Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Dublin Woman Donates Bone Marrow to


Jennifer Bellamy

@WMAZ 12/1/2010

For 22-year-old Dorrie Garner, life is full of golden opportunities. "I think that everybody is given gifts, and the purpose of those gifts is to turn around and help and love and strengthen those in need," said Garner.

The University of Georgia senior has found ways to give back though mission trips to Peru, Costa Rica, New York and Los Angeles, but managed to come across the chance to try and save someone dying from cancer while away at school.

Garner took a cheek swab test at UGA, and though others doubted her bone marrow would match up with someone in need, Garner knew better.

"I had people tell me 'you won't get a phone call' 'it's very rare, the statistics are very low that you'll get called' and I believed I would be called," recalled Garner laughing.

She says the National Marrow Donor Program flew her to Virginia for the six and a half hour non-surgical procedure, but before donating Garner spent her fall break getting ready. She says she had to have a medical injection that left her feeling weak and sore.

"It makes you kind of sick, it makes your bones hurt, but it's nothing in comparison to what cancer patients go through with chemotherapy," she said, describing the effects.

The National Marrow Donor Program says about 30 percent of people in need of a transplant can find a perfect match within their family, leaving about 70 percent to depend on the kindness of strangers or others for life-saving treatment.

Garner says she comes from a family involved in the medical profession with a father who works as a doctor, her mother a former nurse, and a brother in medical school. She says her family and friends supported her decision to try and help someone else.

"It's been a blessing," said Garner, "I think I've gotten more out of the experience than anyone." Lee Garner, Dorrie's mother, says she's proud of her daughter but knows she would say the story isn't about her. She says her daughter would want others to feel encouraged to sign up to donate bone marrow to others.

Dorrie says the preparing, undergoing and recovering took about 2 weeks. She says her professors appreciated what she did and gave her extensions that helped her get back on track with school.

Garner says she'll find out in a few weeks if the bone marrow she donated saved the life of a 52-year-old woman suffering from leukemia, but either way, the choice to try came easily.
"The idea that I can use something that I already have which is a healthy body, healthy blood, a cancer-free body to help someone just made sense to me I have it so why not give it out," said Garner.

Until she knows the outcome, she'll continue to pray for the healing of a woman she doesn't know, but cares for just the same.

If the transplant is successful, Garner says she can meet her recipient in one year if she agrees.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Family celebrates 10-10-10

By: Ed Grisamore
@Macon Telegraph

 DAVISBORO — Lula Gilbert cannot push her memory all the way back on a journey that began 110 years ago.

She can no longer recall what it was like to be alive before Abraham Lincoln was on the head of a penny and the Wright brothers had wings.

Special to The Telegraph Lula Gilbert, 110, sits with a can of snuff in this undated photo. Some of the memories are still intact, though. They return to a time when every road was dirt because no one owned a car. Or had a telephone.

She can tell stories about picking cotton and plowing behind a mule, when the field hands could have irrigated the row crops with the sweat of a summer day.

There are other centenarians who can find the recesses of their childhoods with greater clarity. Their minds don’t get as weary or have to work as hard. But they don’t have to turn as many pages of the family Bible to find their births recorded.

Sunday is being revered as 10-10-10.

For Lula Poole Bridges Gilbert, who was born on Oct. 10, 1900, in Washington County, it is 10-10 ... 110.

One hundred and 10 years is 40,177 sunrises in Deepstep and 27 leap years across the ditches to Riddleville. It is a zillion footsteps over wooden bridges along the road to Sandersville, kicking up red dirt and kaolin dust as she carried babies in her arms while trying to balance a sack of groceries on her head.

Sunday at the New Fleming Baptist Church, six generations of family and friends will gather for dinner on the grounds to honor their matriarch. They will celebrate the longevity of a woman who still carries three cans of snuff in her pocketbook and enjoys watching Westerns every afternoon on a big-screen TV in her grandson’s single-wide trailer.

There will be plenty of birthday cake, but no one will dare strike a match to 110 candles for fear of burning down the church.

Miss Lula would bake one herself, if she were able. Some folks still call her “Cook.” The nickname has stuck like the batter of her famous sweetbread. She not only fed her own family but wore aprons in dozens of other homes, where she worked as a housekeeper. For years, she was hired to cook meals for the men between shifts at a local sawmill.

She is a great-great-great-grandmother, and the branches of her family tree — scribbled in the crowded margins of spiral notebooks — are like a giant oak reaching in every direction. Two of her grandchildren, Catherine Morgan and Willie Bridges, helped fill in the details and reconstruct much of her life story.

In July, Miss Lula moved to Davisboro to live with Willie and his wife, Emma. She had been in Bristol, Pa., with her only surviving daughter, Nora Williams. Before that, she lived with granddaughter, Catherine, in Macon.

She grew up one of 10 children, and her parents, Ed and Gustann Poole, were sharecroppers. She was married at age 13 to a man named General Bridges. He passed the house one day and noticed her baby sitting a neighbor’s children. Before he formally introduced himself, he asked her father for her hand in marriage.

She gave birth to the first of her five children at age 14 and was grateful for whatever the Lord and the land provided. They pulled corn and picked velvet beans to feed the hogs. The beans were prickly, like okra, and they would wrap their sleeves to protect their skin.

When she separated from her first husband, she married Gordon Gilbert, a widower who had no children of his own but was raising three of his nephews.

She taught her children and grandchildren how to quilt, can vegetables and make potash soap. She never had a driver’s license. About the only thing she has ever collected was store-bought dolls.

