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

Monday, September 29, 2014


Seventy Seasons of Superior Sounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Better Than Anyone Thought He Could Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist conception of Dr. Shurney's design of the lunar rover tires. 

Shurney, in his home office, points to his design.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Dr. Shurney died in the autumn of 2007. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Looking Back a Century Ago

The year 1906 represented another year of progress in Dublin and Laurens County.  Primarily marked by extensive infra structural improvements, the sixth year of the Twentieth Century marked the end of railroad construction in the county, an event which in hindsight may have been an indication of the looming economic depression, an unlucky thirteen years in the future.

The railroads were still king in Laurens County, but several factors indicated that they were beginning to reach the peak of their utility.    On the plus side, the M.D. & S. RR added more freight trains to their schedules.  Locals asked the railroad to add another passenger train to allow for short visits to Macon.   An attempt by the City Board of Trade to erect a Union Depot in Dublin to accommodate four rail lines coming into town resulted in a bitter controversy, which killed the worthy idea.  Plans to extend the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad to Cordele fizzled.  The construction of a railroad from McRae to Dublin through Cedar Grove also never came to fruition.

The year was highlighted by extensive improvements to Dublin’s infrastructure.  Congressmen W.G. Brantley and Thomas W. Hardwick and U.S. Senator A.S. Clay came to Dublin to confer with the Oconee River Improvement Association to make plans to secure a $110,000.00 grant to make improvements to the Oconee River.  River traffic came to a near screeching halt when both the R.C. Henry and the Rover both sunk, leaving the Louisa Steamboat Company without a boat.  The loss of the two boats sustained the need for more funds to clear the numerous and treacherous snags in the river.  Izzie Bashinski,  J.E. Smith, Jr., E.R. Orr, D.S. Brandon and W.W. Ward formed a new company, the Dublin Navigation Company.

Years of planning culminated in the construction of a large auditorium on South Monroe Street for Chautaugua and other entertainment and political events.  The City of Dublin completed renovations to the old Hilton Hotel to become the city’s first brick city hall building.   The city purchased a tract of land across Hunger and Hardship Creek as a second cemetery for its black citizens.  The cemetery, known as the “Cross the Creek” cemetery, was established to alleviate the crowded Scottsville cemetery on North Decatur Street.

Perhaps the most lasting improvement to the city began in 1906.  City officials first began to discuss the idea of a public park of the city.  Through the generosity of the Stubbs family, the construction of Stubbs’ Park would become a reality within the next two years.  The first granite sidewalks were laid in Dublin, replacing the old wooden sidewalks which had served the city for more than a half century.  Several of Dublin’s streets were ditched to provide a healthier environment.   Andrew Carnegie continued his generous  support of the city of Dublin.  Mrs. J.A. Peacock wrote to the philanthropist requesting a contribution of $750.00 to aid in the purchase of a new organ for the Methodist Church.  Carnegie granted the request, but when Mrs. Peacock found herself on the wrong side of the minister’s wife, she was asked to leave the church.  Mrs. Peacock was graciously welcomed at the Episcopal Church until a new minister came to the Methodist church.    The beloved lady was promptly invited to return to the church she loved so dearly and remained in the organist’s pit until her retirement.

Dreamers were busy coming up with new ideas to improve the city.   With the increased automobile traffic in the city, a plan was promoted to establish a street car system along the main traffic arteries of the city.  The plan, boosted by fourteen of Dublin’s wealthiest businessmen drew little support and quickly failed.  Another plan to capitalize on the increasing popularity of the automobile involved a proposed sixty-feet-wide and five-mile-long speedway beginning on Robertson Street and running across the northern extremities of the city to the Oconee River.  H.H. Smith and Clark Grier’s dream failed to materialize for lack of financial support.

Many new businesses began in 1906.   Several such as the Dublin Brokerage Company and  H.K. Stanford Brokerage were organized a result of the increased cotton trade.  Ironically, weather conditions that summer were so devastating that many farmers simply abandoned their fields.   Harvesting of timber in the county began to soar.  The Dublin Brick and Lumber Company,  The Yellow Pine Lumber Company, Southland Lumber Company  and The Laurens Lumber Company were established to profit from the abundance of pine timber reserves in Laurens County.

