, a railroad from Savannah to Columbus, running through the Wiregrass area, crossing the Oconee River five miles above Mount Vernon, but missing Dublin by seventeen miles. When Dubliners found out that they were slightly off the main line, H.M. Burch and John S. Drew were appointed to lead a committee to convince the railroad's directors to bend the route just enough to bring it closer to Dublin.

With the abandonment of the Savannah and Pacific plan, as well as others, an application was made for the Savannah, Dublin, and Western Shortline Railway Co. in the fall of 1885 along the same basic route from Savannah through Dublin and thence to Americus through Hawkinsville.

By the beginning of December, Engineer Arthur Pou and his crew were camped at Fuller's Mill across the river from Dublin as they were making preliminary surveys of the route. On the Savannah end of the proposed route, engineers, delayed by bitterly cold weather, began their survey at the junction of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad and the Savannah, Florida and Western Railway, some crow fly miles from Savannah. The sight of railroad engineers surveying created much excitement along their path. Railroads meant money, and a lot of it.

A mere sixteen miles of railroad had been graded from Dublin toward Savannah by the Dog Days of August, 1886. Meanwhile the tracks of the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad were finally completed to the eastern banks of the Oconee River opposite Dublin.

That's when the crews of Ferguson & Company, the railroad's main contractor, left their jobs. In near perfect unison with the massive earthquake which struck Charleston, South Carolina on August 31, 1886, the Savannah, Dublin and Western venture was officially deemed a failure. Ferguson sued the railroad. A receiver was appointed. Work ground to a disappointing halt.

Once again from the brink of disaster, the resilient railroad was revived. Col. John M. Stubbs, a Dublin attorney, led the negotiations to bring his dream of a major rail line running through his native Macon and his hometown of Dublin. A contract was signed to build the 157-mile line from Savannah in eight months and by the middle of 1887. With no doubt of the company's success, the directors planned to be able to ride a train driven by a Baldwin locomotive from Savannah to Birmingham by the end of 1887. And to prove their point, newspaper accounts indicated that the 307-mile route was going to be possible through the infusion of a million dollars by investors from England.

It was on the first of April 1, 1887, that the backers of the S.D. & W Railroad announced new and bigger plans for their rail line. The directors elected Douglas Green, of New York, and T.P. Branch, of Augusta, to begin the effort to extend the line from Savannah through Dublin and then to Macon, LaGrange and Birmingham with the ultimate goal of reaching the northwestern United States, drawing the eyes of prominent capitalists in Richmond, Virginia.

The newly proposed line would operate in direct competition with he long established, highly traveled, Central of Georgia railroad, which had been operating between Macon and Savannah for more than four decades. Initially, Central officials expressed no desire to invest in the venture.

But when it appeared there was money to be made, the officers and directors of the powerful Central of Georgia began the financial maneuvering to take over the operation of the Savannah, Dublin and Western.

Meanwhile, more prospective railroads through Laurens County were being planned. A petition for incorporation of the Augusta, Thomasville, and Gulf Railroad Company was filed to build a railroad from Augusta to Thomasville through Richmond, Burke, Jefferson, Emanuel, Johnson, Laurens, Dodge, Wilcox, Irwin and Berrien counties,

Then the law suits started. As the aspiring entrepreneurs fought over the rights to the line like a wake of buzzards plucking a deer carcass clean, any hopes of building the coast to coast railroad quickly faded away.

Despite the obstacles along the way, local backers, John M. Stubbs and Joshua Walker of Laurens County, joined with Daniel G. Hughes and Dudley Hughes of Twiggs County and set their sights on building a railroad from Macon to Dublin with an eventual extension on to Savannah.

In July 1891, the first leg of their dream was completed when the first train from Macon to Dublin rolled into the city of Dublin.

Ten years later in 1901, the dream of the Savannah, Dublin and Western Shortline was partially achieved. With the extension of the Macon, Dublin and Savannah railroad to Vidalia, passage to the port city from the Central City of Macon along a more southern route was finally accomplished.

But, it was a century and a quarter ago that west bound odyssey of the train they called the Savannah, Dublin and Western Shortline was gone forever when the day was done.

OH, WELL!





Wesley Perry didn't know what a hornet's nest of excitement he stirred up last Thursday.

"I thought it was a septic tank cover when I lifted it up," said Perry as he was excavating the new site of the Dublin Chevrolet dealership.