Sunday, she will officially move from the ranks of centenarian (100 and older) to supercentenarian (110 and older.) According to the Gerontology Research Group, which tries to verify the age of those who qualify as supercentenarians, she will be the fourth-oldest Georgia resident.

Bess Cooper of Walton County is 114 and the second-oldest living American behind Eunice Sanborn of Texas, who is 37 days older. The second-oldest Georgian, Leila Denmark of Athens, is 112 and a graduate of Tift College in Forsyth. She achieved notoriety as the oldest practicing pediatrician in the world when she retired in 2001 at age 103. Annie Leverett of Americus turned 112 in June.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Building a Better World
BY: Scott B. Thompson, Sr.

There's a new governor in this state. You may know him as the pool guy or the father of some pretty good athletes. Now and for the next year, you will know him as the Governor of the Georgia District of Civitan International. He is as old as life and as young as the rainbow, as endless as time. His hands reach out in service to others. His ears hear the cry of children. His heart beats for every friend and bleeds for every injury to humanity. He is a Civitan. And, his name is Kenny Martin.

Kenny was born to be a Civitan. Actually, he was born before the Dublin Club was founded in 1955. His father, Hubert Martin, was the club's fifth president and a Lt. Governor of the South Georgia District. Kenny grew up in East Dublin and went to school in Dublin before returning to the Rams of East Laurens High School. It was on the East side where Kenny got his first taste of leadership. He served as his senior class president and helped to facilitate the integration of East Laurens and B.D. Perry High School. Just three years out of high school, Martin made his first venture into politics, winning a seat on the East Dublin City Council, a feat which made him the youngest city council member in the history of the county. That record didn't last long. Clifton Wilkinson set the record two years later when he was elected to the Dublin council at the age of 20.

Kenny devoted most of his time to build a life and home for his family, but found time to serve others as a Mason and a Shriner. When his law enforcement career ended, Kenny began to look for other ways of serving. He didn't look far, remembering all the times that his father and Elbert Mullis, known to many as the "grandfather of all Civitans in the South Georgia District," would meet together at his house working on Civitan matters. Kenny also remembered going with his father and other Civitans out to the old Brewton School to salvage some unused chalk boards which the county donated to the School of Hope in Dublin behind Saxon Street School. The school, whose first teacher was Mrs. Shirley Miller, was sponsored by the Civitans to help educate disabled children.

"Most people are asked to join the Civitan club. It was different with me. I wanted to get in," Martin fondly recalled. Fellow deputy Vernon DeLoach and Kenny's Civitan role model Elbert Mullis helped him to join the club in 1988.

To Martin, being a Civitan means a chance to give back to his community. "We have a strong club with a good mix of ages with members from their twenties to their eighties," Martin observed. In fact, the Dublin club, in a constant seesaw contest with Warner Robins club, is now the largest in Georgia. Kenny feels a sense of fulfillment when he and club members build a wheel chair ramp for the disabled, host an Easter egg hunt for special needs children, or host a fair, the club's biggest fund raiser, all in the name of helping children, who cannot help themselves.

Speaking of the Fall Fair, which will be held on October 19-23, Kenny Martin has headed the fair committee for the last sixteen years, going back to the old days when it was held in the rear of the Ag Center. It was a role groomed for him by Mullis. "Robert Drew helps get the building and grounds set up every year and I handle the business end of it," said Martin, who can always rely on fifty-plus year member James Hudson to handle the ticket booths, Treasurer John Simpson to count the proceeds, Wick Cochran to stock the concession stand with donated products, and every other member to step up and help where needed.

Martin served his first year as President of the Dublin club in 1997, but two years ago when a president-elect took another job and the club needed a replacement with experience, Kenny Martin couldn't say no. Old cries for him to run for District Governor by long time leaders of the old South Georgia District were heaped on him. With all of his children out of school, Martin succumbed to the pleas and threw his hat in the ring. "At the time, I didn't know I would have any opposition, there is usually not any," Martin recalled. But, at the 2009 annual convention, Kenny Martin was elected Governor of the Georgia District. He is the first Dublin member to attain that honor, although three former members have served as Governor of the South Georgia District.

Kenny took office on October 1st. In the six weeks leading up to his taking office, Martin has been busy, very busy. He attended and helped manage the district convention, only two weeks before traveling to the International Convention in Cancun, Mexico. Since returning home, Kenny has spent the last three weeks traveling all over the state attending and speaking at officer installation banquets.

This year, 2010-2011, the International Civitan Club's motto is "Pay it Forward." "Every civic club's mission is to pay it forward," Martin contended. It is Martin's goal and the club's goal to encourage every single member, there's 1150 of these public servants in Georgia, to "pay it forward" on an individual basis to help even more people in our community and around the world, including children in the International Civitan Research Hospital Center in Birmingham.

One of the Dublin club's goals for the upcoming year is the revitalization of the Special Olympics programs in Laurens County. Citing that the Olympics were once the club's most important event, Martin would like the games and community support rejuvenated.

"There are plenty of opportunities to help people out. There are a lot of people hurting with the economy and the shape it is in. You always think you have it bad until you look around and find somebody else who has it worse than you do," Martin remarked. "You don't have to look far to find somebody in need," he concluded.

So, if you would like to help disabled children and do unto others as you would have them do unto you, find a Civitan and ask for a membership application. Then, you too can help build a better world.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Hester reaches milestone with blowout win


And Tattnall Square turned in a very familiar performance in rolling past Dominion Christian 41-8 on Friday night to give Hester his 300th career win.

