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

Friday, January 29, 2016


Shaper of Music

You may have never heard of Elisha James King or his brother,  Elisha Lafayette King.  The King brothers, along with their cohort, Benjamin Franklin White, were among the most prolific  composers of "shaped note hymns" which they  compiled into the legendary hymnal, "The Sacred Harp."   Many musicologists proclaim that Sacred Harp music is the oldest form of purely American music.

Click to hear modern day Sacred Harp singing. 

Shaped notes were designed to make it easier for church congregations and untrained singers to readily understand pitch, scales and key signatures.  Instead of the more common dark ovals, shaped notes are squares, triangles, ovals and diamonds,  filled or not filled with black ink.  The practice of using shapes began in the early years of the 19th Century in New England and spread to the South.

Elijah James King was born in 1821 in Wilkinson County, Georgia to John King and his bride, Elizabeth Dubose.  The Kings moved to Talbott County in western Georgia in 1828.

In 1840, one Benjamin White moved to the adjoining Harris County, where he would later serve as the Mayor of Hamilton, Georgia, the Clerk of the Inferior Court of Harris County, and a major of the local militia.

King joined with Benjamin Franklin White, left  of Union County, South Carolina, to compile the "Sacred Harp" in 1844 when King was more than half the age of White when the widely popular hymnal of shaped notes was first printed in book form.  It has been said that it was White who mentored King.

King, who farmed and taught singing and music for a living, collaborated with White on nearly two dozen songs as a composer or arranger.

Sadly at the zenith of his life and musical career Elijah King died on August 21, 1844 at the age of twenty-three.  His father and a niece died a few days later.  More deaths in the King family made the year 1844 one of triumph and despair.

Music historian David Steel describes King as having a distinctive musical style and three of his songs, "Bound for Canaan," "Sweet Canaan," and "Fulfilment" as "classics." Steel theorized that King was the "money man" of the duo.

Stepping right in after the death of Elijah King, was Elias Lafayette King, his  supposed younger brother and  eight years his junior.  The younger King  strived to replace his brother in the publishing of Sacred Harp music.  He contributed approximately a half dozen songs to the 1850 revised edition, including:  "The Bower of Care," "The Frozen Heart," "Dull Care," "Reverential Anthem," and "The Dying Christian."

The teaching of singing syllables in order to teach the young singer has generally been credited to Guido d'Arezzo, who used a six syllable system.  English teachers reduced the number to four, fa, sol la and mi.

Sacred Harp music is performed a cappella by singers sitting in a square with the treble, alto, tenor and bass singers on each side with the center of the group being a hollow square.  Often the group does not have a director. Instead numerous directors stand in the middle of the square.

There are three basic type songs, regular traditional hymns with traditional four bar phrases, fugues, and anthems.

"The Sacred Harp," with more than five hundred songs written in four parts, was used by the vast majority of old line church choirs and singing school teachers in Georgia and the Deep South.

There is little documentation of the practice of singing shape notes in Laurens County. Primarily used in the Primitive Baptist and Nazarene churches, the practice enjoyed a revival in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Sacred Harp music is more common along the Georgia-Alabama border and northward into the mountain states of the Southeast.

Most people, primarily children, learned shaped notes from teachers of singing schools. The most famous of the Laurens County singing school teachers was long time  and legendary Blackshear ferryman, Rawls Watson.

Singing schools were held in every little church and school throughout the county for the first six decades of the 20th Century.    One of the last occurred at the East Dublin Baptist Church in 1963.  The classes lasted sometimes for hours, sometimes for days and sometimes all week long.  In 1954 and 1955 , C.C. Gay conducted  10-night singing schools at the Telfair Street Church of God.

Once the singing school sessions were completed, "singing conventions" featured choirs from around the county and around the East Central Georgia area.  One of the largest was the convention at Idylwild, a former W&T Railroad resort of the Ohoopee River, south west of Wrightsville.  Managed by Grady Sumner, the event attracted thousands of people  and lasted until the 1960s.

Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church

The singing of shape notes in praising the Lord God is a Southern Christian tradition which has almost  faded into obscurity like many other old, grand traditions.   Today, Sacred Harp music is experiencing a comeback with younger people around the country, even those whose religious beliefs are not as deep as the original singers of shape note music.

The memory of shape note music still resonates in the mind of the Rev. Don Hicks, the minister of the First Church of the Nazarene Church in Dublin.  Hicks, also the musical leader of his church, fondly remembers his attraction to Sacred Harp singing, primarily in the days of his youth he spent at singing conventions at Sand Mountain, Alabama. "It was a good learning tool to teach me how to sing," Hicks added.

