The Native American Millennia
Laurens County was first inhabited by the American Indian about ten thousand years ago. The first inhabitants were organized into small groups known as bands. These bands predominately settled along the creeks and rivers in the area. Over the years the Indians were categorized as Creek Indians while they were, in fact, several different groups. This area was occupied by the Creeks, Seminoles, Hitchiti, Yamassee, and Uchee (Yuchi), among others. The Lower Uchee Trail ran from lower Alabama to the Augusta area. The trail entered the county from the southwest following Highway 26 which turns into Blackshear's Ferry Road. The trail crossed the Oconee at Carr's Bluff opposite the Country Club and ran into Highway 319, thence toward Augusta. This trail and others helped in the development of our area in the late 18th century.
One village site, the Sawyer site at Fish Trap Cut, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site contains two mounds which were constructed in the 13th Century during the Mississippian mound building period. University of Georgia anthropologists recently discovered that between the two mounds are the remains of a Woodland Period village. This village, which was first occupied about 200 B.C., is the oldest known site of its kind in Georgia.
Several Spanish expeditions were conducted in the Laurens County area during the 16th and 17th centuries. The most famous of these was Hernando de Soto, who came near this area in 1540. Historians and scientists have debated for years over De Soto's exact route. Today the prevailing theory is that the explorer crossed the Oconee River above Laurens County. It also stands to reason that DeSoto or some of his patrols passed through what was originally Laurens County. The Spanish government set up a mission south of here at the Forks of the Altamaha. Spanish missionary, Father Chozas, visited this area in 1597. He told of the "Diamond Mountain" and barely escaped with his scalp between here and the forks of the Ocmulgee and the Oconee where the village of Tama is said to have been located. Juan de Lara returned to this area five years later to look for survivors of earlier expeditions. The Spanish established a mission at Tama about 1680 but soon abandoned it. The English attempted to colonize the area, but the plan was abandoned. The Uchee and the Oconee in this area were subjected to a brutal invasion in 1695 from other Indians to the south. The Oconee traveled south to Florida, which was controlled by Spain. The Oconee tribe evolved into a tribe we know today as the Seminoles. The Indians left this area in the latter part of the 17th Century and the early 18th Century. The lands of Ocute gradually became nothing more than hunting grounds for the Uchee.
The Post Revolutionary War Period
After the Revolution, Georgia acquired all of the land between the Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers. The entire area was known as Washington County. The first owners of the new lands were soldiers of the Continental Army. Later lands were granted under the headright system to heads of household. Among the earliest settlers in what became Laurens County were David Blackshear, Elijah Blackshear, Joseph Blackshear, William Bracken, John Brewton, William Brewton, William Bush, John Culpepper, Thomas Fort, Benjamin Harrison, Blasingame Harvey, Peter Messer, and William Neel. The State of Georgia established a Fort Telfair at Carr's Bluff in 1792. The fort was among a series of forts placed at strategic points along the eastern bank of the Oconee River, but were too far apart to prevent all Indian intrusions into Georgia. Troubles with the Indians plagued the new settlers until 1795, when Benjamin Harrison of Montgomery County massacred seventeen Indians while they were on a friendly visit in the area. The incident nearly precipitated a war. Diplomats prevailed, and hostilities ceased.
On December 19, 1793, most of present day eastern Laurens County was placed in Montgomery County. During the 1790s, George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and William Few, a signer of the Constitution, presided in the Superior Court of Montgomery County.
A portion of present day northern Laurens County was included in the Trans Oconee Republic. The fledgling country was founded by Gen. Elijah Clarke, Georgia's hero of the Revolution. With a show of military might, Jared Irwin forced his friend, Elijah Clarke, to leave the country's capital, which was located just above Toomsboro.
With the defacto removal of the Indians beyond the Ocmulgee already accomplished, the Indian nations sold the lands between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers to Georgia. On May, 11, 1803, Wilkinson County was created and encompassed a portion of western Laurens County. These new lands were granted under a lottery system to all eligible residents of Georgia in 1805. The remainder of western Laurens County was granted to settlers in the Land Lottery of 1807. Most of the early settlers came from the Carolinas and Virginia, or indirectly from other parts of Georgia. Their heritage was mostly English, Scottish and Irish, with a few families of German heritage. On August 1, 1807, Poplar Springs Baptist Church was established in central Wilkinson County. This church, which is now located in Laurens County and is still in existence, has the oldest church congregation west of the Oconee River in Georgia.
1807 - 1819:
The Creation of Laurens County and It's Early Years
On December 10, 1807, nearly one- third of Wilkinson County was cut off to form the new county of Laurens. The county was named in honor of Col. John Laurens. Col. Laurens, Gen. George Washington's aide, worked with Benjamin Franklin in securing more French funding and military support to bring the Revolutionary War to an end. Col. Laurens was killed at Combachee, South Carolina, after the British surrender at Yorktown.
The original county seat of Laurens County was located at Sumpterville on Turkey Creek about five miles west of Dublin. The first court was held in the home of Peter Thomas, which was located on the Uchee Trail west of Thomas' Crossroads. Presiding was Judge Peter Early, who later became Governor of Georgia. The first Solicitor General was Elijah Clark, a son of Gen. Elijah Clarke. The first county officers were: Clerk of Superior Court Amos Love, Sheriff James Thompson, Clerk of Inferior Court James Yarborough, Surveyor John Thomas and Coroner William Yarborough. The first justices chosen to sit on the Inferior Court of Laurens County were: Thomas Davis, Thomas Gilbert, Edmund Hogan, William O'Neal, and Peter Thomas. In 1809, Laurens County lost a great portion of its lands to the new county of Pulaski. One Laurens County resident, who became a resident of Pulaski County, was a young boy by the name of James Fannin. Fannin lived with his maternal grandfather, George Walker, a one year resident of what was Laurens County. Fannin, with two years of military training at West Point, went to Texas in 1834, where he led Texas forces in the war against Mexico. Fannin and four hundred of his men were executed by the Mexican army at Goliad, Texas, three weeks after the infamous "Battle of the Alamo."
A new group of settlers arrived in the early 1800s. They included Amos Love, Henry Fuqua, Josiah Warren, Jethro Weaver, David McCormick, Hardy Smith, Benjamin Hampton, Jethro Spivey, Thomas Moore, Gilliard Anderson, Alexander Stringer, Noah Stringer, Benjamin Daniel, Elisha Ballard, Dennis McLendon, William O'Neal, John Guyton, Charles Guyton, Moses Guyton, Samuel Yopp, Jeremiah Yopp, James Stanley, Ira Stanley, Jonathan Sawyer, John Clark, and Thomas McCall. Most of the county's residents settled in the northern half of the county where the soil was more fertile. The 1810 Census enumerated 2210 Laurens Countians with just more than three-quarters of that number being free whites and one quarter being slaves.
With the loss of new lands, local leaders sought to obtain more lands. The legislature agreed and in 1811 annexed extreme portions of northwestern Montgomery and southwestern Washington counties into Laurens. With new lands to the east, the Justices of the Inferior Court decided that the county seat should be located nearer to the center of the county. The justices chose a plateau nearly a mile from the Oconee River. Just across the river to the east was a riverside community known as Sandbar. It was settled by merchant Jonathan Sawyer in 1804.
In June of 1811, Sawyer was appointed postmaster of a new post office. Sawyer's wife, Elizabeth McCormick, was a native of Baltimore, Maryland and a progeny of Dublin, Ireland. She died in childbirth a couple of years before. Sawyer, as postmaster, was given the right to choose the name of the new post office, which he named Dublin, in honor of the capital of his wife's ancestral homeland. On December 13, 1811, the legislature appointed Jonathan Sawyer, Jethro B. Spivey, John G. Underwood, Benjamin Adams, and Henry Shepherd to act as commissioners of the courthouse and other public buildings granting unto them the power "to lay out and sell such a number of lots as may be sufficient to defray the expenses of such public buildings as they may think necessary." The town was chartered on December 9, 1812 by an act of the legislature. The town's original commissioners were Neil Munroe, Lewis Kennon, William Tolbert, Eli Shorter and Henry Shepard. The original city limits extended a distance of 250 yards in all directions from Broad Street. Eventually, the streets of the town were named for American Presidents and heroes of the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
Among the early settlers of Laurens County was Thomas McCall, Surveyor General of Georgia in the 1780's. McCall, who served in the North Carolina militia in the American Revolution, was known throughout the South as a master winemaker, cultivating the natural grapes of the area and experimenting with imported varieties as well on his "Doll Neck" plantation near Fish Trap Cut. Gov. John Clarke, son of Gen. Elijah Clarke and bitter enemy of Gov. George Troup, owned a large tract of land in eastern Laurens County. Jonathan Sawyer, Dublin's founder, went to Darien, where he was a founding director of the Bank of Darien in 1818, the strongest bank south of Philadelphia.
The Oconee River and old Indian trails were the only methods of transportation. The old roads were improved. New ones were cut by the male citizens of the county and their slaves. William Neel and George Gaines established ferries across the Oconee at Sandbar prior to the formation of Laurens County. Jared Trammel established the first Laurens County ferry in 1808. That ferry was purchased by David Blackshear in 1823 and consolidated with Blackshear's old ferry. Laurens County took over the operation of the Gaines Ferry, which operated until the railroad bridged the river in 1891. Blackshear's Ferry ran under county supervision until 1947.
Shortly after Dublin was chartered, the United States entered the War of 1812 with Great Britain. The Georgia government organized an expedition which assembled at Dublin in July. Their mission was to beat the British to St. Augustine in an effort to protect the southern flank of Georgia. On the southern front the United States fought the British-supported Indians. General David Blackshear of Laurens County was ordered to command several divisions of Georgia Militia headquartered at Fort Hawkins. Gen. Blackshear served as a delegate to the Electoral College on three occasions, in 1800 when he voted for Thomas Jefferson, in 1828, when he voted for Andrew Jackson and in 1832, when as chairman of the delegation, again voted for Andrew Jackson as President of the United States.
While most muster rolls from Laurens County have not survived, many of the county's young men served in the armies formed to protect the front along the Ocmulgee River. The only known casualties were William Kemp and John Perry, soldiers in the United States Army. Ezekiel Attaway was cited for bravery during the Georgia militia's attack on Autossee in southern Alabama in 1813, a battle which saw the commanding general John Floyd fall in action. After the battle, David Blackshear took over command of the Georgia forces. In 1818, the Laurens County Dragoons, under the command of Jacob Robinson, participated in an unfortunate massacre of defenseless members of a Cheehaw Indian Village.
Near the end of the second decade of the 19th century, river traffic began to arrive in Dublin. Lands along the river were sold at a premium. The result was a period of short lived economic growth. Coastal Georgia merchants opened stores in Dublin. Among these merchants was Andrew Low, the uncle of the Savannah man of the same name who was featured in Eugenia Price's novels. Roswell King, overseer of the Butler Plantation and the founder of Roswell, Georgia, owned a store building on the courthouse square.
The Laurens County Academy was incorporated in 1819. Most of the early schools were conducted in the churches. Other academies established in the early 1830s were Troup, Dublin, Buckeye, and Laurens Hill.
Dublin planter, Henry Fuqua, was credited with being the first person to discover the feasibility of using cotton seed as a fertilizer. By the end of the first full decade of the county's history, the population of the county swelled to 5436. The total increase of 146%, boosted by a 400% in slave population, resulted in the largest single population increase of any county in the state.
1820s to 1850s: The Antebellum Decades
With no banks and no railroads, Dublin virtually faded away before the Civil War. Four land lotteries opened the remaining portions of Georgia over the next dozen years. The migration into western and southwestern Georgia caused a toll in the county's population from 1820 to 1840. Capt. Basil Hall, of the English Royal Navy, came to Dublin in the early spring of 1828. Capt. Hall noted the appearance of a withering and decaying economy in Dublin. He found free whites and slaves working in the fields together. To his astonishment, he found the slaves here were treated much better and were clothed much better than those in the coastal counties. In 1830, Macon newspaper man Simri Rose described Dublin as "a town containing but few inhabitants - most of the buildings are decaying and many unoccupied. Considerable calculations appear to have once been made on it as a place for business and many stores were erected, which are now, except for four or five, fast crumbling to the earth. This place has always been considered unhealthy and sometimes proved so. The value of its property has declined to the lowest ebb, and its general aspect of decay is calculated to create somber and unpleasant feelings."
Many people left Laurens, including Dr. Ambrose Baber, who later became a U.S. Minister to Sardinia. James S. Moore, son of Dublin's first physician, Dr. Thomas Moore, graduated from West Point in 1829, along with future Generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston and moved to another state. Eli Shorter, Dublin's first lawyer, became prominent in legal affairs in Columbus. Ga. in the 1820s.
From 1820 to 1840 the population increased by only 149 persons. Only a few residences and stores were to be found. Antebellum plantations were scattered across the northern portions of the county. The major plantations were owned by the Tuckers, Yopps, Guytons, Troups, Whites, Harvards, Hamptons, O'Neals, Thomases, Blackshears, Kellams, Greens, Weavers, Coneys, and Stanleys.
Most of southwestern Laurens County was a forest of virgin pine trees. Scottish cattlemen settled in the southern extremities of Laurens County. The Scots came to Montgomery County during the War of 1812 to raise fine beef cattle beneath the trees and in the wiregrass pastures. They were America's first cowboys when this part of Georgia was actually the southwestern United States. Nearly a half century later, U.S. government experts estimated that the virgin pine timber amounted to a billion board feet. That is enough timber to build a four inch wide plank to the moon and back.
Laurens County's most well known resident moved here in the early 1810s. George M. Troup served in the House and Senate of the United States from 1806 to 1818. Troup lived on the old River Road just above I-16 on his Valdosta Plantation. His two other plantations, Valambrosa and Thomas Cross Roads, were located east and northeast of Dudley. George Troup was one of the largest slave owners in Laurens County. Many descendants of those slaves still live in Laurens County. One of his slaves was Isaac Jackson, known to many as "Old Isaac." Isaac was credited as being the last surviving slave of President George Washington.
In 1822, George Troup was elected Governor of Georgia in the last regular election by the legislature. Two years later he became the first governor of Georgia to be elected by popular vote. Gov. Troup oversaw the acquisition of the last remaining Indian lands in Georgia. His actions brought the threat of military action by the United States if Georgia's expansionary practices were not halted. Gov. Troup returned to the United States Senate following his two terms as Governor. Gov. Troup's son, George M. Troup, Jr., was the first Laurens Countian to graduate from the University of Georgia. The governor's daughter, Florida, married into the famous Bryan/Forman family of the Altamaha Delta of Georgia.
Gov. Troup sought the aid of his first cousin, William McIntosh, in the acquisition of Indian lands. McIntosh, half Scottish and half Creek Indian, was Chief of the Lower Creeks and a military leader, who was allied with the Americans against the British in the War of 1812. McIntosh visited Troup on a regular basis. One legend states that the chief stayed at his reservation at Well Springs, about eight miles below Dublin, while visiting Gov. Troup. Chief McIntosh sent his children to school in Dublin during his visits. William McIntosh was attacked and murdered by upper Creeks for his part in the sale of Indian lands. His son, Chili, who went to school in Dublin, escaped and later became the first state school superintendent in Oklahoma.
During the first three years of Governor's Troup's terms in office, his personal secretary Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar lived in Troup's Valdosta home. In 1830, Lamar moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he established "The Columbus Enquirer." He joined the army of Texas after the fall of the Alamo. Colonel Lamar led the cavalry at the battle of San Jacinto and later became a major general and commander in chief of the army. Lamar served as Secretary of War in the interim administration of President David G. Burnet's cabinet. In September of 1836, in the first national election in the Republic of Texas, he was elected as the first vice-president of Texas. Two years later, when President Sam Houston could not succeed himself as President, Lamar was elected as the second president of Texas. Lamar fought in the Mexican War of 1845 as a Lt. Colonel. In the last two years of his life, Lamar served as Ambassador to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
During the mid 1830s, the railroads first came to Georgia. The Central of Georgia Railroad planned to build a railroad from Savannah to Macon. The straightest line ran through Dublin and Laurens County. Local residents led by Governor Troup forced the railroad to the north. Ironically their actions kept Dublin and Laurens County away from the route of the right wing of General William T. Sherman's army during its "March to the Sea."
The first documented tornado in Laurens County quickly struck Dublin on April 6, 1831 doing considerable damage to buildings, trees and fences. One man lost a part of his ear when a remnant projectile of an old building whizzed by his head. The most celebrated meteor shower in the history of the United States awed and frightened most Laurens Countians on November 13, 1833. A total eclipse of the sun occurred on November 30, 1834 with the path of totality passing over Laurens County. The superstitious and the uneducated believed that "judgement day" had come. February 8, 1835 is still known to have been the coldest day in the history of Georgia. Temperatures fell locally to nine degrees, below zero.
The last of the so called "Indian Troubles" took place in 1836. General Eli Warren was in command of the militia in Laurens and surrounding counties. In May 1836, Capt. George M. Troup, Jr. led the Laurens Volunteers as a part of the state's expedition to finally rid the state of Indian depredations against its citizens. Other officers in the company were Lt. Newman McBain, 2nd Lt. Thomas N. Guyton and Ensign Edward J. Blackshear.
Politics were as heated as ever in the 1830s and 1840s. Martin Van Buren did not receive a single vote in the 1836 presidential election. He quadrupled that total in losing the election to William Henry Harrison in 1840. By the 1840s, most of the county's democratic voters began to shift their allegiance to the Whig Party, an unlikely alliance of Southern democrats and northern liberals. Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the future Vice President of the Confederate States of America, became Laurens County's first elected congressman in 1843.
Court times were the only busy times in Dublin. Among the visiting lawyers were Charles J. Jenkins and Herschel V. Johnson, future governors of Georgia, and Judge Arthur E. Cochran, brother of Dublin attorney John Cochran, namesake of Cochran, Georgia and President of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad. Rev. David Daniell of Laurens County founded the First Baptist Church of Atlanta in 1847. George Troup reluctantly ran for president of the United States as a State Rights Candidate in 1848.
Judge Cochran married Eugenia Tucker, daughter of Dr. Nathan Tucker, who was one of Laurens County's largest land and slave owners. Miss Tucker attended Wesleyan College in Macon, where she became the founder and first president of the Aldephian Society, which later became the college sorority Alpha Delta Pi and was the world's first secret collegiate society for women. Isabella "Carrie" Hamilton, the future Mrs. Everard H. Blackshear of Laurens County, was the first student to enter Wesleyan in 1836, when it became the first state chartered college for women in America.
Two former residents, Lott Warren and James L. Seward, served in the Congress of the United States in the 1840s and 1850s respectively. Laurens County was saddened in 1856 by the death of the venerable Gov. George M. Troup. Dr. Peter Early Love, a Laurens County native who also practiced law and sat on the bench of the Superior Court, was elected to Congress in 1859. Congressman Love was one of the Georgia congressmen who resigned their seats when the Ordinance of Secession was passed. James Seward attended the devise 1860 Democratic National Conventions, which helped to only guarantee the election of Abraham Lincoln and the South's secession from the Union in 1861.
Boiling Springs Methodist Church was built in 1851. It still stands today as the oldest wooden church in the South Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church. The Rev. John McGehee began his service as the first pastor of the First Methodist Church in Dublin in 1854. Rev. McGehee served for 63 years, making him the longest serving active pastor and presiding elder in Georgia Methodism. In 1854, Laurens County erected a poor house and later a poor farm on the land now occupied by the Law Enforcement Center and Southern Pines Recreational Complex. The facility was used until the 1930s and remained in use as a prisoner work farm until the 1960s. Laurens County rapidly became an agricultural center of east central Georgia. With its enormous size and multitude of slaves cotton and wool production began to soar.
In 1860, the county's largest slave owners were Oralie Troup, daughter of Governor George M. Troup, Thomas Foreman, grandson of the governor, and the Blackshear brothers, Edward, Elijah and Everard. Other large slave owners were Hayden Hughes, Nathan Tucker, Ashley Vickers, Cullen O'Neal, Willis Brazeal, J.T. Fullwood, Mary Coney, and Joseph M. White. Two Hundred and twenty-seven persons owned 3,269 slaves, which constituted nearly forty-seven percent of the county's seven thousand residents.
On the eve of the Civil War, the civil government of Dublin had all but disappeared. On December 20, 1860, the Town of Dublin was reincorporated under a commissioner form of government. James F. Robinson, George Currell, W. S. Ramsay, Joel E. Perry, and John B. Wolfe were appointed commissioners under the new form of government.
