Monday, September 15, 2014


A Wizard of Words

 The kids of the Dublin High School classes of 1960 and 1961 knew Max Byrd was smart. They all knew that he could write well and speak well.  But somehow they lost touch with their classmate when his father was transferred to a new job.  This is the story of a young man who left Dublin in 1959.  With the lessons he learned in halls of old Dublin High School ingrained in his brain, he graduated from one of the nation's top universities and taught at two more of the country's most well respected institutions of higher learning. Along the way, this affable man has written more than a dozen books on subjects ranging from literature to mysteries to historical novels and many more essays and articles.

     Max Byrd, son of Allan and Rubye Byrd, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1942.  His father was an accountant for the Veteran's Administration.   The Byrd family transferred to Dublin in 1954 and lived in a home on the hospital grounds.  Max, like most of the kids of his day rode his bicycle to school, a fairly long ride to the old high school on North Calhoun Street.  While Max was in school at Dublin, he was a member of the Latin Club, and in his final year as a junior in Dublin, he represented
the school in the boy's declamation competition. He was a member of the debate team and garnered a medal at the state competition. Nearly fifty years later, he still retains vivid memories of "Board of Education," a large wooden paddle wielded by the very stern principal, D.R. Davis.   Max and most every one of his era remember the iconic, stern, but excellent,  math teacher, Woodrow Rumble.  "The class I remember best from Dublin High was Latin. "The study of Latin set me on the right track for learning to write English," Byrd said.  In his junior year, Max was president of the Latin Club.

   Just before the beginning of his senior year, Max and his family moved to Arlington, Virginia.  A scholarship from Harvard University was all Max needed to embark on an outstanding career in education and journalism.  Excelling in his studies at Harvard, Max was awarded a fellowship to continue his studies  at Cambridge University, Kings College in England.  Max returned to Harvard, where he obtained his Ph.D. in English.

     While he was at Harvard, Max developed a life long friendship with classmate and fellow writer, Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, among many other best selling novels.  Byrd owes a lot to Crichton, whom he considers as a writer "who arranges facts into fiction better than just anybody else."  Chrichton, who began writing his novels at Harvard, encouraged Max to write.  He admired his friend's dedication, energy and willingness to take risks.    Gore Vidal
influenced Byrd in his historic fiction novels.  Max owes a personal debt to Oakley Hall, the founder of the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, an organization now headed by Max.  "I wish I could say that I was influenced by John Updike," Byrd said, "but he is so wonderful a writer of English prose that I can only look up and marvel."

     Dr. Byrd crossed the long-standing crevice between Harvard and the nation's third oldest university, Yale University, where he was offered a position as Associate Professor.  Max was awarded the Younger Humanist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities  and an award from the A. Whitney Griswold Fund for the academic year 1974-75.  His first book, Visits to Bedlam: Madness and Literature in the Eighteenth Century, won him many accolades.  In 1976, Byrd edited and published Daniel DeFoe, A Collection of Critical Essays.

     In 1976, after six years as an associate professor  at Yale, Max made the life altering decision to leave the hallowed halls of the Ivy League and seek his life's goals out west in California, the native home of his wife.  While serving as an associate professor at the University of California at Davis, Max began publishing books on English literature.   His second work, London Transformed: Images of the City in the Eighteenth Century,  a study of English writers he dedicated to Walter Jackson Bate, who inspired him as a beginning writer.  From 1977 to 1988, he served as editor of Eighteenth Century Studies.  In 1985, Dr. Byrd wrote and compiled Tristram Shandy, a scholarly analysis of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne.

     In 1981, Max Byrd was promoted to a full professorship at UC Davis.  He taught 18th-century British literature and occasionally freshman English.    Byrd struggled with the concept of teaching college students to write fiction.  He sees the greatest obstacle to teaching writing is that so many students don't read anything.  It was in that same year when Max began to publish a divergent genre of books than his usual scholarly, literary writings.   He began writing detective novels back at Yale in 1973.  His first published novel, California Thriller, was the first in a series of Mike Haller mysteries.  The Private Eye Writers of America awarded him their first ever Shamus award for the Best Paperback Original Novel.

     The success of his first novel led to the follow up Haller mystery Fly Away Jill in the fall of 1981.  A third novel, Finder Weepers debuted on book stands in 1983.  Target of Opportunity, a suspenseful novel set in World War II, was a "Book of the Month" selection in 1988.   His final mystery novel, Fuse Time, was published in 1991 and deals with a terrorist bomber in Los Angeles.

      At the suggestion of his publisher, Bantam Books, Max began to write historical novels.  His first novel dealt with Thomas Jefferson and the years he spent in France, years which changed Jefferson and the United States as well.  Max felt at ease writing about Jefferson and his second subject Andrew Jackson because of his undergraduate studies at Harvard in American History and Literature.  Byrd grew to admire Jackson, whom he sees as "routinely underestimated and misunderstood by historians."  His third historical work novelizes the life of Ulysses S. Grant, who Byrd believes to have been "a remarkable man, remarkably rich and a man who lived a dramatic life." His latest book, Shooting the Sun, (2004) traces the life of the eccentric 19th-century English genius Charles Babbage and the Santa Fe Trail.

     During his years of active writing, Max spent five or six mornings and evenings writing seeking to write a minimum of three to five pages.   Byrd sees writing as a lonely business and one which you have to be obsessed to succeed.

     In 2004, Max Byrd quit teaching. He told an interviewer with the Sacramento Bee that "retired" seemed so old and that he planned to keep on writing.  Max is a frequent reviewer of history books for the New York Times.  He also writes for American Heritage magazine and the Woodrow Wilson Quarterly.   He plans to be the Carnochan Lecturer in Humanities at Stanford University next spring.

     Max and his wife Brookes live in California. They have two children, Kate and  David.  His most vivid recollection of Dublin is the Carnegie library (Dublin-Laurens Museum), the Martin Theater and the beginning of Bellevue Avenue.  He enjoyed the football games on Friday nights as well. Max Byrd hasn't been back to Dublin since he left more than forty-seven years ago.

P.S. Max, if you read this, you are always welcome to come back.  The library and the theater are still there.  And yes, the football games are still as exciting as they were when you left.   I hope you gave me a good grade on this article.


A Brief History of Our Involvement

It was during the early morning hours of September 2, 1939, 75 years ago, while most Laurens Countians were still asleep that the British government declared war on Germany because of its unwarranted invasion of Poland.  World War II began.  Officially, the United States remained neutral.  Despite our country’s detached stance, locally Laurens County men continued training at the National Guard Armory in anticipation of the inevitable conflict. 

Dublin and Laurens County once again stepped forward and sent thousands of young men into military service during World War II.  Scores of Laurens County boys joined the National Guard, which was attached to the 121st U.S. Infantry division.   The Guard mobilized in September of 1940 into Federal service.  

Alta Mae Hammock and Brancy Horne were the first women to join the W.A.A.C..  Marayan Smith Harris was the first woman to join the WAVES.   Louise Dampier also served as a yeoman in the U.S. Navy.  Seaman Elbert Brunson, Jr. was onboard the U.S.S. Greer on September 4, 1941.  The destroyer was the first American destroyer to fire upon the dreaded German U-boat submarines in an incident which accelerated the country’s declaration of war against Germany.  Despite strong support from all the communities of Central Georgia and Cong. Carl Vinson,  the powerful chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, the federal government denied the location of a naval air training station on the Oconee River just below the city due to the lack of a large labor force and the heavy infestation of mosquitos in the area.  

Before the United States officially entered the war, Lester F. Graham, a Dublin marine, was among a thousand U.S. Marines assigned to protect American interests in Shanghai, China which was under attack by the Japanese army in the summer of 1937. 

