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

Thursday, February 26, 2015


A River Cruise

I often think if I had a time machine,  the dial would be set first to the mid 1890s, location Dublin, Georgia, at the wharves along the banks of the Oconee River.  The intention of my adventure would be a ride down the Oconee and Altamaha Rivers to Darien on the Atlantic coast.  A warm winter's day, or perhaps a crisp autumn one when the crimson and gold leaves of the sweet gum and the oak would adorn my prolonged trek to the sea, would be my first choices. 

I stepped inside the strange contraption and set the dial for November 13, 1893.    All of a sudden, the cylindrical sphere began to wildly rotate.  The centrifugal force flung me against the wall.  When the spinning subsided,  the time dial indicated May 15, 1894.  It was a typical mid spring day, kind of warm, but at least it wasn't raining.  Though the number of houses and buildings were scant, I did manage to recognize the lay of the land.  Toward the east, I spotted what appeared to be the heart of the town, glowing in the rays of the setting sun.   A place to sleep and a good meal were the first order of my itinerary.  

Upon the crest of a small hill I  saw what I believed to be "Liberty Hall," the residence of Col. John M. Stubbs.  Stubbs was a well known and highly skilled attorney, but was also known as one of the men who brought river boating and the railroads to Dublin some dozen or fifteen years prior.  Col. Stubbs, as I surmised he would be, was in his study going over plans for his gardens and orchards, another of the things he was most famous for.  I introduced myself as a fellow Maconite, who was looking to chronicle a ride on a river boat down to Darien.  He smiled and said, "son, you are in luck.  There's a boat leaving before sunup in the morning.  I am supposed to be aboard, but I have a trial in Eastman in two days and the judge refuses to grant me a continuance.    Go up to the hotel across from the courthouse and Mr. Hooks will take care of you."  

All around me were new residences going up.  When I reached the bottom of the hill, I could see the main business district.  Off to my left was a new brick church for the Methodists  coming up from the sandy ground.    As the sun sank behind the trees, Jackson Street fell into near complete darkness.  I forgot, the electric light bulb hadn't come to Dublin yet.  Everyone I met was friendly, overly friendly.  It seemed as if they were having a contest to see who could be the friendliest to the new stranger in town.  

As I approached the center of town, I could make out the outline of a two-story wooden structure on what I knew to have been on the courthouse square.  Though I had seen photographs of it after it had been removed to another location, it seemed smaller than I thought it was.  Across the street was a handsome hotel building, not the typical home modified to accommodate itinerant travelers, but a substantial two-story brick structure with towers on each side of its front edifice.  I walked in and found Mr. Gabriel S.  Hooks, the innkeeper, behind the desk, just where the Colonel told me he would be.  I told the affable young gentleman that Col. Stubbs had sent me to his establishment.  Mr. Hooks replied, "yes, I know, Mr. Stubbs sent his servant the back way and your accommodations are ready for you."

At Mr. Hooks insistence, I sat down at a large table in a much brighter adjoining room.  Before I knew it, Mrs. Hooks was bringing out a large blue plate.  More like a platter, there were several meats and a half-dozen servings of vegetables heaped on it.  The charming lady brought out a tray with a large piping hot loaf of bread wrapped inside a red and white checkered cloth.  I ate what I could and just a bite or two more.

Not wanting to miss a chance on getting in on a little history research, I began to interrogate Mr. Hooks on the doings in Dublin.  He told me that there were plans to build a new courthouse, a large brick one, sometime next year.  Hooks and all of Dublin were extremely proud of the new artesian well on the courthouse square.    

We discussed river boats.  He said, "young man, Dublin's  got three boats in service now and we're going to have two fine new ones very soon."  "We've got three railroads in town and more on the way," the innkeeper added.    Hooks told me that I would be riding with members of the Forest and Stream Club.  This group of forty-five  men formed a club to hunt and fish along the shores and swamps of the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers.  

The group hired  Capt. J.W. Miller of Dublin  to supervise the construction of the Gypsy,  a river boat with forty state rooms and pilot the boat down the river from the club's headquarters in Dublin to Darien on the Georgia coast.   Each of the Gypsy's  state rooms were outfitted with all of the necessary appurtenances and accouterments for the hunter and the fisherman.   Among the club's charter members from Dublin were Col. John M. Stubbs, Blanton Nance, J.T. Wright and E.M. Whitehead.  Judge Emory Speer of Macon, Dudley Hughes of Danville and E.L. Dennard of Houston County were among the most erudite members of the club.  The group's membership extended to members as far away as Birmingham, Chicago, Kansas City and Topeka.  

The Gypsy was constructed in Savannah under the careful scrutinizing eye of Capt. Miller.    The captain hired his old friend W.T. Walton to serve as the boat's engineer.   J.W. Grantham, the Gypsy's master machinist, was the best of his kind in the state.  Norman McCall, an experienced river pilot and an African Baptist minister, took the helm.  McCall, a man of enormous proportions, once saved his cargo by swimming with fifty-pound sacks of fertilizer under his arms and carrying them to the river banks.  

The hour was late and I was desperately trying to memorize every utterance I could remember.    "You better go on to bed.  You'll need to be down at the river by four o'clock in the morning," Mr. Hooks warned me.  Despite the comfortable bed,  solemn slumber was not in order that night.  Just in case I did fall asleep, I asked for a early morning "wake up knock" on my door.

And though my room was more like a Pullman railroad compartment, I didn't mind it all.  The  brilliance of a waxing gibbous moon illuminated my room through a small, yet well placed, window overlooking the quiescent courthouse square.   I thought I saw an army of apparitions drifting across the lawn.  “Old Bill, a kind black man who came in earlier to clean up my room,  told me the place was haunted.  “Yas, sir!.  This place is got ghosts.   There’s folks buried under the north tower of this here hotel,” he said as he shook  and studdered to get out his words.   I questioned Bill if he seen any ghosts.  “I’s afraid of ghosts sir.  I once saw two of them in front of Mr. Maddox’s hardware store over yonder.  It must be old man Sam Coleman’s grand daddy.  He’s buried right under the store,” the old servant added.    I scanned the landscape and saw no ghosts that night, but I did see nine gaping holes in the ground where “Old Bill” said some important rich folks was buried. 