JASON VORHEES/THE TELEGRAPH Tattnall Square head coach Barney Hester, center, talks to his team after the Trojans’ victory Friday over Dominion Christian. The victory was Hester’s 300th of his coaching career.

The suspense was over early on as to whether the Trojans would deliver the milestone win as well as satisfy the homecoming crowd.

Hester had somewhat successfully downplayed talk of the accomplishment, until gameday and The Telegraph hit the driveway with a big feature on the impending milestone.

“I hadn’t talked a lot about it, because I don’t deal with that stuff,” he said. “Then a big, big article comes out, you get up on Friday morning and see your dang mug shot on the page, it kind of brought it to light.

“I got several messages (Friday) and that’s the one thing I said, Let’s get this thing over with and just win.”

As the final seconds ticked off on the humid night, Tattnall’s coaches congratulated Hester, and the Trojans surrounded their coach as he tried to make his way to the handshake line.

At midfield, while thanking all of his former players and their parents, Hester was given a shiny pennant that had been produced with a picture of him and a listing of his accomplishments. He introduced his family and got a kiss from Mom, his mother Shirley coming up from Dublin for the first time in three or four years. And as that postgame huddle broke, an odd sight for a Friday night — a cake.

“Coach Ratliff asked me this week what I wanted to do about it,” Hester said of athletics director and assistant coach Jeff Ratliff during his talk to players and fans. “I said, ‘Coach, do what you got to do.’ But this is pretty neat.”

Equally neat for Hester and the Trojans was the ease with which they disposed of Dominion Christian, which Hester said was down a few starters because of injury.

“They scored 33 points on Stratford,” Hester said of his rival’s 55-33 win last week over the Knights, who were within 20-18 after a quarter. “It was close for a while.”

The Trojans went 43 yards on 8 plays to score on their first possession, Andrew Layson going in from 2. Tattnall fumbled on its second possession, sent Dominion Christian backwards 22 yards, then scored on a 4-play, 30-yard drive that took less than 90 seconds, Andrew Parker getting the honors from the 2.

The Knights gave the ball back two plays later deep, and John Rader kept from 10 yards out on the first play.

Dominion Christian followed its initial first down with an interception by Gahrett Gaylord on the second play, and Rader rolled left and dumped it to Ryan Mosley, who got a block from Lance Manning and finished off the 69-yard touchdown for a 27-0 lead on the final play of the first quarter.

Big junior Arthur Williams, a 5-foot-10, 227-pounder listed as a noseguard and wearing No. 62, followed a 3-yard gain with a rumbling, tackle-breaking 41-yard score to finish a 5-play, 68-yard drive.

Tattnall followed another three-and-out with a three-play drive, Hunter Lanier and Williams getting 56 yards on the first two plays and Conner Alford going in from the 1 for a 41-0 lead with 5:48 remaining in the first half.

Dominion Christian lost 65 yards on 13 rushes while Tattnall had 27 carries for 246 yards in the first 24 minutes. The Knights finished with minus-13 rushing and the Trojans had 324 yards on the ground.

“I thought we took control of the line of scrimmage,” Hester said. “We probably could have thrown it more. All these folks would like me to throw it more, but we win pretty good without throwing it a lot.”

A well-rested Parker — the starters didn’t break a sweat in the second half, at least not from playing — was naturally happy to be part of a team that handed Hester yet another milestone.

“It really wasn’t that big a discussion out on the field,” he said. “But in the locker room, we all talked about it, making sure that we got it for him. We wanted to be the class that got it.”
GSU safety Michael Hall enjoys second chance at game

By Ken Sugiura

@ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photos @ Georgia State University

Michael Hall arrived at Georgia State to learn to heal injuries, not inflict them.

Serious and bright, Hall enrolled in the fall of 2007, when a football team at the school was merely an idea. Hall had helped his high school claim a state championship as a senior, but he put the game in his past. He wanted to become a doctor.

But football called, and Hall eventually answered. Four autumns removed from his previous football season, Georgia State's aspiring physical therapist also is a punishing member of the special teams.

Looking back to when he first learned GSU would have a team, Hall said, "It never occurred to me that I'd be in this situation today, actually on the team."

Hall likely will be on the field plenty for the Panthers' game Saturday at Campbell, the team's fourth game in school history. He plays on three of the four special-teams units and plays safety on some passing-down packages.

"He's a great tackler, and he can play," safety Brandon Jones said. Also, "He uses a lot of medical terms and a lot of big words."

Hall arrived at Georgia State from Dublin intent on experiencing college life. The first person in his immediate family to attend a four-year college, he pledged a fraternity and joined a variety of student organizations. He worked part-time jobs and volunteered. And while he cried while watching football as a freshman, his football days were behind him. He had helped Dublin High to a share of the 2006 Class AA championship -- the Irish tied with Charlton County High in the final -- but even when Georgia State announced in April 2008 that it would field a team, he wasn't interested.

Hall, the younger of two children of a single mother who had joined the Army to support her family, was determined to follow the path he had laid out for himself.

"He has always been shooting for the stars from day one," said Hall's mother, Debra Cooper.

But the more he learned about the team, the more he became interested. He had known about coach Bill Curry, for example, because Hall was an Alabama fan, and Curry had coached there.

Last fall, Hall went to an open tryout and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds despite having hardly exercised since coming to college. He was offered a spot on the team, and later Curry offered him a half-scholarship.

"For the most part, I did feel like I was reneging on what I came here for, I really did," Hall said. "But I love the game, so it's kind of like, what do you say?"

Hall has been surprised by football's time demands, but it hasn't stopped him from taking 18 hours and also helping charter a campus group that seeks to support exercise-science students. Hall, who holds a 3.3 GPA as an exercise-science major, compensates by typically getting about five hours of sleep.