The War Between The States - 1861-1865
James L. Seward, a former Laurens Countian and member of Congress, attended the 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. Set in the center of a brewing maelstrom, the divided delegates could not produce a candidate to defeat the rapidly rising Republican party under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. It may be noted that Herschel V. Johnson, a former Georgia governor, United States Senator, and frequent practicing attorney in Laurens County, was on one of the three split Democratic tickets as a vice-presidential candidate. Laurens County sent Jeremiah Yopp and Dr. Nathan Tucker, two of the county's largest slaveholders, as delegates to the Secession Convention in 1861. Dr. Tucker voted no on the issue of secession, thereby giving the county a split delegation. Though the delegation was split in its desires to remain in the Union, the popular vote for remaining as a part of the United States was an overwhelming sixty-seven percent. The landslide vote did not include any female votes, nor any votes of slaves. Obviously, a true poll of the voters' beliefs would have been an overwhelming veto of the movement toward secession. After the war, Ashley Vickers, a wealthy and influential planter, wrote to President Andrew Johnson stating that he was against secession and tried to convince all of his friends to remain with the Union. Many of the neighboring counties to the east also voted against leaving the Union.
Despite the fact that more than two thirds of all Laurens Countians voted against secession, Laurens County furnished nearly seven hundred men to the armies of the 14th, 49th, 57th, and 63rd Georgia Infantry Regiments of the Confederate States Army and several companies of the Georgia Militia and Reserves.
Laurens Countians fought in all of the major battles of the war with the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Tennessee. Sgt. Daniel Mason of Laurens County was the first to fall. Mason was wounded in the first battle of the war at Manassas and died several weeks later. Seven sons of Eason and Eliza Weaver Green enlisted in the Southern Army. Whiteford S. Ramsay and C.S. Guyton of Dublin were appointed Colonels in the Confederate Army. Col. Ramsay was appointed a Lt. Colonel a month after his 22nd birthday, making him one of the youngest colonels in the Confederate army. Lt. Col. Guyton, the highest ranking Laurens County officer during the war, was given temporary command of Mercer's Brigade just after the brigade began the Battle of Atlanta. Dublin lawyer, Capt. Young Anderson, served as Quartermaster of the famed Cobb's Legion.
William H. "Bill" Yopp, a former slave, served as a private in Co. H. of the 14th Georgia. He earned the nickname of "Ten Cent Bill" when he was doing chores for his fellow soldiers. Private Yopp is the only African-American Confederate soldier buried in the National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia. Three former slaves, Myers Blackshear, George Hozendorf and Francis Hughes, enlisted in the Union Navy in 1863 and served until the end of the war.
Elijah Curl, a Laurens County private in the 49th Georgia, was given some credit for firing the shot that killed Gen. Phillip Kearney, the highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War. A few Laurens Countians were members of the 48th Georgia Infantry which assaulted and overran Federal positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg the day before Gen. Pickett's failed charge marked the "high water mark of the Confederacy." A small commissary was established by the Confederate Government at Laurens Hill on the Cochran Road near Dudley and Montrose. Future Dubliner Alex Moffett served in the Macon Volunteers with Georgia's most famous poet, Sidney Lanier. In the early months of 1864, Laurens Countians serving in the 57th Ga. Infantry, were assigned as guards at Andersonville Prison. Dr. Andrew J. Lamb, who practiced medicine in Laurens County after the war, left his infantry regiment and volunteered for service in the Confederate Navy. He was assigned to the C.S.S. Virginia, which was refitted with an iron hull and was also known as the Merrimac. In 1862, the Merrimac engaged the U.S.S. Monitor in one of the most famous one on one naval battles in the history of the World.
Laurens County itself avoided the war for the most part. General Joseph Wheeler, C.S.A. led his four thousand cavalrymen in a river crossing at Blackshear's Ferry in November of 1864 in an attempt to flank the right wing of Gen. Sherman's army. Gen. Samuel Ferguson and his Mississippi Cavalry spent a few days in Laurens County protecting against an anticipated mission by Sherman's forces to capture Andersonville prison. In late November of 1864, the closest battle to Laurens County occurred at Ball's Ferry near where Georgia Highway 57 crosses the Oconee River in Wilkinson County. Sherman's right wing was delayed for a few days by military cadets, prisoners and their guards, and the local Washington County militia. Legend has it that Major James B. Duggan and an elderly lady tricked a Union cavalry unit into thinking that they were Wheeler's Cavalry. Their actions at the Lightwood Knot Bridge on the Toomsboro Road saved Chappell's, then Stanley's Mill, from destruction by the "Yankees." Chappell's Mill still stands in the northern part of the county. The mill was closed in the 1990s after nearly 180 years of operation.
In the summer of 1863, the Confederate government leased a 3,000 acre tract of land from Dr. Thomas A. Parsons for the location of an infirmary for diseased and broken horses. The institution, under the command of Capt. J.G. McKee, was located at the very top of Laurens County along the eastern banks of the Oconee River and accommodated thousands of horses in hopes that they would recuperate and once again be of service to the Confederate Army.
In the days following General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Laurens Countians wondered what the future held for them. Future Dubliner Louisa Kohn Baum attended the play "Our American Cousin" and witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Little did Laurens Countians know they would be witnesses to history within a month. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, left Richmond before it fell. Davis traveled south in an attempt to escape to England or Texas.
On May 6, 1865, Davis and his escorts reached Sandersville. His family and the members of the Confederate Cabinet were traveling in a wagon train on a separate route. At Ball's Ferry in Washington County, Davis learned of a plot to rob the train. Davis traveled down the river road frantically looking for his family. They met at the home of E.J. Blackshear, son of Gen. David Blackshear. After a short rest and breakfast, the wagon train crossed the Oconee at dawn. Davis moved down the east bank of the river crossing below Dublin. Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan stopped the train in front of F.H. Rowe's store on the courthouse square. Rowe, a native of Connecticut and a loyal southerner, directed the Confederates along the Telfair Road. Davis spent that night at the southern tip of Laurens County between the forks of Alligator Creek.
That same night the Wisconsin Cavalry reached the Dublin Ferry. Col. Harnden was sent east from Macon in hopes of picking up Davis' trail. Col. Harnden was informed by former slaves of a small wagon train crossing the ferry earlier in the morning and that one of the men was called "Mr. President." When the cavalry arrived in Dublin, they were misdirected by Rowe, who sent them down the River Road east of the Telfair Road. Had the cavalry been sent a day earlier, Davis would have been captured in Laurens County. A day or two later, Davis might have escaped capture entirely. Davis and his party were captured two days later in Irwinville, Georgia. John Davis, the presidential carriage driver, returned to Laurens County to marry Della Conway, whom he met while he was in Dublin. The Davises lived here for the rest of the 19th century.
Gen. John C. Breckinridge, a former Vice - President of the United States, and Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State of the Confederacy, were right behind Davis and his party. Both men barely avoided capture in Laurens County and escaped to England.
The 1860s and 1870s: Reconstruction and Resurrection
The Reconstruction period was a difficult time for Laurens countians. Nearly half of the soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured during the war. One of those wounded men was Col. Jonathan Rivers. Col. Rivers, a Wilkinson County attorney and former Judge of the Court of Ordinary of that county, moved to Dublin in 1866. Col. Rivers, commanding officer of the 49th Ga. Infantry, survived two amputations. Rivers practiced law in Dublin from 1866 to 1873. Col. William H. Wylly, former Lt. Colonel of the 25th Georgia Infantry, C.S.A., practiced law in Dublin for a brief period in the latter part of the 1870s. Moses Guyton, a former Laurens County teenage soldier of the Confederacy, was named valedictorian of the graduating class of 1869 at the University of Georgia. Those surviving soldiers came back to a home which would never be the same.
Rev. George Linder was elected to the state legislature in 1868, becoming the county's first black representative by a virtually racial equal electorate. Rev. Linder founded three A.M.E. churches in Laurens County. Ten former slaves, Madison Moore, Billy Coates, Tempy Stanley, Jack Robinson, Thomas Allen, Isaac Jackson, Frances Thompkins, Emily Horn, Daisy Wilson and Llewellyn Blackshear, reportedly lived well into their twelfth decades. Robinson, the oldest of the five, died in 1872 at the age of 118 years. Most of the former slaves took the surnames of their masters or men they respected. Among the many African - American families in this category were the Stanleys, Yopps, Guytons, Kellams, Blackshears, Whites, Perrys, Thomases, O'Neals, Coneys, and Troups. Many former slaves like George Linder, Crawford Lord, Ringold Perry and Madison Moore established large farms on their former master's lands.
The county's first corporation was established in 1868. F. H. Rowe, M. C. Holloway and John W. Yopp, of Laurens County, J. A. Brown, of Randolph County, John B. Wright, of Johnson County, and T. L. Brown, of Washington County, formed the Dublin Manufacturing Company for the manufacturing of cotton and wool, for the grinding of grain, and for the manufacture and repair of machinery.
The 1870s brought the genesis of the new age in Laurens County. Dublin and Laurens County were on the verge of a boom. The Laurens County Board of Education was established in 1872. Rev. W.S. Ramsay was appointed the first school commissioner. Richard "Dick" Hicks established Lee Academy for boys in the early 1870s. Hicks, a graduate of Washington and Lee University, named his Academy for the president of his alma mater, Gen. Robert E. Lee. In 1875, the Academy published The Student, the first newspaper in the county. The first weekly newspaper, The Dublin Gazette, was published by Col. John M. Stubbs in 1876. The first fire department was established in 1878. The department's two segregated companies were led by Captains W.H. Tillery (white) and J.A. Yopp (colored.) Judge John T. Duncan established the county's first weather station on April 1, 1878.
Rural post offices were being established in the 1870s. The trend continued through the early part of the twentieth century when rural free delivery began. Most of the post offices were consolidated into a central post office in a municipal area. Among the early post offices were Laurens Hill, Reedy Springs, Blackshear's Mill, Condor, Wylly, Buckhorn, Picciola, Tweed, Arthur, Branchville, Lovett, Inez, Hatoff, Beulah, Turkey, Dodo/Brewton, Nameless, Donaldson, Pearly, Walkee, Brutus, Dexter, Westbrook, Springhaven, Grimsley, Dudley, Montrose, Bender, Garbutt, Lollie/Minter, Elmwood, Musgrove, Maggie, Harlow, Martha, Itville, Kewanee, Orianna, Rockledge, Pinehill, Thairdale, Unit, Shewmake, Catlin, Kemper, Elliston, Rentz, Mullis/Cadwell and Batson.
While relationships between whites and blacks were generally good when compared with other parts of the country, the largest slave insurrection ever devised in Georgia was thwarted in August 1875. The defendants were charged with plotting a reign of terror throughout Laurens, Johnson, Wilkinson and Washington counties. All of the defendants, including a dozen Laurens County men, were exonerated by all-white juries and grand juries, an amazing result considering the real fears of repercussion of disenchanted slaves and their descendants.
The 1880s: Railroads, Steamboats and Demon Rum
John M. Stubbs, Robert C. Henry, William H. Tillery and William Burch formed the Oconee River Steamboat Company, which rejuvenated the steamboat traffic along the Oconee River to Darien in the late 1870s. In 1879, Col. Stubbs joined with L. C. Perry, David Ware, Jr., Rollin A. Stanley and Robert C. Henry and citizens of Wilkinson County in establishing the county's first telegraphic connection with the outside world. The Dublin Telegraphic Company was established to run a telegraph line from Dublin to Toomsboro on the Central of Georgia Railroad, thereby connecting Dublin to one of the state's major communication lines.
A tornado cut an one-hundred and twenty five foot wide swath through Laurens County on May 14, 1881 in what was described as an unprecedented destruction of timber.
Meanwhile Laurens Countians finally agreed that in order to thrive, Dublin would need a railroad. The town lived and died with the fluctuations of the depth of the Oconee River. Winter rains and summer droughts often ground the economy to a halt. Local businessmen took subscriptions to build the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad from Wrightsville to the Oconee River, giving Dublin a connection with the railroad's terminus at the Central of Georgia Railroad at Tennille.
Col. John Stubbs of Dublin and Dudley M. Hughes of Danville began a railroad from Macon to Dublin with plans to extend it to Savannah. The Macon and Dublin Railroad, along with the Savannah, Dublin, and Western Shortline, ultimately failed. Nearly twenty years after the first railroad meetings were held, the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad reached the east bank of the Oconee in the fall of 1886. With no bridge, freight and passengers were unloaded and ferried across the river into Dublin.
The town of Bruton became the county's second town on August 20, 1889. The name was officially changed to Brewton in 1895. The first slate of the town's governing officials were Mayor M. M. Sheppard and councilmen Dr. Esra New, D. F. Williamson, J. A. Jackson, G. T. Mason and J. O. Wilson. Three days later, the Town of Lovett, Bruton's sister stop on the Wrightsville & Tennille, was incorporated. William Bales was appointed Mayor. W. H. H. Bush, M. R. Rachels, Z. M. Sterling, J. M. Hutchinson and E. A. Lovett were hereby appointed as the first councilmen.
The beginning of the shakeup in Dublin's stagnation as a town began with the coming of the railroad, which nearly coincided with the great Charleston earthquake of 1886. A slight earthquake shook Dublin early in the morning of March 22, 1884. An extremely more powerful quake gently shook the buildings and people of Laurens County on the night of August 31, 1886. Most of Dublin's entire business district was destroyed by fire on May 26, 1889.
Politics were big in Laurens County in the 1880s. Among those politicians visiting Dublin were Benjamin Harvey Hill, a senator in both the United States and Confederate governments; Gov. Charles Jenkins, who hid the state seal and valuable state documents from Federal reconstruction officials; Alexander Stephens, former Governor, Senator, and Vice President of the Confederate States of America; and John B. Gordon, Governor, Senator, and a Lt. General and a Corps Commander in the Confederate Army. Gordon is said to have ridden into town on a mule when his train broke down. Judge David Roberts, a native of Laurens, was a member of the 1888 Democratic National Convention, which nominated a Union hero of the Battle of Gettysburg, Winfield Scott Hancock. Dublin mayor Thomas B. Felder, Jr. served as a presidential elector in 1888. In 1906, He was the first Laurens Countian to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States. Felder served as delegate to a Democratic national convention and took an active role in the Leo Frank murder trial and found himself in the middle of the Tea Pot Dome scandal and its related cases of the 1920s. He died under mysterious circumstances as did many other members of the inner circle of President Warren G. Harding.
The question of the legalization of liquor sales bitterly divided the town of Dublin for the entire decade. It wasn't until the prohibitionists convinced the Georgia legislature to ultimately decide the issue by requiring bar owners to pay a prohibitive license fee of ten thousand dollars per year to operate that liquor sales were effectively banned.
Judge John T. Duncan led the effort to build a bridge over the Oconee. Dr. R.H. Hightower's wooden bridge had been washed away in a flood. In 1883, the first election to build the bridge failed due to the no votes from western Laurens County and the Buckeye District of eastern Laurens County, which had Blackshear's Ferry.
The 1890s: The Phoenix Rises
The year 1891 was one of the most important in the history of the county. Four events signaled the beginning of the explosive growth of Dublin and Laurens County's "Golden Era." The Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad completed a concrete railroad bridge over the river near the first permanent passenger bridge which had just been completed. Judge John T. Duncan died a few weeks after his dream had been realized. The third major event was the completion of the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad into Dublin. This railroad was headed by Dudley Hughes of Danville, Col. John M. Stubbs and Capt. Hardy Smith, both of Dublin. New communities sprang up along the main railroads.
A third railroad, the Empire and Dublin Railroad, later known as the Oconee and Western, came to Dublin in 1891. On its path was Dexter, which grew to become the second largest town in Laurens County. This railroad helped to open up a portion of Laurens County which had been a large forest of virgin pines. It opened all the way to Hawkinsville in 1893, giving Laurens County a connection to markets to the south and west. Dexter, a railroad stop formerly known as Barnes, was incorporated on August 22, 1891. T. A. Wood was the first mayor. J. H. Witherington, W. W. Wynn, W. L. Herndon, J. H. Smith and T. H. Shepard were the town's first councilmen.
In 1891, Lucien Q. Stubbs, one of Dublin's most popular mayors, was appointed as Captain of the Dublin Guards, which were one of nine companies which composed the Fourth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers. The volunteers mustered and trained on a regular basis throughout the end of the century. They disbanded in the early 1900s.
The Brewton and Pineora Railroad, came to Brewton at the turn of the century, giving Laurens County its first direct route to Savannah through Scott, Adrian and Stillmore in 1901. That next year, the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad completed its line to Vidalia, giving Dublin its second direct route to Savannah.
The county's fifth railroad, the Wadley and Mt. Vernon, was completed to the M.D. & S., and the boom town of Rockledge was born. The sixth and final railroad, the Dublin and Southwestern, was completed to Eastman in 1905, creating the towns of Rentz and Cadwell. Cedar Grove was on the proposed railroad to McRae. That railroad failed despite the support of the powerful future governor, Eugene Talmadge. Cedar Grove, the largest town in acreage ever created in Laurens County, was incorporated on August 17, 1908. John P. Harrell was appointed mayor. James Purvis, J. T. Parish, W. E. Kinchen, J. Y. Hill and S. Harrelson were the town's first councilmen.
Dublin, at the intersection of five railroads, exploded almost overnight. With the prohibition of liquor sales, Dublin had outgrown its image as a lawless and violent community. The railroads brought in new industries. Downtown Dublin was filled with all types of mercantile stores from department stores, to dry goods, to grocery stores. Around the turn of the century, local business and newspaper man L.H. Hilton purchased the old hotel on the courthouse square which later became Dublin City Hall. The hotel was named for the owner, a custom in those days, possibly making it the first Hilton Hotel in America. The railroads opened up southern Laurens County. There farmers planted cotton where tall pines once grew. The cotton compress of the Georgia Warehouse and Compress Company was completed in 1895. The company boasted that a farmer's Monday morning cotton would be aboard a European bound ship on Tuesday afternoon.
The city of Dublin established its own power plant, bringing the first electric lights into homes and businesses. The Dublin Telephone and Telegraph Company was granted a franchise on December 20, 1897. The Dublin Furniture Manufacturing Company was established in the Scottsville section of the northeastern part of the city.
The Rev. George Mathews, a future pastor of the First Methodist Church, founded the Indian Springs Holiness Association in 1890 and served as its president for more than two decades. Delegates to the Weekly Press Association of Georgia gathered in Dublin in 1898. Bishop Henry M. Turner, the first Civil Rights leader in Georgia, spoke to large crowds in Dublin in November 1898 during the annual conference of the Macon District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In December of 1899, the First Methodist Church hosted the annual convention of the South Georgia Methodist Church.
The Dublin Cotton Mills were completed in 1900 in the southwestern section of the city. The operation of the mill caused a small city with its own stores and churches to form around the mill, which was located on Marion Street just beyond the city water tower. Kewanee's peach orchard, with its some 350,000 trees, was hailed as the world's largest, but it succumbed to several hard freezes which the investors never overcame. Perhaps the coldest day ever recorded in the history of the county came on February 13, 1899 when temperatures fell to at least five degrees below zero. Thirty mile per hour winds blew across four inches of snow and caused the wind chill temperature to drop to thirty-three degrees below zero. On July 5, 1898 and again on October 14, 1899, the depth gauge near the river bridge measured one foot and three inches below zero.
River boat Captain W.W. Ward, was the first Laurens Countian to volunteer for service in the Spanish American War. Dubliner William Little, a member of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, followed Col. Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. Following the war, Private Little served as an orderly for Arthur McArthur, Governor-General of the Philippines and father of Gen. Douglas McArthur. Dr. C.P. Johnson, perhaps Dublin's first Negro physician and a former slave educated by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, left his practice for Cordele in 1895. Dr. B. Judson Simmons, a Laurens County native, graduated with honors from Meharry Medical School, became Milledgeville's first African American physician and the first known Laurens County African American native to practice medicine.
It was in the late autumn of 1894 when a young Nat Porter of Dodge County was transferred to the chain gang of Laurens County. Porter, a convicted gambler, was mercilessly beaten by his guards. This single outrage, which sparked a five-year debate on the method of which convicts were leased and how they were treated, led to the virtual end of the convict lease system in Georgia.
The 1900s and 1910s: The Golden Age of the Emerald City
A six inch blanket of snow covered the fields, farms, forests and house of Laurens County on the very first day of the Twentieth Century. This unusual snowfall would be unmatched for until February 25, 1914, when 6.5 inches covered the ground.
During the first decade of the 20th century, Dublin was the third fastest growing city in Georgia. Dublin grew so fast that boosters named it "The only town in Georgia, that's doublin all the time." People by the thousands came into a town that only numbered a few hundred two decades before. The county's population grew by 572% during the period from 1890 to 1910. Laurens County went from 52nd in population in 1890 to 14th in 1900 and was the third fastest growing county in the state. People from several states and countries came into Dublin. The 1900 census revealed that Laurens was the sixth largest county in Georgia. From 1900 to 1910, Laurens County dropped to the seventh largest county in the state, but was the second fastest growing county in Georgia, only behind the capital county of Fulton. Once source noted that Dublin had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the nation.