Beside my somewhat comfortable bed, I found the most recent issue of the "Dublin Post," edited by Lucien Quincy Stubbs, a brilliant man of many talents and a credit to his father, and my new friend, Col. J.M. Stubbs.  I tried to read the  news of the town with the additional aid of an oil burning lamp, but decided to pack it away to analyze every word  during the quiet moments of the ride down the river.

Right on schedule at four o'clock on the dot, "Big Norman" tugged the whistle of the "Gypsy" and interrupted a most  tranquil morning.   Fireman Hardy Perry stoked the boiler.   I purchased my ticket for a three quarters of a dollar and walked timidly along a wobbling plank to the safety of the floor of the river steamer.  Despite the early hour, the boat was filled with passengers, all seeking a pleasureful cruise down the river. 

Around daylight we reached Berryhill's Bluff in what we know now as Treutlen County.  That's when it happened again.  Dutiful black servants began to bring out the bounty of the land, the best that farms, forests and streams could render.  I met Capt. Isaac Hardeman and Joseph Miller, who was headed toward his home in Montgomery County.  Sam Yopp, E.J. Willingham and E.J. Dupree boarded the boat after a more than successful hunting trip.  The morning air was delightfully cool and made the breakfast one of the most satisfactory I have ever experienced.  Some of the passengers expressed a desire to have delayed their feast until the fresh game could be added to the serving table.

The day passed pleasantly, but all too quickly.  The few women on the boat congregated in the stern area as far away from the bow, where the men were comparing their marksmanship skills.  Any bird, whether perched or airborne, was marked for instant death.  All eyes scanned the banks for a the glimpse of the prize victim of the day, the villainous alligator. 

The crew dropped the Gypsy's anchor at the Devil's Elbow, a bend in the river which was hailed as the best resort for hunting and fishing anywhere on the Oconee River and situated just three miles above the confluence of the Oconee and the Ocmulgee and a mere ten crow-fly  miles from Lumber City.  The lakes there were the most beautiful I had ever seen.  My yells echoed throughout the lush forest.  The bream and trout jumped so freely and often, I thought they were going to jump into my hands.

After a fulfilling feast of the hunter's bounty, we enjoyed an convivial evening of vocal entertainment and several games of whist and euchre.    Around 11:00 o'clock, the sound of a small gong  reverberated throughout the boat.  It was time to retire to our staterooms.
The enticing aroma of coffee and biscuits holding real cow butter inside them brought me springing out of my bed.  While the men alighted from the boat for more hunting thrills, I remained behind and partook of another half dozen or so of the best biscuits I ever ate.  Remember, I am still unborn and calories don't count yet.    The hunters returned around nine for the real breakfast of the morning replete with fish and game.  They had to eat their meats alone, because the biscuits were gone.  I did manage to part with a few of them, dividing them among seven starving servants.  I also shared a couple of them and a day- long delightful conversation with Mrs. Mary and Miss Hennilu Hughes, the wife and daughter of Dudley M Hughes.   He doesn't know it yet, but in twenty years, Col. Hughes will become one of Georgia's leading congressmen and co-author a bill to establish vocational education in public schools of the United States.  

Some time later, Capt. Miller hoisted a forty-four star flag and ordered the anchor raised.   As pilot McCall began to guide the boat downstream, some of the hunters appeared to be missing.  But, the Gypsy kept on gliding through the smooth as silk waters.  Coming to a stop in a grove of willows, the Captain patiently waited for the exasperated malingerers to catch up in their rowboats.    Everyone laughed at the men, tired and exhausted from their trip, everyone except me.  If there hadn't been any biscuits left, I would have gone along on the hunt, just to see what the fuss was all about.  

On the 18th of May at high noon, the Gypsy reached it first milestone destination, the confluence of the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers, which is the beginning of the Altamaha River.   Though we had heard the boasts before, "The Forks" had boundless numbers of turkey and deer, just waiting for the hunters to come and place them on their dinner tables.  The boat headed to Bell's Ferry, one of the first ferries ever established in that part of Georgia.  William Chambers, who was about to enter his twenty fourth year as the ferryman, kindled  a fire and began to fry a fine mess of fish.  I took a small bream and a bowl full of hushpuppies over by a cool spring shaded by a virescent canopy of virgin pines.  I sat there and soaked in the aura of the ancient landmark.  By seven o'clock in the evening, we had arrived at White Bluff near the confluence of the Altamaha and the Great Ohoopee River, some one hundred miles distant from our departure point in Dublin. 

After a brief pause, the Gypsy moved down river to the Seven Sisters, a series of bluffs  crowned by large magnolia trees in full bloom.  With nothing alive to shoot, the itchy trigger fingered riflemen began firing at the fragrant blossoms, which exploded upon contact with their bullets.    The evening cruise continued until we reached Gypsy Lake.  Named by the club members in honor of their club boat, the six-mile-long lake was teeming with wild game.  Some of the men managed to capture two broods of young turkeys, but decided to release them hoping that soon they would be  hefty toms and hens.  Here we spent three days of feasting and more feasting, interspersed with hunting and merrymaking.  The camp ground was enveloped by a rim of oak, ash and elm carpeted with a blanket of snowy white sand.  

We traveled a half day until we reached London Bluff, where Col. Dudley M. Hughes, his wife and his daughter, along with Messers Dupree, Oliphant, Budd, Yopp and Shannon left our company for a rail trip back to their homes.  A trip of five more miles down the rapidly rising river found us at Doctor Town.  For the first time I observed the magnificent 800 yard long iron bridge,  one of a few of its kind over the Altamaha.  Fifteen miles from Darien, we found another one where the Florida Central trains crossed the mighty river on their route from Florida to the land where the Yankees used to live nearly year round.  Once again the Winchesters were pulled from their cases, much to the dismay of the gators along the banks.             