He is on track to graduate by the end of next summer and plans to apply to Emory and Georgia State's physical-therapy schools and Emory's nutrition program for his doctorate. He is a junior and has a season remaining, but is keeping quiet about playing next year.

Hall has relished the laughing and joking with teammates and the chance to showcase his hard work in front of thousands. On Georgia State's first kickoff in the opener -- Hall's first play in four years -- he outran teammates to make the first tackle in school history. He calls playing football again "a blessing."

Some decisions, it would seem, are worth reversing.

I am not old or anything, but to sit out of something for that long, you would think that you would think that you wouldn't be able to bounce back, but I bounced back," Hall said. "I'm surprised."

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Porter aims to make noise in lieutenant governor race
By Aaron Gould Sheinin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2:14 p.m. Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carol Porter knows she has a difficult challenge over the next 45 days as she attempts to knock off a Republican incumbent in the race for lieutenant governor.

A Democrat from Dublin who's never held elected office, Porter sees an advantage in running from the outside, especially as an outsider who's seen how the insiders operate.

Her husband, DuBose Porter, is the outgoing leader of the state House Democrats who made a failed bid for the party's nomination as governor. So Carol Porter says she has seen enough of how the General Assembly works to know that it's time for a new direction.

"I don't want to paint every politician as corrupt because they're not, but we have had a few in leadership positions who have used their power to help their friends," Porter said Wednesday in an interview with reporters and editors at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, whom Porter hopes to unseat, is scheduled for a similar interview Sept. 27.

Porter counts Cagle among those leaders who have abused the public trust. Cagle, she said, helped Republican gubernatorial nominee Nathan Deal in Deal's attempts to preserve a state program that earned Deal tens of thousands of dollars a year. Those attempts led to a congressional ethics investigation and inquiries from a federal grand jury. Cagle has never been accused of wrongdoing in the case, and Deal has said he did nothing wrong.

Porter said the need for new leadership extends to the fact that current leadership too often abdicates its role in setting policy to an endless number of blue-ribbon commissions and study committees.

"There are lots of solutions in water, transportation and education," she said. "But if you analyze how many of the recommendations of all these blue-ribbon panels are ever implemented, you'll find we're not listening to what the people of Georgia are telling us."

Porter, who along with her husband operates a chain of small newspapers in Middle Georgia, said she sees firsthand the impact the economy and the state's budget problems are having on small businesses.

"My business touches every business in nine counties," she said. "I hear firsthand their stories. I'm not in an ivory tower. Small businesses cannot handle the burden placed on them."

Porter said across-the-board cuts to the state budget are foolish and that she would take a systematic approach to cuts, while emphasizing money for infrastructure and education.

She favors an approach that eliminates emotion and partisanship from budgeting.

"Let's put every option on the table," she said.

On transportation, Porter said passenger rail is a top priority in moving the state forward, both in terms of quality of life and in the state's ability to attract business. She said she fears that the transportation bill that passed the General Assembly this year is rife with problems that must be fixed next year. The bill called regional referendums in 2012 to ask voters to raise their sales tax to pay for local transportation projects.

Porter said she fears voters in rural parts of the state will reject the tax hike but thinks that it will pass in the metro Atlanta area, which might be enough.

"We can't have our major city in gridlock," Porter said.

From a Middle Georgia perspective, Atlanta traffic has to improve to attract business to the south. If companies can't get products to or from their Middle Georgia locations because of gridlock to the north, they're going to look elsewhere, she said.

On education, Porter said she would commit to continuing a state investigation into alleged cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta public schools.

"It absolutely must be continued," she said. "I think we knew there was a lot of cheating going on for years."

On immigration, Porter said Georgia is being forced to act because of federal inaction, but she isn't ready to commit to a specific approach.


Air Force's Cochran on the move again, back to quarterback

2010-08-25 19:49:43
@ The Colorado Springs Gazette

Ben Cochran is on the move again, and this time it appears to be for good.

Cochran, who was at safety for the first three weeks of Air Force’s training camp, has moved to quarterback and will remain there, coach Troy Calhoun said.

Cochran started his Falcons career at quarterback, moved to safety, but filled in last year at quarterback when injuries hit. Cochran had 88 passing yards and a touchdown against BYU.

The move was less about concern at quarterback – though, Calhoun hadn’t yet decided among the freshmen vying for the No. 3 spot behind Tim Jefferson and Connor Dietz – and more about Cochran’s overall value to the team. Calhoun said playing quarterback will give Cochran more time to work on special teams.

“We just felt like what his role needs to be to help our football team is to be a holder, compete for the punter job, be on kickoff return, be on punt block, and be ready to go in at quarterback,” Calhoun said.

Cochran has been mentioned as a possibility for the punting competition, and Calhoun said this could give him a fair shot to work on punting.

“There has to be a good segment of every practice where he works on being a specialist,” Calhoun said. “This allows him to do that.”

Cochran said early in camp that he could play quarterback on no notice if he had to, but he wasn’t expecting to actually be playing quarterback this season.

“It was a pretty big surprise this year,” Cochran said.

“I wasn’t expecting to unless something happened and I had to, but if coach feels this is the best for the team for me to move over and work on some punting and holding and doing the special teams I’m on, that’s what I’m going to do. Whatever needs to be done.”

Cochran did look sharp passing the ball Wednesday. He had a few strong throws, including a long touchdown to wide-open freshman Ike Ariguzo.