Other new business to open were the Rentz Trading Company, David &  Grinstead Grocery, W.W. Bradley Grocery, T.J. Taylor Mercantile Company  and Lovett Mercantile Company.   Middle Georgia Fertilizer, The Jackson Stores, Dublin Printing Company were started and flourished throughout the next decade.  Two stalwart mercantile businesses, The Sam Weiscelbaum Company, under the management of N.B. Baum  and the Four Seasons Department Stores, under the management of J.E. Smith, Jr.,  expanded their operations as the town’s most dominant department stores.  The Citizens Bank became the city’s second national bank and changed it’s name to the City National Bank.

Among the highlights of the year were the marriage of soon M.J. Guyton of Dublin and Leila Vinson, a native of Milledgeville and a Dublin school teacher.  Mrs. Guyton’s brother Carl Vinson, would later be responsible for major contributions to Laurens County including the Naval Hospital, the county airport, the Laurens County Courthouse, the Laurens County Library and the location of Interstate Highway 16 near Dublin.     Plans were being made to establish the Harriett Holsey Industrial College.   The institution for black children became the city’s first college.   The Georgia Association of County Commissioner’s met in Dublin in June.  The meeting feature a visit to the Chautaugua and a ride aboard the steamboat Louisa down to Wilkes Springs for a barbeque.  The Dublin Rifles, a local militia company under the leadership of Captain W.C. Davis and lieutenants L.C. Pope and Douglas Smith, traveled to summer camp at Fort Oglethorpe in North Georgia.

As I come near the end of my ten years of writing and penning some five hundred columns, I again want to thank all of my readers for their encouragement.  Your appreciation of my work keeps me going when compiling my columns after a long day’s or week’s work.  Thank you all and remember as we as a county approach our two hundredth anniversary that our most important history is not the history of our past, but the history of our future.

Monday, September 15, 2014


A Wizard of Words

 The kids of the Dublin High School classes of 1960 and 1961 knew Max Byrd was smart. They all knew that he could write well and speak well.  But somehow they lost touch with their classmate when his father was transferred to a new job.  This is the story of a young man who left Dublin in 1959.  With the lessons he learned in halls of old Dublin High School ingrained in his brain, he graduated from one of the nation's top universities and taught at two more of the country's most well respected institutions of higher learning. Along the way, this affable man has written more than a dozen books on subjects ranging from literature to mysteries to historical novels and many more essays and articles.

     Max Byrd, son of Allan and Rubye Byrd, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1942.  His father was an accountant for the Veteran's Administration.   The Byrd family transferred to Dublin in 1954 and lived in a home on the hospital grounds.  Max, like most of the kids of his day rode his bicycle to school, a fairly long ride to the old high school on North Calhoun Street.  While Max was in school at Dublin, he was a member of the Latin Club, and in his final year as a junior in Dublin, he represented
the school in the boy's declamation competition. He was a member of the debate team and garnered a medal at the state competition. Nearly fifty years later, he still retains vivid memories of "Board of Education," a large wooden paddle wielded by the very stern principal, D.R. Davis.   Max and most every one of his era remember the iconic, stern, but excellent,  math teacher, Woodrow Rumble.  "The class I remember best from Dublin High was Latin. "The study of Latin set me on the right track for learning to write English," Byrd said.  In his junior year, Max was president of the Latin Club.

   Just before the beginning of his senior year, Max and his family moved to Arlington, Virginia.  A scholarship from Harvard University was all Max needed to embark on an outstanding career in education and journalism.  Excelling in his studies at Harvard, Max was awarded a fellowship to continue his studies  at Cambridge University, Kings College in England.  Max returned to Harvard, where he obtained his Ph.D. in English.

     While he was at Harvard, Max developed a life long friendship with classmate and fellow writer, Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, among many other best selling novels.  Byrd owes a lot to Crichton, whom he considers as a writer "who arranges facts into fiction better than just anybody else."  Chrichton, who began writing his novels at Harvard, encouraged Max to write.  He admired his friend's dedication, energy and willingness to take risks.    Gore Vidal
influenced Byrd in his historic fiction novels.  Max owes a personal debt to Oakley Hall, the founder of the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, an organization now headed by Max.  "I wish I could say that I was influenced by John Updike," Byrd said, "but he is so wonderful a writer of English prose that I can only look up and marvel."