Captain Miller slowed the pace as the water was wide, but way too shallow to allow rapid passage.  On the 29th of May, some thirteen days after we left the docks in Dublin, the Gypsy pulled into Darien.   One of Georgia's most ancient towns, Darien was populated by some four thousand people; three-fourths of them were black, descendants of an honorable people who farmed the coastal granges for more than a quarter of a millennium.  I saw one large live oak which, I was told, shaded an entire acre of the sandy ground.  

After all the passengers debarked, Capt. Miller and his crew turned the boat around for the return trip to Dublin.   Many of the party lingered along the coast for a few more weeks of relaxation and revelry.   Captain Miller invited me to return the following October for another trip.  Hospitably acknowledging my thanks for a wonderful trip, but owing to the fact that I had other places to visit, I politely declined his offer.  T.C. Keenan, Isaac Hardeman, E.J. Willingham and I were driven through the countryside to Barington, where we boarded a Florida Central northbound train.   On the last day of the month in the mid afternoon I returned to Macon, ready for another adventure.  While there I decided I might as well  hang around for a year or so to see my great grandparents meet, fall in love and get married.  
Note: This is the first column written in a new style.  The story which you have just read is nearly all true.  Of course, I didn't really get in a time machine, but I certainly would if I could.   In future columns I hope to inform and entertain you with first person eyewitness accounts of more pieces of our past.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The Scarlet Scourge

In his day, Matt Brown was considered one of the best football players in the football powerhouse state of Ohio.  Not a big man at all and weighing in as a senior in high school at 157 pounds, Brown played in an era when the single wing formation was the offense of the day.  Brown, a fast and strong blocker, was a natural quarterback and fullback, who blocked for the halfback who ran and threw passes under the single wing formation.  
Matt Brown, a son of Solmon and Thenia Brown,  was born in Dublin, Georgia in 1922.  The Brown family soon moved to Canton, Ohio.  Ironically Canton is the home of the National Football Hall of Fame.  And, it was football which made Matt Brown famous in the State of Ohio. 

Brown was more than a fast and effective blocker.  In those days, most players played both ways on offense and defense.  It was on defense where Brown shined at linebacker.  Although no defensive stats from his days at McKinley High in Canton, Ohio and at Ohio State University survive, Brown was regarded by his peers as one of the best of the Scarlet and Gray, the runner up for the 1944 NCAA National Championship. 

Brown enrolled in McKinley High, an integrated high school in Canton.  McKinley High is seventh in the nation in all time football wins with 739, coming in behind its chief, long time rival, Massillon.  The two Starke County schools, located 8 miles apart, are the all time kings of Ohio high school football and two of the nation's greatest football programs.  McKinley won the 1934 High School National Championship.   Massillon was the top team in the nation in 1935, 1936 and 1940.  

Matt Brown joined the team in 1939 as a 160-pound right half back under coach John Reed.  One of his idols at McKinley was the great Marion Motley, a fellow Georgian, who went on to become a stalwart member of the Cleveland Browns and the second African American  member of NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. 

In the 1939 contest, Matt Brown managed to score his team's only touchdown in yet another loss to Massillon. 

After Massillon's victory in the 1940, their legendary coach Paul Brown paid homage to Matt Brown, the McKinley captain,  for fighting his heart out  in an effort to win the game.  It would be Paul Brown's last game as a high school coach and Matt Brown's last as a high school player.  The following year, Coach Brown took the reins of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  After the end of the war, he became the coach of the Cleveland Browns leading them to 4 AAFC titles and 3  NFL championships.

For his efforts in his final two seasons, Matt Brown was named to the All-Ohio team.  He was generally regarded as McKinley's best player in the 1940 season.   Going with Coach Brown to Ohio State was his assistant coach, Carroll Whiddoes.  Both men remembered Matt's heart, drive and determination in the two games against Massillon  and convinced him to join the team.  They made a wise choice as Dublin native lettered for three seasons.

The 1943 Buckeyes, decimated by the loss of many of their best players to the war effort, managed to earn three easy victories, but the Ohioans lost twice as many games in Paul Brown's final season in the collegiate ranks.  In 1944, Brown joined the Navy and coached a team at  the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. 

For most of the 1943 season, Matt Brown was nagged by injuries.  On October 9, 1943 at Ross Field in Chicago, Matt Brown was a part of trio of backs who made college football history.  In the game against Great Lakes, Matt Brown started at fullback, Red Williams started at quarterback, and Jasper Harris was the starting halfback.  What was remarkable about that lineup was that all three backs were graduates of the same high school, McKinley High in Canton. It was a mark which has rarely, if ever, been matched in the 145 years of college football.   Brown played some at quarterback, who in the single wing formation was primarily only a blocking back. 

It was during his junior season of 1944 when Matt Brown stepped it up another notch. Brown was a monster on defense, then under Coach Whiddoes.  Brown, on defense,  lead the team which easily outpaced all of its opponents, except in the Michigan game, which they won by only four points.   

Brown was one of two starting offensive backs with experience. The other was Lee Horvath, a graduate student in dental school, who was allowed to come back and play in his last year of eligibility.  Horvath had a breakout season in 1944, gaining 669 rushing yards and 1,200 all-purpose yards as the Buckeyes turned in a 9 0 record and finished second in the national polls, behind the powerful and unbeatable Army team. 

In 1945, Brown was a stalwart on defense, playing with Oliver Cline, who went on to play six seasons in professional football.  The Buckeyes finished 7-2, with a close loss to Michigan and a stunning upset by Purdue.  

After leaving football at the end of the 1945 season, Matt Brown returned to the athletic fields in 1948 when he was hired by Coach Bill Bell as the boxing coach of the North Carolina A&T Aggies.    Brown coached the Aggie boxing team to a Central Inter-collegiate Athletic Association tide in 1952. In 1952 and 1953, Brown's tennis team garnered the conference championship. 