And now you know, that a musical tradition which has lasted for more than a century, has its roots in a little boy born in Wilkinson County, Georgia nearly 200 years ago.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016



As the United States got deeper into World War II, the need for long term care military hospitals rose.   Congressman Carl Vinson of Milledgeville used his influence as Chairman of the House Committee on Naval Affairs to establish a naval hospital in Dublin.  Over the next twenty years, Congressman Vinson nearly succeeded in establishing the United States Air Force Academy and an Air Force base in Laurens County.  The plans for the hospital, which would serve as a long term care
facility, were formulated in 1942.  Early in 1943, the prospects of the hospital seemed dim. But Vinson persevered, and the project was approved in the late spring.

The primary need in order to establish a navy hospital in Dublin was the transportation of patients in and out of the city.  The Laurens County Board of Commissioners purchased 640 acres of land three miles northwest of Dublin for the construction of an airport.  The land was purchased at a cost of nearly double the amount originally budgeted.  The commissioners resorted to issuing warrants to pay
the cost after a bond issue and bank loans failed to materialize.  The federal government took over the construction and completed the project in 1943.  Among the first military uses of the airport was the delivery of mail to the few hundred soldiers who where stationed at the prisoner of war camp in Dublin.

The City of Dublin took immediate steps to aid in the construction of the hospital.  The city attempted to issue bonds for the construction of water and sewer lines to the hospital.  The Citizens and Southern Bank took over the financing after the failure of the bond issue.  The federal government stepped in and provided the remaining funds to extend the lines to the hospital.  A four lane road was built running from McCall's Point at the end of Bellevue Avenue to the hospital site.

 Real estate developer and theater owner R.E. Martin donated land for the road.  Years later the city lined the road with oak trees.  The road, originally known as the Old Macon Road, now bears the name of Veteran's Boulevard in honor of all the patients at the hospital.

Construction of the hospital began in July of 1943.  Lt. Commander Louis S. Dozier came to Dublin to inspect the site and begin the initial preparations.  Before the construction could begin, a rail spur line was laid from the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad to the site.  An elevated steel water tank was the first structure to be completed.  Even as the work was proceeding, the government was still in the process of acquiring the land.

The government chose a 231 acre farm site on the western edge of Dublin. The farm, known as the "Capt. Rice Place" or "Brookwood," was owned by W.P. Roche.  E.T. Barnes asked the court to allow him to harvest the crops growing on the land.  Judge A.B. Lovett agreed, but allowed the government to immediately go into possession of the land where the water tank was constructed.  The government was allowed to take full possession of the property by September 13, 1943.  Mr. Roche's
home was spared, but part of his orchard was taken under a condemnation process through which Mr. Roche was paid the market value of $112.00 per acre.

In September, the engineers began laying out the streets on the hospital grounds.  The streets were named for medical department personnel killed in action during the war.  Gendreau Circle was named for Capt. Elphege A.M. Gendreau of San Francisco, who was killed in combat in the South Pacific.  Blackwood Drive was named in memory of James D. Blackwood of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, senior medical officer of the "U.S.S. Vincennes."  Johnson Drive and Alexander Drive were named in memory of Cmdr. Samuel E. Johnson of Clinton, Alabama and Lt. Cmdr. Hugh R. Alexander, of Belleville, Pennsylvania and the U.S.S. Arizona, who were killed at Pearl Harbor.  Crowley Avenue was named after Lt. Cmdr. Edward Crowley of San Francisco after he was killed in the Solomon Islands.  Neff Place was named in honor of Lt. Cmdr. James Neff, Senior Medical Officer of the cruiser "U.S.S. Juneau."  Trojakowski Avenue and Morrow Place were named in honor of W.C. Trojakowski of Schenectady, N.Y. and Lt. Junior Grade Edna O. Morrow (left -- above) of Pasadena, Calf. who were killed in airplane crashes.  The last street, Evans Avenue, was named in honor of Lt. Cmdr. Edward E. Evans of San Francisco who was killed in the Solomon Islands in December of 1942.

Construction Workers eatery near site of present day McDonalds.
R.A. Bowen & Co. of Macon began the grading and clearing of the land in mid September.  One of the first obstacles to be cleared was the Capt. Rice home known as "Brookwood."  It was built in 1903 by Joseph D. Smith.  Smith sold the home to farmer, naval stores operator and businessman Capt. W.B. Rice.  Rice developed the land into one of the finest farms in Laurens County.  In a matter of hours, the site of many of the grandest and finest social gatherings in Dublin was gone forever.