Finally, not one but two banks, The Dublin Banking Company and The Laurens Banking Company, were organized in Dublin in 1898. Before the period of economic growth ended, Dublin would be home to seven banks. The First National Bank of Dublin was organized in 1902. The First National, "the largest country bank in Georgia," issued its own national bank notes and built Dublin's tallest building in 1912. At the beginning of World War I, Laurens County had more banks than any county in Georgia, other than Fulton and Chatham counties. Dublin's oldest bank, The Farmers and Merchants, just before its acquisition by Capital City Bank, was recently evaluated as one of the one hundred safest banks in the United States, being one of only three in Georgia so designated. The bank started in Brewton in 1910.
More new towns were being incorporated. Once slightly populated railroad stops were given official recognition as municipalities. Dudley, originally known as Elsie, was incorporated on December 20, 1902. T. H. Hooks was appointed as the town's first mayor. I. J. Duggan, W. J. Gilbert, W. R. Cook, Felix Bobbitt and R. J. Chappell served as the first councilmen. On August 21, 1905, Rentz became the first incorporated town along the Dublin and Southwestern railroad which ran from Dublin to Eastman. J. P. Pughsley was chosen by the legislature as the town's first mayor. The first town council was composed of J. L. Proctor, A. W. Davidson, J. E. Gay, Dr. C. E. Rentz and Dr. W. E. Bedingfield. The town of Mullis came next. On August 1, 1906, the legislature appointed W. H. Tate, W. H. Mullis and D. E. Mullis as town council members. J.P. Barrs was the first mayor of the town, which was absorbed by the town of Cadwell after only a few years of existence. Cadwell, the third town on the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad, was incorporated on August 22, 1907. J. W. Warren was appointed mayor of the town, The council was composed of James Burch, Joe Etheridge, C. C. Cadwell and Ed Walden. Rockledge was incorporated on August 17, 1908, with W. H. H. McLendon as the first, mayor. L. A. Autry, Rollin M. Keen, R. N. Odum and J.R. Hester constituted Rockledge's first town council.
The first sanitarium was opened on North Jefferson Street by Dr. J. H. Bradley in 1900. The businessmen of Dublin organized the Young Men's Business League in 1900. Two years later, the Dublin Board of Trade was organized by T.L. Griner, S.M. Gibson, H.M. Stanley, W.F. Schaufele, J.B. Outler, N.B. Baum, O.H.P. Rawls, J.A. Jackson, E.R. Orr, Emanuel Dreyer, J.S. Simons, Jr., H.G. Stevens and Z. Whitehurst. It was later reorganized into the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in 1911. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, sentimentalism and celebration of the exploits of Confederate veterans swept the South and Laurens County. The veterans began to meet on a regular basis. Their male descendants, led by C.A. Weddington and J.E. Burch, in 1901 formed the first Sons of Confederate Camp, which they named in honor of Gov. George M. Troup of Laurens County. Every community was improving their schools. Laurens County farmers led the state in the production of sweet potatoes in 1901. A.W. Garrett, A.R. Arnau and F.H. Rowe led the formation of the county's first Y.M.C.A. chapter in Dublin. The soil along the banks of the Oconee River in Dublin provided brick manufacturers with an abundant supply of clay. L.A. Chapman's Dublin Brick Company furnished the city of Jacksonville, Florida with three million bricks to rebuild after a devastating 1901 fire. The largest of the several brick companies along the river had the capacity to produce a million bricks in a single month.
The first automobile came in 1902 thrilling onlookers and frightening horses. Dr. Charles W. Hicks was elected President of the Georgia State Medical Association. The Georgia Cooperage Company, with a daily capacity of 10,000 barrel staves, was established in Dublin. J.A. Jackson took a delivery of more than ten thousand dollars worth of tobacco products for his store in Dublin in 1902. The shipment was said to have been the largest ever made to a retail store. During an intense thunderstorm in the summer of 1902, Dr. G.F. Green noticed that snowflakes were falling out of the dark storm clouds.
Laurens County maintained 117 schools, the second most of any county in the state. The Dublin City Board of Education made a firm commitment to provide a superior learning environment for its students. The board hired many of the state's top educators to head the school system. Among the most widely heralded of these superintendents were Joseph C. Wardlaw, a future head of Extension Services at the University of Georgia, Kyle T. Alfriend, future President of Georgia Military College, and W.P. Martin all of whom would later be elected presidents of the Georgia Education Association.
The citizens of Dublin built the first library in 1904 with the aid of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. That small library has grown into a regional library serving over one hundred thousand patrons with state of the art technology resources. "Laughing Ben" Ellington toured the country with his humorous story telling Vaudeville act. His most famous performances came at the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. Following a 1901 fire which destroyed the Dublin Academy, the city school board in 1902 erected a two-story modern brick school building which now serves as Dublin's city hall. The school's auditorium served as a community auditorium. In one of the first public events, Tom Watson, the widely heralded Georgia Populist politician, electrified a capacity crowd with his oratorical skills in December. Ernest Camp, editor of the Dublin Times, was known far and wide as the "Wiregrass Poet." His column, Learned in Laurens, featured his humorous and entertaining poetry. Camp gained fame as editor of the Walton Tribune and was inducted into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1962.
The Laurens County Board of Health met for the first time on February 5, 1904. The board was initially composed of Chairman A.R. Arnau, Secretary Dr. L.J. Thomas, and board members and physicians J.G. Carter, J.E. New and Wiley Wood. In one of its first major steps to combat disease, the board worked with the city of Dublin in establishing a detention camp and pest house across the river in East Dublin. A spring fed pool was constructed to help cure small pox victims. Judge John S. Adams and Ernest Camp organized a local military company, The Laurens Volunteers. W.C. Davis was elected captain. Dr. Hugh Moore, T.O. Dupree and A.M. Wolfe were elected to serve as company lieutenants. C.W. Brantley completed construction of the county's first three-story building. Brantley added the third story to his building at the northwest corner of West Jackson and North Lawrence streets to accommodate the lodge of Laurens Lodge No. 75 F&A.M. in the fall of 1904.
The Four Seasons Department Store, the largest in this section of Middle Georgia, became the third firm in Georgia to take out a four page newspaper ad. The Bank of Dudley, Laurens County's oldest bank, was founded in 1905. The first Theater, the Theatorium, was opened in 1905 by Mrs. R.H. Hightower. Over the years, Dublin would be home to theatres such as The Crystal, The Rose, The Ritz, The Gem, The Star, The Amusu, and The Strand. Dublin's modern city hall was opened in 1905.
Miss Emma Perry and the members of the Poplar Springs North Church community established the Poplar Springs Industrial School in 1906. It was one of the first of its kind in rural Georgia. The trial of G.A. Tarbutton and Joe Flucker for the murder of Letcher Tyre grabbed the headlines in the fall of 1906. The attorneys for the defendants, after an analysis of the Laurens-Johnson county line, were able to convince the court that the alleged murder actually took place in Johnson County. The baffling result of the case was that Laurens County picked up an additional one hundred acres of territory and the defendants were never indicted by a more sympathetic hometown grand jury. Dr. Charles Kittrell became the first person to manufacture eyeglasses outside a large city in the Southeast. Dr. Kittrell served as the President of the Georgia Association of Optometrists in 1908. The original Buster Brown and Tige arrived in downtown Dublin on February 13, 1907. A crowd of nearly five thousand showed up to get a glimpse of the dog Tige wearing sunglasses with a cap on his head and a cigar in his mouth. Throughout the first decade of the Twentieth Century, the city of Dublin continually made improvements to its infrastructure. The city completed a half-million gallon reservoir in 1908. The first paved street was that portion of North Jackson Street along the northern side of the courthouse square in 1909.
As the young men who fought for the Confederacy began to grow very old, their children and grandchildren banded together to commemorate their heroism and bravery. Under the auspices of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a thirty-five foot, ninety thousand pound marble statue was erected on the lawn of the Carnegie Library at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Academy Avenue. After a four-year dispute when the statue remained veiled, the monument to the Confederate soldier was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day in 1912.
Stubbs Park, designed by world renowned horticulturist P.J. Berckmans, opened in 1909. Berckmans' beautiful home gardens became a part of the Augusta National Golf Course. The Dublin High School's first athletic team played on an outdoor court in the park, after playing their first game on the road against Mercer University in 1911.
The Chautauqua Festival was the main entertainment event every summer from 1902 to 1909. Dr. Charles Kittrell led a community effort to build a large wooden auditorium to house the festival and other community events in 1906. The auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1625, was located on the west side of South Monroe Street and just above the railroad and featured one of the largest stage curtains in the state of Georgia. The annual summer Chautauqua programs consisted of scientific, musical, educational, literary, political and religious lectures and performances. Dr. Frederick Cook, the self-proclaimed discoverer of the North Pole, spoke to large crowds in 1902 and 1913. Future congressman and admiral, Richard P. Hobson, a hero of the Spanish American War, spoke to the largest Chautauqua festival to date in 1906. In October of 1908, Thomas E. Watson, Populist candidate for President, became the first and only presidential candidate to appear in Dublin during an election campaign. Perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan spoke to a large crowd at the auditorium during the Summer Festival of 1911. The building burned shortly thereafter.
Thousands of Baptists from all over the state gathered in Dublin during the middle of November 1909 for their State Convention. In attendance were former Georgia governors William J. Northern and Joseph M. Terrell, then current governor Joseph Brown and future governor Clifford Walker.
Laurens County's first County fair opened on October 23, 1911 inside the store of Gilbert Hardware Company. Seeking a more appropriate venue for the fair, Peter S. Twitty, Jr., R.M. Martin, Frank Lawson, Vivian L. Stanley, James M. Finn, Thomas W. Hooks, Sam Bashinski, Izzie Bashinski, E.R. Carswell and the owners of the Four Seasons Department Store organized the 12th Congressional District Fair Association in 1912. The first district fair was held on the site of the present day Farmers Market and a in 1916 moved to the northwest corner of Troup Street and Telfair Street. The first fair featured speeches by Governor John Slaton, Congressman Dudley M. Hughes and future Senator Thomas E. Watson. An attempt to establish a 12th District College in Dublin was surprisingly nixed in favor of one in the much smaller town of Cochran. The school later became Middle Georgia College.
During the year 1912, eight associations held their state conventions. During the pinnacle of Dublin's reputation as a central meeting area, the members of the Al Sihah Mystic Temple of the Shrine, the State Sunday School Association, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Georgia Banker's Association, the Weekly Press Association, the State Agricultural Society, the Macon Presbytery, and the Hotel Keepers of Georgia, all gathered in the Emerald City for business meetings and pleasurable activities.
Laurens was a perennial leader in the production of cotton, having led the state in production from 1911 through 1913. In July of 1911, the Laurens Cotton Oil Company, began the erection of one the largest cotton gins in Georgia. In 1912, the county produced well over thirty million pounds of cotton. That crop, larger than that of the state of Missouri, was the largest ever produced in Georgia by a single county until the age of mass production on large corporate farms in the late 1990s. It should also be noted that the year 1912 was the wettest recorded year in Laurens County with an annual rainfall of 70.31 inches. In the years that Laurens was not first, it followed only Burke County. To capitalize on the massive cotton production, the Laurens Cotton Oil Company erected the largest cotton gin in the state in 1912. The 1914 crop of nearly sixty thousand bales was the second largest in county history and the second in the state that year. More than a thousand interested farmers gathered for a Farmer's Union rally in Stubbs Park in 1915 to hear what Georgia Agricultural Commissioner J.J. Brown planned to do about crop diversification and the villainous boll weevil.
Laurens was often a state leader in the production of corn and sweet potatoes. This honor was mainly due to its tremendous size. Cotton and corn acreage exceeded 100 thousand acres each, which totaled 40% of the county's area. Mercer and Thomas grew 152 bushels of corn per acre on their farm west of Dublin. This was credited with the greatest yield per acre in the U.S. in 1911. Laurens County had more farms than any other county in Georgia during this period. At one time the number of farms hovered around the five thousand - mark. Nearly three of every four persons lived on a farm. By the end of the 20th century, less than one of every twenty two Laurens Countians lived on a farm.
The Bertha Theatre (1913-1918), the largest auditorium ever built in Dublin, was the site of many of the country's best traveling musical and vaudeville shows. Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Burke, Treasurer of the United States, spoke to large crowds of concerned business men and farmers at the Bertha. The first talking pictures, which featured a gramophone played in synchronization with the film, were shown at the Bertha in 1913. The theatre also became the weekly site of wrestling matches. A local promoter even boasted that Dublin was "the Wrestling capital of the Southeast." Dublin's most glamorous theater burned to the ground in 1918.
The Rockledge community was rocked by the Christmas Eve shooting of the Thigpen brothers, John, Tal, and Claude, by Marshal Ras Raffield in Rockledge. Residents of the area still talk about that fateful day in 1910 when three of its sons lay dead or dying at the depot. In 1911, E.D. White, of Dublin, and his brother, Herschel White, of Screven County, served as one of the few, if not the only brother duo, in Georgia legislative history. C.D. MaCris, a member of the Greek Colony in Dublin, was the first person to publish a book in Dublin. Thoughts of a Greek was sold to raise funds to help the war effort in his native country. In a show of support for their homeland, fifteen Greek residents of Dublin returned to their homeland to fight in a war against the Ottoman Empire in 1912. The second decade of the Twentieth Century brought to Dublin the new sport of automobile and motorcycle racing. Racers from across the county and across the state flocked to Dublin to speed from the site of the present Dublin Center along Bellevue Road and Bellevue Avenue to the Carnegie Library, now the Dublin Laurens Museum. The first recreation lake, East Lake, was established on the east side of the Dublin-Toomsboro Road (North Franklin Street) at Hunger and Hardship Creek.
James J. Connor, a former Dublin mayor and attorney, was elected Georgia Secretary of Agriculture in 1912. That same year, Alex Akerman, a former Dublin attorney, represented the federal government in prosecuting legendary Georgia populist politician Thomas E. Watson for his pornographic writings about the Jewish people. Two of Dublin's crown jewels, the new Post Office on Madison Street and the First National Bank Building were completed. The bank building was billed as the tallest building between Savannah and Macon. Clark Grier, a former Dublin postmaster, led a revolt in favor of former president Theodore Roosevelt at the 1912 Republican National Convention in Chicago. Grier returned as a delegate to the national conventions in 1920 and 1924. On October 22, 1912, a severe earthquake shook Dublin causing great alarm but little damage. The sinking of "The Titanic" ended a favorite local pastime when riding on Oconee River freight boats was banned. Dublin's Brass Band represented the State of Georgia in the United Confederate Veteran's National Reunions from 1911 through 1915. Five members of the Holmes family Robert, Joseph, Charles, Charlton and Harmon were among the leading bottlers of Georgia's soft drink, Coca Cola. Judge W.W. Larsen was elected to Congress in 1916. Marguerite Waters, of Dublin, married Lamar Smith in 1916. Their daughter Lula Carson Smith, grew up to be one of the South's most famous and revered female novelists writing under the name of Carson McCullers. Around Labor Day of that same year, Dublin's first public swimming pool, "The Natatorium," was built on the creek on lower Church Street. In 1919, Rev. W.N. Ainsworth, who served First Methodist Church in 1901 and 1902, was elected Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1919. Bishop Ainsworth presided over Methodist Churches from Texas to Virginia and those in China, Japan and Cuba. The Dublin "Green Hurricane" dominated their region in their first four years of football and set a state record when they defeated Swainsboro High 86-0 in 1919.
Many African-American Laurens Countians began to prosper during this period. The Dublin Normal and Industrial School was established at the corner of East Jackson and North Decatur Streets in 1907 by the Rev. W.A. Dinkins. Bishop Henry M. Turner came to Dublin to promote the Congregational Methodist school. The school, modeled after Booker T. Washington's school in Tuskegee, eventually became known as the Harriet Holsey Industrial College in the Scottsville community in 1909. It was Dublin's first college. Three physicians, Dr. Benjamin Daniel Perry, Dr. Ulysses Simpson Johnson and Dr. Henry Jones came to the county to set up their practices. The first black owned pharmacy, the Regent, opened on South Lawrence Street, the center of black-owned businesses in Dublin. Annie Yarborough, the second female African American dentist in Georgia, began her practice in Dublin in 1911. Dr. Yarborough, a graduate of Meharry Medical College, volunteered to serve in the Army in World War I, but was turned down because the army refused to allow female medical personnel. Pearl Cummings Davis was one of the first African American female pharmacists in Georgia. On the eastern end of town, C.D. and Katie Dudley, along with their son, Herbert "Hub" Dudley, built the largest group of black-owned businesses, including a funeral home, a motel, a service station, a restaurant, an investment firm, a sawmill, a beauty shop, a shoe shop, a U.S.O. building and a skating rink. Rev. A.T. Speight organized the first black-owned corporation, The Farmer's Enterprise, in 1914. Dr. U.S. Johnson began publishing a newspaper, "The Record," for black citizens in 1924. W.L. "Tom" Hughes was the first mail carrier in Dublin. The most well known and respected black Dubliner was the Rev. Norman McCall, a giant of a man, who was known for his physical strength as well as his morality and compassion. His funeral procession in 1904 was one of the longest ever seen in the county. In 1917, E.D. Newsome led the organization of the Central Colored People's Fair Association. A second fair association, the Oconee Fair Association was organized in 1918.
1917-1919: Boll Weevils and World War
Dublin and Laurens County furnished nearly 1100 men to the armed forces in World War I. Dubliners and Laurens Countians raised tremendous sums of money through bond sales. Corporal Walter Warren of Dexter was the first American aviator to be wounded in France in early December 1917. Many of Laurens' citizens, including its most prominent physicians, served in the military. Early Miller was the first to be drafted. Among the first Negroes in Georgia to be drafted in the Army were a contingent of Laurens County men. Even Dublin's mayor, Peter S. Twitty, enlisted in the U.S. Army. Both Twitty and his successor, Izzie Bashinski, donated their salaries to the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A.. Cecil Preston Perry became the first Laurens Countian to die in action in the summer of 1918. James Mason was the first Dubliner to die in action. He died in France on July 29, 1918. James L. Weddington, Jr., of the 6th Marine Corps Regiment, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre on July 10, 1918 for his heroism in carrying many wounded men off the battle field to field hospitals for several hours, risking his own safety in the process. Lt. Col. Pat Stevens was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre for extraordinary heroism in action south of Spitaal Bosschen, Belgium, on October 31, 1918. Lt. Ossie F. Keen was awarded the Silver Star. Sgt. Bill Brown of Dexter was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and was one of only 34 Americans to be awarded the French Cross with a Star for his heroism on October 14, 1918 at the battle of Cote de Chattelon. Thousands more of Laurens County's finest young men went "over there" for Uncle Sam. Coley B. White survived the sinking of HMS Otranto. Four hundred thirty one other American and British soldiers and sailors did not. Oscar K. Jolley survived a stint as a prisoner in a German P.O.W. camp. Fortunately, the war was relatively short and only fifty Laurens County men lost their lives.
A nationwide influenza epidemic killed many of the county's older citizens during the months before and after the end of World War I. The county board of health closed schools and banned public meetings for several weeks. The epidemic finally waned in the spring of 1919.
After the war, the Dublin Guards, a state militia unit, reorganized as Co. A. of the 1st Battalion of the Georgia National Guard. The unit, which was the first National Guard unit in the Southeast, has evolved to a support company and is still active today. The company's first captain, Lewis C. Pope of Dublin, served as Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard in the 1920's. World War I's biggest hero, Sgt. Alvin York, spoke to a large crowd at the First Methodist Church in the early 1920s. In the euphoria following the end of the war, enough residents of Academy Avenue convinced the city council to rename the avenue in honor of Woodrow Wilson. A few weeks later, more prominent and powerful residents persuaded the council to reverse their hasty decision.
The months after the war were nearly as devastating as those following the Civil War. Dublin and Laurens County depended on the cotton crop. The county was too dependent on cotton. When the boll weevil destroyed the cotton crops of 1918 and 1919, the economy of the entire county collapsed. Business leaders attempted to diversify with other farm products, but with no capital available to invest in other ventures, the county's economy collapsed. Nearly half the banks failed in the five years that followed.
One highlight of the period was the first professional baseball game ever played in Dublin. The New York Yankees defeated the Boston Braves in a closely fought game at the 12th District Fairgrounds on Telfair Street in 1918. Playing for the Yankees was Frank "Home Run" Baker, a Hall of Famer, who was the leading power hitter in the dead ball era. Managing the Yankees was Hall of Famer Miller Huggins, who built the Yankees into baseball's greatest dynasty.
