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

Sunday, February 26, 2017


                           TAB PRINCE
                        Death At Daytona

Tab Prince loved fast cars.  He sold them.  He drove them.  He died in one of them.  Forty seven years ago in the biggest race of his life, Talmadge Prince was killed in one of the 125 mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500, at the time, the fastest race in the history of the eleven year old track.  The life of the Dublin car dealer, the first ever in a NASCAR Grand National Race,  ended in a furious and hellish moment of death, death at Daytona.

Talmadge "Tab" Prince, who was born on February 16, 1937, in Cullman County, Alabama was a son of William T. Prince and Opal Marie Cryer Prince.Tab attended Cotaco High School and the the University of Alabama before going into a defense contracting business.  He started a company called PBR Electronics.   Prince, who had raced late model sportsman and sprint cars for a decade, Prince left his electronics business in Decatur, Alabama in the fall of 1969 to go into the car business in Dublin.

 Prince continue to maintain other business interests in Huntsville, Alabama, Atlanta, and in the state of North Carolina.    He joined with Bill Hodges to form the partnership Hodges & Prince,  Hodges and Prince, which sold Chrysler and Plymouth automobiles on their lot at 309 East Jackson Street. The partners sold used cars on their 245 East Jackson Street lot.  It has been said that Prince had patented some type of electronic device which provided him with the funds to do what he loved to do and that was to race cars.  During his short stay in Dublin, Tab Prince called an apartment at 302 Ramsey Street home.

Bill Hodges, Tab Prince, and Junior Scarboro 

Prince purchased his Charger Daytona  from James Hylton of Inman, South Carolina, in January of 1970.  Hylton, the 1966 NASCAR.  Rookie of the Year, had enjoyed early success driving Dodges, but decided to switch to Fords in 1970.  Prince had driven in small track races for ten years, but had never driving anything like the Daytona.  Unlike modern day race cars which are built from scratch, NASCAR racers took a stock chassis and body and made the necessary modifications to make the car go faster than the average car on the road.  NASCAR regulations required that at least five hundred models of an automobile be produced to qualify the car to be a stock car.  The requisite number of cars had to be produced before September 1st of the previous year.  Competition between Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors  was fierce.  Each tried to build a faster car than the other.  Tremendous sums of money were spent and lost in an effort to sell sports cars to the those who could only dream
of racing in a Grand National race.

Chrysler introduced a new and improved Charger in 1968, which had a powerful hemi engine, but was aerodynamically flawed.  Changes were made again in 1969 to improve the car.  The most visible change was the use of a nose cone on the front and a winged stabilizer on the rear of the car. Their Plymouth counterparts, were dubbed the "Superbirds."  The Daytona sold for $4200.00, but cost Chrysler more than fifteen hundred dollars for every one they sold.  Actually none of the 1969 Charger Daytonas ever wound up on the race track.  The car, which Prince bought from  Hylton, began its life as a 1968 Charger, was modified to become a Charger 500 and modified again to become a Daytona.  All  five hundred of 1969 Daytonas were sold.  The company had orders for twelve hundred in the first three weeks after the car became available.  Nearly seventy percent of the cars are still in existence today and are highly sought by muscle car collectors.

After Fords captured both races at Daytona in 1969,   Chrysler was looking to get back to victory lane in 1970.  The lead drivers that season were Richard Petty, the King of stock car racing,  Pete Hamilton, his teammate, both of whom who drove Plymouths, Bobby Isaac and Buddy Baker  in Charger Daytonas.  In March of 1970, Baker became the first NASCAR driver to attain a speed in excess of two hundred miles per hour.  The nose cone, flush window fastback roof, and winged stabilizer made the superbirds the most aerodynamic car on the track.  Some experts estimated that it gave the Charger a five hundred yard advantage per lap on the super speedways.  The superior design led to what had to be Chrysler's greatest year in racing.  That year the Daytonas and the Plymouth Superbirds won an incredible thirty eight out of forty eight NASCAR races.