Brown left A&T in 1954.  Fourteen years later he returned as the head tennis coach and assistant football coach under Hornsby Howell. 

At A&T, Brown was heralded as one of the university's exceptional backfield coaches.   His star players included William "Red" Jackson, the Aggies' All-American quarterback in the early 1950's. Brown also coached Art Statuni, who won the NCAA heavyweight boxing championship in 1953. 

After a long illness, Matt Brown died on June 22, 1976 in a Greensboro, N.C. hospital.   Brown was still in the prime of life as a coach.   

In his brief stay on the Earth, Matt Brown was one of the lucky ones, a group of young African American Laurens County boys from the 191os and 1920s, which included boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, baseball all star Quincy Trouppe, Negro League footballer Otis Troup,  inventor Claude Harvard, N.A.S.A. physicist Robert Shurney and Tuskegee Airmen; Cummings, John Whitehead and Marion Rodgers.  These young men were able to escape the bondage of the South's social and political ways of their youths to exceed at the highest levels in athletics, science and military service. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Once upon a war, there was a time, well two times.  In order to save daylight at the end of the workday as World War II unfolded, the United States Government implemented new time zones; Eastern War Time, Central War Time, etc.   The process had been used in World War I by Woodrow Wilson.  The first implementation of War Time came on February 9, 1942, just two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

A time of controversy arose in Dublin and around Georgia about  new time zones and which ones would the people of Laurens County observe.  Those men with time on their hands - those who had the money or the power to go to Atlanta to make new laws and change the way that the common folks lived -  ignited a cyclone where time flew in circles, around and around and back again. 

In 1941, Georgia’s legislature voted to establish Eastern Standard Time across the state, replacing the tw0 time zone systems of eastern and western Georgia. 

On January 28, 1943, Georgia’s governor Ellis Arnall signed a bill changing the state from Eastern War Time to Central War Time, effectively repealing President Roosevelt’s nationwide time zones.  Georgia was nearly alone in the change.  Ohio was considering going back to the old time, but only Michigan immediately joined Georgia in the reversal of the Federal time zones. 

The measure drove  the state into a crisis. Confusion of what time it really was nearly paralyzed the state. All railroads and airplane companies remained on Eastern War Time.  Baffled mayors looked to their councils for advice to roll back or leave the hands on their clocks alone.    Across the state, one city after another wrestled with the question at hand.  Savannah, Augusta and Macon immediately decided to keep the status quo, although the Macon council had a time committee to study the measure before a final decision was made.  That decision would change.  Macon’s government accepted the new time for some activities while other people were going about their lives an hour behind their next door neighbors.      
In Atlanta, the state’s and the region’s transportation hub, the measure was also studied while the government conformed to state standards, government agencies and schools matched the Federal time. 

“Atlanta is the hub of all war activities in the South,” said Councilman John White, and “it cannot afford to operate on two times.”

Despite the legislature’s affirmative vote, Gov. Arnall dodged the criticism by saying, “I’m not going to try to make anybody do anything they don’t want to.  Any city that so desires, can go on Rocky Mountain time or Eastern time.” 

In Dublin, the city council voted to leave all city clocks on Eastern War Time.  By ignoring the legislature’s mandate, the city would be in conformance with all trains and buses in the city as well as the majority of the rest of the country.  

Initially the city schools and the Carnegie Library did their civic duty and followed the new law.  After one week, the school and library boards decided to get back in step with the rest of the city. 

The Laurens County Commissioners did not take action immediately although the county schools moved their clocks back to Central time.  The county’s semi-official time piece, the courthouse clock, was left unchanged by order of Superior Court Judge, R. Earl Camp.

There was some minor confusion among the churches of the city and the county.  The Rev. Earl Stirewalt, of the Dublin Ministerial Association, announced that the majority of the churches decided to go back to Eastern time for their services. 

The Georgia Senate went back to work.  Some factions wanted to go back to the pre-war dual system with Atlanta and Columbus being on Central time and Macon, Augusta and Savannah in the Eastern zone.  The State Republic Committee approved a measure to do just that.  That measure would repeal the Central War Time Zone as proposed by State Senator Herschel Lovett of Dublin, who favored returning the state to Eastern time under pressure from his constituents. 

“I favor the new time, but I am up here to represent the wishes of my people,” said  Senator Lovett, who originally voted in favor of the Central Time bill, which was actually the same time as it was before the 1941 bill placed Georgia in the same time zone. 

A feeble compromise was reached accepting the heart of Lovett’s bill, but delaying its implementation until April 1, 1943.  But when David Atkinson, the governor’s floor leader in the Senate, polled his members, the necessary “ayes” were five short of passage.  The measure was dropped.  

For the remainder of the war, Georgians across the state went about their daily lives never knowing what time it really was.  One thing was for sure, they knew when it was time to eat and when it was  time to go to sleep.

Finally on the day after Labor Day in 1945 and two days after the Japanese government signed the surrender agreement aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, the state’s Attorney General, Eugene Cook, of Dublin, announced that Georgia would return to Eastern Standard Time as soon as the Congress of the United States discontinued War Time.  

As the calendars were turned to October, everything was back to normal.  Ironically the change wasn’t noticed in the western part of the state.  But in Dublin and the rest of East Georgia, the clocks were turned back an hour.

So, in a few weeks when we spring the hands of our clocks forward and when we all say “I can’t get used to this new time,” be glad that we will still know really what time it really is.    

Friday, February 13, 2015


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.  In a sense, these notes are merely frivolous. I hope in looking back to the days of yesteryear, that you will find them entertaining and informative, and just a wee bit humorous.

WOMAN MAKES LOCAL  HISTORY - Ruth Gordon had been around the army for decades before she came to Dublin to serve in the position of Laurens County health nurse.  A native of Fort Gaines, Georgia and a graduate of Vanderbilt University, Mrs. Gordon served as a nurse during World War I as did her first husband, a member of the American Expeditionary Force and a native of Oklahoma.  