A lasting legacy from the war era was the location of U.S. Highway 80. The "coast to coast" highway in its pre-interstate days brought many passersby, from Henry Ford to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Elvis Presley. During the early years of World War I, the City of Dublin became the first city in Georgia and one of the first in the nation to display a lighted municipal Christmas tree. Piccola Prescott became the county's first woman postal carrier in 1918. The number of telephones in the county increased from 350 in 1910 to 1200 in 1920.
1920s: Laurens Countians In the News
The farm labor force, mainly composed of black Laurens tenant farmers, was leaving in masses. Laurens County did not regain its pre 1920 population of nearly 40 thousand persons until 1990. The lure of better paying jobs in the metropolitan areas in the north was too tempting. One farmer, Walker Smith, Sr., left his farm where he was making thirty dollars a month. Smith took a job in Detroit, Michigan where he was earning sixty dollars per week. He left his family at home until he could establish their new home in Detroit. A son, Walker Smith, Jr., was born in Ailey, Georgia. The younger Smith grew up in Detroit and in Wheeler County. He spent some time with his maternal grandmother who lived in Dublin. Smith developed a great talent for boxing. Upon turning pro Smith changed his name to suit his profession. The young man then became known as "Sugar Ray" Robinson and at several times, Champion of the World - perhaps the greatest boxer of all time. Another professional athlete was born in Dublin on Christmas Day of 1912. Quincey Trouppe, whose ancestors were slaves belonging to Gov. Troup, left with his family in the early twenties for St. Louis. Trouppe was an all star catcher in the Negro Leagues and is generally regarded as one of the best catchers in the league. He played several games for the Cleveland Indians in 1952. Trouppe kept records of the league and was regarded as the historian and archivist of the Negro Leagues. The Dublin Stars, the first Negro semi pro baseball team in the county, began playing in 1921. By the end of the Twenties, a new team, The Black Irishmen, would draw large crowds to their games.
Many of Dublin and Laurens County's top businessmen and professionals left for positions in state government. Hal Stanley was elected Georgia's first Commissioner of Labor in 1912. In 1931, Hal Stanley was a charter inductee into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame for his work in Editor's Forum. His brother, Vivian Stanley, served many years as prison commissioner, making them the only brothers in Georgia history to head state departments at the same time. Vivian Stanley, as one of Georgia's prison commissioners, became involved in the controversy over the chain gang in Georgia, which was set off by the book and movie, I Am A Fugitive From a Georgia Chain Gang. Albert R. Arnau served as Executive Secretary to Gov. Clifford Walker. Peter Twitty, Jr., a former Dublin mayor, served as Game and Fish Commissioner from 1923 to 1934. Tom Linder served nearly two decades as Georgia's Commissioner of Agriculture. Linder is the only Georgian to be reelected to office after having been defeated for the same office. Judge Peyton Wade was appointed Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals in 1916 and served until his death. His daughter Frederica married John Billings, one of the leading editors of Time and Life magazines. John M. Simmons took his lumber company to South Georgia and became one of the leading wooden crate manufacturers in the world. Corliss Palmer, who lived a short while in Dublin, became one of the leading comediennes of the Silent Movie era.
Dublin and Laurens County suffered through nearly a decade of economic depression before the Wall Street "Crash of '29." In 1927, Charles Molony was president of four railroads, more than any other man in the United States. Tragically, Molony's financial interests crashed along with many others in the country, which led to his leap from a fourth story window of a Savannah hotel to his death. All of Laurens County was proud when one of Georgia's last counties was named Brantley County, in honor of its native son, Benjamin D. Brantley, a pioneer businessman in South Georgia. Brantley's son, William Gordon Brantley, served for sixteen years in the Congress and lived in Dublin for a short time. Boxing became a popular sport in Dublin in the 1920s. Local boxers such as "Scrap Iron" Ladson, Carlus Gay, and Bill McGowan fought in makeshift rings in warehouses and store buildings. McGowan, who won 239 times in 248 professional fights, was a middleweight champion of Canada and Cuba. McGowan quit boxing for a career in movies and appeared with Mae West, Pat O'Brien, and Errol Flynn. McGowan worked as a sparring partner with Macon boxer and American champion, Young Stribling, who fought in Dublin in 1922. W. Doyle Knight and Julian Rachels established the Riverside Poultry Farm, the largest chicken hatchery in the state. The Dublin Lions Club was organized in 1923. Today the club is the second oldest Lions Club in the state. Dr. William Smith was named to head the Georgia State Association of Optometrists in 1924.
Women across the county slowly began to earn their rightful place in political, professional, religious and social organizations in the early 1920s. Maggie New was the first women to register for a Dublin city election in 1920. In the 1921 Brewton municipal election, women won the mayorship and five of the seven city council seats. The victorious women were Mayor Mrs. W.H. Beall Mrs. M.E. Brantley, Mrs. M.F. Beall, Mrs. F.A. Brantley, Mrs. C.G. Moye, and Mrs. H.B. Sutton. Jessie Baldwin, Clemmie Patton, Mrs. J.S. Adams, Mrs. M.A. Mertz, Mrs. T. Reins, Mrs. Frank Lawson, Mrs. T.J. Pritchett, Mrs. J.D. Bass, Mrs. F.L. King and Mrs. W.D. Parkerson were chosen as the first women to participate in a 12th Congressional District Democratic Convention, which was held in Dublin in September 1922. On New Years Eve in 1922, Mrs. O.L. Anderson was appointed Judge of the Juvenile Court of Laurens County, making her the first female judge in Georgia's history. Maggie New was the first woman to register to vote in the 1920 municipal election in Dublin. In 1924, Mrs. Mary Rachels Jordan became the first Laurens County woman to exercise her right to vote. In that same year, Opal Glen Rife became the first woman to pastor a Laurens County Church, the First Church of the Nazarene. In 1927, Mrs. Frank Lawson, wife of the editor of the Courier Herald and women's activist, was elected vice-chairman of the 12th Congressional District Democratic Committee making her the first woman in Georgia to achieve such a level in Georgia political circles. The first known Laurens County woman to practice law was Kathleen Duggan Smith. Mrs. Smith, a graduate of George Washington University Law School, was admitted to the bar of the District of Columbia on February14, 1924.
James A. Thomas, a local attorney and a former teenage ensign in the Confederate army, was elected State Commander of the Confederate Veterans in 1916 and National Commander of the United Confederate Veterans in 1925. Gen. Thomas served the last three years of his life as Honorary National Commander. Gen. Thomas brought the Georgia Confederate Reunion to Dublin in 1920. In the first days of the summer of 1925, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson and his Waycross Coastliners played a railroad team from Macon on the 12th District Fairground field. Another bright spot was the construction of Dublin's largest hotel, The Hotel Fred Roberts, in 1926. The project was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. The hotel was named in honor of the committee chairman responsible for the project. Roberts died during the construction of the hotel.
Thomas Hardwick, a former Governor and United States senator and congressman, published The Courier Herald for two years. A weekly edition, which carried Gov. Hardwick's political opinions, was one of the largest circulated papers in the state. Gov. Hardwick, who lived in the old Peacock house at the corner of Academy Avenue and South Calhoun Street, made U.S. history when in 1922, he appointed Rebecca Felton the first female United States Senator.
Captain William B. Rice, a highly successful farmer, naval stores operator, and financier, was one of the founding members of the Georgia Farm Bureau in 1920.In 1920, the Farmer’s Cooperative Association erected a 20,000 bushel grain elevator, the largest of its kind in Georgia and the first and only co-0perative elevator in the South. H.J. Braddy established the county's first wireless radio station at his home on North Franklin Street in June 1921. Later that summer, the Dublin Country Club was incorporated by H.G. Stevens, F.B. Reins and E.G. Simmons. The club maintained a nine-hole golf course which featured sand, instead of grass greens. The club house was located in the present St. Andrews subdivision. The course extended to the original Kroger shopping center. On Christmas Day in 1921, J.L. Bush walked out into his field and picked blooms off his cotton plants. Dublin High faced off against Wrightsville in the city's first indoor basketball game, which was played in L.C. Pope's cotton warehouse. The month of January 1925 saw the largest monthly rainfall ever recorded in Laurens County with 14.48 inches. Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, one of the country's greatest early motorcyclists, stopped at the Standard Oil station in Dublin in March 1926 on one of his many automobile record attempts. J.C. Penney opened his first Dublin store at 103 West Jackson Street in the late summer of 1926. Just before Christmas in 1927, Mrs. J.E. Perry was hailed as the first woman in the United States to have her hair cut during a flight in an airplane.
In 1925, the voters of Dublin voted to sell the city's electric power plant to Georgia Power Company. One of the company's first managers in Dublin was John J. "Jack" McDonough. McDonough, a Georgia Tech football star of the early 1920s and member of that university's Athletic Hall of Fame, became Georgia Power Company's seventh president in 1956. L.O. Moseley, a former resident of Laurens County, was a writer for the Atlanta Constitution, an early radio personality, an aide to Gov. Hardman and one of the well-respected managers of several of Atlanta's most popular hotels.
1920s and 1930s: The Great Depression
The powerful First National Bank failed in the Fall of 1928. It was for a time the largest "country bank" in Georgia. The Citizens and Southern Bank came into Dublin and set up a private bank to prevent the total collapse of the local economy. Mills B. Lane and Victor B. Jenkins organized the Dublin Bank and Trust Company to marshal the remaining assets of the First National's depositors and hold them until a permanent branch of his bank could be established. Only the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Brewton and the Bank of Dudley survived without closing their doors. Local voters took out their frustrations and produced the largest democratic majority for Democratic Presidential Candidate Alfred Smith in Georgia. The only members of the Republican party in Dublin were Attorney G.H. Williams and a small group of black citizens led by H.H. Dudley. Henrietta Stanley Dull became the authority on southern cooking with the publishing of "Southern Cooking" in 1928, after 10 years as the home economics editor of the Atlanta papers. A killer tornado struck Dexter and environs on April 25, 1929 killing two children, injuring about fifty people, and destroying two dozen houses and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. In a decade when fads were fads, tree sitting was popular with the youth of Dublin. On June 2, 1932, George Washington Perry, a native of Dublin, caught a 22-pound 4 ounce largemouth bass in a lake in Telfair County, Ga. His prize catch, the most coveted in the fishing world, established a world record for the species and one which still stands more than seventy-five years later. Just four weeks before he won his first election as a United States Senator, Richard B. Russell, who served almost forty years in Washington, suffered moderate injuries in an automobile accident near Dublin in the late summer of 1932.
Montrose, long a thriving community on the M.D. & S Railroad in northwestern Laurens County, was finally incorporated as a town on August 21, 1929. W. S. Williams was appointed mayor of the town, and E. L. Wade, E. L. Green, F. S. English, J. Arthur Cook, and H. W. Wade were the initial councilmen of Montrose. Mrs. Izzie Bashinshki was elected president of the Georgia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the organization's meeting in Dublin in October 1931.
Throughout the thirties, the economy continued to suffer. The end of the hard times was marked by the resurgence of movie theaters in Dublin. Legendary UGA football coach Wally Butts played with the Dublin semi-pro baseball team in 1930. At McRae High School, Enda Ballard Duggan, of Dublin, was the favorite teacher of a Georgia political legend, Herman Talmadge. In 1933, Congressman W.W. Larsen ended his sixteen-year career in the Congress by acquiring a Federal Court in Dublin.
The year 1933 was a remarkable year for Dublin women. Jessie Baldwin was appointed as the first female Deputy Clerk and U.S. Commissioner of the Dublin District. Elizabeth Garrett Page was chosen as the first female on the Dublin Board of Education. Aretha Miller was the first woman admitted to practice law in Laurens County. At the age of 18, Miss Miller may have been the youngest woman ever to practice law in Georgia. In 1932, Charlotte Hightower Harwell, a twenty-year-old Dublin woman, became the first woman court reporter in the history of Georgia. Grace Warren Landrum, Dean of Women at the College of William and Mary, was one of the foremost women educators in the country. Dublin resident Eugenia Rawls performed on Broadway and as an understudy to Tallulah Bankhead. Miss Rawls was the first American actress to play the National Theatre of Ireland and is regarded as one of the great actresses of the American stage. Augusta Stanley (Mrs. John S.) Adams was regarded as one of the foremost leaders of women's heritage organizations in Georgia. Mrs. Adams served as President of the Georgia division of the United States Daughters of 1812 and the Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, National President of the Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, State Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Curator General of the National United States Daughters of 1812. Cherry Waldrep, a graduate of Dublin High School, became the first woman to obtain a Master of Science Degree in Math Education from the University of Georgia in the late 1930s. During World War II, she served our country by decoding enemy messages.
Breezy Wynn, a former football star at Dublin High, led the Tennessee Volunteers to four of their best seasons and earned some All-America honors. Wynn was called "the King of Duffle Bags" after his factories turned them out by the millions during World War II. Judge Earl Camp served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1932 and 1936 and as a Presidential Elector in 1940.
Eight of Dublin's many successful journalists began their careers during the Depression years. Gladstone Williams, a Harvard educated attorney, was a leading journalist for The Atlanta Constitution and for several other papers, once serving as a White House correspondent. Williams, an acquaintance of Margaret Mitchell, is said to have been the model for the southern demeanor of Mitchell's legendary character, Rhett Butler. His wife, Sarah Orr Williams, was secretary to U.S. Senator Thomas E. Watson. At that time, Mrs. Williams was the youngest secretary on Capitol Hill. Following the death of Sen. Watson, she stayed on as secretary for Sen. Rebecca Felton, the first woman to serve in the United States Senate and for the legendary Georgia Senator, Walter F. George. Mrs. Williams was a personal acquaintance with all of our Presidents from Coolidge to Eisenhower. Jack Tarver left Dublin for Atlanta where he served as general manager, vice president, and publisher of Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., publishers of The Journal and The Constitution, before becoming President of the Federal Reserve Board in Atlanta. Clarence Lloyd wrote for two St. Louis newspapers and afterwards was associated with the St. Louis Cardinals a their traveling secretary for 19 years. In 1967, he was given the #1 card, the highest award of the Baseball Writers Association of America. At the time, he was the second oldest sportswriter in the country. J. Marion Kendrick served as an executive editor with the Associated Press and as press agent for Hollywood stars including the legendary actress, Gloria Swanson. Vincent Mahoney reported the news from Hollywood at the beginning of its glory years. Ernest Rogers, who was associated with The Dublin Tribune and The Atlanta Journal, was known as The Mayor of Peachtree Street and was a popular radio personality on WSB Radio. Rogers wrote nearly six thousand columns for the Atlanta Journal during his 19-year career with the paper. Rogers was inducted into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1972 and into the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1998, making him the only person in Georgia to be afforded that high honor. Nella Braddy of Dublin became a nationally known author writing for Reader's Digest. In 1933, Braddy published a biography of Anne Sullivan, teacher of the famous author, Helen Keller. Madge Hilbun Methvin was the well-respected editor of the Vienna News and one of the few women editors in the state. In 1994, she was inducted into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame.
Professional baseball returned to the fairgrounds in 1933 and 1935 when the St. Louis Cardinals, "The Gas House Gang," defeated Oglethorpe University and the University of Georgia. On those Cardinal teams were six Hall of Famers, Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick, Leo Durocher, Jesse Haines, and Rogers Hornsby.
The Dublin Negro League team, "The Athletics," was one of the better baseball teams in the state in 1932 and 1933. Jimmy Reese and Herb Barnhill went on to play in the National Negro Leagues. Otis Troupe, a native of Laurens County, led his Morgan State football squad to an undefeated season and the Black College National Championship in 1935. Troupe, who was named to the Black All American team, played for the New York Brown Bombers, under the leadership of Fritz Pollard, the NFL's first black head coach. Troupe, an accomplished singer, was later named to the Black All American Hall of Fame. In 1937, a sixteen-year-old daughter of Jonas Gallimore, give birth to twin daughters. who were joined at the umbilicus. The little girls died in the Coleman Hospital shortly after they were born. They were the first documented case of "Siamese Twins" in Georgia and the first known Negro "Siamese Twins" ever born. Claude Harvard, a former student at Telfair Street School, patented twenty-nine inventions for the Ford Motor Company. Harvard, who served as Ford's liaison to Tuskegee Institute's George Washington Carver, was a mathematical genius and is regarded as one of the greatest African-American inventors of the 20th Century. On April 10, 1940, the Toledo Crawfords, led by Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston, played the Ethiopian Clowns in a Negro League exhibition game at the fairgrounds. Also on the bill was the world's fastest human and Olympic hero, Jesse Owens. Dr. Brailsford Reese Brazeal, a native of Laurens County, began a long career as Dean of Morehouse College. As Dean, Dr. Brazeal had a strong influence on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who attended the college in the mid 1940s. In 1946, Dr. Brazeal published The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, seen by many as the first comprehensive history of a Negro labor union.
In the fall of 1936, the great cowboy star Tom Mix thrilled thousands of kids and adults at the fairgrounds. The Works Progress Administration, "The W.P.A." gave hundreds of Laurens Countians jobs and in the process improved schools, parks, sidewalks, streets, and health conditions as well as educating illiterate adults and aiding poor families. Sessions' Lake, located just south of the present Dublin Country Club, and Clear Lake, located on Highway 80 West at Sandy Ford Creek, were filled with swimmers, boaters and recreationists of all sorts during the decade of the 1930s. Scores of Laurens County's young men left their homes for duty in the Civilian Conservation Corps, which helped to improve the infrastructure of the country, especially the national and state parks. The Laurens County Library was established in 1938 by the Parnassus Club in the old Post Office on East Madison Street but soon merged with the City Library. That same year Green V. Jenkins, the last Laurens County veteran of the Confederate Army, died. Dublin physician and former 1932 valedictorian of the University of Georgia Reese C. , Jr. was one of a trio of physicians who developed the first color camera which filmed the interior of a human body. Sophia Benchina, considered by many as Dublin's first beauty queen, finished as first runner up in the 1938 Miss Georgia Pageant
Dublin and East Dublin, rocked by corruption, were given the nicknames of "Little Chicago" and "Booger Bottom" by local residents. The county folks came out of the dark in the latter years of the thirties when the Oconee, Altamaha, and Little Ocmulgee Electric Membership Corporations came on line and turned on the lights.
1940 - 1945: World War II
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
W.L. Hughes, a local black leader, was a delegate to the 1940 Republican Convention. Rubert L. Hogan, a Dudley banker, served as a delegate to the Democratic Convention that same year. W.H. Lovett represented his district at the 1948 Democratic Convention. Willie Brantley was selected as the most outstanding 4H Club student in the state by the Colored 4H Clubs of Georgia. On April 17, 1944, the Colored Elks Clubs of Georgia held their state convention at First A.B. Church in Dublin. The Elks clubs sponsored a high school student in a statewide oratory contest. The winner of the contest was from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta. In his first public speech, the fifteen-year-old student, who would enter Morehouse College in the fall, spoke on the topic of "The Negro and the Constitution." That young man would become the greatest civil rights leader in American history. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr. On the very same day, Herbert Rozier, a seventy-two-year-old Laurens County man, became the oldest person ever executed in Georgia and one of the oldest ever electrocuted in the history of the nation.
On February 6, 1942, a tornado struck a Montrose church, killing County Home Demonstration Agent Effie Lampkin, "Uncle" Sandy Owens and Sam Gibson, making it the deadliest storm in county history. The largest measured rainfall in modern times fell on Laurens County on January 19, 1943, when 7.15 inches of rainwater was deposited into local gauges.
Mamie Stubbs Lander, a native of Washington County and a former Dexter High School teacher, was the world leader of the Order of the Eastern Star, the female auxiliary of the Free and Accepted Masons, as the organization's Most Worthy Grand Matron of the General Chapter, World O.E.S. from 1943 to 1946. For the next three decades until her death in 1975, Mrs. Lander served as Grand Secretary Emeritus. Mrs. Annie Prescott, widow of W.O. Prescott, was appointed by a 1940 Laurens County grand jury as the first woman Justice of the Peace in the county.