The first bids let for buildings were for eight patient wards.  The wards were built of masonry and were two stories in height.  The contract was awarded to Beers Construction Company of Atlanta for 1.16 million dollars.  The initial plans called for a 500 bed, 5 million dollar hospital. After the end of the war, the hospital would be turned over to the Veteran's Administration which planned to add another thousand beds running the total cost to ten million dollars. After the wards were constructed, a central hospital and administration building would be constructed in the center of the complex. Nurse's quarters, bachelor officer's quarters, WAVES barracks, corpsmen's barracks, mess attendant's barracks, a gatehouse, greenhouses, a fire station and garage, an incinerator and storage buildings rounded out the remainder of the hospital area.

  The buildings were designed in the colonial style to blend with the colonial homes along Bellevue Avenue.  The wartime shortage of material necessitated the use of clay, wood, and cement products from the local area.  A crew of five naval civil engineers and twenty civil service engineers, inspectors, accountants and clerks began work under the supervision of Lt. Cmdr. Dozier. Dublin's civic and church organizations worked together to accommodate the hospital staff during the construction phase.  A corps of 125 architects and engineers worked out of an Atlanta office building designing the project under the supervision of Lt. R.R. Grant. President Roosevelt gave final approval of a Federal Works Agency grant in December of 1943 to extend water and sewer lines and install the necessary equipment at the pumping station.

As the completion date neared, Dublin tried to cope with its growing pains. Ingram Construction Company moved its operations to Dublin and constructed twenty brick homes for hospital personnel. Captain A.L. Bryan estimated that as many as a thousand people would be attached to the hospital. He estimated that as many as two hundred families would move into the Dublin area.  Commander
Ellington of Charleston estimated that one hundred forty new houses would be needed to house the new families.  By May of 1944, the city of Dublin was forced to institute rent ceilings to prevent gouging by landlords.

Despite some instances of rent gouging, the construction personnel were well treated by the community.  When the Dublin Theatre reopened in the summer of 1944, special Sunday movies were shown to the military personnel.  During the late summer of 1944, the navy men played Army-Navy baseball games against the army guards from the local German prisoner of war camp.  The sailors also played basketball games against alumni teams from local high schools.

Finally on January 22, 1945, the hospital was ready for full operation.  Five hundred beds were in place with room for an additional three hundred and fifty more for emergency purposes. The original complex was built with four and one half million bricks which,  if laid end to end, would extend all the way to Washington, D.C.  There were sixty cubic yards of concrete, seventeen hundred tons of steel, eighty miles of interior piping, five elevators, five thousand windows, twenty one hundred doors, eleven acres of flooring, four acres of acoustical ceiling tiles, twenty miles of underground piping and six thousand cubic yards of earth work.

Commander Louis Dozier, a native of Macon, Georgia,  was commended by the Bureau of Yards and Docks for his work in supervising the construction of the hospital.  He was promoted and was assigned overseas.  Commander Dozier was ably assisted by project managers Lt. Carl B. Babcock and Carleton B. Johnson.  The project was supervised at the highest levels by Rear Admiral Jules James of the Sixth Naval District and was operated by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

The dedication of the hospital was scheduled for the early afternoon.  A light and cold rain kept many away.  Nearly every politician and business leader in Georgia was invited to attend. Military leaders in the hospital's chain of command were invited to speak.  Gov. Ellis Arnall and Congressman Carl Vinson were slated to speak, but were detained and did not attend.  Postmaster M.J. Guyton spoke on behalf of his brother-in-law, Congressman Vinson, before a somewhat disappointed crowd. The first patients were scheduled to be brought in during the ceremonies but were delayed by a few hours by the bad weather.  The hospital was not quite finished when it opened.  The commander's office was temporarily located in the front guard house and later in the surgical wing of the hospital.

The initial cadre of officers at the hospital was headed by Capt. A.L. Bryan. Capt. Bryan (left) was a veteran of naval operations in the Pacific serving with valor in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.  Commander A.J. Delaney served as the first Executive Officer.  Commander B.E. Goodrich, Chief of Medicine; Commander W.S. Littlejohn, Chief of Neuropsychiatry; Commander D.D. Martin, Clinical Director; Lt. Commander E.B. Brick, Chief of the Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Section; Lt. Commander V.B. Buhler, Chief of Laboratory Services, and Lt. Commander P.V. Dilts rounded out the executive staff of the hospital.  The Red Cross provided a staff of nearly two dozen women to serve the hospital.  The early heads of the Red Cross workers were Helen Cassidy, Merle Foeckler, and Margaret Weatherall.

The hospital, then a part of the armed forces hospital system, took on the  role of aiding the war on the home front.  This mission included entertainment and education of the patients.  On April 7, 1945, Eddie Rickenbacker visited the hospital. Rickenbacker was the top American ace of World War I. After the war, he got into the automobile business.  Rickenbacker owned the Indianapolis Speedway for 12 years.  In 1938, he was named President of Eastern Airlines and served in that position until he was named Chairman of the Board in 1959.  Rickenbacker's mission was to cheer up those sailors who were facing long recuperation from their injuries.