The Dublin legion post had formed an auxiliary unit in February 1927, under the leadership of Mrs. George Ingram, Mrs. Kendrick Moffett and Mrs. Theron Woodard, but no female members had ever joined the veteran's organization. 

When she arrived in Dublin, Mrs. Gordon applied for membership in the theretofore all-male American Legion Post No. 17.  The members, under the command of L.D. Woods, accepted her into the legion and installed her as a member on February 5, 1942.  Macon Telegraph, Feb. 3, 1942. P. 2.

THE OTHER LIBRARY - Did you know that the first Laurens County Library was established in 1938.  The Carnegie Library in Dublin gave free service to only city residents at the time.  The ladies of the Parnassus Club sponsored a library for county residents.  The library was located in the county office building on East Madison Street, which served formerly as the post office from 1912 until 1936.  Virginia Graves served as the first and only librarian.  The library first opened on the morning of February 5, 1938. After a few months the Laurens County Library merged with the Carnegie Library.  County wide service began with the help of the W.P.A. which funded a traveling librarian.   Dublin Courier Herald, 8/6/1938, Laurens Co. History, 1807-1941, p. 239, 248, Macon Telegraph, 2/5/1938, p. 12.

SKINNY SNAKE - M.S. Taylor had seen many snakes in his lifetime, some big and some small.  But of all the snakes Taylor had ever seen, the one he picked up in February of 1931 was most unusual.  The slithering serpent was twenty-two inches long - nothing unusual there.  This specimen was so thin that observers described it as "thin as hay wire." The snake, which a writer described as a "hair snake," was most likely a nematomorpha, which is not a snake at all but a "horsehair worm."  Macon Telegraph, Feb. 17, 19731, p. 11.

GLADYS HAD A LITTLE ROOSTER - If Mary's little lamb followed her everywhere she went, it only stands to reason that Gladys Graham's  rooster would do the same thing. Gladys called her rooster, Johnny.  The brightly feathered chicken followed Gladys to school every day.   It seemed to understand and obey Gladys' commands.  Gladys would  yell, "Scratch!" And, the clever bird attacked the  Condor school grounds with his near razor-like claws.  Then the little girl commanded her pet to crow and Johnny crowed loudly, which drew a crowd of students.  To remove all doubts of the onlookers, Gladys yelled, "Come here, Johnny!"  The intelligent fowl then jumped into his master's arms.  Discounting her own ability to make Johnny do human things, Gladys remarked, "Daddy can make Johnny do more than I."  Macon Telegraph, February 20, 1942. 

ONE LESS LIFE TO LIVE -   One day in February 1926, a tom cat was taking a nap on a large belt of a Corliss engine at the Dublin power plant.  When the engine started without notice to the snoozing feline,  the oblivious cat was sucked into the fly wheel and thrown out the other side.  The victim kicked a few times and then stopped moving altogether.   When a worker grabbed a shovel to remove the cat's corpse and bury it outside, the tom, which only appeared to be dead, attacked the spade, rolled over and resumed his catnap.  After a sufficient siesta and a loss of one life, the dazed cat sat up, lightly scratched his ear and set out to find something to eat.  It will also be remembered that six years earlier, a frog took a spin on the same fly wheel for eight hours, traveled more than 500 miles and survived to hop away. Macon Telegraph, February 21, 1926, Atlanta Constitution, May 3, 1920.

WHEN THE GROUNDHOG SAW RED  It was in the early months of the Great Depression when the Laurens County School system ran out of money.  Realizing that the books were in the red that Ground Hog Day, School Superintendent T.M. Hicks shut down the 18 white and 35 colored schools and sent some five thousand  students home for an unexpected winter vacation.  With no credit available to fund the bankrupt system, the kids all hoped that the financial crisis would mean six weeks of vacation before the warming spring came.  Macon Telegraph, February 4, 1930. p. 2.

IT TAKES A THIEF - Some folks will say, "some people will steal anything."  That maxim was never more true than in February 1935.  Mrs. J.B. Williams was right proud of her newly planted pecan and peach trees which  she had placed in the yard of her home on Telfair Street.  Her pride turned to puzzlement and distress for on the next day, a thief or thieves transplanted the fruit trees to their own yard.  Macon Telegraph, February 18, 1935, pa. 2.

NO EXCUSE SIR! - Dublin Police Chief J.W.  Robertson had no patience with slackers and freeloaders.  After all, there was a war going on.  Charged with the duty of enforcing the city's ordinance requiring all able bodied men in Dublin to go to work or go to jail, the chief worked with local industries and businesses to develop a time card system for all of the city's employees.  Any adult male was required to carry the card on his person at all times.  If searched by the Chief or his men, the worker had to give a very good reason why he was not present at work for the last six work days.  "It just isn't right for our boys to be off fighting the war for the very lives of all of us and some able-bodied persons back home are laying off the job without any reason.  Sadly, Chief Robertson would all too soon become a victim of that war when his 19-year-old son Randall was killed in action on the beaches of Iwo Jima.  Macon Telegraph, Feb. 22, 1943. P. 2.

THE PROMISING PARSON - Rev. WH. Budd, Minister of Dublin's First Methodist Church, promised his congregation that he would vacate the pulpit if the members of the church did not pay off the loan on the building.  Rev. Budd proclaimed, "I  would rather preach under an oak tree with clear titles from God that hold service in a church building, magnificent as it may be, which is held as security for a debt."  Budd continued, "A church cannot be God's house while it pledged as collateral by agreement of the members without God's consent."   The congregation took the preacher's message to heart.  In  two weeks the members raised ten thousand dollars ($156K in 2015 dollars) to pay off the debt. Half of that shortage was raised the following Sunday and on the day of reckoning, a large glass bowl was placed on the altar. It was promptly filled with cash, checks and copies of deposit slips and the parson remained in the pulpit. Macon Telegraph, Feb. 27, 1918, p. 3.