1945 - 1949: The Greatest Generation Comes Home
The resurgence of Laurens County started during the war. Congressman Carl Vinson of Milledgeville secured the location of a German-Italian Prisoner of War Camp at the old fairground site. Prisoners were put to work on local farms, filling a void left in the male farm labor force. The congressman had selected Dublin as the site for a naval aviation training center, but his plans were never carried out. Vinson, a powerful member of the Naval Affairs Committee, secured the construction of a naval hospital in western Dublin in 1945. The hospital was designed to treat patients who needed long term care. One of only two rheumatic fever research units in the country was established at the hospital in 1946. The hospital was a tremendous boost to the local economy bringing in several thousand new citizens. The Navy constructed one of Georgia's largest airports for the transportation of patients. For several years, Dublin played host to several Army-Navy baseball and football games between the prison guards and the naval hospital personnel. The hospital, now the Carl Vinson V.A. Medical Center, is serving the needs of thousands of American veterans. One of the first physicians to serve at the Naval Hospital was Dr. Franklin Gowdy of Glencoe, Illinois. Dr. Gowdy, a former member of the 1st Marine Division, was an All-American tackle for the University of Chicago in 1924. The following year he served as an assistant coach with the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg. Capt. Joseph B. Logue, the second head of the V.A. Hospital, was Division Surgeon of the First Marine Division, which saw heavy action in Peleliu and throughout the Pacific during World War II. Responsible for the first use of D.D.T. to control mosquito-born diseases, Logue served in the Navy for thirty-six years before retiring as a Vice-Admiral, the third highest rank in the Navy. Admiral L.B. Sartin, the hospital's last commander endured three years in a Japanese P.O.W. camp.
The naval hospital, a part of the armed forces hospital system, took on the role of aiding the war on the home front. This mission included entertainment and rehabilitation of the patients. On April 7, 1945, Eddie Rickenbacker visited the hospital. Rickenbacker was the American Ace of World War I. He owned the Indianapolis Speedway for 12 years. In 1938 he was named President of Eastern Airlines and served in that position until he was named Chairman of the Board in 1959. Rickenbacker's mission was to cheer up those sailors who were facing long periods of recuperation from their injuries and ailments.
On the last day of April 1945, Helen Keller made a visit to the hospital. Helen Keller had lost her senses of sight and hearing as a very young child. She could not speak. In her later years, Helen Keller authored many successful books. Her visit to the hospital was part of her tour of military hospitals across the country. It was hoped that those disabled veterans would be inspired by Miss Keller overcoming her disabilities. Over the following years, touring bands and companies performed at the hospital for the sailors in the afternoons and at public dances at night. Among those were Forties band leaders Les Brown, Vaughn Monroe, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Skinnay Ennis, Glen Gray, Tommy Tucker, Jan Garber, and Ted Weems.
During the war and post war years, Dublin was treated to some of the finest entertainment in America. During the war, the Grand Ole Opry toured the southeastern United States. The singers performed in a large tent in downtown Dublin on today's site of Pitt's Car World. All time favorites such as Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl, Eddy Arnold, Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt thrilled thousands of fans. The newly renovated Dublin Theater played host to cowboy and music stars such as Tex Ritter, Smiley Burnette, Bob Steele, Lash Larue, and Eddy Arnold. George T. Morris brought Dublin into the radio age when WMLT went on the air in January of 1945. A test signal, broadcast just days before the station went on the air, was heard nearly half way around the world in Australia. Lila Moore Keen, "The Lady of the Camellias," became a nationally-renowned artist for her beautiful paintings of the flowers of the South. In 1949, the first drive-in theatre opened in East Dublin. Several years later a second drive-in, the Rockdale, opened in the Rockdale community west of Dublin. Vincent Mahoney, a native of Dublin and a nationally known and respected newspaper writer, was among thirteen journalists killed when their plane crashed in India in July 1949 in the worst loss of journalist lives in world history.
Just as many citizens left Laurens County after World War I, many others left Laurens County after World War II. Jane New married band leader Tommy Dorsey. Among the others were M.C. Thomas, the father of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and John Couric, Associated Press reporter, news media executive and the father of television news anchor Katie Couric. Solicitor-general Eugene Cook left during the war and served as Georgia's Attorney General for twenty years, longer than anyone in the history of our state. Cook ended his public service by serving on Georgia's Supreme Court from 1965 to 1967. Dr. Annella Brown began her practice of medicine in a Philadelphia hospital in 1944, making her the first native Laurens County woman to practice medicine. Dr. Brown was the first board certified woman surgeon in the Northeast and only the fifth in the nation. Judge Conley Ingram left Dublin for better and greater things, eventually serving on Georgia's Supreme Court from 1973 to 1977.
Passenger and air freight service began in and out of Dublin in 1945 with flights on Southern Air Express Airlines. Until World War II, Dublin and Laurens County's economy was almost totally agricultural. With the opening of J.P. Stevens Woolen Mill in 1948, the economy began to shift toward a mixture of agricultural and industrial. During the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the company in Dublin, one of the company's two plants was named in honor of Donald C. Johnston, a company executive whose civic and charitable deeds made him one of Dublin's most honored and respected citizens. Dublin is almost more famous for what it didn't have. It didn't get the Central of Georgia Railroad. Nor did it get the 12th District Agricultural College. In the late forties, Congressman Carl Vinson nearly succeeded in securing the location of the United States Air Force Academy in the Buckeye District of Laurens County. Vinson continued to attempt to secure federal projects in Laurens County, including another naval air station. Vinson was responsible for the construction of Interstate Highway 16 through the center of the county, which began in 1961.
Hugh Frank Radcliffe, who spent some of his early years living in the Dexter community, established a world record for strikeouts in a 9 inning game when, as a pitcher for the R.E. Lee Rebels of Thomaston, struck out 28 Lanier Poets on April 19, 1948. Radcliffe, who signed an unprecedented $40,000.00 signing bonus with the Philadelphia Phillies, bounced around the minor leagues after developing arm trouble. Bill Sims, a Dublin wing back and leader of the 6th District Champion Dublin High School, was named to the all state team and played in the first Peach Bowl High School Classic in Macon in 1945.
Moody Brown graduated from the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1947. The class, known by many the best class in the history of Annapolis, included President Jimmy Carter, CIA Director Stansfield Turner, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral William Crowe, and Medal of Honor Winner-Prisoner of War-Vice Presidential Candidate James Stockdale. Kara Coates, a native of Laurens County, joined the famed Harlem Globetrotters, one of the most celebrated teams in the history of the sport. John M. Outler, Jr., son of the Rev. John M. Outler Sr. and a former resident of Dublin, served for more than a decade as General Manager of WSB Radio and in 1948, as the general manager of the first television station in the South, WSB-TV. Outler also served a term as Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters. The last regularly scheduled passenger train to Macon left the depot in Dublin on December 31, 1949.
The 1950s: Happy Days
Herschel Lovett brought minor league baseball to Dublin in 1949. The Green Sox played in one of the best minor league parks in Georgia. The club had affiliations with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Braves before a reorganization of the minor leagues ended baseball in Dublin in 1962. The Dublin team also played under the names of the Irish, the Orioles and the Braves. The Green Sox won the regular season title in the Georgia State League in 1950. Charlie Ridgeway, a former Dublin Green Sox player and manager of the Fitzgerald team, made professional baseball history when he sent in twelve-year-old Joe Reliford into a game, making the young man the youngest man to play professional baseball and the first black player to play in the Georgia State League. Izzy Leon, the first member of a Dublin minor league team to play in the majors, played for the 1949 Green Sox and the 1945 Philadelphia Phillies. Tony Roig, a member of the first Green Sox team, played three seasons for the Washington Senators. Larry Foss, a pitcher on the 1955 Dublin Irish team, played for a brief time for the defending World Champion Pirates in1961 and the hapless 1962 New York Mets, the worst team in major league history. World Champion manager and Hall of Fame inductee, Earl Weaver, was a player-manager for the Dublin Orioles in 1958. Dave Nicholson, baseball's first bonus baby, and Steve Barber, of the '58 Orioles, was the AL leader in shutouts in 1962 and the fastest pitcher in baseball in 1960, played under Weaver's managership. George Werley, a pitcher for the 1958 Orioles, pitched one inning for the parent team in the waning days of 1956, just three weeks after his 18th birthday. He never played another major league game. Bill Robinson, Glen Clark, Jim Driscoll and Hal Haydel of the '62 Braves went on to play in the major leagues. Barber, Nicholson, Robinson and Clark all played for the Atlanta Braves at one time during their careers. One opposing player from neighboring Sandersville thrilled the crowds with his massive homeruns. The eighteen-year-old rookie, Willie McCovey, ended his major league career with over five hundred homeruns. Bill Robinson played with the World Champion Pirates in 1979 and coached the 1986 World Champion Mets and the 1998 World Champion Marlins. During the years in which Dublin fielded teams in the Georgia State and Georgia Florida Leagues, some of the umpires in that league called Dublin home base. The most successful of these men in blue included Harry Wendelstedt and John Kibler, longtime veterans National League umpires along with Russell Goetz and Cal Drummond, the latter of whom was one of the few umpires ever to die while calling a professional baseball game. Tony Venzon, a fifteen-year National League Umpire, called three World Series and three All Star gams. Bill Haller, who called games during the 1958 Ge0rgia-Florida League, umpired for twenty years in the American League, including four All Star and four World Series games. In 1951, the Oconee High School Trojans, in their first year of existence, won the Class B football championship.
The 1950s were a decade of continuous prosperity. The 914th Combat Support Hospital Unit, which won the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for their actions from October 17, 1944 to July 4, 1945, was relocated to Dublin on August 1, 1950. After six months of service, the unit was decommissioned by the army. The Cedar Grove Girls won the Class C state basketball championship in 1951, giving Laurens County its first state championship by any team, either male or female. The boy's team lost in the finals. Four Dublin women presented a highly credible report to the U.S. Air Force of their observation of a group of five UFOs late in the afternoon of September 3, 1952.
The University of Georgia established a state 4-H camp on the current site of Riverview Golf Course for Negro members in 1951 following the efforts of such leaders as Emory Thomas and Effie Lampkin. The camp which was attended annually by thousands of black youths, including future Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson, was considered the finest Negro 4H facility in the South. Capt. Thomas J. Simmons, a sixteen-year veteran of the Army, was named as Adjutant of the Armed Forces Press, Radio and Television Service. Capt. Simmons entered the army as a private and worked in the Pentagon in implementing the integration of the armed forces during the Korean War. Lucius Bacote, principal of Oconee High School, headed the 9,000 member Georgia Teachers and Education Association. In 1959, Bacote was elected to the head the nation American Teachers Association. Dr. U.S. Johnson was elected President of the Georgia State Medical Association for Negro Doctors in 1950.
Modern brick schools were being built county wide. Little did those attending a performance sponsored by the Laurens County Concert Association in the old City Hall in January of 1952 realize that the young actor on stage would go on to a remarkable career on stage, television and films. The starving actor who toured the country with his partner and wife was Hal Holbrook. The Katie Dudley and Vinson Village housing projects and the Laurens County Hospital opened in 1952. The Rev. Silas Johnson, former pastor of Cadwell and Buckhorn Methodist churches, died in 1951 after serving ten years as president of Wesleyan College in Macon. The Dublin High track captured the 1951 Class B state championship.
Twelve Laurens County men lost their lives in defense of their country in the Korean War. James E. Rix and James E. Daniel were the first two Laurens Countians to be killed. Sgt. Albert Lewis of Laurens County was starved to death in a Korean P.O.W. camp. Emerson Burns, Wesley Hodges and Tyrois Odom survived and were welcomed home by one of the Dublin's largest parade crowds ever. Col. Erwin O. Gibson commanded the 65th Infantry Regiment in the second half of 1951. Known as the Borinqueneers, the unit was the first regiment in the U.S. Army composed entirely of Puerto Rican soldiers. Major Charles L. Holliman, then a lieutenant, treated 700 casualties during the war. Holliman, relying on his experience as a combat medic in World War II, had to perform field surgery. He lost only one man. Airman Bobby Tennyson Robinson was killed by a tornado at Lawson Air Force Base, Columbus, Georgia on March 13, 1954. Airman Robinson remained at his sentry post despite the threats to his own safety and died a victim of the Cold War. J.P. McCullough was an aviation instructor in the Air Force. Among his more famous pupils were two of the country's better known aviators, United States Senators John Glenn and John McCain. Seaman Lonnie "Jiggs" Woodum, less than eighteen months out of Oconee High School, was one of more than one hundred sailors killed aboard the U.S.S. Bennington in May 1954 in the nation's second worst non-battle naval disaster.
The Herschel Lovett Bridge replaced the narrow 1920 bridge over the Oconee River in 1953. William C. Dominy, of Dublin, began his six year term as Commander of the Georgia State Patrol in 1953. After many years of serving in the leadership of the Masons of Georgia, Marshall A. Chapman was chosen Grand Master of Georgia Masons for the year 1954. In January of 1954, the National Guard returned to Dublin when the 286th Infantry Heavy Mortar Battalion was organized under the command of William V. Crowley, Jr.. Louise Blackshear Deal, a native of Dublin, became the first woman to serve on the Fulton County grand jury in 1954. Laurens County was often the home to field trials of the Georgia Fox Hunters Association. In November 1954, the National Association of Fox Hunters held their 61st annual field trials here.
Selina Burch, a native of Laurens County, was one of the first female presidents of a Telephone Workers of America local union in the United States and remained active in the Union movement until her retirement in the 1980s. With an average temperature of 67.3, well above the average of 64.8, and only 24.66 inches of rain, nearly twenty-two inches below normal, the year 1954 was the hottest and driest year of the 20th Century. On August 4, 1955, Capt. Hugh Clafton Barron desperately tried in vain to save the lives of his passengers and crew when his American Airlines Corsair crashed into dense woods four hundred yards from a runway at Fort Leonard Wood. Ten months earlier, Barron had saved the lives of 46 people when he piloted his crippled plane to a crash landing at a Chicago area airport. William Roscoe Coleman, a native of Laurens County and a former Hepzibah, Ga. mayor, state senator and state representative, was named to a seat on the Georgia Board of Regents in 1958 for a term of seven years.
Dubliners and Laurens Countians were elated, then greatly disappointed after the announced location of a B-52 bomber base on the outskirts of Dublin was vetoed by President Dwight Eisenhower in July 1956.
An armory building was constructed in 1957 and later named in honor of Major Charles E. Stroberg, the executive officer of the unit. Over the years, the armory has hosted all types events including circuses, prom dances, wrestling matches, antique shows, and concerts by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Ernest Tubb and Don Gibson. Grand Ole Opry Stars continued to perform in Dublin during the 1950s. Among those performing here were Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells, Ray Price, George Morgan and Cowboy Copas. The Dublin High School debate team were awarded the best team in the state in 1959 in Class A.
Dublin-born and Brewton-bred Theron Sapp "broke the drought" and became a Georgia Bulldog immortal when he scored the winning touchdown to defeat Georgia Tech, breaking a long string of Bulldog losses to the state rival. Sapp, the Most Valuable Player of the 1959 Senior Bowl, went on to play professional ball with the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles in 1960 and later with the hapless Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dublin Irish football team won back to back state championships in 1959 and 1960, mostly on speed, intelligence and unbridled determination. Ben Crain, a Dublin back, was named Georgia Class A Back of the Year in 1959. The 1960 team was led by Georgia Class A Lineman of the Year Ben Snipes. Joining Crain as first team selections to the All- State team during the 1950s were Bobby Gay, Henry Sheffield (2 times), Mike Malone and Charles Garrett. The Oconee Trojan football team had many outstanding seasons during the 1950s and 1960s, winning several district championships. The respect and the comradery and respect between the Trojan players ands fans and their Irish counterparts was unparalleled in the pre-integration decades.
The City of Dublin moved into the current City Hall, the Dublin High School of 1902-1954, in 1959. Dublin began an unprecedented growth into the suburbs in the 1950s and early 1960s with the establishment of Pine Forest, Highland Park, West Bellevue, Brookwood, North Dublin and Green Acres Subdivisions. Despite the growth of Dublin, the county's population decreased. The growth of Dublin was led by real estate developers, the Curry Brothers, Thomas and Louie, the Cordell Brothers, Howard and Clayton, and L.D. Woods. Mr. and Mrs. Roy Harkleroad established a restaurant they named the Briar Patch, in keeping with the designation of U.S. Highway 441 as the Uncle Remus Highway. For most of the fifties and sixties, the place was frequented by cruising teenagers, who began a tradition known as "Scratching the Patch." Next door to the restaurant was the "Brer Rabbit Motel," which featured wooden cutouts of Uncle Remus characters.
The 1960s: Progress, People and Purpose
The early 60s brought on a spurt of growth in Dublin which had not been seen since the turn of the century. The rejuvenated Chamber of Commerce and the newly-created Dublin-Laurens Development Authority began a forty - something year string of securing new industries for the community. The city and county established the first municipal welcome center in Georgia, which entertained thousands of visitors each year. New factories were being built. Old ones were expanding. The Laurens County commissioners built an agricultural center on Telfair Street in 1961 to promote one of the county's major industries. The old brick courthouse, a favorite of many Laurens Countians, was torn down in 1963, after voters turned down the bond issue to build a new courthouse. A typical "modern Sixties style" courthouse was completed in 1964 through the help of Congressman Carl Vinson of Milledgeville, who secured the half of the funds from the Congress, making our courthouse the first federally funded county courthouse in the United States. Vinson also secured some of the first federal funds appropriated for public libraries to build the Oconee Regional Library on Bellevue Avenue in 1964. The march of progress, including the construction of the post office on Bellevue Avenue in 1964, led to the destruction of some of the avenue's most beautiful homes.
A new luxury came into Dublin homes in 1965 with the advent of cable television. One of those who came to Dublin to work with the cable company, Group W, was John Lack. After he left Dublin, Lack made it big in the cable television business when he founded MTV, Nickelodeon, The Movie Channel and ESPN-2. WXLI-FM went on the air with the county's first FM station in 1967. Hal Murray, a Dublin native and veteran of World War II, was one of the most popular disc jockeys in America during the Rock and Roll era, especially in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, where he was known as "The Emporer."
Don Lamb led the effort to build a new football stadium in 1962. The 8000 seat stadium, known as the Shamrock Bowl, was financed totally by private individuals. The players responded by dominating their class for most of the decade, winning a state championship in 1963 and finishing in second place in1967. One smudge on their 1960 record was a close loss when Americus Panther quarterback Dan Reeves scored the winning touchdown at Battle Field. Reeves as a player and coach has appeared in more Super Bowls than any other man in NFL history. Dublin High basketball star, Tom Perry, was selected as one of the best 25 players in the state and a High School All-American in 1964. Ronnie Rogers, a Dublin High football star and a two-time All-State Lineman, was named as the 1965 Class AA Defensive Lineman of the Year. Rogers, "The Dublin Dinosaur," was a star defensive lineman for the Georgia Bulldogs in 1970. Rogers was tabbed by some experts as one of the best defensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference. Former Dublin gridiron All-State end and star receiver for Furman University, Robbie Hahn, set nearly a half-dozen Southern Conference records and was honored by being named to the All Southern Conference team and as an honorable mention for the All-American team of 1966. Chan Beasley, a Dublin High running back, was named AA Back of the Year for the 1967 season. Beasley earned an honorable mention for an High School All-American team. Greg Crabb, an All-State Irish guard, played in the inaugural Peach Bowl for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Mike Rich, an All-State back, of the Class of '68 was a star running back for the Florida Gators in the late 60s and early 70s. Rich was the starting halfback for the East in the 1971 East-West Shrine All Star Football game, beating out the heralded Ivy League Star and Heisman Trophy winner Ed Marinaro. Rich's career was ended by an injury after he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1972. Among the other Irish All-State first team selections in the 1960s were Ronnie Baggett, Tal Fuqua, Tennyson Coleman, Charles Faulk (2 times), Danny Stanley, Tom Perry, Vic Belote and J.C. Pitts.
Dublin High's golf team won state championships three out of four years, during the period from 1962 to 1965. Richie Cummings won the AA low medalist in 1962 and Robert Swinson in 1965. The Dexter High Hornettes dominated girl's Class C basketball for most of the decade winning state championships in 1962 and 1963 and establishing a record 67 game consecutive game winning streak for all Georgia girls' teams which lasted until the 1970s. From 1960 through 1963, the Dexter girls won 125 games and lost only 9. Judye Bryant and Kay Waldrep were selected to the Class "C" All State team in 1965. Bill Perry was selected as one of the best basketball players in AA in 1968.
Dublin's Literary teams, led by Thespian Troupe 669 under the direction of R. Lynn Woody, were perennial winners in regional and state literary meets. The "Dixie Irish" Marching Band, under the direction of John Hambrick and later Jim Willoughby, was regarded as one of the best high school bands in the Southeast. In 1962, percussionist Jimmy Stinson and clarinetist LeCroy Melton were selected as members of the United States of America High School Band.
