In the short month of February when the short days seem to fly by, I will present a series of footnotes of February in our past. This week, in conjunction with Black History month, here are some brief happenings which relate to the African American heritage of our community.
THE KING OF THE SHOE SHINERS - There had always been a barber shop in the New Dublin Hotel on South Jefferson Street. In 1962, the shop moved across the street south of the old bank building. In 1902 Richard Hamlet opened the first shop. He was followed by Joe Underwood, S.F. Beasley, and J.C. Williams. For fifty of those sixty years, "Ether" Jackson shined shoes in the shop. "Ether" - he called himself that because he was so smooth that he put people to sleep - came with Joe Underwood from Gibson, Georgia, about 1910. He took on other odd jobs to support his family. Jackson figured that he shined between 25 and 35 pairs of shoes a day, six days a week, for at least fifty seven years. That is somewhere between three hundred thousand and a half million pairs of shoes.
Ether was one of the most popular persons in the downtown area while he was shining shoes for thousands of Dublin's men. One day, Ether was having a conversation with State Senator and Courier Herald Publisher, Herschel Lovett. Lovett, bragging to Ether said, "Ether, you see that they have named that new bridge over the river for me." Yes, sir," Ether retorted," but they put it on my street, E. Jackson Street." Dublin Courier Herald, June 23, 1962, Aug. 30, 1967, p. 1.
THE FIRST BLACK BUSINESSMEN - The first corporation organized by Black Laurens Countians was the Farmers Enterprise, Incorporated. The company dealt in farm equipment, supplies, and goods. Founders of the company included Rev. A.T. Speight, George Fullwood, George Locke, John Thomas, Ed Thomas, and Ed Foster. The corporation's offices were located in a building which was formerly located at the northwest corner of South Lawrence and West Madison Streets. Five months later, Dr. U.S. Johnson, Joe Hudson, and N.T. Brown incorporated the first black owned pharmacy, the Regent, on South Lawrence Street. DCH 1/15/1914, p. 6, DCH 2/19/1914, p. 8, DCH 5/7/1914, p. 4.
HIS FIRST TIME ON THE STAGE - Little Lorenzo didn't go the movies very often as a child. When he did go, he always sat in a certain section of the theater. Lorenzo never got the chance to get close to the stage. He always sat in the back, up the balcony. He never even got to go on the main floor of the auditorium. You see little Lorenzo was forced to sit in that section. It was during the days before theaters were integrated. Little Lorenzo grew up and left his hometown for a higher education. Little Lorenzo became Lorenzo Mason, an engineer for an architectural engineering firm. Mason's firm was hired to design the engineering work for a theater. Mason, as the chief engineer, designed the removal of the old balcony, which separated the patrons of the theater by race and which was replaced with a new balcony - this time for sound, light, and air conditioning equipment. Mason and his colleagues had to find a way to keep the ground water out of the theater - a problem which plagued theater owners and patrons for forty years. That problem was solved in short order. Some of his friends and fellow construction personnel never knew that Mason was born and lived in that same town. The time came for the final inspection of the construction work on the theater. It was then, over thirty years later, when Lorenzo Mason finally made it to the stage of the Martin Theater (Theatre Dublin) for the first time - this time as the chief engineer of the project to renovate the theater where, as a child, he was never allowed to go on the main floor. As suggested by Richie Allen, formerly of Allen's Plumbing and Heating.
A MIGHTY PREACHER MAN - The Rev. Norman G. McCall served as pastor of the First African Baptist Church of Dublin for nineteen years. Rev. McCall was a giant of a man and known all over for his Herculean strength. Rev. McCall worked on the riverboats and it was said that he could swim across the river with two sacks of fertilizer under his arms. Rev. McCall was active in the organization of the schools in the black community in the 1880s. His family lived in the southwestern portion of Dublin between Marcus and Marion Streets. Rev. McCall served on the Executive Board of Central City College and as President of the State Sunday School Board of Education. He was a member of the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Laboring Friends. On June 15, 1904, after suffering for several months with dropsy, Rev. McCall fell dead in his field. His funeral procession was one of the longest in Dublin's history, nearly one mile long. Dublin Times, June 18, 1904, p. 1.
DISTINGUISHED ELDERLY CITIZEN - One of the oldest, if not the oldest citizen of Laurens County, was Madison Moore. Mr. Moore died on November 15, 1912, at the authenticated age of 112 years. Madison Moore had lived most of his life on the old Gov. Troup place on the east side of the Oconee River. Madison Moore, who was known as "Hatless" Moore was a body guard and coach driver for his master, Gov. George M. Troup. His nickname came from the numerous times his hat blew off while driving Governor Troup. At his death Mr. Moore's descendants numbered in the hundreds. Many of his descendants live in Laurens County today. Dublin Courier Dispatch, Nov. 21, 1912.
A TERRIBLE DEATH - Albert A. Lewis, of Laurens County, loved his country. He served for six years in the United States Army through all of World War II. When the United States entered into the Korean War, Lewis re-enlisted in the Army. Sergeant Lewis fell into the hands of the North Koreans and was sent to a prison camp. Word was sent to the American government that Lewis died of pulmonary tuberculosis. Nearly three years after his death the truth was revealed about the death of Sgt. Lewis. Lewis did not die from tuberculosis, but from malnutrition. He starved to death. "Dublin Courier Herald, July 16, 1955."