On the last day of April 1945, Helen Keller made a visit to the hospital.  Helen Keller had lost her senses of sight and hearing.  She could not speak.  Upon the recommendation of Alexander Graham Bell, she went to a special school for the blind.  Anne Sullivan taught Miss Keller to listen to others talk by placing her hand on their faces.  She eventually learned to read, write, talk and type and graduated with honors from Radcliff College.  In her later years, Helen Keller authored many successful books.  Her visit to the hospital was part of her tour of military hospitals across the country.  It was hoped that those disabled veterans would be inspired by Miss Keller's overcoming of her disabilities.

Over the years that followed, touring bands and companies performed at the hospital for the sailors in the afternoons and at public dances at night.  Among those were forties band leaders Les Brown, Vaughn Monroe, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Skinny Ennis, Glen Gray, Tommy Tucker, Jan Garber and Ted Weems.

The hospital continued to expand.  A research laboratory was built in late 1945 to study the effects of rheumatic fever.  Captain J.B. Logue succeeded Capt. A.L. Bryan as commander of the hospital. The last naval commander was Capt. Lea B. Sartin.  Capt. Sartin (left) was taken as a prisoner of war while serving at a Manilla hospital and endured three years in the Japanese prison camps, first as the prison doctor at Bilbub prison in the Philippines.   Capt. Sartin served as Executive Officer of the Naval Hospital in New Orleans before coming to Dublin.  The peak of hospital patient load came in came in June 1946, when there were 1200 Navy and 100 VA patients served by 75 Staff Officers, 80 Nurses, 300 corpsmen, and 78 WAVES. Nearly three years after the end of the war the hospital was decommissioned as a naval hospital.  The ceremonial transfer was broadcast  from the studios of radio station WMLT on the evening of June 30, 1948. Dr. David Quinn was named as Administrator of the new Veteran's hospital.  On September 15, 1948, the hospital was dedicated by Senator Walter F. George and Congressman Carl Vinson.

Felix Bobbitt, (left) a Laurens County native and a paraplegic veteran, was the first patient admitted to the Veteran’s Hospital.   Within a year, hospital beds were increased two and one half times to accommodate 500 patients,  though the actual number of occupied beds only averaged around 350.  For those patients who were able to enjoy the outdoors and primarily for the staff, workers and their families, the hospital grounds featured indoor and outdoor basketball courts, six tennis courts, a swimming pool, a small golf course and bowling alleys.

In 1956, an Intermediate Service Center was established under the direction of Dr. Albert Bush.    At the end of its first decade as a VA Hospital, twenty physicians, three dentists and nearly six hundred employees were providing services for more than 450 patients.  Two hundred more patients were waiting to get in the hospital.   By the end of the 1950s a domiciliary with 450 members was established bringing the total patient load of 950, all served by 650 employees.

A 56-bed nursing home unit was established in 1965.  The unit expanded by 30 more beds in 1975.   In 1971, six-acre Lake Leisure was constructed along Bud’s Branch, the only creek in Dublin which flows in a northerly direction.

My most personal fond memory of the hospital came at Christmas.  In a day when church and state were separate but not mutually exclusive, Mamma and Daddy would drive us by the front of the hospital to gaze upon the tens of thousands of beautiful Christmas lights and wondrous displays of holiday celebrations.

Today the Carl Vinson Veteran’s  Administration Medical Center, named for the man totally responsible for its existence, has a 339 operating-bed facility which is staffed by approximately 750 employees.  The men and women of the VA Hospital provide acute and extended care services, ranging from pulmonary, optometry, surgery, podiatry, urology, cardiology, mental health, women’s health and general primary care.  With a budget in excess of sixty million dollars, the hospital, which turns sixty years old this month, continues to be a vital part of our local economy.
                     THE REST OF THE STORY
      Doctors, Patients and Visitors at the V.A. Hospital

Over the last six decades, hundreds of thousands of our country’s heroes have received medical care in the VA Hospital.    More than ten thousand physicians, nurses, sailors, waves, technicians, secretaries, and health care workers have walked the long halls, worked tirelessly to serve those who had served them and frequently held back their tears in the presence of those who suffer terribly from the wounds of war of the ravages of time.  It is to these wonderful Americans and the unnumerable legion of volunteers who have given of themselves that I dedicate these columns.