Perry, an owner of Perry Construction Company, has cleared countless square miles of land in his life, so he wasn't surprised to find a well on the site of an old country home. What Perry didn't recognize was the square hole instead of a round one.

"Usually wells in this area are round," Perry commented. One curious onlooker commented that a Northerner must have dug the well. They do it that way up North.

Square dug wells are relatively rare. They are used in some cases where a lining of wood or brick is installed. Any hand well digger, if there is still one alive, would quickly tell you it is much easier to take a spade and dig a deep round hole rather than a square one.

Just to see how deep his discovery was, Perry dropped his tape measure down to the bottom of the abyss. It read 22 feet, give or take an inch or two.

"That's about twice the normal depths of wells around here," Perry observed.

Something else struck Perry's attention. As he held the tang and reeled up the housing, Perry noticed that it was dry, bone dry. Perhaps that's because of the more than two-foot deficit of local rainfall in the last sixteen months.

"Look around us and see all the asphalt. There is no water because most of it drains out without ever soaking into the ground," Perry remarked.

The accidental discovery brought out curiosity seekers during the day. The six-foot by six-foot square well was roped off to prevent any unintended dips into the dark bottom. A closer observation revealed evenly spaced steps carved at sixteen-inch intervals into the rock-hard, reddish- yellow clay, western wall of the well.




"The steps were there so that when a worker was sent down to the bottom of the well to clean it out, he could get back up," Perry commented.

Perry found a single insignificant piece of metal, which fell back to its eternal resting place during his extraction attempt.

Dealer Lock Wilford escorted onlookers to the suddenly celebrated shaft. Wilford had never seen anything like the well and its hand hollowed out steps.

"To see it perfectly square like it was, it was phenomenal to see so much history right here in Dublin. remarked Wilford of "the tremendous experience."

Historian Allen Thomas was called in to observe, only to rush back to his home to pick up his camera.

"It is an excellent example of a dug well," said Thomas, who grew up in a day when hand dug wells, although common, were already giving way to mechanically drilled ones.

"In a way, I hate to see it covered up," Thomas commented. He remembered the days when almost every one in the country had a shallow well and there would be all kinds of neat things at the bottom of wells, including cats, and wigglers in the buckets of water.

Wilford and Perry consulted with contractor Dublin Construction Company and the architects to see what course of action to take since it appeared that the 22-foot shaft would be directly below the new automobile facility.

"They will probably fill it with a mixture of rock, dirt, concrete and other things, to keep it from settling," Perry remarked.

After a few days of being in the light of day for the final time, the well, which supplied vital water to the farm home of the Hilburn family for many decades was quickly filled in in the name of safety and progress. Oh, well.







Saturday, May 05, 2012

THE RETURN OF THE DUKES OF YORK AND THE ANCESTORS.


Those graduates of Dublin High School of the late 60s and early 70s were taken back more than four decades in time at the Dublin Country Club last Saturday Night. Surviving members of local garage bands, The Dukes of York and The Ancestors, reunited in Dublin for the first time in more than forty years to play the same music which teenagers danced to in the 1960s in places like the old high school gym, the American Legion Hall, the Shanty, and the social hall of First United Methodist Church. The evening was the culmination of the DHS Journey Class of the 1970s Journey Reunion.



1960s.




The Dukes of York - 2012
Mike Warren, Steve Scarborough, Van Hawyood 
@ Johnny W. Warren


One of the founders of "The Dukes of York" was Dr. Van Haywood, an Augusta dentist and father of Dave Haywood, guitarist of Lady Antebellum. Haywood joined with drummer Ricky Hayes, bass guitarist Jerry Pinholster and lead guitarist Charles Lee to form the band, "The Malibus of Ricky Hayes."



Steve Scarborough





Mike Warren



The band reorganized and added Steve Scarborough on keyboards and Mike Warren on drums. The band was a regular at dances at the National Guard and at after football game parties at the American Legion Post No. 17 on North Jefferson. The "Dukes of York" were all talented musicians and most of the members played in Dublin's highly heralded, "Dixie Irish Band."




Steve Scarborough and Van Haywood
The Dukes of York - 2012


Reuniting for the evening were Van Haywood, Mike Warren and Jerry Scarborough, who were joined by Dr. Allen Tindol, who stood in for deceased members Charles Lee and Jerry Pinholster.



"What memories to reunite with the remaining members of the band," Dr. Haywood commented in remembering the days when the highly successful band played in venues around Georgia and Florida, opening for many popular singing groups of the day.