     Dr. Byrd crossed the long-standing crevice between Harvard and the nation's third oldest university, Yale University, where he was offered a position as Associate Professor.  Max was awarded the Younger Humanist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities  and an award from the A. Whitney Griswold Fund for the academic year 1974-75.  His first book, Visits to Bedlam: Madness and Literature in the Eighteenth Century, won him many accolades.  In 1976, Byrd edited and published Daniel DeFoe, A Collection of Critical Essays.

     In 1976, after six years as an associate professor  at Yale, Max made the life altering decision to leave the hallowed halls of the Ivy League and seek his life's goals out west in California, the native home of his wife.  While serving as an associate professor at the University of California at Davis, Max began publishing books on English literature.   His second work, London Transformed: Images of the City in the Eighteenth Century,  a study of English writers he dedicated to Walter Jackson Bate, who inspired him as a beginning writer.  From 1977 to 1988, he served as editor of Eighteenth Century Studies.  In 1985, Dr. Byrd wrote and compiled Tristram Shandy, a scholarly analysis of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne.

     In 1981, Max Byrd was promoted to a full professorship at UC Davis.  He taught 18th-century British literature and occasionally freshman English.    Byrd struggled with the concept of teaching college students to write fiction.  He sees the greatest obstacle to teaching writing is that so many students don't read anything.  It was in that same year when Max began to publish a divergent genre of books than his usual scholarly, literary writings.   He began writing detective novels back at Yale in 1973.  His first published novel, California Thriller, was the first in a series of Mike Haller mysteries.  The Private Eye Writers of America awarded him their first ever Shamus award for the Best Paperback Original Novel.

     The success of his first novel led to the follow up Haller mystery Fly Away Jill in the fall of 1981.  A third novel, Finder Weepers debuted on book stands in 1983.  Target of Opportunity, a suspenseful novel set in World War II, was a "Book of the Month" selection in 1988.   His final mystery novel, Fuse Time, was published in 1991 and deals with a terrorist bomber in Los Angeles.

      At the suggestion of his publisher, Bantam Books, Max began to write historical novels.  His first novel dealt with Thomas Jefferson and the years he spent in France, years which changed Jefferson and the United States as well.  Max felt at ease writing about Jefferson and his second subject Andrew Jackson because of his undergraduate studies at Harvard in American History and Literature.  Byrd grew to admire Jackson, whom he sees as "routinely underestimated and misunderstood by historians."  His third historical work novelizes the life of Ulysses S. Grant, who Byrd believes to have been "a remarkable man, remarkably rich and a man who lived a dramatic life." His latest book, Shooting the Sun, (2004) traces the life of the eccentric 19th-century English genius Charles Babbage and the Santa Fe Trail.

     During his years of active writing, Max spent five or six mornings and evenings writing seeking to write a minimum of three to five pages.   Byrd sees writing as a lonely business and one which you have to be obsessed to succeed.

     In 2004, Max Byrd quit teaching. He told an interviewer with the Sacramento Bee that "retired" seemed so old and that he planned to keep on writing.  Max is a frequent reviewer of history books for the New York Times.  He also writes for American Heritage magazine and the Woodrow Wilson Quarterly.   He plans to be the Carnochan Lecturer in Humanities at Stanford University next spring.

     Max and his wife Brookes live in California. They have two children, Kate and  David.  His most vivid recollection of Dublin is the Carnegie library (Dublin-Laurens Museum), the Martin Theater and the beginning of Bellevue Avenue.  He enjoyed the football games on Friday nights as well. Max Byrd hasn't been back to Dublin since he left more than forty-seven years ago.

P.S. Max, if you read this, you are always welcome to come back.  The library and the theater are still there.  And yes, the football games are still as exciting as they were when you left.   I hope you gave me a good grade on this article.


A Brief History of Our Involvement

It was during the early morning hours of September 2, 1939, 75 years ago, while most Laurens Countians were still asleep that the British government declared war on Germany because of its unwarranted invasion of Poland.  World War II began.  Officially, the United States remained neutral.  Despite our country’s detached stance, locally Laurens County men continued training at the National Guard Armory in anticipation of the inevitable conflict. 

Dublin and Laurens County once again stepped forward and sent thousands of young men into military service during World War II.  Scores of Laurens County boys joined the National Guard, which was attached to the 121st U.S. Infantry division.   The Guard mobilized in September of 1940 into Federal service.  