Franklin Gowdy was born to Dr. F.M. Gowdy and Margaret K. Gowdy on June 2, 1903 in Union Pier, Michigan.  He grew up in St. Joseph, Michigan.  Gowdy attended St. Joseph’s High School, where he was vice president of the Crescent Society in his junior year.  While at St. Joseph’s, Franklin performed in school plays and choral programs.

Franklin played tackle for the University of Chicago Maroons in the early 1920s.  In 1924, he was elected captain of the football team.  Gowdy was generally regarded by national experts as one of the best tackles in the county and rated by his coach, the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg as “one of the best tackles ever developed at the University of Chicago.” Gowdy was chosen to the All Big Ten team and the All American team and led his team to a 3-0-3 record and its last Big Ten Championship.  He was honored by Coach Stagg in 1925, when he was asked to coach the Chicago line.  His younger brother Vic followed in his footsteps, first at Chicago and then as captain of the Oberlin College team.

Dr. Franklin Gowdy graduated from Rush Medical School in Chicago.   He began the  practice of  medicine in 1937 in Evanston, Illinois, where he met and married his wife, Dorothy Faye Brockway.  Dr. Gowdy enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve shortly after Pearl Harbor.  Gowdy, then nearly forty years of age, expected to serve in the Naval Reserve at the Great Lakes Naval Base.  He was transferred to the Marines and sent to Guadalcanal attached to First Division United States Marine Corps.  The First Marine Division participated in the invasion of the islands of New Britain and Pellilu. By the end of his tour in the South Pacific, Dr. Gowdy rose to the rank of Lt. Commander in the Navy.   His brother Howard served as an officer in the Army Air Corps.

In his last year in the service in the Navy, Dr. Gowdy was assigned to the United States Naval Hospital in Dublin, Georgia.  In January 1946, Dr. Gowdy resumed his practice of medicine in Winnetka, Illinois.  He and his family resided in nearby Glencoe.  Dr. Gowdy practiced medicine in the Chicago area and taught internal medicine at Northwestern University until his death on July 15, 1973.

In 1952, Dr. M. Ferdinand Nunez served as chief of laboratory services at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Dublin.  Dr. Nunez was a direct descendant of Dr. Samuel Nunez.  The original Dr. Nunez came to the infant colony of Georgia in July, 1733 as the physician and apothecary for the Colony.  Dr. Nunez delivered Phillip Minas, the first male child to be born in the colony.

Officials at the Dublin VA Hospital were honored when the national commander of American Veterans agreed to pay a visit to the hospital on January 12, 1961.  The commander, a Canadian born paratroop sergeant in World War II, was the guest of honor at a luncheon held in the dining room and the featured speaker in the auditorium, which was filled with patients, staff, and personnel.  The commander told the veterans "It's not what you have lost, but what you have left. Disability does not mean inability."  He urged the veterans to pass on to the civilians what they had learned in the military.  The Commander spoke from experience for he lost both arms during the war.  He tried, without his hands, making a movie. He played the role of Homer Parrish, one of several veterans returning home after the war.  Evidently he did a pretty good job.  He was awarded two awards for his performance in the film.  His name was Harold Russell.  The classic movie  from 1946 was "The Best Years of Our Lives."  The movie won the Oscar for best picture. Frederich March won the Oscar for best actor.  The director and writer also won the Oscar that year.  Russell, one of the most famous American heroes of World War II, won the Oscar for best supporting actor and another special Oscar "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." In his first and only movie, Sgt. Russell was the only actor ever to be awarded two Oscars for one role.  Russell went into the public relations field after the war.  He died in 1993.

In the days and months before Fidel Castro took control of the Cuban government, Cubans by the thousands fled to Florida and parts of the southeast. Several families came to Dublin and, in particular, to the Veteran's Hospital.  Three of Cuba's top physicians wound up in Dublin. They were unanimous in their view that the Cuban refugees should leave Miami and come to small American towns like Dublin, which were a more true example of American life and the strength of our country. Dr. Rogello J. Barata was a former professor of surgery at the University of Havana Medical University until 1961.  Dr. Barata served as general and thoracic surgeon at the V.A. hospital.  His former student, Dr. Luis G. Valdes, was Chief of Surgery in one of Havana's largest hospitals after completing his post graduate  work at Harvard University.  The third and most prominent physician was Dr. Delio S. Garcia, former professor of Pathology at the University of Havana.  Dr. Garcia had
been the former director of the Cuban National Bureau of Identification.  Between 1944 and 1948, Cuba was experiencing a wave of gang killings when nearly 150 prominent people were killed.  Dr. Garcia was able to identify five of the killers through scientific tests.  The first murderer he identified was a young Cuban rebel by the name of Fidel Castro.  The Cuban families assimilated into the community; Dr. Valdes’ mother-in-law taught Spanish at Dublin High School.

