The Textiles Strikes of 1934

In a day when our young men and women of the Georgia National Guard are busy training to keep the peace on the other side of  the world in the desert cities of Iraq, it seems quite proper to remember a time when a hundred young Laurens Countians left their jobs and their schools, yes their schools, to protect the textile mills of West Georgia and their workers from strikers, some local and some brought in by northern unions to disrupt mill operations or protect workers’ rights, depending on how one looks at the situation.  It was a time, especially at the Bibb Mills in Porterdale, Georgia, when some of the peacekeepers, those imported in from northern cities by mill owners, were more violent than those simply seeking to earn a decent wage with decent working hours.

In the summer of 1934, a quarter of a million textile workers across the United States were very unhappy.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged the unions and the mill owners to resolve their differences without the use of a strike.  On September 4, 1934, fights broke out in Macon.  Later 17 people were arrested in Porterdale, a mill town in Newton County, Georgia.  By the middle of the month, violent outbreaks were paralyzing the cities of Macon, Columbus and Augusta, as well as smaller mill towns across the state.   By mid September,  three fourths of Georgia’s 60,000 textile workers were on strike.  Throughout the South, southern governors began calling out National Guard units to protect the state’s twenty-nine mills and those who continued to work in them.

On September 15th, after the conclusion of Georgia’s Democratic primary, Gov. Eugene Talmadge called nearly four thousand guardsman of the Georgia National Guard in an action which remains the largest peace time mobilization of the Guard in Georgia’s history.  Headquartered in Dublin was the 121st Infantry, the first National Guard regiment organized in the Southeast under the current system of the National Guard in 1919.

For years local members of the Guard had trained for civilian duty.  Only on rare occasions had the members of the 121st Infantry ever been called to face a mission of such magnitude.  Approximately a hundred men in Headquarters Company and Co. K under the command of Capt. T.C. Keen and Lts R.L. Webb, CL. Deveraux and Clifford H. Prince, summoned their men for duty.    Early on Monday
morning September 17, 1934, fifteen trucks pulled out of Dublin loaded with a hundred men, each armed with a rifle, 40 rounds of ammunition and a bayonet. Nine men, J.L. Sears, M.M. Cannon, R.E. Drew, R.L. Thomas, W.H. Drew, G.Z. Brown, A.R. Attaway, D.E. Sheppard and J.H. Carlisle ,volunteered their services to the mission to keep the peace in Porterdale.

The mobilization had an immediate impact on the community because  later that afternoon, eight of  the men were scheduled to attend football practice, not for some college team or a semi-pro squad but for the Dublin High School Green Hurricane.  Starters Bob Werden, “Peck” Dominy and John Hinton and reserves J.T. Hadden, Jack Flanders, Harris Dominy and Barton Tindol left their shoulder pads and jerseys behind and exchanged them for a olive drab uniform and a gun.

The guardsmen arrived in the mid afternoon and were immediately assigned to man machine gun positions at all entrances around the perimeter of the town and at strategic points inside the city limits.    Guardsmen patrolled the streets at all hours of the day to maintain order.  The main order of the day was to protect the mills and all persons legitimately entering or leaving the premises.

Fortunately for all of those concerned, there was very little trouble in Porterdale.  The greatest hardship for the boys was the lack of sleep.  Some guardsmen commented that if they were able to get some sleep, they would like to stay in town until Christmas.  Some of the men got to go to dances and dance with the local girls.    Lt. Deveraux commented that he had not been in his tent and that the only sleep he got was while he was walking on guard duty.  Sgts. Palmer Currell and Otis Sanders returned to Dublin to procure a load of coats and blankets when the weather turned cooler than usual. Lt. R.L. Webb commented, “ There are no baths, no steam heat at night and no moonshine.”

It has been said that an army travels on its stomach and the week in Porterdale was no exception.  Douglas Barron swore he did nothing but peel potatoes the entire time he was there.  Mess Sergeant Henry Walden prepared some decent meals which included a hearty plate of spaghetti and cheese.

By the end of the week the wave of violence across the state had waned.  Mill workers, with no way to accomplish their demands, returned to the their jobs, first in dribbles and then in large waves.  The only strife in Porterdale came from the peacekeepers who had been hired by the owners of the town’s four mills, one of which was the rope and twine factory, the largest of its kind in the world.  The hired mercenaries were all of northern and foreign descent and were very tough and armed with billy clubs and sawed off shotguns, according to one local guardsman.  A mill policeman got into a skirmish with a group of mill workers and fired into the crowd, striking, but not seriously, wounding three men.