"It was great to make music with Steve and Mike after almost 45 years," Haywood said.



The magic of the moment hit Haywood with the band's first selection. "It took me back in time when we started to play 'Hang On Sloopy,'" commented Haywood on Facebook.  (Scarborough and Haywood left)



Drummer Mike Warren (LEFT)  saw the performance as a wonderful experience. "It was miraculous to see Van and Steve and to play on stage with them for the first time since 1969," said Warren, a writer and passionate politophile.



"The greatest achievement of mankind is the music we make," Warren commented. "And, I was lucky enough to be a part of it," he added.










"Van, Michael and I had great time playing for you guys but we were really rusty and had not met up until Saturday," commented Dukes of York guitarist Steve Scarborough. Scarborough, a design engineer for Confluence Watersports, thanked Edward Tanner and the Cruis-O-Matics for helping them through a few tunes for old times sake.





The Ancestors

Tom Patterson, Blair Tanner, Edward Tanner



The Ancestors

Allen Tindol, Tom Patterson, Blair Tanner


The Ancestors, highly talented members of the Dublin's vaunted Dixie Irish Marching Band, were formed in the summer of 1965 by Green Acres neighbors Tom Patterson, Edward Tanner and Blair Tanner, who were joined in 1966 by Allen Tindol. Allen, now a physician and professor at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute, left the band and was replaced by singing bassist Johnny Fountain.

Lewis Smith, a talented church organist, joined the band who brought an all new facet to the band's performances.

The Ancestors added a new keyboardist, Mike Harrell, a fanatic fan of the group Steppenwolf. Allen, a former Dublin physician rejoined the band for a third time, from 1969 until its demise in 1970, as a featured vocalist, along with Johnny Fountain's cousin, Bobby Fountain. The band played songs by Spirit, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Three Dog Night, The Hollies, Wilson Pickett, The Beatles, and Rolling Stones during this final era.


THE ANCESTORS



Edward Tanner






Tom Patterson






Allen Tindol






Blair Tanner


Edward Tanner, an Atlanta attorney, is still performing today with his group, Cruis-O-Matic, which he formed in the summer of 1977. Edward's brother, Blair Tanner, joined Cruis-O-Matic on keyboards for the evening.

The finale of the evening's festivities came when the Tanners, joined with Tom Patterson and Allen Tindol in the first local performance of the Ancestors since their last main one in 1970. Before their performance, Tom Patterson said, "We got together this afternoon in a house just like they used too back in the Sixties."





"The guys loved it," said Edward Tanner, who was deeply touched by how nice the crowd was to the band.

"I always just wanted to have fun," said Tanner in commenting about his music and how much fun it was to return to Dublin to play for some of his classmates.

To Blair Tanner, a physical therapist, the evening was "priceless." "It was an even greater day than I expected." Tanner commented about playing in the same band as he played in at the 1967 DHS Coronation dance.

"This probably ranks right up there with one of the best nights of my life! The guys were amazing and we love them for bringing back us to our best times," commented event organizer Peggy Hood Pridgen.

"Legendary is the only word, I can think of," commented Beth Bussell Robinson of the DHS Class of 1971.

After the show as he was driving back to his North Carolina home, Tom Patterson, an accomplished drummer turned accomplished journalist and curator, reflected back on the evening. "We followed each other pretty well and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went, especially since I hadn't played a drum set in over ten years," Patterson concluded.

The evening of April 28 was not just another Saturday night. For many magic moments, it was a magic carpet ride back in time to 1967 to the "Summer of Love" and to a time when music was the soundtrack of our lives.













THE FEDERAL BUILDING


Shaping Our Lives




For seventy-five years, it has stood watching the daylight come and bidding hello to the man in the moon as he rises above the horizon. For seventy-five years, it has occupied the nucleus of The Emerald City. It is a hall of justice, where the bad men were sent to jail and precious legal rights were upheld. It was the place where kids mailed their wishes to Santa Claus and picked up big birthday packages from grandma. It was a place where young men joined up to serve America and a place where mothers of those same men mailed cakes and cookies to far away places like Belgium, Tarawa, Seoul and Saigon. The United States Federal Building, and lately the J. Roy Rowland, Jr. Federal Courthouse, has been an integral fixture of our lives for the last three quarters of a century. But for now, its future is in immediate and very real doubt.