Alta Mae Hammock and Brancy Horne were the first women to join the W.A.A.C..  Marayan Smith Harris was the first woman to join the WAVES.   Louise Dampier also served as a yeoman in the U.S. Navy.  Seaman Elbert Brunson, Jr. was onboard the U.S.S. Greer on September 4, 1941.  The destroyer was the first American destroyer to fire upon the dreaded German U-boat submarines in an incident which accelerated the country’s declaration of war against Germany.  Despite strong support from all the communities of Central Georgia and Cong. Carl Vinson,  the powerful chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, the federal government denied the location of a naval air training station on the Oconee River just below the city due to the lack of a large labor force and the heavy infestation of mosquitos in the area.  

Before the United States officially entered the war, Lester F. Graham, a Dublin marine, was among a thousand U.S. Marines assigned to protect American interests in Shanghai, China which was under attack by the Japanese army in the summer of 1937. 

Several Laurens Countians were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Marjorie Hobbs Wilson and her husband were eyewitnesses to the bombing.   Also at Pearl Harbor on the “Day of Infamy” were  George Dewey Senn, William Drew, Jr., Bascom Ashley, Walter Camp, Joel Wood, Harold Wright, Charles Durden, Hardy Blankenship, Rowland Ellis, Wade Jackson, Nathan Graham, Obie Cauley and Claxton Mullis.  Lts. William C. Thompson, Jr. and Everett Hicks were serving in the Philippines and Woody Dominy was stationed on Wake Island.   Mess Attendant 1st Class Albert Rozar served aboard the U.S.S. Gudgeon in the first submarine patrol into Japanese waters. 

Alton Hyram Scarborough, of the D.H.S. Class of '37, was the first of one hundred and nine casualties of the war.  Robert Werden, Jr. loved to fly and was so anxious to fly planes in World War II that he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.  When the United States declared war, he joined the Army Air Force, only to be shot down and killed in the early years of the war.  

Capt. Bobbie E. Brown of Laurens County was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the assault on Crucifix Hill in Aachen, Germany.  Capt. Brown, a career non- commissioned officer, personally led the attack on German positions, killing over one hundred Germans and being wounded three times during the battle.  Capt. Brown was the first Georgian ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor, along with eight Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars.  At the end of the war, Captain Brown was the oldest company commander in the United States Army and first in length of service.  Paratrooper Kelso Horne was pictured on the cover of Life during the invasion of Normandy.   Lt. Horne, a member of the famed 82nd Airborne Division and one of the oldest paratroopers in the U.S. Army, parachuted behind German lines near St.  Mere Eglise in the night time hours before the amphibious invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.   Ensign Shelton Sutton, Jr., a native of Brewton and a former center for Georgia Tech, was killed while serving aboard the U.S.S. Juneau, along with the famous Sullivan brothers.   Nearly two years later in 1944,  the U.S. Navy commissioned the U.S.S. Sutton in his memory.  His teammate Aviator Wex Jordan,  an all-Southeastern guard for Georgia Tech in 1941 and Tech’s Most Valuable Player, was killed in an air accident while training in San Diego on Veteran’s Day in 1943.

Like the fictional Captain John Miller in “Saving Private Ryan,” Dublin and Laurens County teachers left the classroom to fight for their country.  Robert Colter, Jr., who had been teaching Vocational-Agricultural classes at Cadwell High School was killed on February 20, 1945 in Germany.  Captain Henry Will Jones, the Vocational - Agricultural teacher and football coach at Dexter High School and a paratrooper, was killed at Peleliu Island in the South Pacific in October 18, 1944.  In recognition of his exemplary valor, Capt. Jones was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.   Lt. Lucian Bob Shuler, a former Cadwell High School basketball coach, was an ace, having shot down seven  Japanese planes in combat.   Captain Shuler was awarded eleven Distinguished Flying Crosses and twelve Air Medals.   Cpt. William A. Kelley, a former Dublin High School coach, was flying the “Dauntless Dotty” when  it crashed into the sea on June 6, 1945.  The B-29 Superfortress was the first B-29 to bomb Tokyo.  Kelley and his crew, who flew in a bomber named “The Lucky Irish,” were the first crew in the Pacific to complete 30 missions.  They were returning home to headline the 7th War Bond Drive when the accident occurred.  Randall Robertson and James Hutchinson, both only a year or so out of Dublin High School, were killed several weeks apart on the same beach on Iwo Jima in 1945.  