As for the National Guard, it was a quiet week.  There were three shots fired and only one casualty.   Herbert “Zip” Beckham was in his tent when he was cleaning his supposedly unloaded rifle when it discharged and tore a hole in his tent.  There was a momentary panic, followed by hilarity and chastisement.  John McGlohorn suffered a similar embarrassment when his weapon accidentally discharged.   A guardsman from Hawkinsville was on guard duty late one evening when he heard something approaching in the woods.  He warned the  intruder to halt but got no response.  After a second warning, he fired his automatic rifle into the dark, only to find out that he had not killed a striker but a local farmer’s cow.  

The National Guard only made two arrests in Porterdale.  A sentry observed two “hillbillies” walking through the woods with their squirrel guns in hand. Operating on specific orders of martial law, the pair was confronted and their weapons were seized.  The men were sent to a specially prepared prison at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, though most of the local guardsmen believed they were free of any harmful intentions and that they just used poor judgment in walking armed through the woods in the middle of a military action.

By the end of the week with the situation at Porterdale well in hand, Gov. Talmadge relieved the 121st Infantry of its mission and ordered them to return to their homes and yes to their schools, just in time to attend the opening of the Dublin Theater and  to play Hawkinsville in the football game the following weekend.  Many of these men remained in the guard and served our country in World War II. Unfortunately many of them, including Bob Werden, Palmer Lee Braddy and  John R. Scarborough, were killed in action.

Members of the local national guard companies who participated in the mission at Porterdale were:


Headquarter’s Company

Col. L.C. Pope
Lt. R.L. Webb
Lt. Joel Lord
Sgt. Bennett L. Carroll
Sgt. Lake T. Proctor
Sgt. Otis T. Sanders
Sgt. Hubert B. Willis
Sgt. Harry M. Hill
Corp. Thos. H. Hobbs
Corp. John W. Horne
Corp. Joseph H. Horne
Corp. F.C. Tindol
Corp. Wm. P. Tindol
PFC Thomas L. Cook
PFC Herman E. Lord
PFC Millard E. Barron
Pvt. Charles M. Barron
Pvt. Joseph A. Dickens
Pvt. Addison B. Savage
Pvt. John Scarborough
Pvt. Jack P. Snider
Pvt. Charles L. Webb
Pvt. Kelso C. Horne
Pvt. Lord B. Tindol
Pvt. Hardy Smith
Pvt. James R. Fountain
Pvt. Hunter Horne

Company K

Capt. Trammell Keen
Lt. C.D. Deveraux
Lt. Clifford H. Prince
1st Sgt. C.G. White
Sgt. Albert O. Braddy
Sgt. Charles B.  Keen
Sgt. James A. Rivers
Sgt. Durrell Sapp
Sgt. Henry L. Walden
Corp. William S. Drew
Corp. Robert J. Lee
Corp. Joe Sumner

PFC Palmer L. Braddy
PFC Frank Brantley
PFC Herbert Beckham
PFC Hubert R. Clarke
PFC Ben F. Curry
PFC William Dominy
PFC John Gilbert
PFC Francis L. Hall
PFC AltonKillingsworth
PFC James Lord
PFC Ernest McGowan
PFC Joseph McGowan
PFC Edward E. Mullis
PFC Ernest L. Sellars
PFC Wm. P. Strickland
PFC Jack Flanders
PFC Willard Beasley
Pvt. Ray Camp
Pvt. George Carr
Pvt. Fred J. Coleman
Pvt. Stewart Conner
Pvt. Earle E. Crafton
Pvt. Letcher Curry
Pvt. Harris F. Dominy
Pvt. Ralph F. Edwards
Pvt. James R. Fort
Pvt. Thos. E. Fountain
Pvt. James D. Gordon
Pvt. J.T. Hadden
Pvt. Comer F. Holton
Pvt. Herbert C. Holton
Pvt. James F.  Jernigan
Pvt. Edward Jordan
Pvt. Alfred P.  Keen
Pvt. Oliver M. Laney
Pvt. Ernest H. Stewart
Pvt. George F. Lord
Pvt. James L. Maddox
Pvt. Jno M. McGlohorn
Pvt. John B. Passmore
Pvt. James L. Russell
Pvt. L.B. Smith, Jr.
Pvt. Jas. Scarborough
Pvt. George W. Stuckey
Pvt. Charles M. Sykes
Pvt. Kimball F. Thomas
Pvt. James W. Ward
Pvt. Ephron C. Wynn
Pvt. Leon R. Byrd
Pvt. Wm. E. Edwards
Pvt. Hudson T. Hall
Pvt. Robert Werden
Pvt. Jack Hadden
Pvt. John Hinton