When the Federal government built its first post office building in Dublin in 1912, it was just that, a post office. As the number of moon shining cases began to escalate in the mid 1920s, the government yielded to pressure from the Justice Department by adding a courtroom above the main work room of the post office.



It was not long at all before Congressman William Washington Larsen, Sr., a resident of Dublin, was inundated with requests to build a new Federal building. Congressman Larsen began the process in the early 1930s. When Larsen retired from the Congress in 1933, his replacement, the venerable Carl Vinson, of Milledgeville, picked up the torch of the new building for Dublin, the home of his sister and her husband, Dublin Postmaster M.J. Guyton.



At first, the government planned to build the new building on the site of the existing building on the southwest corner of East Madison and South Franklin streets. Obviously, the government's not so well thought out plan would require the securing of a temporary post office while the newer building was being constructed. When more practical minds found the plan to be somewhat beyond foolish, other options were explored.



Requests for proposals were sent out to the businessmen and the city and county governments for the location of a new building. It came down to a choice of two sites. One was Ellison Pritchett's 124-foot by 180-foot lot known as the Wolfe Corner at the intersection of North Franklin and East Gaines Streets. The other option, the one which the government would eventually choose, was a win-win proposition for both the Federal government and especially the government of Laurens County. It was a 150-foot strip off the northeastern end of the courthouse square.



The three-story building, originally estimated to cost between $85,000.00 and $90,000.00, would preferably be located on a corner lot with at least 34,000 square feet of ground space.



County commissioners were thrilled at the idea of a swap of rarely used area in the rear of the Laurens County Courthouse for the former post office on East Madison Street to house many county offices. In saving thousands of dollars in not having to rent space from private landlords, the Board of Commissioners were jumping at the bit to sign the exchange agreement with the Post Office Department.



As he always did for the local folks, Congressman Vinson went to bat for his constituents and pushed for the courthouse square switch. After a detailed review and with only a need for a minor adjustment in the plans, the Post Office Department agreed to the exchange.




Federal Buidling, December 1936


Although the deal was accepted by most citizens, one traditionalist strenuously objected to the plan. The concerned citizen filed a request to restrain the process claiming, unsuccessfully in the end, that the erection of a Federal building would ruin the look of the courthouse square. Meanwhile, a prerequisite condemnation action was filed in Federal court to appropriate the land for Federal use.



Marble, a product of Georgia, was an integral part of the building from the beginning on both the interior and exterior of the massive structure.



When the bids were opened in August 1935, Worsham Brothers Construction of Knoxville, Tennessee was awarded the contract with a bid of $126,237, substantially lower than the other bidders.



By Christmas 1936, the building was basically complete. Postmaster Guyton developed elaborate plans to insure that the transfer from the old building to the new building would be a smooth one, with absolutely no interruption of service. Post office box holders were invited to come in on Saturday before the Sunday move to pay the twenty-cent deposit on each box key and to familiarize themselves with the new building.



On Monday morning, February 1, 1937, the post office on the courthouse square opened for the first time. E.G. Simmons, a Dublin businessman, was the first in line to purchase three-cent stamps. A long line of customers and curiosity seekers filled the lobby. It was a site never before seen anywhere in the area.



Once the post office vacated its old quarters on East Madison Street, county officials rushed into to their new facilities to begin their plans for new offices.



For nearly three quarters of a century, the post office continued to operate out of the Federal Building. When the main operation of the post office shifted to Bellevue Avenue in 1964, the post office became a station office to serve old conservative customers reluctant to change and downtown business owners before closing in 2011.



In 1997, the United States Congress re-designated the building as the J. Roy Rowland United States Courthouse to honor the former six-term Congressman, Georgia state representative, and Dublin physician.



The building is now near the top of the endangered list of building closings by the budget cutters in Washington, D.C.. It has been on that list before. But this time, the future of the building is reaching a critical stage. Community support for keeping the building open as a place for Federal court cases is both requested and desperately needed. Praying wouldn't hurt.



A lot of things have changed since the Federal Building first opened way back in February 1937. Technological advances have made a lot of things which were once integral parts of our daily lives now a thing of the past. There is overnight mail, faxes, email, and texting. You can hardly find a mail box or a phone booth anymore. Maybe when future scientists learn how to instantly transport our molecules to Augusta for court appearances it will be time to shut her down.



But, there is one constant in Dublin. And, it is this magnificent building. There is scarcely a soul who has lived in Dublin for a long time who has not been affected by the goings on in the Federal Building. Sir Winston Churchill said it best and most appropriately, "We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us."