Several Laurens Countians were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Marjorie Hobbs Wilson and her husband were eyewitnesses to the bombing.   Also at Pearl Harbor on the “Day of Infamy” were  George Dewey Senn, William Drew, Jr., Bascom Ashley, Walter Camp, Joel Wood, Harold Wright, Charles Durden, Hardy Blankenship, Rowland Ellis, Wade Jackson, Nathan Graham, Obie Cauley and Claxton Mullis.  Lts. William C. Thompson, Jr. and Everett Hicks were serving in the Philippines and Woody Dominy was stationed on Wake Island.   Mess Attendant 1st Class Albert Rozar served aboard the U.S.S. Gudgeon in the first submarine patrol into Japanese waters. 

Alton Hyram Scarborough, of the D.H.S. Class of '37, was the first of one hundred and nine casualties of the war.  Robert Werden, Jr. loved to fly and was so anxious to fly planes in World War II that he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.  When the United States declared war, he joined the Army Air Force, only to be shot down and killed in the early years of the war.  

Capt. Bobbie E. Brown of Laurens County was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the assault on Crucifix Hill in Aachen, Germany.  Capt. Brown, a career non- commissioned officer, personally led the attack on German positions, killing over one hundred Germans and being wounded three times during the battle.  Capt. Brown was the first Georgian ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor, along with eight Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars.  At the end of the war, Captain Brown was the oldest company commander in the United States Army and first in length of service.  Paratrooper Kelso Horne was pictured on the cover of Life during the invasion of Normandy.   Lt. Horne, a member of the famed 82nd Airborne Division and one of the oldest paratroopers in the U.S. Army, parachuted behind German lines near St.  Mere Eglise in the night time hours before the amphibious invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.   Ensign Shelton Sutton, Jr., a native of Brewton and a former center for Georgia Tech, was killed while serving aboard the U.S.S. Juneau, along with the famous Sullivan brothers.   Nearly two years later in 1944,  the U.S. Navy commissioned the U.S.S. Sutton in his memory.  His teammate Aviator Wex Jordan,  an all-Southeastern guard for Georgia Tech in 1941 and Tech’s Most Valuable Player, was killed in an air accident while training in San Diego on Veteran’s Day in 1943.

Like the fictional Captain John Miller in “Saving Private Ryan,” Dublin and Laurens County teachers left the classroom to fight for their country.  Robert Colter, Jr., who had been teaching Vocational-Agricultural classes at Cadwell High School was killed on February 20, 1945 in Germany.  Captain Henry Will Jones, the Vocational - Agricultural teacher and football coach at Dexter High School and a paratrooper, was killed at Peleliu Island in the South Pacific in October 18, 1944.  In recognition of his exemplary valor, Capt. Jones was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.   Lt. Lucian Bob Shuler, a former Cadwell High School basketball coach, was an ace, having shot down seven  Japanese planes in combat.   Captain Shuler was awarded eleven Distinguished Flying Crosses and twelve Air Medals.   Cpt. William A. Kelley, a former Dublin High School coach, was flying the “Dauntless Dotty” when  it crashed into the sea on June 6, 1945.  The B-29 Superfortress was the first B-29 to bomb Tokyo.  Kelley and his crew, who flew in a bomber named “The Lucky Irish,” were the first crew in the Pacific to complete 30 missions.  They were returning home to headline the 7th War Bond Drive when the accident occurred.  Randall Robertson and James Hutchinson, both only a year or so out of Dublin High School, were killed several weeks apart on the same beach on Iwo Jima in 1945.  

Hubert Wilkes and Jack Thigpen survived the fatal attack on  the “U.S.S. Yorktown” at the Battle of Midway.    John L. Tyre volunteered for six months hazardous duty in southeast Asia in an outfit dubbed “Merrill’s Marauders.”  The Marauders, the first ground soldiers to see action in World War II, fought through jungles filled with Japanese soldiers, unbearable heat and slithering snakes.  Only one out six managed to make it all way through the war. 

Lt. Colonel James D. Barnett, Col. Charles Lifsey, Col. George T. Powers, III,  and Lt. Colonel J.R. Laney,  former residents of Dublin and graduates of West Point, were cited for their actions in India and Europe.   Laney was a member of the three-man crew of the Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster, the world’s fastest transcontinental plane, when it crashed into a Washington, D.C. suburb in December 1945.  Lt. Col. Laney survived the crash to complete a distinguished thirty year career in the Army.   

James Adams, Morton C. Mason, Wilkins Smith, Russell M. Daley, Gerald Anderson, Marshall Jones, Robert L. Horton, Loyest B. Chance, Needham Toler, William L. Padgett, Joseph E. Joiner, W.B. Tarpley, Owen Collins, Loy Jones, Thurston Veal, James B. Bryan, James T. Daniel, Cecil Wilkes and others  were surviving in P.O.W. camps in Germany, while Alton Watson, James W. Dominy, and Alton Jordan  were held prisoner by the Japanese.  Lt. Peter Fred Larsen, a prisoner of the Japanese army, was killed by American planes when being transported to the Japanese mainland in an unmarked freighter.  Future Dubliner Tommy Birdsong was digging coal in a Japanese coal mine when an atomic bomb near Nagasaki was dropped.  Earlier he survived the infamous "Bataan Death March."   Other future Dubliners who survived the Bataan Death March were William Wallace, A. Deas Coburn, and Felix Powell.   

      Commander Robert Braddy, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy,  was awarded the Navy Cross, our nation’s second highest honor for naval heroism,  for his actions in North Africa in November of 1942.  Rear Admiral Braddy retired from the service in 1951.  Captain William C. Thompson was awarded a Silver Star, two Gold Stars, a Navy Cross and a Bronze Star for his outstanding naval submarine service.  Captain Thompson was the executive officer aboard the submarine Bowfin, which was credited with sinking the second highest Japanese tonnage on a single war patrol.  Thompson was aboard the U.S.S. Sealion when it was struck by Japanese planes at Cavite, Philippines.  The submarine was the first American submarine to be lost in World War II.  Both men are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Captain Thompson’s  first cousin, Sgt. Lester Porter of Dublin, led the first invading forces over the Danube River in nearly two millennia.  Marine Corporal James W. Bedingfield, of Cadwell, was awarded a Silver Star by Admiral Chester Nimitz for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the Japanese at Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, on February 6, 1944.   His kinsman, Capt. Walter H. Bedingfield, was awarded a Silver Star for heroism in setting up a field hospital in advance of American lines at Normandy on D-Day.   T. Sgt. Thurman W. Wyatt was awarded a Silver Star for heroism when he assumed command of his tank platoon following the wounding of the commander and guided it to safety.   Tech. Sgt. Luther Word  was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for heroism,  just prior to his being killed in action.  Lt. Paul Jimmy Scarboro was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry as a pilot of a Super Fortress in the Pacific Ocean. Sgt. Frank Zetterower was awarded the Silver Star for heroism when he was killed in action while trying to rescue wounded soldiers.

Captain Alvin A. Warren, Jr., of Cadwell, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying 70 missions in the Indo-China Theater night and day through impassable mountain ranges and high clouds.  Walter D. Warren, Jr. was a member of the famed Flying Tigers in China-Burma-India Theater.  Flight officer Emil E. Tindol also received the same award, just days before he was killed in action  while “flying the hump” - a term used for flying over the gigantic mountain ranges of India and Burma.    For his battle wounds and other feats of courage and bravery, Lt. Clifford Jernigan was awarded the Purple Heart, an Air Medal and three Oak Leaf clusters in 1944.   Lt. Garrett Jones was a highly decorated pilot who participated in the first daylight bombings of Germany.  Calvert Hinton Arnold was promoted to Brigadier General in 1945.  Lt. Col. Ezekiel W. Napier of Laurens County, a graduate of West Point, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and retired from the Air Force in 1959 as a Brigadier General.  The "Pilot's Pilot," Bud Barron of Dublin, was credited with the second most number of air miles during the war, mainly by ferrying aircraft to and from the front lines. Barron has been inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.    Dublin native Lt. William L. Sheftall, Jr. flew 74 missions in Italy and was awarded the Silver Star for heroism.  Sidney Augustus Scott, the Chief Engineer of the  SS Charles Morgan, was awarded the Merchant Marine Meritorious  Service medal for his heroism in the landing of men and material on the beaches of Normandy just after D-Day. 