The coaching staff also felt comfortable moving Cochran because a couple of backup safeties, P.J. Adeji-Paul and freshman Anthony Wooding, have had good camps.

But special teams will be Cochran’s biggest impact. When asked if Cochran could become a good punter with more practice time, Calhoun replied “absolutely.”

“There have been times he’s been good, he just hasn’t hit a stride in consistency,” Calhoun said. “I’d just like to see, if he has a chance to spend more time and dedicate that way, what he can do.”

Cochran has always been versatile, and maybe that has set him back. The coaching staff figures this is a way to let him focus a little and make a bigger impact.

“With all the meetings and the whole bit, we were pulling him in way too many directions,” Calhoun said.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The Sculptor of Our Lives

Mildred Youngblood was a sculptor of sorts. For a nominal fee, this meek, compassionate, but firm, kindergarten teacher would take your child and mold him into a form, one which would last a lifetime. Day by day, with words of wisdom, acts of kindness, and a gentle smile, Mrs. Youngblood gently impressed and molded the hearts of her students with old-fashioned Christian values. As she would see them many years later, she would be reminded of their names, too many to keep a count. A modest woman, Mrs. Youngblood never touted herself as a great kindergarten teacher, but to those of us who were lucky enough to have been in her class, we will never forget the sweet gentle little lady, whose loving hands and tender heart shaped and formed us into who we are today.

Born on the first day of December 1912 in the town of Orianna, Ga., Mildred Toler Youngblood was youngest of six children of Wm. H. and Elmina Rebecca Toler. Mildred attended schools in Orianna and even a year in Greenville, S.C. before graduating from Adrian High in 1930.

Mildred Youngblood's formal education in teaching came at the Georgia State Teacher's College in Athens, where she and her friends, Francis and Ethel, had grand times. They enjoyed going down to the train station to greet the Georgia band on its out of town trips. The girls existed on a diet of peanut butter sandwiches, some times with jelly on them. They hid their goodies from home and rationed them for special occasions. After leaving her life long friend Francis Connors behind, Mildred returned to Orianna. Feeling it was best to stay near home and build up her financial resources, Mildred taught first at Condor School in eastern Laurens County before teaching at Norristown and Gillis Springs and a year at Perkins School in Jenkins County.

Mildred began to think and pray about teaching again. Another school year had started when in October of 1954, Mrs. Grace Cowart contacted Mildred and asked her about taking over the operation of Rosewood Kindergarten on Rosewood Drive. With school already in session, Mrs. Youngblood was afraid that her students would leave. Facing the decision with mixed emotions, Mrs. Youngblood prayed some more. Her prayer was answered. "Momma always said 'If I would furnish the kindergarten, then God will furnish the children,' " said daughter Rebecca Gainous. "She always had a waiting list," said daughter Nancy Thacker. And, so for the next 32 years Mildred Youngblood taught.

Known for her fantastic plays, Youngblood's students first performance was Tiny Tot's Circus. Robert Dunn, the ringmaster, led the show which featured Ted Calhoun, Hannah Hall, Susan Bracewell, Joy Tyre, Clayton Cordell and many, many others. Among the early shows were Down on Old McDonald's Farm, Mrs. McGregor's Garden, and Operetta - A Little Bit of Holland. "It amazes me how she did those programs. No child ever felt pressured and every child had a good time," Rebecca remembered. "Although I was not in kindergarten, I was in her first program, as the animal trainer," Thacker fondly recalled.

In fact, both of Nancy's children, Janet and Norman, attended their grandmother's kindergarten. "I was looking through her notebooks of her student's class records and I found that my son Norman's name appeared often in mother's bad behavior notes. Janet's name didn't appear that much. She showed no difference in the way she treated her own grandchildren," laughed Mrs. Thacker. And, both of Mrs. Youngblood's daughters became teachers as well. Nancy taught for 31 years and Rebecca even more as a kindergarten teacher, just like her mother. Nancy's daughter, Janet Thacker James, also teaches, bringing their combined total to more than 110 years. "We did morning calendar and recognized birthdays. They were a big deal! Everyone would sing and you got to pick something from the treasure box. Of course we would say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing patriotic songs, ABC songs, etc.," Janet fondly remembered.

With more than a thousand students, there are thousands of stories. There is the often told story about the boy who had a difficult time coping with being in school for the first time. In a weeping voice, the young boy's response to Mrs. Youngblood's plea to help whined, "Sometimes a Coca-Cola helps." More than a dozen years later, Younblood purchased a six-pack of bottled Cokes and shipped them to the young man as a high school graduation present.

There was a time when Mrs. Youngblood answered her front door. It was an aspiring politician. He asked her for her vote, but she declined to commit to him believing her vote was a private choice. Just as the candidate walked away, he turned and said, "You are Mrs. Youngblood aren't you?" She said, "Yes, I am." Then the man said, "You taught me in kindergarten. I will never forget that one day. I was on the playground playing and I asked you to tie my shoes." Then he said, "You said, 'Yes, I will. Let's sit down on the steps and I'll teach you how to tie your shoes.' You were so kind and patient."

Mildred Youngblood was famous for her thinking steps, two or three of them actually. I don't remember sitting on those steps, maybe I did. My brother Henry did. He remembers, "She taught me how to say the Lord's Prayer, set a table, and how to stand quietly in the corner while the others went out to recess." Norman Thacker recalled, "I spent a fair amount of time there and I remember her sitting me down and reminding me why I was there. She would then come back several minutes later and ask if I thought about what I did? Finally she would ask me what I was going to do to correct what I did? If I didn't have the right answers, then I would continue to sit and watch all my friends play." I remember a classmate being the victim of a school shooting while sitting on the steps. The victim, or the shooter, still lives in Dublin today, but the insignificant bb wound in the knee is just one more fading memory of a time nearly fifty years ago.