Cale Yarborough, driving his Wood Brothers Mercury, captured the first of the twin 125-mile qualifying races on February 19, 1970.  Yarborough, who ran the fastest race ever run up until that time,  took advantage of pit strategy to beat Isaac in his Daytona.  Superbird driver, Pete Hamilton, the eventual winner of the main race, fell out of competition early on.  Prince had qualified for the second race with a speed of 165.562 miles per hour.  Charlie Glotzbach, who was lucky to be alive after being nearly shot to death in a quarrel with an employee, and Buddy Baker, both driving Daytonas took command early in the race.

Then, suddenly and without warning, on the twentieth lap of the second qualifying race as Prince's number 78 Daytona was entering the high banked first turn of the Daytona super speedway, Prince's hemi engine blew. Oil gushed onto the track.  The car started sliding sideways.  Bill Seifort, of Skyland, North Carolina, was behind Prince. His car, too, went into a spin as he tried to avoid Prince's No. 78 car.  The nose of Seifort's car struck Prince's car just behind the driver's side door.   Seifort was traveling at an estimated one hundred and ninety miles per hour.  Prince never had a chance.  Prince's car burst into flames.  In another micro instant, a third car, driven by Tommy Haliford of Spartanburg, South Carolina, smashed into the pileup.

Prince was killed instantly. His neck was broken.  His spinal cord snapped. Seifort, who suffered cranial and cardiac concussions, was taken to the hospital in critical condition.  Seifort survived the crash.   Haliford escaped any serious injury, despite the fact that his car was totaled.  After a thirteen lap caution period, Glotzbach went on the win the second qualifying race.

What nearly became a major controversy was averted when track officials apparently and successfully overcame allegations that officials and spotters had failed to alert drivers of the presence of engine wreckage and debris along with chunks of tire rubber on the track for extended periods of time during the qualifying races.  Track officials admitted that a four-foot long piece of tail pipe was left on the back straight of way, but denied it had anything to do with the Prince's accident.

Prince's death cast a pall over the crowd that Thursday and for the rest of the race week at Daytona. Twenty seven people have lost their lives at the Daytona raceway.   Prince, who was killed thirty two years ago today, was only the second man to be killed in a race at Daytona, the first to actually be killed in a Grand National Race - in those days the qualifying races at Daytona were actual races and counted toward the points championship.   Prince  was the first of three men killed in the qualifying races and the second of six men, including the legendary Dale Earnhardt who was killed a year ago during the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, to be killed in a Grand National Race at the greatest of all car stock car tracks, the Daytona International Speedway.

   They buried Tab Prince in the Roselawn Gardens of Memory in Decatur, Alabama.

  Seven months after Prince was killed, his wife gave birth to a son, which she named Tab.  Tab remembered, " His wrecked car was in our garage in Decatur, AL for a while according to my sister. She said all the neighborhood kids would come over to look at it."  Tab was adopted by his stepfather Bradord.  He also remember, "Tab had a friend named Doris Rochelle who parted it out for him. Someone in Dublin may have bought some of it. I’m not sure."

 "I know he had in an apt in Dublin for a while.  My mom says he took her deer hunting over there one time. I’m an avid hunter as well. I think she was going to eventually join him there. Tab’s son. He definitely had an adventuresome spirit. He was a musician, pilot (planes and gliders)  race car driver and quite a charming businessman I’m told, the younger Tab remembered.

  Today, people still wonder what happened to the car in which Tab Prince was killed.  One rumor has it that it is buried in a field in Washington County, Georgia. Another account claims it was sold on Ebay.  In the car racing profession, it is considered extremely disrespectful to display a car in which a driver died.  So far now, let the car and the driver rest in piece.


         The surviving film of Tal Prince and his death at Daytona 


Friday, February 24, 2017




If you have lived in Dublin for any period of time, you know the building. It is the four-story,  once 60-room  hotel at the apex of the Carnegie Plaza in downtown Dublin at what used to be the eastern terminus of Academy Avenue.  You may have asked yourself, "Just who was Fred Roberts and why did someone name a hotel after him?" More than a century before the hotel was built, there was another Fred Roberts in these parts. Frederick Roberts, a veteran of the American Revolution, lived in the southeast quadrant of this city and died there. His remains lie somewhere near the
intersection of South Franklin Street and the Martin Luther King, Jr  Bypass. His descendant, Fred Roberts, was a son of David Montgomery Roberts, a Dodge county jurist, lawmaker and native of Laurens County, came to Dublin, leaving behind his automobile business in Eastman for a new one on Jackson Street.