PFC Wesley Hodges was a member of the 38th Mechanized Calvary Recon Squad, the first American squad to enter Paris on August 25, 1944.   Seaman James T. Sutton survived the sinking  of the “U.S.S.  Frederick C. Davis,” the last American ship sunk by the German Navy.     The 121st Infantry of the Georgia National Guard, which was headquartered in Dublin until 1938 and of which Company K and 3rd Battalion HQ Co. were located in Dublin, won a Presidential Unit Citation for its outstanding performance of their duty in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest during Thanksgiving 1944.  Edward Towns was cited for his meritorious service to the submarine forces of the United States.  Curtis Beall, after being voted by his classmates as the most outstanding senior at the University of Georgia in 1943, joined his brother Millard in the United States Marine Corps.  Capt. John Barnett, a twenty-one-year-old Dubliner and twice a winner of the Bronze Star Medal for heroism, was credited with being the youngest executive officer in the United States Army in 1944.  Lt. Arlie W. Claxton won the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943. These are only a few stories of the thousands of Laurens County's heroes of World War II.   Charles Yarborough and Reuben Whitfield were among the sailors who witnessed Japanese officials sign the official surrender agreement aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. 

Major Herndon “Don” M. Cummings was a bomber pilot in the 477th Bomber Group.  Though his unit was never saw active duty overseas, Major Cummings and his group were known as a group of units collectively called the “Tuskegee Airmen.”  Cummings was incarcerated along with a hundred other fellow pilots for attempting to integrate an all-white officers club at Freeman Field in Indiana in 1945.  Through the efforts of future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and the actions of a newly sworn President Harry Truman, the pilots were freed and later exonerated of all charges against them.  Cummings remained in the reserves for twenty years after his retirement from active duty.   He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W.  Bush and was an honored guest at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. 

Two other Tuskegee Airman who were raised in Laurens County were Col. Marion Rodgers and Col. John Whitehead.    Col. Rodgers was a squadron commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron after the war.  Col. Whitehead was the first African American test pilot in the Air Force and was one of the few Tuskegee Airmen to fly in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Laurens Countians supported the war effort on the home front. A State Guard unit was formed by over-age and under-age men.  Everyone from school children to grandmothers did their part.  Many Laurens Countians commuted to Warner Robins and Macon to work for the war effort. Laurens Countians opened their homes to soldiers from Camp Wheeler, near Macon and British R.A.F. cadets from Cochran Field in Macon.    Angelo Catechis bought war bonds with his life's savings to help rescue  his family in Greece.   The women of Laurens County worked diligently on the home front.  The women made bandages, surgical dressings and sponges by the scores of thousands,  along with knitted garments.  Carolyn Hall, blind since birth, was one of the most proficient knitters in the community.  Laurens Countians contributed hundred of hours of time to the Red Cross, U.S.O. and numerous Civilian Defense programs. Bessye Parker Devereaux was the first woman in the Charleston, S.C. shipyards to be awarded the Outstanding Worksmanship Award by President Roosevelt.   In the summer of 1944, the U.S. government honored the citizens and Laurens County for their contributions to the war effort by naming one of the reconditioned "Liberty Ships" the "U.S.S. Laurens." 

When the final tallies were counted, one hundred and three Laurens Countians lost their lives during the deadliest war in the history of the world.  Many, many more were wounded.  Life here would never be the same.  In an ironic way, the war changed everything for the better.  Economic opportunities, with the establishment of the U.S. Naval Hospital and J.P. Stevens and the influx of thousands of new residents, catapulted the county into an economic boom which still continues day. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014


        Two hundred years ago tonight, a Maryland lawyer stood aboard the HMS Tonnant and in the dawn’s early light, witnessed one of the most inspiring events in American history.  His name was Francis Scott Key.  Key’s thoughts and impressions of the perilous fight against Fort McHenry led to his writing of a poem, which was set to music and became our National Anthem.

Francis Scott Key was born on August 21, 1779 to Ann Phoebe Penn Dagworthy (Charlton) and Captain John Ross Key at the family plantation Terra Rubra in what was Frederick County, Maryland. 

His father, John Ross Key, was a lawyer, a judge and an officer in the Continental Army. His great-grandparents on his father's side were Philip Key and Susanna Barton Gardiner, both of whom were born in London and immigrated to Maryland in 1726.

Key studied law at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland. He married Mary Tayloe Lloyd on January 1, 1802. The couple would go on to have 11 children. By 1805, Key had set up his legal practice in Georgetown, part of Washington, D.C.

During the War of 1812, Key, accompanied by the British Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner and dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, as the guests of three British officers: Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross. 

Skinner and Key were there to negotiate the release of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes, a resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland who had been arrested after putting rowdy stragglers under citizen's arrest. Skinner, 

Key and Beanes were not allowed to return to their own sloop because they had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units and with the British intent to attack Baltimore. As a result of this, Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13–14, 1814.

At dawn, Key was able to see an American flag still waving and reported this to the prisoners below deck. On the way back to Baltimore, he was inspired to write a poem describing his experience, "Defence of Fort M'Henry", which he published in the Patriot on September 20, 1814. 

He intended to fit it to the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven",  a popular tune Key had already used as a setting for his 1805 song "When the Warrior Returns," celebrating U.S. heroes of the First Barbary War. It has become better known as "The Star-Spangled Banner". 

Under this name, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (which had little effect beyond requiring military bands to play it) and then by a Congressional resolution in 1931, signed by President Herbert Hoover.

In 1832, Key served as the attorney for Sam Houston during his trial in the U.S. House of Representatives for assaulting another Congressman. Key was appointed as a United States District Attorney, serving from 1833 to 1841. In 1835, Key prosecuted Richard Lawrence for his unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President of the United States Andrew Jackson.

Key was a founding member and active leader of the American Colonization Society, the primary goal of which was to send free African-Americans back to Africa. Key, a slave-owner himself, used his position to suppress opponents of slavery. In 1833, he indicted Benjamin Lundy, editor of the anti-slavery publication, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, and his printer, William Greer, for libel after Lundy publishing an article that declared, 

While an active legal defender of slavery, Key was considered a decent master. He emancipated seven slaves from his own household and was sometimes publicly critical of slavery's cruelties. He often helped blacks bring cases to the circuit court.

In 1843, Key died at the home of his daughter Elizabeth Howard in Baltimore from pleurisy and was initially interred in Old Saint Paul's Cemetery in the vault of John Eager Howard. In 1866, his body was moved to his family plot in Frederick at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

The Key Monument Association erected a memorial in 1898 and the remains of both Francis Scott Key and his wife, Mary Tayloe Lloyd, were placed in a crypt in the base of the monument.

Though Key had written poetry from time to time, often with heavily religious themes, these works were not collected and published until 14 years after his death. Two of Key's religious poems were used as Christian hymns, "Before the Lord We Bow" and "Lord, with Glowing Heart I'd Praise Thee." From 1818 until his death, Key was associated with the American Bible Society.