David Burns learned a lot about staying quiet and in his seat during lesson time. "She sure knew how to use that Bo-lo paddle, but she had a positive effect on my life. Education could surely use more teachers with the skills and heart of Mrs. Youngblood," Burns maintained. Dwight Stewart remembered going down the street with the class to a house with a television and watching John Glenn orbit the Earth. "We all sat in a circle around the television," Stewart remembered. Dwight also remembered a class mate, who wore a dunce cap, and who shall remain nameless. "You had to be pretty bad to wear dunce cap and he was," Stewart exclaimed! Stewart's opinion was confirmed by my sister Janet Greer, who observed the boy still wearing the cap in his second year of kindergarten.

When she returns to Dublin, Lorene Flanders Campbell will try to steer her car down Rosewood. "I still go down that street just to remember the magic of being there. The playhouse! - making instant pudding in the back room." Lorene fondly remembered. Gayle Stinson was one of the lucky. When she was seven, her family moved across the street from her old kindergarten. After the kids went home, Gayle had her own play ground right across from her home.

Janet James, in summing up the life of her grandmother and teacher, probably said it best, "She was not rich in money, but she was rich in love. Her legacy of generosity and service to others is forever in my heart." Janet speaks to two passages in a book which her grandmother gave her, "If you plant a few seeds, and then let go of your kids and let them grow, then those seeds will turn into something good. Home has a good deal more to do with your heart than with your house."

Earlier this summer, Mildred Youngblood went to her heavenly home with her heavily underlined, annotated Bible in one hand and an overflowing treasure box of a lifetime of fond memories of friends and family, good deeds done, and priceless duplicate sculptures in the other. There waiting for her at the gates was her late husband Elbert, who was always around the kindergarten helping the children out of their cars and through the gate and keeping the place neat and tidy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Bombing engineer really a 'gentle giant'

By Mike Wynn
The Augusta Chronicle

Staff Writer

Friday, Aug 20, 2010

METTER, Ga. --- Whenever she was in a sour mood, Lillie Jenkins could always count on "Rah Ra" to provide the tonic to draw her out of the funk.

Her middle son, whose given name is William R. Strange III, would pop in a CD of one of his favorite soul singers -- Marvin Gaye. Al Green or Johnny Taylor -- and ask her to dance. When she did, the real fun began.

"I'd go in the living room, and then I start dancing and he'd know I'll fall," she said as the memory prompted a hearty laugh shared with daughter LaShonda Burke as they sat at a kitchen table in Jenkins' home outside Metter, Ga.

"He know I'll fall. And then I fall and then they just stand there and laugh at me."

Strange loved old school R&B, but found his musical calling as a member of a rap group whose lyrics were often raw and profane. As befitting a rapper, Strange would often put up a hard front, but that image belied another one, of a kid who took home economics when he attended Swainsboro High School to learn how to cook and bake.

"He was really a big baby," Burke said. "When he went out among his friends, he had this role he had to portray. He was this hard fellow, wasn't afraid of nothing. He was nothing but a gentle giant."

Little contradictions. Hardly surprising for someone still a teenager and trying to find his place in the world. This search for self eventually led Strange to join the military.

Strange signed up at an Army recruiting station in Statesboro, Ga., a month after graduating in May 2003. He would be dead less than a year later, killed when the Humvee he was riding inside was hit by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad on April 2, 2004.

He was 19 -- the youngest of the 18 Augusta area service members who died in the war.

LOOKING BACK at that chaotic time six years ago, Jenkins now can point to things she believes were signs of the heartache to come.

Two weeks before Rah was killed, her husband, Ricky, a truck driver, had to make a run to Delaware. Jenkins, as she often did when he had to make long trips, rode along.

The delivery was to Dover Air Force Base, home of the military's largest mortuary and where the dead, in war and peacetime, are taken for processing. Jenkins said she doesn't know what her husband delivered, but she knew the base's history.

The Sunday before her son died, he called her from Iraq. The conversation was short because he had to leave for a mission. As a member of the 91st Engineer Battalion out of Fort Hood, Texas, one of his duties was setting up observation posts. At the end of the conversation, she told him to take care of himself. As usual, he told her, "I'm straight." But this time, Rah added something else.

"I know the next two seconds of my life ain't promised me," Jenkins recalls him saying to her. "I know if I go out, I know it's a chance I might not come back. I'm not afraid of that. I'm ready.

"When Rah got killed, it was like everything that I done, God was preparing me but I just didn't know it."

His decision to go into the service wasn't a surprise to Jenkins. She and LaShonda encouraged him to enlist, hoping that a stint in the military would get him away from some of the negative forces waiting to ensnare him in his hometown of Adrian, Ga.

Jenkins said some thugs were trying to convince him to go down the same road as them. When he pulled away, the family feared they might harm him.

"Seeing where his life was in Adrian and seeing where he was going in the military, I really don't think we made a bad choice," Jenkins said. "I really don't. Because, had he stayed down in Adrian, he would have probably ended up hurting somebody or somebody would have hurt him. And that's the way it was going."

A buddy of Strange, Jonathan Sapp, can relate. The two were part of a seven-member rap group called Zulu Mafia, which played at local clubs in and around Emanuel County. He left the town of about 600 residents and one traffic light shortly after Rah's death, coming to a similar conclusion as his friend about his destiny if he stayed.