At the Veteran's Hospital, patients came and patients went.  There was something unusual about this particular patient.  He was a veteran of the United States Army having fought in Korea.  After the war, he married Frances Googe of Hazelhurst, where he made his home.  He did nothing to create the excitement.  The unusual amount of attention paid to this patient, Vincent Cadette, came not from his
actions, but because of his ancestry.  His ancestor was among the most famous men of the late 19th century.  Vincent was an American Indian like his great grandfather, Sitting Bull.

One of Dublin's oldest residents in 1968 was Louis Greenhaus, who was 101 years old.  Greenhaus, a Russian-born naturalized citizen, was a resident of the V.A. Hospital.  Naturalized as a United States citizen in 1892, Greenhaus (left) served as a sergeant in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Between the wars, Greenhaus was a member of John Phillip Sousa's band and played under the direction of America’s foremost band leaders. Greenhaus credited his daily cigar as the most important factor in his longevity.
In the early decades of the V.A. Hospital, the wards were filled with veterans of the Spanish American War and World War I.   William C. Owen was Georgia’s oldest surviving veteran of the Spanish American War.  He turned 100 years old on September 4, 1978.  Lemuel J. Rogers, who died at the VA Hospital on June 25, 1963,  served under Col. Teddy Roosevelt and retired as a master sergeant in 1926.

Roland Wilbur Charles, Jr. died at the VA Medical Center on July 18, 1997. Charles, a former sailor in the 1950s, worked at NASA and was responsible for the worldwide installation of S-Band radio systems for Earth to space communications during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.   A former national vice president of the Children of the American Revolution, Charles was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Roland Ellis, Jr., formerly of Macon, died in the VA Medical Center on May 22, 1995.  Ellis worked as a journalist for the Paris Tribune before joining the New Yorker magazine, where he once wrote the popular column “Talk of the Town.”

These are a few of the thousands of stories of the people of the VA Hospital. Their complete stories would fill volumes.  I encourage you to record your stories of the hospital for posterity so that the generations to come will know just what a special place the V.A.  Hospital is.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Twice Heroes

During this year, our nation will commemorate the 75th anniversary of our country’s involvement in World War II.  So, to start it off, let me tell you about eleven men.  You know their names and their faces.  Although most of you grew up with them, you don’t know the full stories of their lives.

After high school, David joined the Army Air Corps.  He wanted to fly.  During WW 2, this second lieutenant flew 44 missions as a bombardier aboard a B-25 bomber.  David, flying a mission as a navigator, and his crew were shot down and were forced to ditch their plane into the sea.  David broke both ankles.  His co-pilot was killed.  Awarded a handful of medals for his service in the war, David, as a first lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, went to school to begin his life long career.

Jimmy joined the Royal Canadian Artillery as a field artillery lieutenant and was transferred to England to train for the eventual invasion of Normandy.  Jimmy and his company landed on Normandy.  He immediately took control of his unit, firing at snipers above.  After establishing a safe position during the first night, Jimmy was accidentally hit by six rounds of friendly fire.  Four rounds hit him in one of his legs. A finger wound led to an amputation.  The sixth round struck him in the chest.  His life was spared when the bullet hit a silver cigarette case, a gift from his brother,  in shirt pocket.  When he returned to duty, Jimmy joined artillery and later began to fly planes.  One observer once remarked that Jimmy was “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force." Keep this last thought in your mind.

Jackson, who had lived in Conyers and Decatur, Georgia, spent his teenage days playing football and baseball while working in a drug store and a movie theater.  While working in a movie theater on weekends, Jackson developed a life-long fondness for making movies.    When the war came, Jackson joined the Army Air Corps and filmed airplanes.  Keep this thought in your mind too. For many years after the war, Jackson and Jimmy would serve aboard the same ship.

Lyon, whose voice made him a natural for radio announcing, gave up his radio career and chemical engineering studies temporarily to serve as a flight officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. It was Lyon’s unenviable task to deliver the horrible news of the results of the fighting.  Called “The Voice of Doom,” Lyon was called upon to read the names of the local boys killed in the war over the airwaves.

Leonard underwent training to become a Navy V-12 pilot, but was forced out of flight school when doctors discovered that he was color blind.  Leonard learned how to operate a radio and fire the rear guns from aboard a ship.  He was assigned to the Pacific as a trainer in a torpedo squadron.  As a radio operator and turret gunner aboard an Avenger torpedo gft`bomber, Leonard was transferred to the USS Bunker Hill, just before the opening salvos of the Battle of Okinawa.  Just before leaving on a mission, the pilot became ill and the flight was delayed while another crew of replacements took their places. A few days later, a large number of sailors aboard the ship were killed in a kamikaze attack.  