In 1806, Key's sister, Anne Phoebe Charlton Key, married Roger B. Taney, who would later become Chief Justice of the United States. In 1846, his daughter Alice married U.S. Senator George H. Pendleton. In 1859, Key's son Philip Barton Key II was shot and killed by Daniel Sickles – a U.S. Congressman who would serve as a general in the American Civil War – after he discovered that Philip Barton Key was having an affair with his wife. Sickles was acquitted in the first use of the temporary insanity defense.  In 1861, Key's grandson Francis Key Howard was imprisoned in Fort McHenry with the Mayor of Baltimore George William Brown and other locals deemed pro-South. Key was a distant cousin and the namesake of F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. 

Although many of the local Key/Kea family, which hails from Emanuel County will claim kin to the legendary lawyer, one former Dublin resident and her descendants are bona fide close relatives.   Phoebe Douglas, the mother-in- law of Capt.  Hardy B. Smith was related to Key through the Charlton family as her first cousin, once removed, making all descendants of Ella Few Douglas Smith and Mary Frances Wolfe  somewhat related to the author of the “Star Spangled Banner.” 



Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Friday, September 12, 2014


"The Unsolved Mystery of a Hero at Sea"

Shelton Sutton was a hero. To his two hometowns of Brewton and Vidalia, he was a hero. To his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, he was also a hero. To many Georgia Tech fans of his day, Shelton was a hero. The United States Navy considered him a hero. But the answer remains, why was he a hero?

Shelton Beverly Sutton, Jr. was born in Brewton, Georgia on August 21, 1919. His father worked as a mechanic. The Suttons left Laurens County when Shelton, Jr. or "Slim" was a young boy. They wound up in Vidalia, Georgia, where Slim became a star football player for Vidalia High School in the mid 1930s.

Slim's extraordinary athletic ability enabled him to earn a spot on the roster of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 1939. Slim was a substitute offensive lineman on Georgia Tech's best team of the 1930s. The Jackets (8-2) won a share of the SEC Championship with a perfect conference record, losing only to Notre Dame, the nation's second best team that season, and to a very powerful Duke team by one point. The "Ramblin Wrecks" put an exclamation point on the season when a victory of Big Six Champion Missouri in the Orange Bowl. Sutton made his way into the starting lineup in 1940 as the team's center. Tech suffered through a 3-7 season, with the year's only highlights coming in a six-point loss to Notre Dame and a post season win over California by the score of 13-0. Playing at guard beside Slim was Wexler "Wex" Jordan of Dublin.

By 1941, Sutton came into his own as a suitable center. Losing to five top twenty teams, the Jackets suffered through a 3-6 season. Slim's last game was a heartbreaking 21-0 loss to intrastate rival Georgia. What made it even worse was that he was ejected from the game for an offense he really didn't deserve. Sutton tackled Georgia back Lamar Davis, grabbing him around the mouth and cutting off his breathing. Lamar bit Sutton's finger to break the deadlock. Sutton, sensing the amputation of a part of his hand, violently shoved Davis's head back. A nearby official noticed only the shove and promptly sent Sutton back to the bench. Sutton walked toward Davis and shook his finger at him chastising him for not telling the referee that he had Slim's finger in his mouth. Tech Coach Bobby Dodd ran out toward Sutton to reprimand the Tech center for being thrown out the game. Dodd's rage evolved into laughter when Slim told the soon to be iconic coach what really happened out on the field.

Georgia Tech was supposed to play another game, another post season game against California. But something happened the next weekend that would change Slim Sutton's life and the entire course of the world's history. Just eight days after he played his last football game, the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor. Sutton and Jordan along with many of their teammates enlisted in the Navy. Before he left for military service, Slim graduated from Tech with cum laude honors. Many of the Tech players participated in Naval ROTC at Tech. In fact, Center Sutton became Ensign Sutton of the United States Naval Reserve on April 21, 1941. Owing to the loss of many of their team's top players, Tech's request to cancel the late December game with California was granted.

In the weeks after the war began, Sutton reported to duty with the Naval Reserve. On February 12, 1942, he was ordered to report to the Commandant of the Third Naval District for active duty. Just two days later, the U.S.S. Juneau, a light cruiser, was commissioned by the U.S. Navy. Sutton reported for duty aboard the U.S.S. Juneau on March 2, 1942. The Juneau served off the Martinique and the Guadeloupe Islands in blockade maneuvers and remained in the Atlantic Ocean until August 22nd. The Juneau was assigned to Task Force 17 and then Task Force 61. The ship's first major action came in the victorious Battle of Santa Cruz Island on October 26th.

On November 8th, the Juneau joined Task Force 67 to escort reinforcements to Guadalcanal Island. Japanese fighters began to attack the ship, which repulsed six planes with little damage. Early in the morning of Friday the 13th, a Japanese force engaged the Juneau's group. The Juneau suffered moderate damage from a torpedo, but managed to limp away from the enemy ships under her own power. Around eleven o'clock in the morning, a Japanese submarine fired three torpedoes at the wounded ship. The Juneau's helmsman managed to avoid the first two, but a third torpedo struck the ship in the exact same spot it had been damaged earlier in the morning. There was a tremendous explosion. The ship broke into. In twenty seconds, she was under water. The Juneau's sister ships, the U.S.S. Helena and the U.S.S. San Francisco, both damaged, steamed ahead fearing a similar fate. There was no time to look for survivors.

Of the nearly seven hundred man crew, only about one hundred sailors survived the explosion. For eight horrific days, the survivors treaded water and fought off thirst, hunger and sharks as best they could. Only ten survived. Also onboard the Juneau was Albert, Francis, George, Joseph, and Madison, the five sons of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa. George, still nursing his wounds from the early morning action, managed to make it to a life raft. The other four brothers were killed instantly in the explosion. George died after five days in the water. The brothers were immortalized in the Hollywood movie, The Fighting Sullivans. Their deaths led to a directive by President Franklin Roosevelt that if any family lost two sons, then the remaining sons were to be removed from the military and sent home to their families. This directive is portrayed in the movie Saving Private Ryan. Private Ryan, actually Sergeant Niland, lost two of his brothers and was thought to have lost another. The stories of the Sullivans and the Nilands were the inspiration for Saving Private Ryan.

The Navy withheld details of the sinking of the Juneau. It was nearly four weeks later when the news arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sutton that their son was missing in action. Slim's body was never found. Ensign Sutton was one of the first Toombs Countians to lose their lives in the war. The abandonment of one hundred survivors was withheld from the public for a long time, making it one of the war's and the U.S. Navy's most secret scandals. It wasn't until 1994 when Dan Kurzman published Left to Die, the first true and complete account of the tragedy of the U.S.S. Juneau.

On August 6, 1944 in Tampa, Florida, Lillie Mae Sutton broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow of the U.S.S. Sutton, which was named in her son's honor. The Sutton served in the Atlantic until 1948, when she was taken out of service. The ship was lent to the Republic of South Korea in 1956 and was used by the Korean Navy as The Kang Won until 1974. Ensign Beverly Sutton was one of ten members of the crew who were selected by the U.S. Navy to have a ship named in their honor. He joined Captain L.K. Swenson, Commander William M. Hobby of Sylvania, Ga., Lt. Cmdr. T.O. Oberrender, Lt. H.C. Gearing, III and of course, the "Sullivan Brothers," in being afforded such a distinct honor. Lt. Cmdr. J.G. Neff was lauded by the U.S. Naval Hospital in Dublin with a street named in his honor.

           At the cruise ship dock at Juneau, Alaska stands a monument with the name of S.B. Sutton and the names of his fellow crewmen of the U.S.S. Juneau. His name also can be found on a monument at Fort William McKinley in Manila, the Philippines. But of a more local importance, among the hundreds of graves at the Brewton Cemetery, is a cenotaph marker commemorating the life of a man who lived as a hero and died as hero.