Hubert Wilkes and Jack Thigpen survived the fatal attack on  the “U.S.S. Yorktown” at the Battle of Midway.    John L. Tyre volunteered for six months hazardous duty in southeast Asia in an outfit dubbed “Merrill’s Marauders.”  The Marauders, the first ground soldiers to see action in World War II, fought through jungles filled with Japanese soldiers, unbearable heat and slithering snakes.  Only one out six managed to make it all way through the war. 

Lt. Colonel James D. Barnett, Col. Charles Lifsey, Col. George T. Powers, III,  and Lt. Colonel J.R. Laney,  former residents of Dublin and graduates of West Point, were cited for their actions in India and Europe.   Laney was a member of the three-man crew of the Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster, the world’s fastest transcontinental plane, when it crashed into a Washington, D.C. suburb in December 1945.  Lt. Col. Laney survived the crash to complete a distinguished thirty year career in the Army.   

James Adams, Morton C. Mason, Wilkins Smith, Russell M. Daley, Gerald Anderson, Marshall Jones, Robert L. Horton, Loyest B. Chance, Needham Toler, William L. Padgett, Joseph E. Joiner, W.B. Tarpley, Owen Collins, Loy Jones, Thurston Veal, James B. Bryan, James T. Daniel, Cecil Wilkes and others  were surviving in P.O.W. camps in Germany, while Alton Watson, James W. Dominy, and Alton Jordan  were held prisoner by the Japanese.  Lt. Peter Fred Larsen, a prisoner of the Japanese army, was killed by American planes when being transported to the Japanese mainland in an unmarked freighter.  Future Dubliner Tommy Birdsong was digging coal in a Japanese coal mine when an atomic bomb near Nagasaki was dropped.  Earlier he survived the infamous "Bataan Death March."   Other future Dubliners who survived the Bataan Death March were William Wallace, A. Deas Coburn, and Felix Powell.   

      Commander Robert Braddy, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy,  was awarded the Navy Cross, our nation’s second highest honor for naval heroism,  for his actions in North Africa in November of 1942.  Rear Admiral Braddy retired from the service in 1951.  Captain William C. Thompson was awarded a Silver Star, two Gold Stars, a Navy Cross and a Bronze Star for his outstanding naval submarine service.  Captain Thompson was the executive officer aboard the submarine Bowfin, which was credited with sinking the second highest Japanese tonnage on a single war patrol.  Thompson was aboard the U.S.S. Sealion when it was struck by Japanese planes at Cavite, Philippines.  The submarine was the first American submarine to be lost in World War II.  Both men are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Captain Thompson’s  first cousin, Sgt. Lester Porter of Dublin, led the first invading forces over the Danube River in nearly two millennia.  Marine Corporal James W. Bedingfield, of Cadwell, was awarded a Silver Star by Admiral Chester Nimitz for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the Japanese at Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, on February 6, 1944.   His kinsman, Capt. Walter H. Bedingfield, was awarded a Silver Star for heroism in setting up a field hospital in advance of American lines at Normandy on D-Day.   T. Sgt. Thurman W. Wyatt was awarded a Silver Star for heroism when he assumed command of his tank platoon following the wounding of the commander and guided it to safety.   Tech. Sgt. Luther Word  was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for heroism,  just prior to his being killed in action.  Lt. Paul Jimmy Scarboro was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry as a pilot of a Super Fortress in the Pacific Ocean. Sgt. Frank Zetterower was awarded the Silver Star for heroism when he was killed in action while trying to rescue wounded soldiers.

Captain Alvin A. Warren, Jr., of Cadwell, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying 70 missions in the Indo-China Theater night and day through impassable mountain ranges and high clouds.  Walter D. Warren, Jr. was a member of the famed Flying Tigers in China-Burma-India Theater.  Flight officer Emil E. Tindol also received the same award, just days before he was killed in action  while “flying the hump” - a term used for flying over the gigantic mountain ranges of India and Burma.    For his battle wounds and other feats of courage and bravery, Lt. Clifford Jernigan was awarded the Purple Heart, an Air Medal and three Oak Leaf clusters in 1944.   Lt. Garrett Jones was a highly decorated pilot who participated in the first daylight bombings of Germany.  Calvert Hinton Arnold was promoted to Brigadier General in 1945.  Lt. Col. Ezekiel W. Napier of Laurens County, a graduate of West Point, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and retired from the Air Force in 1959 as a Brigadier General.  The "Pilot's Pilot," Bud Barron of Dublin, was credited with the second most number of air miles during the war, mainly by ferrying aircraft to and from the front lines. Barron has been inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.    Dublin native Lt. William L. Sheftall, Jr. flew 74 missions in Italy and was awarded the Silver Star for heroism.  Sidney Augustus Scott, the Chief Engineer of the  SS Charles Morgan, was awarded the Merchant Marine Meritorious  Service medal for his heroism in the landing of men and material on the beaches of Normandy just after D-Day. 