Larry, who always saw humor in most situations, served as a gunner’s mate during the U.S.  Navy’s bombardment of Normandy on D-Day.  During the action off Utah Beach, Larry was awarded commendations for his bravery.

William joined the Naval Air Corps in 1943 and underwent training as a V-12 officer.  As an ensign assigned to the USS Pennsylvania, William served as a communications officer to transmit messages from ship to ship and ship to shore as well as intercepting enemy messages and decoyed encrypted ones   On his off duty time, William was an undefeated service boxer.  When the war ended, William was aboard a ship bound for Japan.

Billy, not to be confused with William above, was a star basketball player and fraternity boy when the war broke out. He joined the Navy to train as a fighter pilot, but never managed to be assigned to overseas and combat duty

Alex enlisted as a seaman in the Royal British Navy.  After receiving an officer’s commission, Alex commanded a landing craft during the Allied invasion of Italy. Afterwards, he ferried munitions and supplies to Yugoslav partisans in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As you will remember, Jimmy and Jackson served aboard the same ship.  The ship I speak of is the U.S.S. Enterprise, not the aircraft carrier, but the fictional star ship. You see, the Canadian lieutenant whose life was saved by a silver cigarette lighter and the Georgia boy who filmed flying aircraft were none other than James “Jimmy” Doohan and Forrest Jackson DeKelley, Mr. Montgomery Scott and Dr. Leonard McCoy, who took a long trek to the stars where no man had ever gone before.

Lyon went into space as well.  You may remember him as Commander Adama of the Battlestar Galactica.  You will remember him, the “Voice of Doom,”  as Himan Lyman Greene, or Lorne Greene in his iconic role as Ben Cartwright, patriarch of the Ponderosa on the long running western Bonanza.

And, don’t forget about Alex.  Alex, or more correctly Alec, lived in a galaxy, far, far away.   The British naval officer, who starred in a space movie some 38 years ago, was Sir Alec Guiness, or to you Star Wars fans, Obiwan Kenobi.

Remember David, the young navigator and bombardier who flew more than 44 missions  aboard a bomber in the South Pacific?  You will remember him better as Roy Hinkley.  Still don’t know who I am talking about?  Perhaps, you will remember him not by his tv character’s name, but by his title, “The Professor.”  For you see, Russell David Johnson, the brilliant professor of Gilligan’s Island, could never use his real life skills to find a way for the castaways to get off the island, at least during the series original run. Oh by the way, his skipper, Jonas Grumby, who was portrayed by Alan Hale, Jr., joined, what else, the Coast Guard in World War II.  He was joined in the Coast Guard by Lloyd Bridges, who gained fame portraying Coast Guard reservist, Mike Nelson, in Sea Hunt.

Not long after Leonard left the service as a gunner on a torpedo bomber, he got into acting too.  For more than fifty years, he was a ladies’ man and a man’s man, but in real life he married a South Georgia girl. Yet another iconic star on this list, Paul Leonard Newman is considered a giant among actors.

Larry, a D-Day gunner, was never an actor although he was on television as much as any baseball player ever was.  Larry, or should I say, Lawrence “Yogi” Berra, died last year as one of baseball’s most beloved players.

To round out these eleven heroes, I turn to Billy and William.  Billy, the frat boy and and basketball star, would go on to find his niche as a game show host.  You may remember Billy as the host of Truth or Consequences or several of his other games shows.  But, I do guarantee that you will remember, Robert “Bob” William Barker, the host of The Price is Right.

And, here’s to William, or should I say, “Johnny!” This radio operator, turned boxer, turned comic, turned late night host was John William Carson, the king of late night television.

These men were heroes twice, both in war and in the postwar careers on screen and off.

So, when we welcome home veterans from today’s wars, let us look to what they can accomplish in the years to come.  Put away the barriers and lend them a hand. You never
know what may happen.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


A Centennial Look Back

     The year 1908 was another good year for Dublin and Laurens County.  The city and her surrounding sister towns were still growing after a decade and a half of prosperity. Though times were good, the best years were yet to come.

     The first news of the new year was good. Passengers could leave Atlanta at midday and arrive home in Dublin just in time for supper. Train riding was a popular pastime. At least a thousand Sunday School picnickers boarded trains in Dublin for the short ride over to Idylwild in Johnson County for a day of food, fun and frolicking.

     But the iron horse was soon to be replaced by the horseless carriage.  And, L.W. Miller was going to prove it. Miller pulled his prize auto up next to a locomotive of the W&T Railroad in Tennille. Though he had to slow down over the bad spots in the dirt roads, Miller beat the train back to Dublin by ten minutes. Six months later, the bicycle dealer, would better his time and set a new record in the race between the Cadillac and the locomotive.