Friday, February 06, 2015


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."


An Antebellum Treasure

Any old house, especially one of the wooden clapboard variety, has a tale to tell, or many tales to tell.  But, since walls can't really talk, we will just have to use our imaginations. There are stories of life and death, laughter and despair, and triumph and tragedy. Though many of the accounts of life in an old house were never preserved, a few have been documented.  Architects design homes and carpenters build them, but a home is shaped and molded by those who live in it.  This is the story of Whitehall, the seat of the White family of Laurens County for many a decade and one of the county's oldest surviving homes.

Joseph McKee White migrated to Laurens County, Georgia about the year 1846.  White, a native of South Carolina and son of John and Dovey White, grew up on a plantation in the Sumter  District of South Carolina on the Black River.    His close friend Daniel G. Hughes believed that Joseph actually came from York County.   Before moving on, White completed his higher educational studies at the University of Georgia.   

Members of the White family were always told that White came through central Georgia on his way toward Mississippi, where he hoped to establish a thriving plantation in the lush delta regions of that state.  According to the family lore, White was so impressed with the fertility of the soils of Laurens and Pulaski counties that he ended his search and settled along the line dividing the two counties.

Joseph White, a man with a fine physique,  was described by Dan Hughes to be " a man of marked intelligence and sense of logic."   White's first recorded purchase of land came in 1847 while he was still considered a resident of Sumter County.  He purchased 900 acres from Mary Wilkinson for the not so paltry sum of $ 1700.00.  This land would form the nucleus of his plantation which he would call "Whitehall."  Though his real estate holdings would eventually encompass ten thousand acres or more, most of his purchases were recorded.  Located on the waters of Crooked Creek on the Old Uchee Trail, Whitehall was considered to be a part of the community known as Laurens Hill, which was centered a few miles to the northwest.  

White used his higher educational skills in an attempt to master the science of agriculture.    A frequent contributor of letters and articles in local papers, White wrote of the problems facing the state and nation on political issues as well as the problems which faced the farmers of the state.  His writings showed his readers that he was no ordinary man, but one of superior intellect and one whose opinions were weighty and valuable.

Just down the road on an adjoining plantation lived one of the most beautiful young ladies Joseph White had ever met.  Cherry Coley, a daughter of Cain Coley, accepted Joseph White's proposal of marriage.  The couple were married in 1850 and moved into White's new home.  

Large plantations were communities within themselves.  Though White's land holdings were large, he surprisingly owned relatively few slaves.  In 1850, White is shown as the owner of 39 slaves, 29 of whom were under the age of 14.  In 1860, the number of slaves rose to 50, with only forty percent of them being under the age of 14.  Many of the larger plantations were served by a local physician.  One such physician, Dr. J.W. Woods, a relative of Joseph White and recent salutatorian of his medical class, was invited to remove himself from his home in South Carolina in hopes of establishing a lucrative practice in the Laurens Hill Community.  Woods, an avid hunter, returned from a hunting trip, only to find himself somewhat ill.  As his own physician, Woods administered a dosage of what he thought was quinine.  A momentary lapse in vision resulted in his consumption of a fatal quantity of morphine.  For three agonizing days, the comatose doctor was beaten with wet towels and walked through the walls and around the porches of Whitehall in a futile attempt to revive him.  Dr. Woods once breathing body was laid to rest in the corner of a large field about a mile northeast of the main house at Whitehall.

Another short term resident of Whitehall was W. H. Mobley.    Mobley, a nephew of Georgia congressman Charles Crisp, married a daughter of Sen. John H. Reagan of Texas.  It will be remembered that is was Sen. Reagan, who as the Postmaster of the Confederate States of America, led the caravan of Confederate President Jefferson Davis as he made his way through Laurens County in an attempt to escape capture by Union forces in 1865.  Mobley served as his uncle's secretary in Washington and moved to Palestine, Texas to practice law.  He removed to Cochran in 1892 and lived with the White family until his return to Texas two years later.  Mobley, like his father actor who was killed in an Atlanta theater,  died a tragic death when he consumed a fatal dose of morphine in 1901.  

During the Civil War, Joseph White served as a major in the Confederate Provisional Army.    Too old to engage in combat, Major White was commissioned to help raise food and gather war materials for the cause of the Confederacy.  White may have commanded a small Confederate commissary, which was located just beyond Laurens Hill next to the Harvard family cemetery.  Several years after the end of the hostilities, Major White was granted a  full pardon by President Andrew Johnson for his acts of war against the United States.

Architectural experts have likened Whitehall's straightforwardly simple design of well proportioned square columns as representative of the best of a number of similar houses and buildings of the period, among them the cottage behind the President's House at the University of Georgia and the Davis-Edwards House in Monroe.   The house has been defined as hybrid mixture of indigenous architecture with the dignity and clarity of Greek  designs, which Thomas Jefferson so ideally sought in his classical designs. 

Students of architecture will recognize the details of the frame clapboarded t-shaped rectangular  house with a five-bay front, a hipped roof, two interior chimneys and three end chimneys.    Surrounded by a grove of ancient cedars, Whitehall features a porch on three sides.  Guests entered the home through a double door entrance into a central hall.    Grand houses like Whitehall often attracted the most prominent and highly erudite visitors.  Reportedly, thirteen governors of Georgia have slept in the guest bedroom, located in the northwest corner of the house.  

During the the late 1950s and early 1960s,  the home was occupied by  John Richard Staley, major renovations were put in place including transoms with radiating muntins, all new plaster and woodwork.  Staley, the president of Quaker Oats Company, purchased Whitehall as a birthday present  for his wife, the former Miss Carolyn Flemming, who had always admired the stately old home.   A car port was added and a breezeway between the house and kitchen was so enlarged to  merge into the house itself. Modern wiring, heating and plumbing were installed under the direction of the chief engineer of Quaker Oats Company. 