Rock and Roll legend, "Little Richard," shed his flashy costumes and spoke to a large crowd at the Laurens County Courthouse on what Jesus meant to him on September 27, 1960. Dr. U.S. Johnson, the last of the black Republican leaders in Dublin, served as a delegate to the 1960 Republican Convention. Several months later in January of 1961, another inspirational figure spoke in Dublin - this time at the Dublin VA hospital. He was Harold Russell, a double-amputee veteran of World War II. Russell, the only actor ever to win two Academy Awards for one performance, starred in the classic film and best picture of 1946, "The Best Years of Our Lives." Corrine Tsopei, Miss Universe 1964-5, presided over the opening of the Royal Crown Cola plant in East Dublin in 1965. Paul Kea, a former staff announcer at WMLT and a former Laurens County English teacher, was the Assistant Registrar of the University of Georgia and participated in the integration of the University of Georgia in 1960.
One of Laurens County's most inspirational figures was Don Smith, a veteran of the Cold War in Vietnam. In November of 1963, Lt. Smith was gravely injured in an auto accident. He was completely paralyzed. In 1967, Smith, a standout athlete in the U.S. Navy and at Jacksonville State, began coaching football at East Laurens High School. Coach Smith coached football teams in the Dublin Recreation Department league for many years, was named as National Coach of the Year, named as honorary coach of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, commended by President Nixon, named Georgia Jaycee's Man of the Year, ordained as a Baptist minister and named as one of the top five young men in Georgia in 1970.
Rubye G. Jackson, the first woman to serve as an assistant Attorney General of Georgia, began her legal career in Dublin. One of the most unusual county elections in Georgia history took place in October of 1962, when 29 candidates ran in a special election to fill a vacancy in the office of Laurens County Tax Commissioner. Former Dublin transplant, George T. Powers, III, was promoted to Major General in the U.S. Army by John F. Kennedy in 1963. Gen. Powers commanded Fort Bliss from 1965-1967 and followed in the footsteps of Generals James Longstreet and John J. Pershing. Laurens County Superior Court Judge, Harold E. Ward, made history during the April term of court when he appointed Annie Vickers Thigpen and Alfred L. Hay to the Laurens County Board of Jury commissioners. Until May 1, 1967, the board had been made up entirely of white male members. Dr. Eleanor L. Ison-Franklin, a native of Dublin, was named a director of a medical department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Dr. Franklin was the first woman to serve in that capacity. Dr. Franklin was also the first woman, black or white, to head a medical department in an American university. Dr. Robert Shurney, also a native of Dublin, was one of the first African-American scientists to work at NASA. Dr. Shurney was one of the agency's top physicists, receiving honors for his designs of the tires for the lunar rover on the Apollo 15 mission, as well as his training in weightless environments and his innovative designs of the toilet for the Skylab space station in addition to his designs of eating utensils and solar panels for the Skylab. This widely heralded scientist accomplished all of these feats without the benefit of a high school diploma. Charles W. Adams, a native of Dudley, was elected as Senior Vice President of the Coca Cola Company in 1966. Adams served in the position until 1974, when he became the assistant to the chairman of the Coca Cola Company. Rev. Albert Outler, who lived in Dublin as a child while his father served the First Methodist Church, was recognized as one of the greatest Methodist theologians of the 20th Century. In 1966 in his second attempt to gain a seat on the Dublin City Council, the Rev. Bridges Edwards became the first African-American to be elected to serve on a city council. Bill Norris, who had been a teen-age trainer with the Dublin Braves in the summer of 1962, rapidly climbed the ladder of success by serving first as a trainer for the New York Mets, New York Nets and New York Knicks. In the mid 1970s, Norris was selected to be the head trainer for the U.S. Men's Tennis Association, a post he held for more than thirty years.
Mother Nature showed her wrath when a New Year's Eve ice storm crippled Laurens County on the last day of 1963. During 1964, Dublin rain gauges accumulated 68.28 inches of rain, twenty-two inches higher than normal and a yearly record for the 20th Century. Former Dublin attorney, M. Hardeman Blackshear, served as Georgia's Deputy Comptroller General from 1963 to 1967 following a term as Georgia's Chief Deputy Attorney General. Laurens County voters approved the merger of the Dublin and Laurens County School systems for the 1965-66 school year. After a long and protracted series of court battles, the two systems were separated by the courts. A new election was held and the issue of consolidation was defeated. Dublin judge Harold E. Ward swore in controversial Gov. Lester Maddox just moments after his election by the Georgia Legislature in 1967.
The Laurens County Historical Society was formally established on December 7, 1967. On March 4, 1968, Lela Warnock was named the first and only woman county commissioner of Laurens County. Following the death of her husband, Dewey Warnock, Mrs. Warnock served the remaining part of his term. One of Dublin's oldest residents in 1968, was Louis Greenhaus, who was 101 years old. Greenhaus, a Russian-born naturalized citizen and a resident of the V.A. Hospital, served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I. Between the wars, Greenhaus was a member of John Phillip Sousa's band. Douglas Williams, of Dublin, became the first African-American student at Brewton Parker College in 1968. In 1969, the Cordell brothers, Howard and Clayton, opened the first automatic car wash in this area. Jimmy Carter, the first person who would become President of the United States to make a public appearance in Dublin, spoke to the annual Chamber of Commerce meeting in 1969 while he was preparing to run for Governor of Georgia.
The owners of the Courier Herald and radio station WMLT developed the idea of a St. Patrick's Festival to promote Dublin and Laurens County. The planners Ed Hilliard, Dick Killebrew, Anne Everly, Jo Ann DiFazio and W.H. Champion envisioned a single festival in 1966. The festival, which is held over a three-week period in March, has grown into the longest celebration of St. Patrick's Day and Irish heritage in the world. The festival attracts thousands of participants every year, including nationally known parade grand marshals and performers. Among those national personalities appearing in conjunction with the festival were Brenda Lee, Vince Dooley, Eileen Fulton, Danny Davis, and Jimmy Carter. Big band leaders Guy Lombardo, Wayne King and Vaughn Monroe performed in the late 60s around festival time.
Patriots and Heroes - The War in Vietnam
As was the case in many wars before, Laurens County sent many of its best young men into the armed services during the Vietnam War. U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles P. Ragan was one of the first naval advisors sent to Vietnam in 1963. Lt. Ragan was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism by Pres. Lyndon Johnson. Col. Addison Hogan was awarded the Gallantry Cross with a Silver Star by the South Vietnamese Government for his service in Vietnam in 1963 and 1964. Sergeant James A. Starley of Dublin was killed by a bomb in Vietnam on February 22, 1965. Sgt. Starley was the first of twenty four Laurens Countians and the 229th American to lose his life during the war. In the winter of 1966, Lt. Col. Harlow G. Clark, Jr. became the first Laurens County officer to be killed in action. The citizens of Laurens County erected a sign in front of the Dublin-Laurens Museum honoring those men who served in the armed forces during the war. The names of those who died were painted in gold. A dedication ceremony was held on June 30, 1967, in which the families of Bobby Finney and James Cook, the third and fourth men who lost their lives during the war, were special guests. Sgt. Jimmy Bedgood, winner of four Bronze Stars for bravery, two Purple Hearts, and an Army Commendation medal with a "V," was killed in his third tour of duty in 1968.
Four Laurens County aviators Warrant Officer David L. Green, Jr., Lt. W. T. Holmes, Jr., John E. Best, and Captain Wilbur A. Darsey were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Air Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal, respectively, for valor and meritorious service in the early years of the Vietnam War. Lt. Col. W. Clyde Stinson, Jr. of Dublin was killed while directing his troops from his helicopter. Stinson, a 1953 graduate of West Point Military Academy, was awarded two Silver Stars. At the time, Lt. Col. Stinson was one of the highest ranking officers killed in the Vietnam War. Major James F. Wilkes, a Forward Air Controller flying a modified civilian Cessna airplane, was awarded a Silver Star for directing fighter aircraft in between friendly and enemy positions and saving the lives of many American soldiers. Major Wilkes also won two Distinguished Flying Crosses and fifteen Air Medals. Staff Sergeant Charles D. Windham, Jr. was awarded two Bronze Stars for his heroism as a Patrol Leader, one of the most dangerous positions in the field. Chief Warrant Officer Danny Collins was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals, and a Bronze Star. Sgt. Gary Fields, a Green Beret, won several medals for his actions as a helicopter gunner. Capt. Fred M. Stuckey was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action when he piloted his helicopter into an extremely hazardous area under difficult weather conditions and rescued American soldiers who were pinned down under enemy fire. Lt. Col. Holman Edmond, Jr. in his two tours of duty in Vietnam was awarded 2 Bronze Stars and 17 Air Medals.
Billy Bryan of Dublin and his fellow M.P.s established Operation Blind Orphan to care for blind and orphaned Vietnamese children. Four sons and one daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.V. Tipton were serving in the armed forces. These are only a few of the remarkable stories of Laurens County's heroes during the Vietnam War.
The 1970s: Forward Together
The 1970s saw a continued period of sustained economic growth. Southeast Paper built a newsprint plant in the latter years of the decade. The company has expanded to become the nation's largest and one of the world's largest producers of recycled newsprint in the world. The plant continued the tradition of diversified industries in our community. It is the diversification of Laurens industries which makes the county a desirable place in which to live. Mrs. Ed Smith, formerly Marilu Crafton of Dublin, was chosen in 1970 to be the first Republican on the Georgia State Board of Education. Mrs. Smith, whose husband was killed in a car accident while conducting the first Republican campaign for the governorship of Georgia since Reconstruction, joined Dr. John A. Bell of Dublin, also a member of the Board from 1963-1977. Dr. Bell served as chairman of the Board of Regents in 1976. Laura Gibson, the former Miss Laura Jane Snider of Dublin, married former Georgia governor Marvin Griffin in 1971. The 1971 AA Debate Championship was awarded to the team from Dublin High School. Shopping habits changed when the Dublin Mall opened in 1971. The biggest disappointment of the Seventies was the failure of the proposed Junior College in Dublin. Air South began regular passenger flights in and out Dublin in June of 1971. Aboard the first plane was the future President Jimmy Carter. Sergeant Major J.W. Beasley of Dublin was the highest ranking enlisted man in the Georgia State Patrol. Beasley was blinded by a shotgun blast in 1953 and returned to duty as a radio operator. After opening his first furniture store in Soperton in 1949, Sherwin Glass moved the corporate headquarters of Farmer's Furniture to Dublin. The company rose to become one of the nation's largest retail furniture chains and the largest in terms of the number of stores. Known nationwide as a generous philanthropist to Jewish organizations, Glass was elected to the Furniture Hall of Fame in 2003. W.H. Champion, editor of the Dublin Courier Herald, was elected President of the Georgia Press Association in 1975.
The first two weeks of February of 1973 saw the greatest daily rainfall to date ever officially measured with 5.57 inches and the greatest daily snowfall, which in some places exceeded 14 inches. In 1974 Sharon Lynn Tucker of Dublin became the first African - American woman to obtain a law degree from the University of Georgia. When sugar prices went sky-high, moonshining, which had been a local tradition for over four decades, became a thing of the past. At one time, Laurens County was home to the one of the largest contingents of revenue and ATF agents in the state.
The Possum Hollow Festival, Laurens County's premier fall festival, began in 1975. David and Pat Graham were selected as the National Farm Bureau's Young Farm Couple of the Year in 1976. 98-year-old Lucian A. Whipple, a native of Laurens, retired in 1976 as the oldest practicing attorney in the country. Dr. George R. Lee retired at the end of 1977 after 65 years of practicing dentistry and establishing a record for length of service by a professional in the county's history. The year 1977 was the coldest year of the 20th Century. Public Service Commissioner William E. Lovett, Jr. of Dublin was the first Laurens Countian in forty years to be elected in a statewide election. Former Dubliner Cassie Yates made it big in Hollywood, co-starring in major motion pictures and television shows. Charles Robinson, Jr., of Dublin, was the first African-American to become certified by the American Collee of Healthcare Administrators and was selected as Georgia's Health Care Administrator of the year in 1977. The West Laurens Junior High Industrial Arts Club was the best in the nation in 1978. Rev. Irene Tos, the first woman pastor in the history of the South Georgia Methodist Conference, began a one year term as pastor of Pinehill Methodist Church. Two of the saddest moments of 70s were the murders of Orianna grocery store owner, Mrs. L.B. Thigpen, who was killed by mass murderer William Pierce in 1971, and of convenience store worker, Marty Wilkins, who was killed by mass murderer Henry Lucas in 1979.
Sports news continued to dominate the 1970s. Tal Prince, a Dublin car dealer, was killed in a qualifying race for the 1971 Daytona 500. Willie Hall, a native of Montrose, was named a captain of the University of Southern California football team. He was also chosen the team's Most Valuable Player and selected to the All Pac-10 Conference team. Hall received the ultimate collegiate football honor when he was a First Team NCAA All American. Hall played in the 1971 Shrine East West Game and the 1972 College All Star Game. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 1972 NFL draft, Hall played at linebacker for two seasons for the Saints (1972-3) and four seasons with the Oakland Raiders (1975-78.) Willie Hall led the stalwart Raider defense in their victory in Super Bowl XI. Cy Dozier retired after 35 years of coaching boy's basketball at Dexter High School. Bert Greene, son of local golf pro Herb Greene and who called Dublin home, won his first P.G.A. tour event at the L&M Open in 1973. Until a freak injury put an end to his career, Greene was one of the promising young stars on the PGA tour. Joe Isaac, star pitcher for the East Laurens Falcons, was an 8th round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1974 Major League Baseball draft.
Tina Price, a Dublin High School and U.G.A. scholar-athlete, was a state high school and college tennis champion. Tina set several records for the women's basketball team at the University of Georgia, starred on the Lady Dogs tennis team, and was one of the top 15 draft choices in the first Women's Professional Basketball League. Mickey Register, a former Dublin and West Laurens pitcher, was named to the All S.E.C. Baseball team in 1975. Ira Welborn, a former Dublin High track star, shattered the American record for pole vaulting by a man over thirty with a vault of 14 feet 9 inches at the Master's Track and Field meet in 1976. Azzie Kellam of Dublin was named to the Junior College All-American team in 1976. In 1976, football star Herschel Walker played his first high school game outside of Johnson County at the Shamrock Bowl, a game in which he was held to negative yards rushing.
Herschel Walker was held to minus 8 yards rushing in the 1977 game. James Bailey, a native of Dublin, played center for the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in the Final Four NCAA tournament in 1976. Bailey, a dominating shot blocker and dunker, was a two - time first team All American. Bailey was drafted in the first round (sixth overall pick) in the 1979 draft and played seven seasons in the NBA. Michael Wright, a West Laurens running back, was named as the school's first member of the All State (AAA) football team in 1979. David Williams was chosen as Trinity High School's first All State football player in 1977. Willie Jones, a former Dublin resident and F.S.U. linebacker, was chosen to the All American team in 1978 and played for the Oakland Raiders, who won the Super Bowl in 1981. Dallas Allen, of Morehouse College, was a member of the 1978 NCAA Division III championship team in the 440 relays and an All-American in track. After graduation, Allen played in several exhibition games with the Atlanta Falcons. Allen, coach of Westlake High School, was honored as having coached the most active NFL football players (6) during the 2005 season. Steve Edwards was chosen to the All S.I.A.C. football team in 1979. Eddie Small, a temporary resident of Dublin, played basketball for the University of Georgia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rex Ellington was selected as one of the top 25 basketball players in Georgia in 1979.
Thousands of people floated down the Oconee during the period from 1974 through 1981 in the wet and wild, Great Oconee River Raft Race. Amy Woodyard of Rentz was chosen as the Queen of University of Georgia Football. As a part of her duties, Amy served as Queen of the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1977. Also in 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed fellow Georgian and a native of Dublin Jerome Bullock as Marshal of the District of Columbia. In 1978, J.P. Stevens began making the cloth for the famous "Green Jackets," which are awarded to the winners of the world's most prestigious golf tournament, the Masters. The St. Patrick's Leprechaun Road Race garnered some national attention when Bill Rodgers, one of America's greatest long distance runners, won the annual event on several occasions. Over the years, Olympians Francie Larrieu Lutz, Benji Durden, and John Tuttle.
The Dublin-Laurens Museum opened on July 7, 1979, in the Carnegie Library Building. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was slated for destruction in 1966. Concerned citizens, led by Albert Geeslin, met, and as a result of their efforts, the structure was saved. John Ross and Allen Thomas led the effort to renovate the building at a cost of $50,000, donated mostly by interested citizens. The building became the home of the Laurens County Historical Society and a repository for materials which help establish or illustrate the history of the area. It also provides for exhibits and as a meeting place for cultural groups.
The 1980s: Technology on the Rise
During the decade of the 1980s, Dublin and Laurens County took on the role as a regional medical center with the construction of Fairview Park Hospital, its surrounding medical offices, and the continued improvements to the Carl Vinson V.A. Medical Center. The Dublin Center opened in the 1980s, giving Laurens Countians local access to a college education. Over the last quarter of a century, the center has provided courses from Georgia College, Middle Georgia College, East Georgia College and Georgia Southern University. The establishment of the Heart of Georgia Vo-Tech School was a boost to the local and regional economies. The economic effects of new and expanded industries led an explosive growth of retail businesses and restaurants in the outlying areas of town, while still retaining a viable downtown area. Jim Hammock, a Dublin businessman, was appointed to the Georgia Public Service Commission, joining fellow Dubliner Billy Lovett. Laurens County was saddened by the death of two of her sons, Sgt. Dewey Johnson and Capt. Lynn McIntosh, in the ill-fated attack to rescue the hostages in Iran in April of 1980. Laurens Countians sweltered in 109 degree heat on the hottest day ever recorded in Laurens County on July 14, 1980. Don Branch, a native of Dublin, was named to head the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in October 1981.
The days of May 16th through 18th in 1982 were among the darkest in the county's history. Tim Phillips, a Dublin sailor, was assassinated by terrorists on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Two days later, Georgia State Trooper Dicky Morris, formerly of Dublin lost his life while racing to the scene of an accident along a rain-slick highway. That same day, Johnny Pearson, a former West Laurens graduate, accidentally lost his life while undergoing army training in Fort Lewis, Washington.
Dr. J. Roy Rowland, a Dublin family physician, was elected to the United States Congress in 1982. Dr. Rowland served twelve years, in addition to six previous years in the Georgia House of Representatives. Gene Bracewell, a former resident of Laurens County, was elected as the Imperial Potentate of the Shrine of North America for 1984-5. The Rev. James Travick was elected as the first African-American Laurens County commissioner. Bracewell served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Shrine for ten years, more than six years as its treasurer, and was named Shriner of the Decade of the 1980s. Barbara Sanders Thomas, a 1965 graduate of Oconee High School, completed a successful career at CBS radio, as the network's Director of Finance and Administration, the first African-American woman to attend the network's management school and the network's first African-American woman to serve as a senior vice-president.
Trinity High School won the state football championship in 1980 and in baseball in 1989. Phil Wallace, of Dublin High School and the University of Georgia, was selected as the 4th best high school basketball player in the state in 1980. West Laurens High earned a state title in basketball in 1981. Former Dublin football star and Division 1-AA All American, Taz Dixon, tied a NCAA record by playing on three national championship football teams with the Georgia Southern Eagles. He was joined by former Dublin teammate John Wilson, who played on the 1989 and 1990 championship teams. Scott Hagler, one of the greatest place kickers in South Carolina Gamecock history, kicked in a few games with the Seattle Seahawks. Hagler succeeded former Irish teammate Tony Guyton as captain of the Gamecock football team.
West Laurens track star Chris Howard threw a discus a distance of 188 feet and 8 inches to set an all time record for Georgia high schools in a meet held in the state of Georgia. His mark stands second best in state history for all track meets. The following year he heaved a shot put a distance of 61 feet 4 inches to establish at the time the second longest put in state history. Future Dublin Junior High shop teacher, Mel Lattany was the fastest man in the world in 1984, running the 100-meter dash in a time of 9.96 seconds, one one-hundredth of a second below the world record. He was only the second human being ever timed below 10 seconds in the 100-meter dash. Lattany was a six-time All-American in track at the University of Georgia, a member of the 1980 and 1984 Olympic teams, an eight-time S.E.C. champion and one-time world record holder in the 300 meter dash, 100 meter Junior dash, and the Sprint Medley Relay.
Jackie Martin, a former Dublin basketball star and a member of the Kansas Jayhawks women's basketball team, was named to the All Big Eight basketball team. Tragically, she died of leukemia in her mid twenties. In 1985, The Carl Vinson V.A. Medical Center cosponsored the inaugural National Veterans Golden Age Games for older veterans. In Albany, Georgia. Wonzie Holmes, a wheelchair bound athlete, won more than thirty medals in the National Veterans Wheelchair games. During the 1980s, Derrick Harris, Jon Helton, Clint Harris and Brian Labella, were named to the first team All-State football team. Labella was named as the kicker for the all-classification team in 1989. Waylon Morton of Laurens County was a delegate to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.