Sapp now lives in Atlanta and drives trucks. After Strange died, he wrote and recorded a rap song about meeting him in heaven, titling it I'll See You There .

"In Adrian, there's a lot of dope," said Sapp, who still raps part time and goes by the moniker J/Prophet. "There's nothing to do there. If you don't have a vision and you're just floating, there are some bad elements just waiting to take you down."

He believes that had Strange lived, his friend would have pursued a rap career after leaving the service. Sapp said Strange was excellent at rhyming lyrics and the two pushed each other to become better. Being the only white guy in the group, Sapp sometimes had more to prove to audiences.

But anytime someone tried to "mess" with him at a performance, Rah always had his back, Sapp said. At about 6-foot-2 and built like an athlete, Strange wasn't someone to tangle with.

"He would take up for you," Sapp said. "Rah was a very good guy. He tried to act really hard at first, but he had a really, really good heart. We connected at that level."

Sapp said he wasn't surprised that Strange joined the military because he admired his older brother, Perry Burke, who was already several years into a career in the Marines.

The last time Sapp saw Strange was before he deployed. Sapp remembers shaking his hand and telling him that he loved him.

He also told Rah one other thing: "I said don't go over there and get killed."

STRANGE WAS supposed to have company when he enlisted. LaShonda planned to join her younger brother in the Army, but she got cold feet.

"When I found out he was going on, I'm like, 'OK, I got to do something, so I'm going to go, too,' " said Burke, who is seven years older than Strange. "Well, he was actually serious, but I was on the fence."

Once he joined, Strange took his service seriously, particularly because of what he wanted to do while there: Blow stuff up.

Doing demolition in the engineer battalion suited a fearless streak his parents said he had, although Strange admitted in a letter to Jenkins that he didn't like being in the infantry. His assignment to this unit later led to a funny misunderstanding by his mother.

When he came home on leave after basic training, she recalled asking him about fixing a washing machine that was on the blink, thinking that he had been trained to repair things since he was in the engineer battalion.

"I can't fix it," Jenkins said he told her, "but I can blow it up."

Rah, Burke said, was a born actor, who would make a simple paddling by their mother seem as if he'd been brutalized.

Getting up from the kitchen table, Burke limped around the living room and moaned, mimicking how her brother acted after his spanking.

"He would find some Ace bandages and when she'd whip him he'd hop around the house after he'd got the whipping, 'Oh you broke my leg. You broke my leg,' " she said. "He would have this leg bandaged up, and Mama would have just tapped him. He would go in the room and he'd come out the room like he was crippled. He was trying to play her, trying to make her feel bad."

Jenkins knew that.

"I'd look at Shonda and she'd look at me and I'd just turn my head and laugh," she said.

Making her laugh was something Rah enjoyed doing. Another thing he loved was fishing. He liked to brag about his prowess, but Jenkins showed him who was top dog on one memorable outing.

"He said, 'Mama, I'm going to show you how to catch fish,' " she said. "We went to this pond and we got over there and I was reeling them in; he ain't caught none. I said, 'Rah, what's the matter?' He said, ...'Man I can't get no fish.' I done caught about 10."

His father, William, who lives near Jenkins down the same dirt road in rural Candler County, said he taught his son how to fish, just like his father had taught him. They'd go fishing pretty much every weekend and have father and son talks.

As he got older, Rodriquez -- the full middle name his father uses instead of its shortened nickname version of Rah Ra -- discovered something more fun: girls. They went fishing less and less after that, Strange recalled, smiling.

"It's amazing how quick they grow up," Strange said. "How those years just went by. One day they're just little babies and the next day, they grown. Time flies. You just wish you had spent more time with them."

DECIDING TO talk about Rah and dredge up the lingering hurt is difficult for his family. Each can recall with crystal clarity the moment the two Army officers, one a chaplain, pulled into their driveways to deliver the devastating news. Not so much about the moments immediately after.

Jenkins takes comfort in noting that her son's death inspired others. She said a number of people who knew him well, and some who didn't, told her his death prompted them to serve their country, too.

She admits that her faith in God was shaken after he was killed. As she puts it, "I was mad at the military. I was mad at God. I was mad at everybody."

Jenkins said she later came to realize that God doesn't make mistakes. There's a reason for everything.

"God don't take something and he don't leave you nothing. He replaces it with something."

She glanced at LaShonda's boyfriend, Felles Grant, after saying that. Grant is a sergeant first class with the 230th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade of the Georgia National Guard out of Atlanta. The two met a year after Rah was killed, through one of her cousins.

Grant was in Iraq from April 17, 2003, to April 17, 2004. Part of his time there overlapped with Strange, although they didn't know or run into each other.

The two have something else in common -- they share the same birthday, Feb. 16.

Burke was floored when she found out. For Jenkins, it was much more than coincidence.

"God works in mysterious ways," she said. "I'm a firm believer of that."

Sunday, August 29, 2010


A Beacon of Agriculture and Education

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

Dudley Mays Hughes was born on October 10, 1848 in Jeffersonville, Georgia. His parents, Daniel G. Hughes and Mary Moore Hughes, were prominent residents of the county. His father represented Twiggs County in the Georgia legislature. His grandfather Hayden Hughes, of Laurens County, was one of Central Georgia’s largest slave owners.

Hughes received most of his primary education at private schools, primarily at Oakland Academy. Though he never formally completed his studies at the University of Georgia, Dudley was made an honorary graduate. While in college, Dudley developed life time friendships with many of Georgia’s future leaders, including Henry W. Grady, Governor Nat Harris and University of Georgia Chancellor Walter B. Hill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Still swinging for the fences
By Ed Grisamore -

Donnie “Dodger” Fowler could knock the stitches off a softball. He could crush one a country mile from his mailbox halfway up Chicken Road toward Dudley.