Could Slim have survived the catastrophic explosion? No one alive seems to know. My guess is that he did and that this Laurens Countian helped the survivors to escape the inferno toward what they believed was safety. Otherwise, why would the Navy have selected Ensign Shelton Sutton as the only junior officer aboard the Juneau with the naming of a ship in his honor? Perhaps one day the mystery will finally be solved.

Postcript: Exactly 364 days later on Veteran's Day, 1943 Slim Sutton's teammate Wex Jordan was killed in a training accident off the coast of San Diego, California. 


An Altering Altercation

For thousands of years men have fought and died for real estate, the right to live on it, the right to own it and the right to control it.  A century ago one such battle took place. It was all over the right to own six hundred acres of land valued at a mere three dollars an acre. This is a story of one such fight, which resulted in two deaths and the alteration of a county line.

J. Letcher Tyre was a prominent Laurens County timberman and saw mill operator. Herschel Tarbutton, Gus Tarbutton and Joe Fluker were all prominent young men in Washington County and were well known in Johnson County, which upon his creation divided Laurens and Washington counties.

During the early decades of the 20th Century, prime timberlands were much in demand, especially tracts with a mixture of hardwoods and pines.  Letcher Tyre had contracted with a Mr. Young to purchase a six hundred acre tract at the far limits of the northern end of Laurens County on the eastern side of the Oconee River.  Tyre executed what was once called a "bond for title," whereby he would pay Young on an installment basis and take fee simple title only upon the completion of all payments due.    According to Young, Tyre defaulted in the payment schedule.  Owing to his desire to remove to South Georgia, Young sought out another buyer, one Herschel Tarbutton of Washington County.
That's when the trouble began.

Tyre maintained that he had a superior right to ownership and possession of the land and  proceeded to conduct logging operations. He hired a crew of hands to erect a saw mill on the site.  Gus Tarbutton had three of Tyre's men arrested for trespassing.   The trial was continued until the November term of court.   Tyre set out to do a little squirrel hunting on a fair skied cool November Saturday morning.

A Mr. Waters' son rode to Joe Fluker's house and told Fluker that Tyre and his men were building shacks on the land and were going to move in a boiler later in the day.  Tarbutton called for his brother Gus and brother-in-law Fluker to ride out to investigate the goings on.  When the trio arrived on the scene, Lee Woodum, one of Tyre's saw mill hands, was sent to find Tyre.  Tyre rushed back to the saw mill site and promptly asked the horsemen, "What can I do for you?"   According to some  witnesses, Herschel Tarbutton began to move around Tyre in a counterclockwise direction, while Gus and Joe moved clockwise to Tyre's right.   "I would not do that on my own premises," Tyre warned.  "That's a damned lie!  You are not on your own place," Herschel Tarbutton retorted.   Tarbutton pulled his .44 caliber pistol and fired it directly into Tyre's abdomen.  Gus Tarbutton got down off his horse.  Some of those present testified that both Gus and Joe fired.  But, it was Herschel's shot that hit the mark, entering his stomach and traveling completely through Tyre's body.  Tyre managed to grab his squirrel gun and get off one shot, a direct hit in Herschel Tarbutton's right eye.  Gus Tarbutton ran off into the woods.

Letcher Tyre, with the aid of his crew, struggled and made it to the neighboring Waters' house, while Gus and Joe begged Tyre's men to take their wounded comrade to a doctor.  Tyre's brother, J.B. Tyre, was summoned to his brother's side.  He found his dying brother in a conscious condition.  Letcher began to speak to those around.  Realizing that his death was eminent, Tyre issued a dying declaration that the Tarbuttons and Fluker refused his demands for mercy and instead showed absolute determination to kill him.  Tyre died later in the evening. His body lies buried in the old section of the cemetery at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Herschel Tarbutton was carried to the sanitarium of Dr. Rawlings in Sandersville, where he died the next day.  Tarbutton also told his doctors and interrogators that he was the first to be shot.  In the midst of the excitement following the incident, many Laurens Countians believed that Tarbutton had not actually died.  Rumor had it that a dummy was inserted into his coffin and that Tarbutton was secreted to a hiding place.  To contradict the rampant rumors, Sandersville police chief L.J. Blount issued a sworn statement in the presence of Laurens County Judge of the Court of Ordinary W.A. Wood declaring that he had observed Tarbutton's death, helped to dress his body and watched as it was buried in the Sandersville cemetery.  Other reputable Sandersville citizens came forward to sustain Blount's statement, including two physicians, the chief nurse of the hospital, both the Baptist and Methodist ministers, the clerk of court and the postmaster.

News of the affair spread rapidly throughout the home counties of the participants. Laurens County Sheriff John D. Prince rode over to Sandersville to arrest Gus Tarbutton and Joe Fluker.  The two surrendered and were taken back to Laurens County to stand trial.

With the aid of C.G. Rawlings, Tarbutton and Fluker assembled perhaps the greatest league of defense attorneys ever to appear in a Laurens County courtroom.  His leading attorneys were A.F. Daley and J.L. Kent of Wrightsville, both of whom would become judges of the Dublin Judicial Circuit.  G.H. Howard and J.E. Hyman of Sandersville were also brought in on the case.  T.L. Griner and J.S. Adams of Dublin joined the defense team to handle matters in the courts in Dublin.  The heaviest hitter of all was Thomas W. Hardwick.  Hardwick was serving in the United States Congress and was one of Georgia's most popular young politicians.  Hardwick later went on to become a United States Senator and Governor of Georgia.  He lived for a few short years in Dublin, where he owned and edited the Dublin Courier Herald.   Representing the State of Georgia was a smaller, but equally impressive lineup of barristers.  Led by solicitor-general Joseph Pottle, the prosecution team was led by Thomas E. Watson, former Populist congressman and future Democratic Senator from Georgia, along with Peyton Wade, future Chief Justice of the Georgia Court of Appeals and J.B. Hicks of Dublin.  The chief assistant defense counsel in the early stages of the court proceedings was Kenrick J. Hawkins, of Dublin.  Seven years later Hawkins became the first judge of the Dublin Judicial Circuit.

Tarbutton and Fluker's initial court appearance came before Dublin District Justice of the Peace, Judge John B. Wolfe.  The defense attorneys objected to the case being heard by Judge Wolfe, who was deferred to a three-justice panel composed of Nathan Gilbert (Burgamy District), P.E. Grinstead (Reedy Springs District) and John S. Drew, Jr. (Oconee District).  With an army of lawyers in place, the legal wrangling began.

Part 2 of 2

On November 26, a commitment trial was held in the Laurens County Courthouse. Dr. W.R. Brigham took the stand first and testified that the fatal shot was fired from an elevated position.  The justices found there was sufficient evidence to bind Messers Tarbutton and Fluker over for a trial on murder charges.  T.L. Griner attempted to discredit Lee Woodum's testimony concerning the Tarbutton's instigation of the violence by showing that B.B. Linder, the deceased brother-in-law, gave Woodum a script to testify from.  The attorneys clashed in a bitter battle over the issue of whether or not Tyre's field hand's testimony had been rehearsed or even paid for.

From the very beginning, defense attorneys attempted to show that the venue of the trial should not be in Laurens County, but in Johnson County where the crime actually happened.  W.D. Howell testified that he had lived in the Kittrell community for forty years and Tyre was indeed shot in Laurens County.    J.B. Tyre took the stand next and testified that his brother told him that the defendants had killed him.  Defense attorney Griner was able to get Tyre to admit that Dr. Brigham was not present and that he was alone at the time of his accusation.  He concluded his testimony by relating what his brother told him about the events of that fateful afternoon.  He told the justices that his brother told his antagonists that they could settle the matter without trouble.   Tyre, under an intense cross-examination, finally admitted that his brother never told him that Gus or Joe shot him. C.S. Pope's testimony of a conspiracy was ruled inadmissable.