PFC Wesley Hodges was a member of the 38th Mechanized Calvary Recon Squad, the first American squad to enter Paris on August 25, 1944.   Seaman James T. Sutton survived the sinking  of the “U.S.S.  Frederick C. Davis,” the last American ship sunk by the German Navy.     The 121st Infantry of the Georgia National Guard, which was headquartered in Dublin until 1938 and of which Company K and 3rd Battalion HQ Co. were located in Dublin, won a Presidential Unit Citation for its outstanding performance of their duty in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest during Thanksgiving 1944.  Edward Towns was cited for his meritorious service to the submarine forces of the United States.  Curtis Beall, after being voted by his classmates as the most outstanding senior at the University of Georgia in 1943, joined his brother Millard in the United States Marine Corps.  Capt. John Barnett, a twenty-one-year-old Dubliner and twice a winner of the Bronze Star Medal for heroism, was credited with being the youngest executive officer in the United States Army in 1944.  Lt. Arlie W. Claxton won the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943. These are only a few stories of the thousands of Laurens County's heroes of World War II.   Charles Yarborough and Reuben Whitfield were among the sailors who witnessed Japanese officials sign the official surrender agreement aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. 

Major Herndon “Don” M. Cummings was a bomber pilot in the 477th Bomber Group.  Though his unit was never saw active duty overseas, Major Cummings and his group were known as a group of units collectively called the “Tuskegee Airmen.”  Cummings was incarcerated along with a hundred other fellow pilots for attempting to integrate an all-white officers club at Freeman Field in Indiana in 1945.  Through the efforts of future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and the actions of a newly sworn President Harry Truman, the pilots were freed and later exonerated of all charges against them.  Cummings remained in the reserves for twenty years after his retirement from active duty.   He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W.  Bush and was an honored guest at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. 

Two other Tuskegee Airman who were raised in Laurens County were Col. Marion Rodgers and Col. John Whitehead.    Col. Rodgers was a squadron commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron after the war.  Col. Whitehead was the first African American test pilot in the Air Force and was one of the few Tuskegee Airmen to fly in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Laurens Countians supported the war effort on the home front. A State Guard unit was formed by over-age and under-age men.  Everyone from school children to grandmothers did their part.  Many Laurens Countians commuted to Warner Robins and Macon to work for the war effort. Laurens Countians opened their homes to soldiers from Camp Wheeler, near Macon and British R.A.F. cadets from Cochran Field in Macon.    Angelo Catechis bought war bonds with his life's savings to help rescue  his family in Greece.   The women of Laurens County worked diligently on the home front.  The women made bandages, surgical dressings and sponges by the scores of thousands,  along with knitted garments.  Carolyn Hall, blind since birth, was one of the most proficient knitters in the community.  Laurens Countians contributed hundred of hours of time to the Red Cross, U.S.O. and numerous Civilian Defense programs. Bessye Parker Devereaux was the first woman in the Charleston, S.C. shipyards to be awarded the Outstanding Worksmanship Award by President Roosevelt.   In the summer of 1944, the U.S. government honored the citizens and Laurens County for their contributions to the war effort by naming one of the reconditioned "Liberty Ships" the "U.S.S. Laurens." 

When the final tallies were counted, one hundred and three Laurens Countians lost their lives during the deadliest war in the history of the world.  Many, many more were wounded.  Life here would never be the same.  In an ironic way, the war changed everything for the better.  Economic opportunities, with the establishment of the U.S. Naval Hospital and J.P. Stevens and the influx of thousands of new residents, catapulted the county into an economic boom which still continues day. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014


        Two hundred years ago tonight, a Maryland lawyer stood aboard the HMS Tonnant and in the dawn’s early light, witnessed one of the most inspiring events in American history.  His name was Francis Scott Key.  Key’s thoughts and impressions of the perilous fight against Fort McHenry led to his writing of a poem, which was set to music and became our National Anthem.