Architect Jackson Lamb, a native of Montrose, purchased the house in 1966 and undertook a major and complete restoration of the home, where he married his wife Nancy Ragsdale.  Lamb sold the house to Henry and Martha Cannon in 1970.  Henry, a long time executive with the Georgia Forestry Commission, and Martha, sister of Marion Folsom, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare during the Eisenhower administration, continued to make improvements  on the inside and outside.  

In the mid 1980s, Bill Holmes, a great-great grandson of Major White, purchased Whitehall and much of the original plantation lands.  Holmes  made improvements to the property, especially on the grounds.  Today, the property is owned by an investment firm and is not open to the public.


A Baseball Survivor

Bill Robinson died on the last Sunday in July 2007.  Unless you are an "old school" baseball fan, you probably wouldn't even know his name.  Robinson, the biggest star of the 1962 Dublin Braves team, was revered by those who knew him as a decent man, one who was a well-respected hitting instructor and coach.  His pupils won two world championships.  A sixteen-year veteran of the big leagues, Robinson won a World Series ring of his own with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979.  This is the story of a man who was once billed as "the black Mickey Mantle" and survived the intense pressures of major league baseball for a successful 47-year career in "America's pastime." 

William Henry "Bill" Robinson was born on June 26, 1943 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.    After high school, Bill was signed by the Milwaukee Braves and assigned to their farm team in Wellsville. At the age of 18, Bill Robinson was ranked by scouts as one of the best rookie outfielders ever, better than Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.   At first, his future in baseball seemed dim.  After a poor season in Eau Claire, Robinson was assigned to the Dublin Braves in the Georgia Florida League.  In his first game with Dublin, Robinson impressed the fans with a single and a double to drive in four runs.   Under the tutelage of the wily veteran manager Bill Steinecke, Robinson reversed his downward spiral  and posted a highly respectable .304 average with 21 extra-base hits in 207 at bats. 

Following a system wide reorganization of the minor league farm systems, Robinson was assigned to the Waycross Braves in 1963.   Bill's star continued to rise with a .316 average at Waycross and a .348 average with Yakima in 1964.    Facing stiffer competition, Robinson's stats tailed off with the Atlanta Crackers the following year.  An International League all-star with the Richmond Braves in '66, Robinson excited the big league team in Atlanta and scouts around the country with an outstanding .312 average, 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in.  After five years of bus riding and hectic living, Robinson finally made it to the majors during a late season call up in the Braves' first season in Atlanta on September 20, 1966. In 11 at bats, he garnered three hits.

With Roger Maris being traded to the Cardinals and the future of an aging and aching Mickey Mantle in doubt, New York Yankee manager Ralph Houk salivated at the thought of Robinson in his outfield.   "He has the best arm I have ever seen," Houk told a reporter for the Washington Post.     On November 29, 1966, the Yankees traded the veteran third sacker Clete Boyer to the Braves for the young Robinson, who carried with him a .298 average, a rocket arm and the possessed the power to become what the Yankees hoped would be "the black Mickey Mantle."

An early indicator of Robinson's throwing ability was his skill in throwing rocks at his antagonists.  Somewhat of a runt in comparison to the bullies of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, Robinson compensated for his scrawniness.  "When I was about 10 years old, there was one boy who used to beat me up all the time.  One day I waited at the top of a hill and split his head open with a rock from 20 yards.  I guess I could hit a guy with a rock at a hundred yards.  I was pretty accurate," Robinson chuckled.  

After developing a soreness in his right throwing arm in the Venezuelan winter ball league, Robinson underwent elbow surgery in the winter of 1967.  Robinson struggled in his rookie season.  With manager Houk's unfaltering patience and encouragement, Bill Robinson once again reversed his slump and surged to bat .260 in the second half of the 1967 campaign.  

Robinson's sophomore season with the Yankees mirrored his rookie season.  Mired in a horrific slump at the all-star break, Bill silenced his doubters with a .282 second half, and solidified a starting position for the 1969 season.     Robinson returned his blessings to the community by actively participating in youth programs in New York.   After a dismal season in '69, Robinson feared his baseball career was over.  At the age of twenty-six, Bill appeared to be headed for the verge of  obscurity.  Yankee fans,  instinctively and unmercifully, booed Bill.   The pressure to replace "the Mick" was unbearable.   After three average seasons in the minors with Syracuse, Tuscon and Eugene, Robinson finally returned to the major leagues toward the end of the 1972 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, who hoped to capitalize on his resurgent power hitting.

Robinson, who could play all three outfield positions, led the Pacific Coast League in   rbi at the time of his call up to the Phillies.  With the pressure of being expected to perform with the legendary Yankees gone, Robinson returned to his youthful form.    He hated to go to the ball park (in New York) where he tried too hard to perform up to the impossible standards set for him by management and fans alike. Frustration led to more frustration.  The White Sox had assigned Bill to their Tuscon team in 1971.  Robinson felt he was lied to by the Chicago team and actually quit baseball, only to be traded to the Phillies, a move which rejuvenated his career.

Robinson shed his demons and began to enjoy baseball again. Wally Moses, a native of Montgomery County, Georgia and the Phil's hitting instructor, resurrected Robinson's natural hitting style.  Bill entered the 1973 season,  hoping just to  remain on the team for 52  days to qualify for a pension.  Little did "Robby" know he would still be around a decade later.  1973 was Bill's best season so far.  He batted .288 and hit 25 home runs. Seventh in at bats per home run, ninth in slugging percentage and tenth in extra base hits in the National League, Robinson appeared headed for stardom at the age of thirty.    But Robinson's roller coaster career took another dip in 1974 and he was traded to the cross state rival Pittsburgh Pirates in the off season.