1990s: A New Golden Age
Dublin and the communities of Laurens County have come full circle in the 1990s. The growth and cohesion of the communities has resulted in a second "Golden Era." It was not until 1990 that Laurens County reached its pre-1920 population. In March of 1990, Judge William M. Towson, Laurens County's longest serving Superior Court Judge, made his second substitute appearance on the bench of Georgia's Supreme Court. During the Gulf War, the local units of the Georgia National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve were activated. In the fall of 1990, 64 Laurens Countians and members of the 988th Army Reserve Supply Company based in Dublin left their homes and families for service in Saudi Arabia near the Kuwait border in the weeks leading up to the Gulf War. Fortunately, they all returned home safely.
Thousands of Laurens Countians have seen themselves on local television since the establishment of WGTV-35 by Gil Gillis in the early 90s. One of the station's most popular shows is the annual Christmas videos which feature the enormous wealth of musical talent in Laurens County. In the 1990s, Dublin was home to five radio stations providing a wide variety of music, news, and sports.
Maury Beasley was a state golf champion in 1991 and 1993 and in between, defeated the legendary Tiger Woods in Rolex Junior Classic. Bill Brown, another former Dublin High golfer played for the University of Georgia and in 1991 was the Southern Amateur Champion. Joe Moran, a former resident of Dublin and captain of the 1925 and 1926 Virginia Tech Hokies, was inducted into the Virginia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991. Chris Plummer and Michael Jones were the first and only two East Laurens Falcons to be named to the All State football team in 1991 and 1992. Sally Smalley Bell, a former DHS basketball player, was awarded the Naismith Award as the Women's Official of the Year. In the next decade, Bell was touted as one of the top women's basketball officials in the world, being selected to officiate NCAA Final Four games, Olympic Basketball and Women's NBA games. Tim Knight, of Dublin, was named the National Taxidermy Association Best all-around Taxidermist in 1993. Ryan Taylor, two- time All State defensive back the AAA Defensive Player of the Year, led the Dublin Irish into the finals of the state championship in 1994.
Howard Hendley, future Dublin High School principal and then Americus High School principal, was named National Principal of the Year in 1992. One of Dublin and Georgia's finest citizens, Ed Gannaway, lost his life on an August afternoon in 1995, while piloting his crippled ASA plane to a crash landing, saving the lives of twenty-four others. Sydney Kyzer Morton was chosen as a delegate to the 1992 Democratic Convention in New York, making her the first Laurens County woman afforded such an honor.
Through the generosity of Bill Lovett, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Holmes, and many others, along with the leadership of Dubose Porter, Griffin Lovett, and the Laurens County Historical Society, the community came together in 1995, raising over four hundred thousand dollars to renovate the old Martin Theater into Theatre Dublin, a regional performance center. Among the early performers and lecturers to appear on the stage were Bill Anderson, George Lindsey, T. Graham Brown, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Fran Tarkenton, Gene Watson. James Gregory, and Billy Joe Royal. The West Laurens gymnasium was the scene of performances by Charlie Daniels and Jerry Clower. The Olympic torch passed through Laurens County and Dublin in July of 1996 and then returned through the county two more times, making Laurens the only county in the United States through which the torch passed three separate times. The torch also passed through the irregular city limits of Dublin three times.
Gerald Carr, a former state champion West Laurens wrestler, won the 167- pound National Junior College Athletic Association title in 1995. The Dublin girl's softball team won the school's first female state title in 1996 - a feat they repeated in 1997. During the 1990s, the Trinity Lady Crusaders won the state championships in tennis in 1992 and 1993 and track in 1998 and 1999. The boys captured championships in track in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Earl Dunham, a native of Dublin and former Lanier High of Macon star athlete and World War II paratrooper, was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame as the only player in South Carolina Gamecock history to serve as captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams and the only member in that university's hall of fame to be a three-sport star. Dublin High wrestler Witt Durden, a perennial All-American and the top prospect in the country in his weight class, won his fourth straight state wrestling championship title. Dublin All State linebacker Ron Rogers ended his career in 1997 as the third leading tackler in Georgia Tech history, the MVP of the East-West Shrine Classic, and a 6th round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens. Teenage tennis phenom Tanner Cochran was chosen as a member of Team USA junior squad and was one of top ranked junior players in the country. In the latter, she reached the semi final round of the Girl's Doubles. During the 1990s, David Pritchett, Nathan Dardy (two times) and Chris Cauley , both of Dublin, were also named as a first team All-State football players. Brian Williams, Gerald Carr, Darrell Stokes, Patrick Horne, McKinley Wright and Rodney Thomas of West Laurens were selected as first team players on the all state team. Marcus Brown, a West Laurens defensive back, was named to the all classification team in 1990. Julian Prada (‘92), David Duncan (‘93), Matt Hollingsworth (‘94), and Norman Thacker (‘94) , all Dublin Irish soccer stars, were named to the All State Team. Edgar Blanchett scored two holes in the same round of golf at the Green Acres Golf Club in 1998, a feat which about one time in every ten million rounds of golf played.
The Laurens County Library completed a multimillion dollar expansion to serve our citizens into the next century. In the 1996 election, Laurens Countians re-elected their state Senator, Hugh Gillis, who began his 53rd year in the Georgia Legislature, more than anyone in the history of our state and country. Lewis Brantley, a former resident of Laurens County and a member of the Florida House of Representatives and President of the Florida Senate, was chosen as the Imperial Potentate of the Shrine of North America. His brother Charles, a former director of the Florida DMV, a former director of Florida Highway Safety and head of the Florida Trucking Association, was chosen as the Chaplain of the Shrine of North America. Cedric Harris, a former member of Dublin Thespian Troupe 669, starred in Off-Broadway plays and had a recurring role in the soap opera, As The World Turns. Rev. Harold Lawrence, a former assistant pastor at First United Methodist Church, was recognized as the state's most prolific writer and compiler of the history of Georgia Methodism.
The Dublin-Laurens Clean and Beautiful Commission won the Keep America Beautiful National Award for its efforts to keep our community beautiful. The Dublin Center and the Heart of Georgia Technical Institute expanded to the serve the needs of our community and the Middle Georgia area. Laurens County's Robbie Cook was selected as Georgia's Artist of the Year in 1998.
The year of 1998 didn't start off so well for Laurens Countians. Dorrie Joiner, a former Dublin High graduate and promising stage actress, died at the age of thirty nine. Joiner appeared in many Off-Broadway plays including Fortune's Fools and the original stage production of Steel Magnolias, in which she played the role of "Annelle," the beautician. Dorrie appeared in a guest role in It's a Living, and recurring roles in The Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and Texas. She also had a co-starring role in the 1986 movie, Fire With Fire. Deputy Kyle Dinkheiler was brutally shot and killed on January 12th. Laurens Countians by the thousands, as well as law enforcement officers from around the state, paid their respects to the slain officer. Unrelenting rains spawned by El Nino continued to plague river dwellers as well as Laurens County farmers who couldn't get their cotton out of the fields and were hampered in planting their spring crops. Roy Malone of Dexter was named as the top tree farmer in the southeastern United States in 1998. The eye of tropical storm Earl passed over Laurens County on September 3, 1998. During a sixteen-hour period, more than seven inches of rain fell on Laurens County establishing an unofficial record rainfall.
James Cuyler, a first team all state Class A player, led the East Laurens Falcons to within one victory of the Georgia Class A championship in 1999. The last year of the decade of the nineties was a particularly sad one for local music fans with the untimely death of Randy Howard, a local man who was a World champion fiddler.
On August 19, 1999, many Dublin citizens, their cars and homes were pummeled by what was described as the heaviest hail storm of the century. Laurens Countians opened their schools, churches, homes and pocket books to help several thousand coastal Georgia refugees who were seeking to escape Hurricane Floyd during the greatest evacuation in United States History on mid September of 1999.
Todd Hogan, Chuck Beale and Brian Mallette all ended the decade playing baseball in the minor leagues. Dublin All State lineman Ben Claxton started at center for Ole Miss, a rarity for a true college freshman. He snapped the last offensive play of the century in football and was named to the pre-season All SEC team. Colby Crabb, a Dublin High softball, basketball and tennis star, was awarded the GACA's female scholar-athlete of the year in 1999.
As the 20th Century came to an end, Dr. John A. Bell completed his 66th year of practicing medicine, the Rev. Jack Key entered his eighth decade in the ministry of the Gospel, and Judge William M. Towson and Col. H. Dale Thompson were about to embark on their seventh different decades of service in the legal profession. On a sad note at the end of the century, Laurens County lost its longest serving teacher. Miss Louise Buchan, the epitome of a first grade teacher, taught school for fifty years, all but one of them in the Dublin city school system.
At the end of the Twentieth Century, Dublin and Laurens County were well into their second "Golden Age." Charitable efforts in the county were at their peak. The United Way Agencies, WINGS, Habitat for Humanity, our growing local churches and many other civic organizations were serving their community through the efforts of many concerned Laurens Countians. The annual United Way campaign was edging ever closer to the half million dollar mark in local funding. Dublin and Laurens County were riding a wave of over five decades of moderate but continuous growth. In the previous three and one half decades, retail sales skyrocketed from 23 million dollars to a level approaching 500 million dollars annually. The tax digest soared from 57 million dollars upwards toward 700 million dollars in the last 27 years. Bank deposits swelled to nearly 500 million dollars - a 1000 percent increase since 1970. The population of the county and the city were at record highs, although the county population seems to be increasing faster than that of Dublin.
2000s: Into the New Millennium
Dublin and Laurens County began the year 2000 just where they left off at the end of the last century. Development Authority officials announced the location of a multi million dollar distribution center for Best Buy electronic appliances. The West Laurens girls won the school's first ever AAA Slow Pitch Softball State Championship. Tanner Cochran was rewarded for her success on the tennis courts by accepting an invitation to play in the 2000 U.S. Tennis Open. Alfred O. Pearson, the first African-American to serve on a local school board, was honored as a charter inductee into Georgia Agriculture Education Hall of Fame. He joined William A. Avery, a native of Laurens County and a long time Emanuel County teacher. Rufus "Red" Tindol, the 1985 Georgia Small Businessman of the Year, was selected to the National Pest Control Hall of Fame in 2000. Karen Lord Rutter, a native of Laurens County, was named one of the top twenty teachers in the nation by U.S. Today. Birch "Crimson Slide" Johnson, who was born into a VA Hospital family in Dublin, reached the pinnacle of success as a first call trombonist and Emmy Award nominee. Johnson was a member of the famous "Blues Brothers" band. Although there were no extremely low temperatures, the year 2000 was the coldest year since complete record keeping began in 1930. Bishop Imagene Bigham Stewart, a native of Dublin, was elected Vice President of the National American Legion Auxiliary. Bishop Stewart has been nationally recognized by President Clinton and both Presidents Bush for her work with homeless veterans in Washington, D.C. Former Dubliner Ira Edwards was elected the first African-American sheriff of Athens-Clarke County in 2000.
September 11, 2001 aroused a sense of patriotism not seen in Laurens County since the days of World War II. Tanner Cochran played in Semi Final U.S. Open Girls' Doubles. Damian Moss, who underwent physical rehabilitation in Dublin, married a local girl, made his home in Dublin and made it to the big show as a member of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff near the end of the 2001 season. Moss was a top candidate for Rookie of the Year in 2002. Yancey Reynolds, III, a former West Laurens High lineman, was named 1st Team All American offensive lineman, National Junior College Association. Reynolds played for Georgia Military College, National Jr. College Camps in 2001. Jamel Ashley, perhaps the fastest native born Laurens Countian and state champion sprinter for West Laurens in the 100m and 200m dashes in 1998, was a JUCO national champion and a six-time all-American at Wallace State Junior College. Jasha Balcom, a former Dublin High baseball standout and College of Charleston star, was named to the Freshman All American team. Balcom was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 MLB draft. Alex Williams, a West Laurens linebacker, was named to the AA all state football team. Travis Smith, a former West Laurens footballer, ended his career as the holder of many receiving records at Presbyterian College and the South Atlantic Conference and as a member of the 2000 and 2001 All American team. Tafara Makaya, a standout Dublin soccer player, was named to the 2001 All State team.
J.W. Goodwin, another V.A. kid, was named commander of America's newest aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. After seeing the massive ship to completion and taking her through her first sea trials, Goodwin was promoted to Rear Admiral in 2003 and was named Deputy Director for Plans and Policy for the U.S. European Command. In 2007, Rear Admiral Goodwin was named to command the Naval Air Force Atlantic. Members of the local National Guard unit attached to the 48th Brigade served as peace keepers in war-torn Bosnia in 2001.
The year 2002 was another year of outstanding sports performances on both team and individual levels. The Dublin High wrestling team won the school's first boy's State Championship since 1963. Four members of the team were individual weight class champions. Anthony Johnson, a West Laurens wrestler, won his weight classification for the second year in a row. Johnson won 104 matches in a row and was named a High School All American and a NHSCA National Champion. Meanwhile, former Dublin Wrestler Witt Durden was named to the All American Division 1 Wrestling team for the second year in a row. Brian Mallette, a former Dublin High star, pitched his first game in the Major Leagues in April. Donny McLendon of West Laurens was named AAA Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tip Off Club and the Georgia Sportswriter's Association. Ben Claxton, a 5th round draftee of the Denver Broncos, was named as a 2nd Team All SEC as a center. Coach Roger Holmes instilled a spirit in the community of football fans which had been unrivaled in four decades. The Dublin Irish, picked by most experts to have a break-even season, won the team's first ever appearance in the State Semi Finals at the Georgia Dome on its way to a 14-1 season. The only blemish on the team's banner season came with a tough loss in the state championship. Quintez Smith was named AAA Player of the Year, and Holmes was voted AAA Coach of the Year. Five players, Brian Mimbs, Maurice Johnson, Quintez Smith, Erik Walden and Brian Wallace were named as all state players, a record for any Laurens County school. Heather Hancock of the Dublin Irishettes was selected as the AAA Fast Pitch Softball Player of the Year. Dublin basketball star Jermaine Hall was on his way to become one of the greatest players in the history of Wagner College and the North East Athletic Conference. He appeared on the collage cover of Sports Illustrated as his team took part in "March Madness," the NCAA championship.
Years of hard work and dedication by historical preservationists culminated in 2002 with the establishment of two national historical districts in Dublin, the Downtown District and the Stubbs Park-Bellevue-Stonewall District. In its continuing presence as a major part of the economy of Laurens County, Southeast Paper was honored with the distinction of having its No. 2 machine as the most productive machine in the world.
Dubose Porter, a former President of the Georgia Press Association, began his third decade in the Georgia House of Representatives in 2003. He was honored by his colleagues when they elected him Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, the second highest office in the House. Laura Meadows, a former Dublin resident who had been director of the Farmers Home Administration in Georgia, director of One Georgia and director the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, was named Assistant Secretary of State.
Anthony Johnson, wrestling for Lassen Community College, finished third in the 2003 NJCAA National Championships. Japorie Bostick, a Dublin High School senior in his last race, captured a AAA state title when he ran the 400-meter dash in 48.81 seconds. Jessie Anderson Brown was posthumously honored by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. Coach Brown was a GAIAW Coach of the Year, SIAC Coach of the Year and a member of the SIAC Hall of Fame. Coach John Strickland was named the AAA Georgia Baseball Coach of the Year. Strickland led his team (29-8) to the championship series for the first time in school history.
In November 2003, Damian and Emilie Moss inaugurated the first annual Damian Moss Family Foundation Golf Tournament and Auction. Playing in the first tournament were baseball stars Kevin Brown, Marcus Giles, John "Blue Moon" Odom, Marquis Grissom, Ron Reed, Chris Hammond and Chipper Jones. Included in the list of other athletes playing on the Country Club Course were: Ray Goff, former UGA football coach; Dan Roundfield, former Atlanta Hawks star; Dan Bouchard, former Atlanta Flames star; and Ralph Boston, former Gold Medal Olympic champion.
Robert Brown, an Oconee High School graduate and leading Atlanta architect, was honored by the citizens of Dublin for his outstanding contributions to the state of Georgia and his selection as Chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Michael Cauley was named President of the Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants for the 2003-04 year. James K. Davis, Jr., a former Oconee High School football coach, retired from the Georgia Power Company. In his thirty-three years of service at Georgia Power, Davis became the company's highest ranking African-American corporate officer.
Ron Bradley, former Trinity High basketball coach, was still coaching after more than forty five years. Coach Bradley, an inductee into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and a 1972 and 2004 National Coach of the Year, is the winningest coach in Georgia history and among the winningest basketball coaches in the country at any level. In December, Jennifer Jessup, a former Dublin High School softball star and All SEC Scholar athlete at Mississippi State University, was the 10th overall pick in the 2004 National Pro Fast Pitch Softball League.
For the second time in as many years, the Dublin High School wrestling team captured the 2004 AAA State Wrestling championship by defeating Lovett High School. In defeating the Lovett team, the Irish allowed their intra county rivals, West Laurens High School, to garner a second place finish. Individual state champions from Dublin were: Brandon Herrin (135), Demario Jones (140), Cody Hilbun (145), Cory Phillips (189) and Dominique Small (215). West Laurens wrestlers Justin Harvey (112) and Travis Williams (125) captured individual honors. Former West Laurens wrestler Anthony Johnson, wrestling for Lassen Community College, was the number one ranked junior college wrestler in the country in the 174-pound classification. The two schools, which if combined, would form the best wrestling program in the state, battled each other on the basketball courts. The Dublin Irish, highly ranked beyond the first half of the season, defeated the equally talented Raiders twice to capture the coveted Laurens County Championship. The Raiders, led in career accenting games by Warren McLendon and Ken Kemp, never looked behind and captured the biggest prize, the 2003-04 AAA State Championship by defeating the heavily favored and defending state champions from East Hall High School.
Billy Henderson, a native of Dublin, was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004. Coach Henderson was a four-year letterman in football and baseball at the University of Georgia, a two-time selectee to the All SEC baseball team and a college coach at Furman University and the University of South Carolina. In his forty-two years of coaching, Coach Henderson led his teams to three state championships in football, one in baseball and one in swimming. When he retired in 1996, he was 5th in football coaching wins in Georgia high school history. Dublin District Superior Court Judge H. Gibbs Flanders, Jr. was elected as the President of the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia for the 2004-2005 year. J. Randolph Evans, a native of Dublin, was cited as one of the nation's best attorneys in the field of legal malpractice and ethics. Evans' client list includes top Republican leaders Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert and J.C. Watts.
High winds and heavy rains, remnants of Hurricane Frances, reeked havoc on the trees of Laurens County on September 7, 2004. Tropical force winds, unseen in Laurens County in many years, damaged ancient trees throughout the city and county. The week ended with nearly nine inches of rain, twice the monthly average for September. Tropical Storm Jeanne dumped another 6.5 inches of rain late in the month, bringing the unofficial total rainfall for the month to more than 14 inches, and establishing an official monthly record of 12.95 and the largest in 80 years.
Belinda Higdon Pinckney, of Dublin, was promoted to Brigadier General in the United States Army. General Pinckney was the first person ever from the Comptroller field to be commissioned a general. As one of the few African-American women generals in the Army, Gen. Pinckney assumed the position as Deputy Director of Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the largest finance and accounting operation in the World. As the first woman to do so, Gen. Pinckney later took over command of the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. In November 2004, Lt. Soffie Thigpen, a life long resident of Laurens County, became the highest ranking woman officer in the Georgia State Patrol. The Dublin Irish football team, coming off a rebuilding season, returned to the Georgia Dome in 2004, losing a heart breaker to perennial power Buford High School.
On January 6, 2005, Harold McLendon became the first black judge of the City Court of Dublin. His father, Warren McLendon, was the first black deputy sheriff of Laurens County in the 1970s. West Laurens and Dublin High Schools continued their dominance of Georgia High School Wrestling in 2005, when they finished first and second in the State of Georgia. Individual champions from West Laurens were Michael Slaughter (112), Josh Harvey (130). Top state wrestlers from Dublin included Brandon Herrin (135), Marcus Allen (152) and Joey Knox (160). Lehman "Leh" McGrath Keen, III, an up and coming racer in the Rolex Grand American Circuit, and his team finished a surprising sixth in the GT Division during the 2005 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. As a rookie in the Rolex Series, Keen finished sixth in the 2005 driver standings (his team finished 3rd). Keen scored a GT victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. Pedro Campuzano, a 1980 graduate of Dublin High School and the crew chief of Sebastian Bourdais's car of the Paul Newman racing team, was cited as one of the best crew chiefs on the Grand Prix racing circuit.