Although Dublin's fortunes began to wane with the coming of the boll weevil and the virtual destruction of the cotton crop, the location of U.S. Highway 80 through the heart of the city gave city
fathers and supporters a promise of prosperity. They felt that the highway, which ran the length of the country from Savannah to San Diego, would rejuvenate the faltering economy in the city, which was once the seat of the state's sixth largest county.

It all began as a project sponsored by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Fred Roberts was named chairman of the project. The hotel, originally slated to be built on the northeast corner of West Jackson and North Monroe streets,  was situated on the site of the rose and flower gardens of the home place of Dr. Robert H. Hightower, one of Dublin's leading physicians of the late 19th Century. The new hotel was planned to supplement, if not replace, the aging New Dublin Hotel, which occupied a more preferable location, just one block from both of the city's railroad depots. But railway passenger traffic was declining, more and more people were traveling by auto and the project's promoters found a prime spot between the main line of business houses and the rapidly
growing residential neighborhoods to the west, but still within walking distance of the railroad.

Just before the hotel was set to open, tragedy struck. Fred Roberts, the popular Buick dealer, met with an untimely death on April 23, 1926, just weeks after his 40th birthday. The membership of the hotel voted to name the new hotel in honor of a man who was eulogized by the Dublin Courier Herald as "a man who was in the forefront of every movement for the betterment of social and
business conditions in Dublin." Shortly thereafter, the first customers signed the register and a new
era in hostelries began.

Dubliners had never seen anything like it.  Dublin’s new, $100,000.00  hotel was built by S.E. Odom Realty Copmany of Macon  in an era when plumbing and electrical fixtures were in their infancy. Architect C.W. Shieverton followed usual hotel plans by adding retail spaces in the front of the building. Over the next four decades, these two spaces, which occupy the front corners of the building, were used for barber shops, beauty shops and even a soda shop. A dining room was placed in the rear of the first floor to accommodate patrons and as a meeting place for civic clubs. Attached to the building was a car garage for guests. Immediately next door to the west was a the hotel’s owned service station.

The exterior of the building features several architectural designs which are unique to Dublin. Three basket handle arches, hand made by master brick mason Driscoll Larsen of Dublin, adorn the front entrance. In the center of each of the building's front three sections are three sextettes of ornamental Tudor arches. Above the entrance on the second floor is a large balcony, designed for outdoor parties and as a perch for viewing parades. Located near the top of the top fourth floors on each side of the structure are two Egyptian sarcophagi. These stone mummy-holding coffins were used as symbols of new birth and everlasting life. At the top of each side of the center section are two shields, which carry no emblems. The top center of the building carries the inscription 1926 Hotel Fred Roberts.

The grand opening was held on February 24, 1927.  A reception and open house was held by J.M. Grice, the first lessee and operator, who operated two other hotels in Alabama.

During its first two decades, the Fred Roberts hosted holiday dances with the music of Ed Powel and his orchestra.   Jones Barbershop opened a beauty shop in June 1933.  In 1936, managers, Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Evans, re-purposed the ladies waiting room into a parlor for small women’s club meetings. Mrs. Bette Green was put in charge of the dining room.  The Evanses added the Sunday meal feature to attract townsfolk to the hotel for fine, home-like dining, a rarity in the city during the Great Depression.  By the end of the decade, Ernest Hatcher’s Soda Shop opened in the building on the right front, much to the delight of school students and library patrons in the area.

Former Dublin resident Jule Greene had fond memories of the Fred Roberts when he was boy. "It was a great and wonderful place.  There were no other hotels anywhere around.  It was elegant and they had bell boys."  remembered Greene, who also recanted the great meals which came of of the kitchen where his mother Bette Greene worked.