Francis Scott Key was born on August 21, 1779 to Ann Phoebe Penn Dagworthy (Charlton) and Captain John Ross Key at the family plantation Terra Rubra in what was Frederick County, Maryland. 

His father, John Ross Key, was a lawyer, a judge and an officer in the Continental Army. His great-grandparents on his father's side were Philip Key and Susanna Barton Gardiner, both of whom were born in London and immigrated to Maryland in 1726.

Key studied law at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland. He married Mary Tayloe Lloyd on January 1, 1802. The couple would go on to have 11 children. By 1805, Key had set up his legal practice in Georgetown, part of Washington, D.C.

During the War of 1812, Key, accompanied by the British Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner and dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, as the guests of three British officers: Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross. 

Skinner and Key were there to negotiate the release of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes, a resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland who had been arrested after putting rowdy stragglers under citizen's arrest. Skinner, 

Key and Beanes were not allowed to return to their own sloop because they had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units and with the British intent to attack Baltimore. As a result of this, Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13–14, 1814.

At dawn, Key was able to see an American flag still waving and reported this to the prisoners below deck. On the way back to Baltimore, he was inspired to write a poem describing his experience, "Defence of Fort M'Henry", which he published in the Patriot on September 20, 1814. 

He intended to fit it to the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven",  a popular tune Key had already used as a setting for his 1805 song "When the Warrior Returns," celebrating U.S. heroes of the First Barbary War. It has become better known as "The Star-Spangled Banner". 

Under this name, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (which had little effect beyond requiring military bands to play it) and then by a Congressional resolution in 1931, signed by President Herbert Hoover.

In 1832, Key served as the attorney for Sam Houston during his trial in the U.S. House of Representatives for assaulting another Congressman. Key was appointed as a United States District Attorney, serving from 1833 to 1841. In 1835, Key prosecuted Richard Lawrence for his unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President of the United States Andrew Jackson.

Key was a founding member and active leader of the American Colonization Society, the primary goal of which was to send free African-Americans back to Africa. Key, a slave-owner himself, used his position to suppress opponents of slavery. In 1833, he indicted Benjamin Lundy, editor of the anti-slavery publication, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, and his printer, William Greer, for libel after Lundy publishing an article that declared, 

While an active legal defender of slavery, Key was considered a decent master. He emancipated seven slaves from his own household and was sometimes publicly critical of slavery's cruelties. He often helped blacks bring cases to the circuit court.

In 1843, Key died at the home of his daughter Elizabeth Howard in Baltimore from pleurisy and was initially interred in Old Saint Paul's Cemetery in the vault of John Eager Howard. In 1866, his body was moved to his family plot in Frederick at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

The Key Monument Association erected a memorial in 1898 and the remains of both Francis Scott Key and his wife, Mary Tayloe Lloyd, were placed in a crypt in the base of the monument.

Though Key had written poetry from time to time, often with heavily religious themes, these works were not collected and published until 14 years after his death. Two of Key's religious poems were used as Christian hymns, "Before the Lord We Bow" and "Lord, with Glowing Heart I'd Praise Thee." From 1818 until his death, Key was associated with the American Bible Society.

In 1806, Key's sister, Anne Phoebe Charlton Key, married Roger B. Taney, who would later become Chief Justice of the United States. In 1846, his daughter Alice married U.S. Senator George H. Pendleton. In 1859, Key's son Philip Barton Key II was shot and killed by Daniel Sickles – a U.S. Congressman who would serve as a general in the American Civil War – after he discovered that Philip Barton Key was having an affair with his wife. Sickles was acquitted in the first use of the temporary insanity defense.  In 1861, Key's grandson Francis Key Howard was imprisoned in Fort McHenry with the Mayor of Baltimore George William Brown and other locals deemed pro-South. Key was a distant cousin and the namesake of F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. 

Although many of the local Key/Kea family, which hails from Emanuel County will claim kin to the legendary lawyer, one former Dublin resident and her descendants are bona fide close relatives.   Phoebe Douglas, the mother-in- law of Capt.  Hardy B. Smith was related to Key through the Charlton family as her first cousin, once removed, making all descendants of Ella Few Douglas Smith and Mary Frances Wolfe  somewhat related to the author of the “Star Spangled Banner.” 



Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!