In the winter of 2004-2005, the local National Guard unit of the 48th Brigade mobilized for service in Iraq. The brigade included Russian-born Laurens County brothers Pavel and Dimitri Rybakov, who joined the guard to fight for their adopted country. Donning the first 21st Century Army uniforms, the local unit of the Georgia National Guard, Co. A, 148th Support Battalion, 48th Brigade, went into foreign service in Iraq. Members of the company were featured in a series of articles in the Atlanta Constitution and a six-part documentary American Soldiers on Country Music Television.
Dr. Brenda Shuman-Riley, a Dublin High School English teacher, was named the Georgia Teacher of the Year in 2005. Another Dublin teacher, wrestling coach Ken Whiddon, was elected to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his decades of dedication to the sport as a coach. Ronnie McGirt, a Dublin High track star, captured the State AA title in the 110 m high hurdles.
E.G. Kight, nationally renowned blues singer, was nominated for her third W.C. Handy Blues Award. Awarded annually to the country's best Blues artists, Kight, the 2004 nominee for Best New Artist, was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Female Artist. On May 15, 2005, the local company of the Georgia National Guard, 48th Brigade mobilized for duty in Iraq after months of training in the deserts of California.
The dream season of the Dublin Irish football team ended prematurely with an upset loss to Cook County in the second round of the state playoffs. The Irish (12-1) scored 549 points during the regular season, setting a Georgia high school record. The Irish finished the season with 621 points as the only team in Georgia high school history to average more than fifty points per game. The Irish established the greatest margin of victory in a season with a 51.75 to 2.5 spread. The Irish defense posted the second lowest points allowed total in a regular season with the only score being a late field goal in the ninth game of the season. The Irish set regular season records for the most games scoring more than fifty points (5), most games scoring more than forty points (9), most games scoring more than five t0uchddowns (10), most touchdowns scored (76) and fewest touchdowns allowed (0). Defensive End Chopper Foskey was named to the AA All State Team. Demaryius Thomas, a wide receiver from West Laurens High, made the team as well. Thomas Barnes and Brian Wilcher of the Irish were named as honorable mention members. Quintez Smith, former Dublin High back sophomore defensive back of U.T. Chattanooga, was named to the All Southern Conference team.
For the fourth year in a row West Laurens and Dublin High wrestling teams finished at the top of the state in wrestling competition in 2006. West Laurens, the winner of the State Dual's Competition, took it's second consecutive AA title with individual titles being won by Blaine Harvey, Michael Slaughter(2 time champion) and Walter Blash. Dublin wrestlers Deion McLendon, David Stanley and Marcus Allen (2 time champion) captured state titles for their team, which finished a close second to Lovett. Nicole Newman, a senior at Georgia Southern, was named to the All Southern Conference Women's Basketball team.
In March, 2006, Ben Smith and Chris Wright led the Dublin High School basketball team to the Georgia Class AA championship, the first in the history of the school. Smith and Wright, cousins and teammates from the age of five, were both named to the first all state team by the coaches and writers. Smith was named Heart of Georgia and co-Middle Georgia Player of the Year, while Wright, a former Heart of Georgia Player of the Year, was named co-Middle Georgia Player of the Year and Georgia Class AA Player of the Year. Coach Clinton Thomas was named Class AA Coach of the Year.
Brantley New, a former Dublin High pitcher, was named to the Atlantic Sun All Conference team and was the 27th round choice of the Boston Red Sox in the annual baseball draft. After deciding to remain at Mercer for his final year, New signed with the Red Sox in 2007. Sarah Howard, a Dublin Middle School student, following in the footsteps of her father Chris, won the National Under 13 Girls Championship in the discus competition. Dubliner Bill Brown, a former University of Georgia golfer, won the Georgia Amateur Golf Championship in 2006. Greg Barwick and Jim Windham won the Georgia State Championship Fishermen title in November 2006. Terry Evans, a former Trinity High School baseball star and junior college All-American, completed a stellar minor league season in 2006. As a member of the Palm Beach Cardinals, Springfield Cardinals and Arkansas Travelers, Evans banged 33 home runs, second most in the minor leagues. His slugging average of .565 was eighth best in the minors and his on base average plus slugging average placed him in the top 15 in the minors. The East Laurens girl's 4x100 relay team won a state title.
Company A 148th Forward Support Battalion of the Georgia National Guard returned from nearly a year in Iraq. As a part of the 48th Brigade, the Dublin unit was under the brigade command of Brigadier General Stewart Rodeheaver, a former S2 of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 121st Infantry Unit in Dublin in 1986. The members and their families were honored by the community with a parade and picnic on July 15, 2006.
Bliss McMichael, a student at Trinity High School, was named Georgia's Junior Miss in the summer of 2006. The State of Georgia announced the location of the state's largest office in the Office of Child Support Services in East Dublin. Joe Uliano, Jr., one of Hollywood's top music video producers, completed his 30th video production. Among Uliano's most well known clients are Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Faith Hill, Prince and Shania Twain. In 2006, Uliano produced the MTV Video of the Year for Panic at the Disco. That same year and the year before, he produced the Best Rock Video of the Year. Many of his video have been nominated for many other MTV and CMT awards. In 2008, Uliano received the MTV Video Award for producing the Best Video of the Year, Best Female Video, Best Rap Video and the Viewer's Choice Award. Delia Hammock completed her 18th year as the nutrition director of the Good Housekeeping Institute. David Heidler, a 1973 graduate of Dublin High School and college professor, completed his 13th book and continued his acclaim as one of the country's most prolific and respected writers of American history from the time of the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. During the 2006 show season, Cruiser, trained and co-owned by Linda Rowell, was the leading female pug dog in the nation.
Charles J. Bradshaw, a former Dublin High School quarterback in 1953, was elected to the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame. Bradshaw, a Little All American at Wofford College, established the Hardee's Restaurant chain. Along with his partner and wide receiver Jerry Richardson, Bradshaw established Spartan Food Systems which owned the Quincy's and Denny's franchises. Bradshaw, as President of Transworld Corporation, oversaw the operations of Century 21, Transworld Airlines and Hilton International Hotels. William Bradshaw, another former Laurens County resident and current South Carolinian, was inaugurated as the 2006 Chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Ronald Klosterman, former General Manager of the Flexsteel Plant in Dublin, was selected as the company's chief executive officer. Pam Walker, a Douglas County teacher and former Laurens County teacher, was Georgia's 2007 Teacher of the Year.
The senior members of the Dublin Irish Football didn't set out to score more points (682) than any other football team at any level of play in the history of Georgia. Nor did they set out to score more points in the playoffs (206) than any team in Georgia High School History. Nor did they set out to score more points (65) than any team in the history of semifinal playoffs in the Georgia Dome. They set out to win a state championship. On a warm December afternoon before the largest crowd (9000+) ever to watch a sporting event in Laurens County, the Irish accomplished their goal by battling Charlton County to a tie (13-13) in the Shamrock Bowl to secure the school's first football championship in 43 years. Linebacker Thomas Barnes was named AA Defensive Player of the Year. Tackle Tyler Josey and Defensive Back Jamon Morris were named to the all state team as starters. Quarterback Ben Cochran and running back Brian Wilcher were selected as honorable mention members of the team. Cochran (QB), Josey (OL), Wilcher. DB), were named as the best at their positions by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association in AA. Barnes and Roger Holmes were named the best defensive player and coach of the year in South Georgia AA respectively. Dublin kicker, Drew Griggs, who nearly died two years earlier from a staph infection, was named the Best Special Teams player. Griggs was also featured in an article in Reader's Digest detailing the dangers of the deadly contagion. The exciting year in sports ended on a high note. Former Dublin kicker Brian Mimbs brilliantly recovered his perfectly executed on side kick to help spark his Georgia Bulldogs to a come from behind victory over West Virginia in the Chik Fi La Bowl Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Former Irish defensive standout Erik Walden was tenth in the nation in quarterback sacks and as a member of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders was a member of the All Conference team of the Sunbelt Conference in 2006 and 2007. The school’s weightlifting team captured the second state title in the 2006-7 school year.
The Crusaders of Trinity High School captured a state title in football to give the county two titles in the same season. The championship marked the sixth state title for the school with other championships coming in golf, boy's track, girl's track girl's basketball and softball. The school's boys and girls teams won their fifth and third respective state championships in May, while the boys team won it third's consecutive title. Trinity's girl's basketball team won the state GISA AA championship with a win over Brookwood in March.
West Laurens wrestlers captured their third and unprecedented straight state title in 2007. Michael Slaughter became one of the state's few three time champions, while Blaine Harvey and Walter Blash won their second consecutive state individual titles. Josh Harvey, Dondricus Anderson and Germany Coleman gave the Raiders six individual titles. Bryant Meeks died in 2007. Meeks, a former All American center for the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1940s, retired in Laurens County just before his death.
After nearly six decades of operations by Forstmann and Company and it's predecessor J.P. Stevens in East Dublin, officials of the county's last textile manufacturer announced the closing of the company's plant, primarily due to Major League Baseball decision to discontinue purchasing wool hats from the company. At the peak of the plant's production, the company was the leading manufacturer of billiard and gaming table cloth in the world. Hubert Mizell, a 50-year veteran sportswriter and charter member of the Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, was honored by the Augusta National Golf Club with the Masters Achievement Award for his outstanding coverage of golf's most important tournament for more than forty years. While all untimely deaths are tragic, the deaths of two popular local pilots, James V. Hilburn and Jefferson I. Davis, III, in a plane crash in North Carolina shocked the community in early May 2007. Their deaths came only several weeks after Bob Holler and Danny Page, two parachutists participating in jump at the Laurens County Airport, became the first persons killed while participating in a St. Patrick's Festival event. An F2 tornado struck the center of the county along McLendon Road early on the morning of April 15, 2007, causing moderate damages and a few injuries.
While the county's official rain gauge showed it had rained during the month of May 2007, some places in the county received no rain at all. One otherwise cloud free day was eclipsed by a dense wave of smoke which was blown into the area from it's origin in Ware County. The drought came to a notable end when on June 2, 2007, the remnants of Tropical Storm Barry officially dumped 6.84 inches into the official gauge. Radar measurements indicated that more than eight inches fell in the area between U.S. Highway 80 East and Georgia Highway 86, with a small section receiving more than ten inches, making the 24 hour rain total one of the greatest in the history of the county.
In the ultimate of Father's Day presents, Mike Evans traveled to see his son Terry play his first major league game on June 18, 2007. Three days later, Terry Evans got his 1st major league hit, a two-run home run, during his first start in his home stadium in Anaheim, making him one of the relatively few players in MLB history to hit a home run for their first hit. Evans was named to the Pacific Coast League All Star team (he would the team again in 2009,) selected as the best minor league player in the Anaheim organization and rated the 28th best minor league baseball player in 2007.
West Laurens Assistant Wrestling Coach Gerald Carr was named the 2007 National Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Ty Wright, a former West Laurens outfielder, was named the Georgia Junior College Association Player of Year for 2007. In 2008, Wright, a junior, was named to the second team All America team and the first team All Southern Conference team.
Karl Slover, one of the last surviving actors to portray a Munchkin in the "Wizard of Oz and a resident of the Sheridan Living Center," joined his fellow Munchkins in Hollywood to receive their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Local coffee shop owner and actor, Jack Walker, c0-starred in his biggest movie role to date in the Denzel Washington and Golden Globe nominated film , The Great Debaters. As the year ended, Walker's film producing debut "12 Fl. Oz" was in post production. The feature movie, directed by Dublin native Dalton Harpe, is the first feature length movie filmed in Laurens County.
AA Defensive Player of the Year and Athlete of the Year Rashard Smith and his All State teammates Andreakas Rollins and Nick McRae, a Georgia Football Magazine All Classification lineman, led the Dublin Irish football team, whom many gave little chance of making into the playoffs after running only one starter from the state championship team of 2006, to the state semifinals in the Georgia Dome for the third time in four years in 2007. On December 10, 2007, Laurens Countians celebrated the county's bicentennial.
For the first time in the county history in 2008, both the Dublin City Schools Board of Education (Rev. Richard Sheffield) and the Laurens County Schools Board of Education (Rev. Ellis Carswell) were both headed by African American chairmen. SP Newsprint, the largest industrial plant in the history of Laurens County, was sold to the White Birch Company in 2008. U.S. Senator John Edwards became the first legitimate presidential candidate to make a campaign stop in Laurens County onin January. Nearly one hundred and forty years after he became one of the few African-American Confederate Soldiers to surrender his arms at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, William H. "Ten Cent" Bill Yopp was honored by the Governor of the State of Georgia in his annual Confederate Memorial Day proclamation.
At sunset on the evening of February 15, 2008, a special excursion train of the SAM Shortline dubbed the "Emerald City Express" arrived in Dublin from Vidalia as the first regularly scheduled passenger train from Vidalia since December 31, 1949. Tal Orr, the local train afficionado, was the first to deboard the train. The following day the train traveled to Macon also for the first time in more than 57 years.
In the sports world in 2008, Dublin wrestler Quinton Carter captured a state championship. The Trinity High girls team won their second consecutive state basketball championship. The Crusader baseball and softball teams and the girl's track teams won the state championship and the girl's soccer team finished in second place in the school's last year in Class AA. The boys basketball teams from East Laurens, led by first team all state players Jimmy Williams, Jr. and Ken Taylor (first team all-classification), and Dublin High, led by first team all state guard Rashard Smith, finished first and second among public high school teams, losing out to two private schools, who were allowed to give scholarships to players. The Dublin boys soccer team lost to yet another private school (Walker High) in the final game of the A/AA State Championship, giving the Irish three appearances in the Final Four state AA tournaments in the 2007-08 school year and leading to the Irish winning the Harley Bowers Award for the most successful high school athletic program in Middle Georgia. Erik Walden, former Dublin High footballer, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys but was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs to start the season. Walden, who was named to the all decade team of the Sunbelt Conference by CBS in 2009, ended his rookie year on his third team, the Miami Dolphis, as an up and coming special teams player. John Checkovich, a former Dublin school teacher, was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Checkovich was a three time South Carolina Coach of the Year and a Southeast Coach of the Year.
Three Mother's Day tornadoes in 2008 reeked havoc along Evergreen Road, both Buckeye Roads, and the Lowery Community killing James Tracy Clements and his wife Lisa in the first documented tornadic fatalities since 1942. Team Georgia, the seven man passing team representing the Atlanta Falcons and composed of four Dublin High football players, finished in the final four of the NFL's 2008 passing tournament in New Orleans. Irish quarterback, safety was the Class AA Defensive Player of the Year for two consecutive years and the first in player in Georgia to garner the award since the award was established in 1992. Smith tied a state record with five interceptions in one game during the 2008 regular season. Smith was elected as the Offensive Player of the Year (South) and 1st Team quarterback (AA) by the Coaches Association. Briceton Cannada, one of long line of outstanding Dublin place kickers, was named to the AA All Star team and the coaches' team as well. Brian Mimbs, who punted the sixth longest punt in UGA history and the longest in 35 years and posted the second highest mark for average yards per punt (43.1) in Bulldog history, the fourth best season average (44.0), became the only player to twice average more than 50 yards per punt in a game. Mimbs was also named as the first team punter on an All S.E.C. Team. In the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2009, Mimbs set a school record for the longest punting average (49.2) in a game. Perhaps more importantly, Brian finished as one of the nation's best student athletes and was only the fifth player in UGA to be named to the All S.E.C. Academic for all four years of his eligibility. John Checkovich, who began his teaching career at Dublin High School in 1965, was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, for his lifetime service to wrestling, which included his being thrice named as South Carolina Coach of the Year and once as Southeastern Coach of the Year. Kailey Johnston won the gold medal at in the Compound Individual Archery competition at the Junior Outdoor World Championship in October. Miss Johnston was also a member of the gold medal winning Team USA.
A world's first occurred over the skies of Laurens County on the afternoons of August 22nd and 23rd in 2008. A F-15 fighter jet, flying at a speed approaching 1500 miles per hour, made a test flight of the world's first synthetic fueled plane in an 120-mile flight from Columbus to Dublin in four minutes. In 2008, Sai Reddy became the first non-Caucasian Laurens County delegate to a Democratic Convention.
Economic woes topped the dinner table conversations in Laurens County. Gas prices skyrocketed upwards toward five dollars a gallon, before plummeting nearly two dollars a gallon in a four week period. A near record number of home foreclosures filled the legal ads of the Courier Herald. Meanwhile, Retire in Georgia magazine pronounced that Dublin and Laurens County as one of the top places in Georgia to retire in.
Not since the mid 1900s did so many statewide office seekers blitz through Dublin on the campaign trail. On October 30, 2008, United States Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isaakson briefly appeared in front of the courthouse. It was the first time that both of the state's senators appeared in Dublin at the same time. More than seventy percent of the registered voters of Laurens County turned out in record numbers exceeding twenty thousand to elect Jackie Dalton as the county's first woman Clerk of Superior Court and Buddy Adams as the county's first Republican county commissioner.
The last fifteen days of the year 2008 saw unusually warm days posting an average usually experienced in late March and early April. One rare weather phenomena was a late afternoon Christmas day rainbow in the northeastern skies over Laurens County.
Dublin High's Quinton Carter captured his second state wrestling championship in 2009. Commander Ed White, of Dublin, was awarded the Legion of Merit for his exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services from April 2007 until his retirement in February 2009 by United States Navy.
Perhaps it was a sign of the times, but on March 2 and March 3, 2009, two Dublin banks were robbed on consecutive days. Law enforcement officials captured both suspects within 48 hours. The 48th Brigade deployed for training before going to carry on the War Against Terrorism in Afghanistan. Ruby Martin, of Dublin, retired in 2009 as the longest serving court reporter in Georgia history.
The Dublin Irish basketball team won its second state basketball championship in four years by capturing the AA title in 2009 . Led by the All State guard in all classifications, Rashard Smith, the Irish (31-1) were ranked # 1 throughout the entire season and lost only once in a Florida tournament to a 5-A team. Smith finished his high school career as the AA Player of the Year, the Middle Georgia Athlete of the Year, and a two time all state player in both basketball and football. Head Coach Marvin Latham, who turned 45 on the day of the championship game, was named the AA Coach of the Year. Ben Smith, a former Dublin Irish guard and member of the Jacksonville State Dolphins, was selected to the first team of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Trinity Boys won the state championship in soccer in 2009. The Dublin boys baseball team finished in second place in 2009 and first among public high schools, which are not bound by less stringent restrictions as private schools were. Coach William Barham and pitcher Zach Mullis were named the co-coach and co-player of the year in AA. Ty Wright, an all conference outfielder of the Georgia Southern Eagles, was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the summer 2009 draft. Ronnie McGirt, a former DHS sprinter, won the NCAA Division II 110 meter hurdles and in doing so earned All-American status. Sarah Howard represented the United States in the IAAF World Championships in the shot put. Joey Knox, a former Dublin wrestler, was a 2009 Southern Conference champion.
In May 2009, Edward Whitehead, a native of Dublin and a resident of Detroit, Michigan, was honored as the oldest Boy Scout in America. Stephen Grieser, a Dublin police officer, was honored as one of the top policemen in America, by the International Association of Police Chiefs and Parade magazine. Dublin native Crystal Hardy was selected as one of only twenty Americans to carry the Olympic torch through Canada before the 2010 games.
A disgusting sign of the times was the inhumane use of pit bulls and other dogs in dog fighting contests. In October in the largest raid of its kind in Georgia history to date, sheriff's deputies, animal rights activists and humane society volunteers rescued 98 dogs who were alleged to have been used in dog fighting. Weather forecasters were given a turn around when the normally dry months of September and October were among the wettest ever without the presence of a single tropical storm in the two month period when nearly sixteen inches of rain fell on Laurens County. Unusual rains continued until the end of the year making 2009 one of the wettest ever without the aid of tropical storms.
Demaryius Thomas, a former West Laurens standout, was selected to the 2009 All ACC team and led the nation is yards per reception. Thomas was selected to the third All-American team in Division I. Quintez Smith, a former Dublin quarterback, was named to the American Football Coaches and Daktronics Division II All America first teams. Smith, the CIAA Defensive Player of the Year, tied a Division II season record with four touchdowns on interception returns and lead the division in interceptions. Smith set a NCAA Division II record with most return yards on interceptions and most receptions returned for a touchdown in a single game.
The year 2010 started off with 12 consecutive days of freezing temperatures, a series unheard in the usually moderate winters in Middle Georgia. Dublin Irish footballers, Quintez Smith, Erik Walden, Brian Mimbs, Thomas Barnes and Rashard
Smith were named to the Georgia All Decade teams. The East Laurens Falcons won the 2010 AA State weightlifting crown, the school’s first state championship in its history.
to be continued .................