After the prosecution rested, Gus Tarbutton took the stand in his own defense. He testified that as he and Herschel  rode up, Tyre, with his shotgun in his hand, declared, "Who do you want to see?"  Gus told the justices that Tyre fired at him, striking his horse.  He went on to say that Tyre then fired six or seven shots at his brother Herschel, eventually striking him.  He said that Herschel moved back behind them and the gut shot Tyre asked him for a drink of water.  Gus said that he told Tyre if he would put down his gun that he would get him something to drink.  He then said that his uncle Joe told him that "your brother is shot all to pieces."  Joe Fluker repeated, almost exactly, the testimony of his nephew Gus.  After the Tarbutton's left the scene, Fluker told the court that he went back and retrieved Herschel's bloodstained hat, which he described as having twenty shot holes in it.

J.J. Lord rebutted Tarbutton and Fluker's testimony by stating that he heard two or three pistol shots and then the report of a shotgun, followed by ten to twelve more pistol shots from his position about a half mile away.  He continued to state that he rode to the site of the shooting on Sunday morning and found multiple bullets all over the place and only two empty shot gun shells.  On cross examination Lord admitted he found only one empty pistol shell and the two shot gun shells he found were loaded.  Lord's brother, H.H. Lord, repeated his testimony.  James Brown told the justices that he was a mile away and heard two pistol shots, then a shot gun blast and then seven or eight more shots.

Believing that the justices would grant them bail, they never introduced any evidence on their part.  The justices denied a bond for bail.  On the following Monday, Judge Lewis granted a bond of twenty thousand dollars, which was immediately posted by a group of their friends with a combined net worth of more than a million dollars.  The freed men took the first train out of town to Wrightsville.

A trial was set for February 4, 1907.  Defense attorneys moved for a continuance on multiple grounds.  It was asserted that E.P. Woods could testify that it was only Herschel Tarbutton who fired the fatal shot. The defense lawyers maintained they could not locate a crucial prosecution witness, Lee Woodum.  The state's attorneys maintained that he was available and had been in the presence of the parties just days before the trial.  With such a large number of attorneys involved in the case, their entire presence was almost impossible.   Congressman T.W. Hardwick was in attendance of a session of Congress. A.F. Daley maintained he had a severe cold and could not last a day, much less the length of an entire trial.  The court granted the delay based on the continuance more on the fact that there was a reasonable ground to allow the defense to move forward with its contention that the killing actually occurred in Johnson County.

Governor Joseph M. Terrell appointed L.W. Roberts, an Atlanta Civil Engineer, who was hired to determine the true location of the line dividing Laurens and Johnson counties.  With very scant evidence at hand, Roberts, considered one of the best surveyors in Georgia, set out to mark the line which had been established by the Georgia legislature in 1857, some fifty years earlier.  The act creating Johnson County provided that the county line would begin on the eastern bank of the Oconee River, opposite the mouth of Big Sandy Creek and then in an easterly direction to the ford at Fort's Creek on the Buckeye Road. From that point the line was to turn in a southeasterly direction to a point a mile south of Snell's Bridge on the Little Ohoopee River.  The initial map of Johnson County was of no value.  The official map of Laurens County was not much better.    Roberts did manage to locate seventy-year-old J.F. Mixon of Johnson County, who was one of the men who carried the surveyor's chains back in 1857.  Mixon accompanied him to the area and pointed out the old lines.

In mid July, Georgia Secretary of State Phil Cook upheld Robert's report.  Roberts calculated that the line in the Kittrell community was a little further south than where it was thought to have been and consequently, Tyre was shot in Johnson, and not Laurens County.  But more changes were found.  When all was said and done, Johnson County gained eight hundred acres and lost three hundred acres and ten families to Laurens County for a net gain of five hundred acres.    Laurens County hired attorney M.H. Blackshear to  protest the surveyor's findings, but to no avail.    Ironically, questions over the true location of the county line continued for at least six more decades.

The case was removed to Johnson County for trial. But with a more sympathetic Solicitor General, no trial of Gus Tarbutton or Joe Fluker ever took place.  Nearly two decades later, an interesting postscript took place in Johnson County.   On February 17, 1925, Gus Tarbutton was walking through the woods along the Oconee River, not too far from the location where he, his brother and his uncle had confronted Letcher Tyre.  In his company was one J.J. Tanner, the overseer of Mr. C.G. Rawlings.   Tarbutton and Rawlings were business partners in a mineral rights venture in the area. Each took out life insurance policies on their partner's lives.  Based primarily on the testimony of my great-great uncle Noah Covington, Jr., Tanner was convicted of killing Tarbutton.  His conviction was upheld and Tanner was sentenced to life in prison.  In a sense, Letcher Tyre reached out of his grave and got the revenge his brother so desperately sought.  This time a man had to die over money, albeit the massive sum of two hundred thousand dollars.   The Apostle Paul was right, "the love of money is the root of all evil."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


More than Trivial Pieces of our Past

During the 1930s, more and more political and military leaders foresaw a great war being fought in Europe.  In 1919, one Dublin man, S.M. Alsup, predicted  another world war, twenty years before it happened.  S.M. Alsup was a clerk with the American Forces in Treves, Germany.  On February 2, 1919, Alsup wrote a letter to his wife.  Alsup talked with German citizens and observed what was going on around him.  Alsup predicted "that if Germany is allowed to run her manufacturing plants and other industries to the extent of making it possible for her to pay the huge debt that she is supposed to pay, she will be on top again before we know it; at which time the war of all wars will be fought."  Alsup went on to write, "I certainly hope I am wrong, but my opinion is that in 1940 there will be another great war, if not earlier."  Alsup's prediction was right on the money - twenty years before Great Britain declared war against Germany and World War II began.  Dublin Courier Herald, June 20, 1940.

When producers of "Return to Macon County Line" began looking for a town in which to film the movie, they chose Forsyth, Georgia because of its resemblance to a 1950s town.  Back in the 1960s, Dublin businessman Earl Cannon told TV star Dan Blocker, of Bonanza fame, about his 1956 pink Eldorado Cadillac.  Blocker told the producers who contracted with Cannon to rent his car for the movie.  The producers paid Cannon $40.00 per day for the use of the car and its driver, Earl Cannon, Jr.  The car appeared in a scene early in the movie when co-star Don Johnson meets a car load of cheerleaders, who are driving the classic pink car.   Although the movie's stars, Don Johnson and Nick Nolte went on to bigger and better films, the movie, like most sequels, was not a big hit and can now be found on the clearance rack in video tape stores for about the cost of one blank video tape.

The Dublin High Tip Off Club sponsored a pair of basketball games to raise funds for Dublin High basketball on January 2, 1971.   The first game was between current Irishette players and former Irishette stars, a usual type of game for fund raising.  The second game was not so usual.  The nightcap was a game between the Atlanta All-Pros and Irish coaches and alumni.  Tom Perry, one of Dublin's greatest all time players, led the Dublin team with 22 points, followed by Lawrence Davis with 21 points.  Also playing for the Dublin team were Marvin Tarpley, Ben Snipes, Bill Roberts, Tal Fuqua, Earl Farmer, Ray Toole, Jim Richardson, Roy Hammond, and Louie Blue.  The Atlanta All Pros were a ten man team composed of non-basketball players.  Although they didn't play basketball for a living, they were among the better athletes in the country.  The All Pros were a team composed mainly of players from the Atlanta Braves.  The Atlanta All Pros lead all the way.  Bob Didier, a 21-year-old catcher for the Braves, shot two long range bombs and the baseball players never looked back.  Didier's 28 points were only exceeded by his battery mate, Ron Reed, a 6' 6" tall pitcher, who pumped in 34 points.  Sonny Jackson, the Braves shortstop, scored 11 points.  Also playing for the All Pros were pitcher, Jim Nash, Earl Williams, who would become the National League Rookie of the Year in 1971, and last but not least, Bob  Uecker, who managed to score four points.  Uecker, whose exploits on the field have been eclipsed by his unique brand of humor as a television and movie star, as well as a long time Milwaukee Brewer announcer.  The Atlanta All Pros were coached by Clete Boyer, an all-star third baseman who played for the Braves and the last great Yankee teams of the 1960s.  The Atlanta All Pros led by six at half-time by the score 45 to 39.  The Pros pulled away to win by the final score of 95 to 78.  The game was played in the old Dublin High gym, now known as the Junior High gym. Dublin Courier Herald, Jan. 4, 1971.