   Streets in the city were being paved for the first time. First around the courthouse square and then throughout the residential neighborhoods, paved streets were suddenly in demand.  The residents of Bellevue offered to pay two-thirds of the cost if the city would pave their avenue. Mayor L.Q. Stubbs was so anxious that he personally offered to pay the share of any property owner who was unable or
unwilling to contribute. Without the paving, the dust from the busy street could only be suppressed by pouring diesel fuel and kerosene on it.

     The forward-looking folks of Dublin called for a bond election, an early version of the SPLOST sales tax, to provide for improvements to the city's infrastructure, including the construction of Stubbs Park and a new school on Saxon Street.  To meet the needs of the burgeoning city, the voters approved the construction of a half-million-gallon water reservoir at the water plant. In February, the voters, in a landslide election, approved the project by a margin of 10 to 1.

     Just as it would be a century later in 2008, the campaigns of '08 were hotly contested. Since Laurens County, with its record registered voter total of 4,000 voters, was one of the state's most populous counties, politicians descended upon Dublin to promise what they would do if elected. Gov. Hoke Smith attracted a near overflow crowd of 1500 at the Chautauqua Auditorium, which underwent a massive expansion and renovation. Georgia's next governor, Joseph M. Brown was a dinner guest of his friend Izzie Bashinski at his Bellevue home. Former governor William Northern spent a day in town gathering information for the government on cotton production.

     Three trains left Dublin to travel over to Idylwild.  They were  filled with people who wanted to hear Thomas E. Watson, a perennial political favorite in the area, as he campaigned for President of the United States. Just three weeks before the election, Watson, Georgia's favorite son candidate, came to Dublin in mid-October to speak at the auditorium. While in Dublin, Watson was a house guest of his close friend, Dr. C.H. Kittrell. Though William Howard Taft, the Republican candidate, won the election, William Jennings Bryan, who would speak in the auditorium two years later, carried Laurens County over Taft, who was supported by black voters. Watson came in a distant third. Election returns were received by Western Union telegraph and projected on the wall of the auditorium with a stereopticon device.

     Dublin's population, which had increased 50 percent  since the beginning of the decade, was estimated at 4500, sixty percent of whom were white and forty percent of whom were black. More than one quarter of the city's residents were students. Out in the county, there were more than ten thousand students, a much higher figure than today. The county's student population had increased at the unbelievable, but highly gratifying, rate of twenty five percent in five years.

Confederate Monument and Library 
   1908 was the year when plans were being made for the erection of the Confederate Monument on the grounds of the Carnegie Library and the erection of a new and permanent brick post office in Dublin. Fourteen sites were offered for the new building. Most Dubliners wanted it to be  located at the corner of Bellevue and Monroe Streets or on the northwest corner of the Courthouse Square. After much controversy, the committee decided to locate the Federal building at the southwest
corner of East Madison and South Franklin streets in the heart of the cotton related businesses and a block from the railroad depots.

Stubbs Park 
     P.J. Berckmans of Augusta began his design of Stubbs Park.  His original conception called for a lake and lots of fountains, but when the appropriated and donated funds fell short, the horticulturalist, whose gardens became the famous Augusta National Golf Course, scaled back his plans. The concrete causeway between the river bridge and the road on the East Dublin side was completed to allow more reliable crossings.

     Alderman G.H. Williams proposed a $5000.00 annual tax on the sellers of Coca Cola, which he believed was injuring the people. He proposed the same tax on retailers of cigarettes and near beer.

      Workers found the remains of the Laurens County jail while paving the street between the Brantley Building (old Lovett & Tharpe building) and the First National Bank (old F&M Bank building). The walls of the cells were found five feet below the surface and were twenty-four feet apart.  The discovery reminded Hardy Smith of an older jail that  was located on the old bus station site at the corner of South Franklin and East Jackson streets.

Professor Paul Verpoest reorganized the Dublin Military Band.   Over the next seven years, the band would be recognized as one of the best city bands around.  The boys from Dublin would later represent the state of Georgia in the national reunions of the United Confederate Veterans on many occasions.

More than a thousand people attended the tent show production of the play, Jesse James. The Star was the new silent movie theater in town. When its quarters became too small, it was moved to the auditorium.

As I complete my twelfth year of chronicling the events of our past, I remind you all to look to the future, for there is where our most important history lies.   I leave with you with one of my favorite quotations.  It comes from a frustrated history teacher.  He actually wanted to be a piano player, but would have been gratified to have taught the history of the country he loved.    In his most famous vocation, he believed that knowledge of his country's past was vital.  His name was Harry S. Truman and he said, "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know."     So, study your past, document the present, and live for the future.