THOSE CRAZY DUBLIN DRIVERS
In the last two years of 2017 and 2018, Dublin drivers have suffered or caused nearly twenty-eight hundred automobile accidents or more than three a day. In the early years of the last century three accidents a month would be an epidemic. As more cars drove along the streets and highways, naturally the number of car crashes rose exponentially.
Two of the more famous, or infamous, car collisions around Dublin happened in the 1932 and 1948. The collisions were the talk of the town, not because of the number of persons involved, injured or killed. The accidents were big news because of the passengers inside and outside the wrecked vehicles.
Georgia governor, Richard B. Russell, Jr., who was in an intensive election campaign with Cong. Charles Crisp for a seat in the United States Senate, was traveling from Wrightsville to Dublin, where he was he was scheduled to make an important speech to a massive crowd on the lawn of the Laurens County Courthouse on the morning of August 20, 1932. As the governor’s car approached another car coming off a side road and headed the opposite way some five miles from Dublin, the governor’s driver, Dublin attorney Harry Taylor, intentionally swerved off the road to avoid a collision.
Russell’s car plunged into a concrete culvert in a creek throwing the governor through the windshield. When rescuers got to the governor, they discovered that he had lost four front teeth in the crash. Attending physicians reported that Russell’s face showed cut lips and bruises about his eyes and forehead. One leg was lacerated. Taylor too suffered moderate injuries. Russell and Taylor were ironically rescued and driven to the hospital by the same group of men with whom they collided.
The governor disobeyed his physicians and his dentist, Dr. Frank Zetterower, Sr., orders. Within an hour after sustaining painful injuries the governor traveled the short distance to the courthouse where his speech went on as scheduled.
Russell, speaking to a large crowd mired in the abyss of the darkest days of the Great Depression, promised that he had the power and the trust of the people to put people back to work again.
Governor Russell completed the day’s itinerary with a short trip to Alamo. He spent Sunday afternoon at his dentist’s office before resuming his hectic schedule.
Richard Russell completed an unexpired term as governor and was sworn in as a United States Senator on January 10, 1933. Over the next thirty years until his death in 1971, Russell became one of the most powerful southern senators in the history of the United States. The United States Senate saluted Russell by naming their office building in his honor.
During the 1948 race for Governor of Georgia, a campaign marked by open marches by the Ku Klux Klan in response to the largest number of African-Americans to ever vote in a state wide election, candidate Herman Talmadge and three others were headed to Dublin from a Statesboro appearance. Somewhere near Scott, Georgia not too far from where Senator Russell was injured, the future governor and U.S. Senator’s car left the road Talmadge suffered a black left eye and several bruises, but escaped more serious injuries while his car rolled over several times.
Talmadge was sitting in the passenger seat in the front seat with Sims Garrett at the wheel of his Chrysler automobile.
“We were meeting a car 16 miles out from Dublin. It swerved into our side of the highway in an attempt to pull into Lee’s Café. I cut to my right. We collided at an angle as the other car pulled away. My left fender and his struck, causing my car to turn over at least once. Stewart was thrown about 20 feet from the car and knock unconscious. Talmadge, who was temporarily knocked out, regained consciousness in a short time and Stewart came to just as we arrived at the hospital in Dublin,” Garrett recalled.
Ray Curl was identified as the driver of the other car. He and his passenger Ashley Belote both escaped serious injuries.
Talmadge was rushed to Claxton’s Hospital where Dr. E.B. Claxton conducted several tests. An x-ray revealed a slight fracture of the governor’s right leg, along with a large number of bruises.
Dr. Claxton noticed that the future governor acted very nervous, especially when Claxton advised him to get four days of rest near the climax of one of the state’s most competitive Democratic primaries.
George Stewart, traveling in the back seat with Talmadge, spent five to six days in the hospital. Sims Garrett, Jr. and his secretary Jerry Price, suffered minor bruises and scrapes and were quickly discharged.
Talmadge won the election and served until January 1955. Two years later in 1957, Talmadge joined his political rival Senator Richard B. Russell in the Senate. The two men served together until Russell’s death. The colorful and powerful Talmadge served in the Senate until he was defeated in 1980 by Republican Mack Mattingly, who was riding the coat tails of Ronald Reagan to become Georgia’s first Republican United States Senator.
Thus begs the question, “What would have happened had these two automobile accidents killed these two iconic senators?”
One thing is for sure. While you are campaigning for high statewide office, avoid coming into Dublin from the east and look out for those crazy Dublin drivers!