The City of Dublin refurbished the former Hilton Hotel on the courthouse square into a city hall.   John Kelley, Dublin's premier contractor, was hired to do the work.  As a part of the renovation work, Kelley and his crew installed a one ton bell in the top of the courthouse.  The bell was dubbed "Big John."  The fire department devised a process where the number of rings of the bells indicated what quadrant of the city the fire was occurring.  Alarm boxes were placed at various locations throughout the city.  When the alarm button was pushed, a particular box rang in the fire department office.  Then the bell was sounded to reflect the location of the fire.  There is one old tale of a man who always kept his ear open for the sound of the fire bell.  Upon the ringing of the bell, the man would proceed rapidly to the fire, climb on the roof, and break open holes in the roof with his ax.  Ignorant of the draft he was causing in doing so, many houses were lost.  Some sarcastic Dubliners stated that the motto of their fire department was "we never lose a chimney."    When the City of Dublin moved to its new quarters in 1959, the old city hall was doomed to demolition.  In 1960 the building was razed.  A local scrap metal dealer, P.M. Watson, Jr., purchased the bell.  His workers had an extremely difficult time in taking the bell out of the building.

The bell remained at Watson's place of business until Alonzo Boardman of Augusta came along.  Boardman had to have the bell.  He bought it and made arrangements to have it shipped to his garden fifteen miles from Augusta at Bath, near the notorious Tobacco Road.  Boardman's garden, known as Austrian Valley, was a 47-acre tract with lakes, fountains, terraces, and a hillside lodge.  Dogwoods, azaleas, and other varieties of plants adorned the Boardman home, which was modeled on an Austrian village.    Dublin Courier Herald, Feb. 2, 1967.

It looked like a scene out of World War II.  A B-26 bomber with flames coming out of it was falling to the earth.  The plane, a part of an outfit known as the Confederate Air Force, developed trouble on a flight from Louisville, Georgia to its home base of San Marcos, Texas.  The pilots jettisoned the cockpit and crash landed the bomber into a field belonging to M.O. Darsey.  Both pilots survived.  Dublin Courier Herald, May 13, 1976

She was not your typical southern police officer.   Kathy Hogan worked in the Dublin police department as a dispatcher.  That position was normally held by a female.  There were no female cops.  Many said that they couldn't handle the demands of the job.   Kathy, a resident of Dudley,  began to train for a position as police officer.  Within twelve days, she had completed the requisite courses and was sworn in as a officer of the Dublin police department on August 27, 1979.  Hogan's training would continue during her first year of duty.   Officer Henderson later advanced her career.  She has served on the Georgia State Patrol for nearly twenty-five years.   Dublin Courier Herald, August 28. 1979.

Sunday, September 07, 2014


A Citizen Wherever He Served

From time to time, exceptional people pass through our midst.  Some are only here for a short time, while others are here for all of our lives.  This is the story of a gridiron star of the Roaring Twenties, who climbed his way from the locker room of a powerful college football team to the board room of one of Georgia's largest corporations.  During his celebrated lifetime, this young man sojourned in Dublin for a brief while on the first rung of the ladder to the board chairmanship of Georgia Power Corporation.

John Joseph McDonough was born in Savannah, Georgia on January 26, 1901.  John, or "Jack" as his friends called him, entered the Georgia Institute of Technology after his graduation from high school in Savannah.  While pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Jack became the quarterback of the football team at Georgia Tech under Coach William Alexander.  One Atlanta sportswriter commented that he had the complexion of an Indian, albeit that his tan came from the sunshine of his native home.  His greatest season was his last season when he helped the Tech team to garner the co-championship of the Southern Conference in 1922.

Jack, known as "Gooch" to his teammates,  was compared to Brer Rabbit.  In the 1921 season, he led the Yellow Jackets to a defeat of a great Rutgers team.  "He always ran the right thing at the right time and helped to put drive into every play.  He was always there when we needed a yard or two for a first down.  That's the best thing about Jack, he can always slip through a hole for the necessary gain when it is needed," commented Tech end John Staton.   In one of his greatest games, his Yellow Jackets smashed the Crimson Tide of Alabama by the score of 33-7.  Forty decades later, McDonough was elected to the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.  Because of his prowess on the football field, he was offered a position as football coach and mathematics teacher at Savannah High School.  After four years in his hometown, McDonough was approached by Georgia Southern Power Corporation for a position with the company.

In a 1925 referendum, the voters of Dublin overwhelmingly voted in favor of selling the municipal power plant to Georgia Southern Power primarily in reliance upon the company's promise to make Dublin a distribution point for Middle Georgia.  Company officials sent McDonough to Dublin as an assistant manager in the Dublin office in his first regular assignment.  Then, after only thirteen months, Jack McDonough was promoted again, this time as district manager in Athens, home of his intra-state collegiate rivals.  After only four months in Athens, he was again transferred, this time to Brunswick where he served the remainder of 1928.  Jack McDonough returned to Dublin in January of 1929 where, as district manager, he supervised the Dublin, McRae and Vidalia districts.  McDonough continued his nomadic career by returning to Brunswick after only five months in Dublin.

Jack McDonough was working as the district manager of the Douglas office when the company became the Georgia Power Company in 1930.    He worked as division commercial and sales manager in Augusta in 1937, when he moved to Atlanta.  After another short stint, McDonough moved to Rome, Georgia, where finally he began a thirteen-year stable period of employment, first as division manager and then as division manager and vice-president of the company.

His superiors in the company felt that Jack's rightful place was in the main office in Atlanta.  For a half year, McDonough  served as the district manager of the Atlanta office.  In May 1951, the board of directors elected McDonough as executive vice president of Georgia Power, the number two position in the company.  For six years, McDonough served under President Harlee Branch, Jr.  providing invaluable services wherever the need arose.  In January 1957, McDonough became the sixth president of Georgia Power Company.  After another six years of outstanding service to the company, the stockholders and directors of the company elevated Jack McDonough to position of chairman of the board.

During his administration, McDonough oversaw tremendous growth in the company's service to the rapidly expanding post war city scapes and country sides of Georgia.  Through his efforts and thousands of outstanding employees, Georgia Power Company became the nation's tenth largest publicly owned utility company.   McDonough served until his retirement in 1966, when he took a seat as a director on Georgia Power's parent company, the Southern Company.

During his forty years at Georgia Power Company, Jack McDonough accumulated a remarkable array of accolades and honors.   He was the first native Georgian ever to be nominated as "Engineer of the Year."  A general plant on the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta was named his honor.  As a business man, John J. McDonough was much in demand as a corporate director.  He served on the boards of the Central of Georgia Railway, Pepperill Manufacturing Company, Mead Corporation, Edison Electric Institute, Southern Research Institute, Georgia Future Homemakers of America, Georgia Future Farmers of America, and Georgia International Life Insurance Company.