Without a doubt the hotel's most famous guests, or group of guests, checked in the waning days of March in 1933 and 1935. Known as the "Gas House Gang," the 1934 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals stopped in town to play the Oglethorpe University and the University of Georgia on their way back home from spring training in Florida. Among the guests were seven legendary hall of fame players Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick, Rogers Hornsby, Leo Durocher, Pepper Martin,  and Jesse Haines.








In April 1940, Manager Evans opened the hotel’s own coffee and soda shop in the new dining room under the management of Earl Willis.  The old dining room was reserved for civic meetings. Just before the beginning of World War II, Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Bower took over the management of the dining room.

During the summer of 1939, Lt. Edgar Evans, son of the hotel’s managers, created a garden in the rear of the hotel in a hard clay spot near Mrs. Hightower’s ancient fig tree. With the war in full swing, Lt. Evan’s plot became just one more victory garden to aid the fight on the home front.

“Now the garden is a refuge of shade, cleverly concealed by a twenty-foot hedge of red bud trees and Ligustrum, mixed with smaller trees of plum and shrubs of cassia, forsythia, and the like. Using the fig tree, which is 48 years old, as a focal point from which to work, he built a lily pool around the trees. The pool is filled with tropical, flowering buds.”

“A carpet of grass floors, the space of the garden and garden chairs and benches are there for rest and comfort, with a bird bath to add additional attraction to the birds who find haven in the quiet, green.  Birdhouses are conveniently placed in unseen parts of the surrounding trees.”

“Scaling the walls of the hotel are wisteria, a scarlet trumpet vine and coral vine. Tall magnolias stand guard  over the recessed garden of which the passerby is completely unaware,” wrote a Courier Herald reporter in the autumn of 1943.

A decade later, history was made from the front rooms when radio station WMLT, the city's first, went on the air in January 1945. J.P. Peacock and W.J.Folsom took over the management in the Fred Roberts in the late 1940s.    During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Dublin’s Chamber of Commerce made its home in the Fred Roberts.  When motels along Federal Highways 80 and 441 sprang up in the early 1950s, travelers began to seek the convenience of the new and improved rooms. After three decades, rooms in the hotel, which was once called the Stage Coach Inn, were no longer being rented. Newer and brighter buildings and motels were being constructed near the Interstate highway and the Mall. In 1955, Rubert Hogan and Carl Nelson, Sr. bought the building from W.C.  and Bill Jackson. and transformed some of the ground floor into professional offices, a practice which lasted until the early 1990s.

M.L. Lester took over the management in 1957 under the general managership of Mr. and Mrs. J.C. McDaniel, who attempted to revive many of the grand tradition of the hotel’s former glory days.

In one of its first major projects, the Dublin Downtown Development Authority, the City of Dublin and Laurens County under the Main Street Program in 1991 sought out and was granted a half-million dollar Community Development Block Grant, which provided the necessary funds to begin the restoration of the hotel toward its original grandeur. The city's new philosophy of restoration of historic buildings for a better future was espoused by the Main Street director, Rev. Joan Kilian, whose efforts led to the project's recognition by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation with its 1994 Outstanding Rehabilitation Award. The first phase of the construction project included a full restoration under the supervision of architect Bruce Jennings. Garbutt Construction Company of Dublin carefully removed the modern covers which hid the true architectural gems throughout the 8,500 square foot first floor of the building.

                                  The finished photos from the 1994 rehabilitation: 

        The first floor was designed to house the Senior Citizens Center, which was managed by the Dublin-Laurens Recreation Authority. The facility included a lobby, dining area, kitchen, arts and crafts room, library, and television room, in addition to several office spaces. Hundreds of meals were prepared in and delivered from the facility daily for needy seniors through the Meals On Wheels program.

So here’s to the Fred Roberts Hotel, may you still be going strong 90 years from now.


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My CoffeeShop 

My CoffeeShop is a small, unique coffee shop in Downtown Dublin. We offer a great variety of specialty coffee drinks as well as sandwiches, salads and soups. We also serve wine and beer and a variety of appetizers.

So there is more than "just" coffee at My CoffeeShop. We have something for everybody's taste!

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