A valuable substitute outfielder, Robinson played well for the Pirates and played for the Bucs in the 1975 post season playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds.  Though Bill accepted his job as utility outfielder, he wanted to play full time. When Pirate outfielder Dave Parker went down in May 1975, Robinson got his shot at starting in Pirate outfield.   Robby  was asked to play third base when Richie Hebner went on the disabled list.  Bill enjoyed playing on the hot corner as it kept him more involved in the game.  Bill Robinson responded to the challenge both eagerly and favorably, since the Pirates had a trio of outfield stars.  Though he ended the 1976 season with a .303 batting average, Robinson went into August batting at an amazing clip of.340.  With 64 rbi and 21 home runs, Bill Robinson was chosen as the team's most valuable player and finished 21st in the balloting for the National League's Most Valuable Player.    Robinson had reached the prime of his career.  Suddenly, at the age of 33, he was on the verge of becoming a superstar.

Bill Robinson entered the 1977 season, his 10th full year in the majors, with high expectations.  A series of ham string injuries, a bad shoulder and an aching leg couldn't hinder his determination to show his 1976 season was no fluke.  Though he wasn't considered for the 1976 all star team with a .335 average, Robinson thought he might have a chance in 1977.  Robinson was devastated when his name didn't appear on the 1977 ballot.  Thoroughly disgusted at what he termed as a farce of a voting system, Robinson vowed not to play, even if was selected as a substitute.

Robinson continued to excel.  He got his first ever on screen interview with the venerable Howard Cosell on Monday Night Baseball.   Bill told the bumptious Cosell that he had alleviated the pressure and went up to the plate without any worries.    When called upon after first baseman Willie Stargell was scratched from the lineup due to an injury, Robinson moved across the diamond for the good of the team.  

1977 was Robinson's career year.  Eleventh in the balloting for the NL Most Valuable Player, Robinson finished eighth in the league in slugging percentage and runs batted in,  and sixth in doubles posted career highs in home runs (26), runs batted in (104) and batting average (.304.)    

Bill Robinson returned to the outfield in 1978, replacing Al Oliver, who had been traded to Texas.   With a contract extension in hand removing him from the bottom of the pay list for regular players, Robinson looked to improve on his totals of the '77 season.  After getting off to a hot start, a nagging thumb injury altered his outstanding swing.  After six seasons of virtual serenity, the pressure began to nag at Bill once again.    His hitting had gone from consistently torrid to woefully inconsistent.

The Pirates began acquiring new players to step in, just in case Robinson faltered in 1979.   His average dropped to .246, the third worst of his career.  Just when it looked like he would once again fail, Robinson turned it up and moved to the top of the team's offensive statistical categories. Robinson's return to brilliance helped the Pirates to win the National League's Eastern Division pennant.

The Pirates adopted the song We Are Family as their theme song for 1979.  The Pirates easily swept the powerful Reds to face the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.  In a rematch of the '71 series, the Pirates won in the seventh  and deciding game.   Hitless in three at bats  in the league championship series, Robinson got five hits in the series to win his first World Series championship ring.

Still considered a good utility player, the Pirates held onto the aging Robinson after his home run total fell to 12 in the 1980 season, though he did hit .287.    Nagging injuries to Willie  Stargell and Dave Parker kept Robinson in the lineup despite the fact that he was 37 and was beginning to slow down.  Robinson didn't disappoint Pirate manger Chuck Tanner and played another solid season for the Pirates.

The end of Robinson's career began in the spring of 1981 when he underwent surgery for the repair of his right Achilles tendon.  Bill never regained his quick bat and posted the lowest average of his National League career.  After 31 games with the Pirates, Robinson returned to Philadelphia for the remainder of the 1982 season.  At the end of the season, Robinson, approaching his 40th birthday, filed for free agency.  He was resigned by the Phillies and played only in ten games before being released on June 9, 1983,   seventeen days after his final game on May 23, 1983.   The Phillies respected Robinson's knowledge of him and retained him as a minor league hitting instructor. 
In his sixteen seasons in the major leagues, Robinson had 1127 hits,  166 home runs and drove in 641 runs.  He hit 104 round trippers in the minors along with 514 runs batted in.  His career batting average of .258 in 1472 games was not a true reflection of his outstanding career in the 1970s when he was a better than average hitter.

At the end of the '83 season, Robinson was wooed by the Mets as their new batting coach.  With the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and George Foster in the Met's lineup, Robinson wasn't about to begin making changes in his slugger's swings.  "I don't have any complicated ideas about hitting,"Robinson said.  "Mine is a very simple approach, mostly mental," said Robinson, who was manager Dave Johnson's first choice because of his ability as a teacher of hitting.

Facing the brink of elimination in the 6th game of the 1986 World Series, the Mets rallied and took advantage of one of the greatest blunders in World Series history to send the series into the seventh and deciding game, which the Mets won.  Robinson had once again returned to the top of his form, this time as the man who taught the world champions the art of hitting.  Robinson remained with the Mets until the end of the 1989 season when the team made wholesale changes in their coaching staff.
In 1990,  the producers of Baseball Tonight hired Robinson for his insightful commentary on major league baseball.  After a two-year stint with ESPN, Robinson returned full time to baseball.   Robinson worked for the Phillies minor league organization as a manager and coach from 1994 though 1999.  Bill returned to the Yankees organization  as a minor league hitting instructor for its Columbus team from 1999 to 2001.  He accepted the offer of the Florida Marlins to serve as their hitting coach for the 2002 season. 

Once again in 2003, Robinson's pupils, the surprising Florida Marlins, shocked the baseball world by capturing the World Series title, earning Robinson his third and final World Series ring. After four seasons with the Marlins, Robinson was hired as the hitting instructor for the Dodger's minor league system.    

On July 29, 2007, Robinson failed to show up for an appointment in Las Vegas to discuss hitting.  He had complained about his heart after throwing batting practice and went back to his hotel room to rest.  A friend found him dead. Apparently his heart simply gave out.  His Bible was lying open in front of him.

Jeff Wilpon, the CEO of the Mets described Robinson as "a devoted family man, a consummate professional and one of the classiest men in our sport."  "Bill was a wonderful family man and a great player, manager and coach.  He was a friend to everyone he met,"  said Dodger general manager Ned Colletti.