In summing up his philosophies of business and life, McDonough was said to have firmly believed that the company should get things done, serving as a citizen of the state whenever and wherever necessary, never in fear of the future nor scorning the past.  He encouraged his employees to take a look at everything and never making anything permanent, except progress.

Jack McDonough incorporated his business philosophy as a citizen servant into his personal civic and philanthropic service to the state.  He was vice chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia from 1947 to 1957.  A supporter of the arts, McDonough served on boards which included the Atlanta Music Festival, Atlanta Arts Alliance and Atlanta Symphony Guild.  Children, youth and the unfortunate were of paramount importance to Jack.  He served on the Georgia Tech Foundation, the YMCA, Metropolitan Atlanta Community Services, the Georgia Society for Crippled Children and Adults, the Red Cross and Easter Seals, serving as state chairman of the latter from 1955 to 1957.   He served on countless boards and committees on Chamber of Commerce boards, the Atlanta Athletic Club, the Commerce Club, the Piedmont Driving Club, and the Peachtree Golf Club and numerous other organizations.

John J. McDonough was recognized as one of the most influential figures in the industrial and commercial life of Georgia.  He died on April 1, 1983 in Atlanta after a lengthy illness.  

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


A Beacon of Agriculture and Education

No other resident of a county surrounding Laurens County has had more of a lasting impact on the history of Laurens County than Congressman Dudley Mays Hughes of Danville, Twiggs County, Georgia.  Though his grandfather was a resident of Laurens, Dudley Hughes lived most of his life on his plantation in Danville, Georgia.  As a railroad baron, agriculturalist and congressman, Hughes led the citizens between Dublin and Macon out of the abyss of Reconstruction through the zenith of the cotton boom, which prematurely ended with the coming of the boll weevil and the resulting bank failures and worker migration to the North.

Dudley Mays Hughes was born on October 10, 1848 in Jeffersonville, Georgia.  His parents, Daniel G. Hughes and Mary Moore Hughes, were prominent residents of the county. His father  represented Twiggs County in the Georgia legislature.  His grandfather Hayden Hughes, of Laurens County,  was one of Central Georgia’s largest slave owners.  Hughes received most of his primary education at private schools, primarily at Oakland Academy.  Though he never formally completed his studies at the University of Georgia, Dudley was made an honorary graduate.  While in college, Dudley developed life time friendships with many of Georgia’s future leaders, including Henry W. Grady, Governor Nat Harris and University of Georgia Chancellor Walter B. Hill.

Dudley Hughes’ station in life was set in 1870 when he left college in the middle of his senior year to try his hand at agriculture.  Though very adept in his academic faculties, Dudley was also masterful the modern methods of agricultural principles.  After a trial run on his grandfather’s farm in Laurens County,  Hayden Hughes rewarded the young man with a bounty of a thousand dollars for his excellent work.  Hughes used his grant to purchase and establish his Danville farm into one of the section’s most profitable operations.

Hughes realized that in order for agricultural operations to prosper, that railroads were an absolute necessity.  The closest railroad to his home was the Central of Georgia Railroad in Wilkinson County.   Hughes  represented Twiggs County in the Georgia Senate from 1882-1883.  With his enhanced political power and support,  Hughes consulted with his father and his  contemporaries John M. Stubbs of Dublin, Ashley Vickers of Montrose  and Joshua Walker of Laurens Hill in the creation of a railroad from Macon to Savannah through Dublin temporarily  under the name of the Macon and Dublin Railroad then officially as  the Savannah, Dublin and Western Shortline Railroad, which eventually became the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad.  In July 1891 near the end of his six-year term as the railroad’s first president, Hughes and a host of dignitaries rode the inaugural train from Macon to Dublin.  Hughes remained active in the railroad’s operation as its vice-president for several more years until northern investors took over its management from its local progenitors.

After subordinating his railroad interests to his passion for farming, Hughes concentrated on the development of his plantation and the promotion of agriculture and horticultural interests across the state.  Along with his close friend John M. Stubbs, Hughes was active in the establishment of orchards around Montrose and Dublin.  He served for four years as president of the Georgia State Agricultural Society and ten years  as a founding member and first president of the Georgia Fruit Grower’s Association.  As president of the Agricultural Society, Hughes pledged to do all in his power to work for the society as a beacon light for the farmers to look to for guidance and encouragement.  In 1977, Dudley Hughes was named to the National Agricultural Hall of Fame along with Eli Whitney as the sixth and seventh members of the most honored agriculturalists in American history, joining George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington Carver,  Cyrus McCormick and Justin Morrill.  Hughes maintained a large naval stores operation and a 90,000 tree orchard in Laurens County.  Hughes was one of the first farmers to use telephones to coordinate his diverse farming operations at various locations in Twiggs and Laurens County.   He took a personal and active interest in farming, riding a thoroughbred horse from farm to farm to make sure everything was going smoothly.

Hughes was a fervent conservationist, historian and Christian.  He was a Mason, Elk and member of the Georgia Historical Society.  Hughes was a leader in experimentation of agricultural theories and promoted the establishment of three hundred experiment stations around the state.  Despite his iconic stature, Hughes remained loyal to his local church, serving as a deacon and Sunday school superintendent.  His expertise and leadership were always in demand.  Gov. Joseph Terrell appointed Hughes as Commissioner General of Georgia for the St.  Louis World’s Fair.

Though he disdained politics in his early life, he answered the call of his colleagues for political office on a higher scale.  After an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1906, Hughes was elected to represent the 3rd Congressional District of Georgia in 1908.  He served two terms before transferring to the 12th Congressional District in 1912, easily winning reelection for two more terms.  He won coveted seats on the House Military, Agriculture and Education committees.  Always a  zealot of education, Hughes served as a trustee of the University of Georgia, the University of Georgia School of Agriculture, South Georgia Normal School and Georgia Normal and Industrial College, now Georgia College an State University.

One of Congressman Hughes’ most lasting contributions on a national basis came  in1914, when Democratic president Woodrow Wilson appointed him to a presidential commission to explore the viability of federal funding of vocational and agricultural education in public schools.  As the Democratic Chairman of the House Committee on Education, Hughes worked with fellow Georgian, Senator Hoke Smith, in developing a bill, which became known as the Smith-Hughes Act.  Adopted by Congress in 1917, the Smith-Hughes Act provided matching federal funding for vocational education.

Dudley Hughes married Mary Frances Dennard in 1873.  Their children were Hugh Lawson Dennard Hughes, Henrietta Louise Hughes and Daniel Greenwood Hughes. Dan G. Hughes followed in his father’s footsteps by serving as Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture.   Hugh, a successful Twiggs County businessman, served as a Trustee of the University of Georgia and Middle Georgia College.  Henrietta Louise, known affectionately as “Miss Hennilu” outlived her brothers and lived in her father’s Magnolia Plantation until her death  at the age of 102.  Magnolia Plantation was restored about two decades ago and stands a monument to the Hughes’ legacy of his contributions to the agricultural and education progress of Georgia.  Dudley Hughes died on January 20, 1927 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Perry.

Dudley Hughes was considered a man of high integrity, always sympathetic and interested in those with whom he conversed.  He was always erect in his in his carriage and looked everyone straight in the eye.  He was known to have loved children and animals, always grateful for their presence in the midst of his hurried world.   Though some people may disagree, the founders of the Town of Dudley named their town in his honor.  Many also think that Montrose was his middle name and therefore he was the name sake of that town as well.  “Colonel Hughes,” as he was known to most of his friends, was honored when the citizens of Montrose, Allentown and Danville attempted to form their own county named in his honor.  The city of Macon did name a vocational school for him and his hometown of Danville was named for his father, Daniel G. Hughes