He covered so much ground at shortstop, folks were convinced he had enough range to also cover second base, left field and half of Laurens County.

He played so hard he would shake enough infield dirt from his uniform at the end of every game to plant a row of butter beans.

Obsessed? Yes, you could call it that.

“I eat, sleep and drink softball,” he said.

He once played three games in one night — in three different towns. He suited up for a contest in Perry at 6:15, then hit the pedal for a church league game in Haynesville at 8 and arrived in Cochran in time for a 10 p.m. nightcap.

The march of time has now slowed him, as it does all ballplayers. He will turn 61 next week. He has played plenty hurt, battling through prostate cancer, lung problems, kidney stones and a ruptured disc.

He still plays in a senior league, a hard-nosed circuit of graybeards and ibuprofen. There is no “disabled list” in softball. You bleed and hobble from one sweaty dugout to the next. And the extra ice in the cooler isn’t just reserved for the beer in the parking lot after the game.

The only time he missed most of a season was in the early 1980s when Gary Hardie of Milledgeville, who had played in the New York Mets farm system, slid into him at second base and went hard into his knee.

Even today, Dodger is a tough out.

Not to mention, a legend.

Nine months ago, he was inducted into the USSSA Hall of Fame. It was the greatest moment of his ball-playing career. He was so nervous he asked a friend to deliver his acceptance speech.

It may not be Cooperstown, but Donnie will settle for Allentown.

He was born in Perry on Aug. 14, 1949. That same day, someone stole his father’s Model A Ford.

Ernest Fowler worked at the cement plant in Haynesville. When his five sons weren’t playing baseball out in the yard, they were down at the sandlot next to the plant.

Donnie practiced his swings by taking his bat and thumping an old tire. On Sunday afternoons, he would follow his older brother, Marvin, to semipro baseball games. When the team was short-handed, he sometimes got to play.

Although he stood only 5-foot-7, he was a crafty pitcher and sure-handed shortstop at Perry High. He led the team in hitting his junior and senior years.

Coach Roy Umstattd recruited him to play at Middle Georgia College, a junior college powerhouse in baseball, but he didn’t have the grades. He was never one to study. He cracked more bats than books.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were always his favorite team. He began following them as a young boy during their days in Brooklyn before the team moved to the West Coast in 1958. That same year, a rookie named Ron Fairly, who was born in Macon, played his first game with Los Angeles. Macon was a minor-league affiliate of the Dodgers at the time, playing their homestands at Luther Williams Field. Donnie remembers listening to many of those games on the radio.

His proverbial “cup of coffee” in professional baseball was no more than a tiny swallow. In 1970, he went to Vero Beach, Fla., during spring training for a tryout with the Dodgers. He was more nervous than a long-tailed dog in a room full of rocking chairs. Plus, he couldn’t hit a curve ball, and he was released after two weeks.

So he came home and began a career in softball than has now spanned 41 years. He met his wife, Bonnie, at a softball tournament in Dexter. He has played on almost a dozen teams that have won national championships in their divisions.

When softball players began using aluminum bats, he stuck with a wooden model he had bought for $5 at a hardware store in Perry. It was his own “Wonder Boy.” When it finally broke, it broke his heart, too.

They started calling him “Little Dodger” after he hit three home runs in a game in Fitzgerald. That was nothing. Another time, he knocked 10 straight out of the ballpark.

He still loves the Dodgers, even in the land of the Braves. He can’t hold his eyes open long enough to watch their games on TV from the West Coast, especially since he has to get up with the rooster on Chicken Road. He drives 54 miles to his job in shipping and receiving at the Boeing plant in Macon, arriving each day at 7 a.m.

A few years ago, he bought a Dodgers uniform with his name and No. 44 on the back of the jersey. He told his family and buddies he wants to be buried in it.

Until then, he’s going to keep swinging for the fences.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Cochran is Mr. Versatility for Air Force

@Colorado Springs Gazzette

Senior Ben Cochran would have punted some balls during Wednesday’s practice, but the drill was for the punt block unit, and Cochran was needed to rush the punter.

Good thing for Cochran there’s no third unit. If there was, he would probably be on that, too.

Cochran is the jack of all trades for Air Force. Coach Troy Calhoun said if the punting race was close at the end of camp, Cochran might be his punter this season, never mind that Cochran’s listed position is safety. Or that Cochran hasn’t punted since high school.

Cochran is used to filling in wherever needed. He started his career as a quarterback and moved to safety as a junior, but when Falcons quarterbacks were hit with injuries, he was the one who filled in. Against BYU, he played his first significant snaps at quarterback since two seasons before, when he was on the junior varsity, and he led Air Force to three scores.

“He’s never waffled about anything,” secondary coach Charlton Warren said. “If you went to him and said ‘I need you to be a fullback tomorrow,’ he’d say ‘All right coach, anything I can do to help the team.’”

Cochran is a backup at both safety positions and the fifth member of the Falcons’ nickel defense when it uses a third safety. He could be the primary holder for field goals, he’s a candidate at punter, he’s a member of other special teams units, and if called upon as an emergency quarterback, he said he would be ready for that, as well.

“I feel like I could go out tomorrow at quarterback and execute, just because I’ve done it so long,” Cochran said.

Cochran moves around because he wants to play. Versatility gets noticed by coaches, and his attitude about assuming any role is an endearing trait to the staff.

“I just want to get on the field anywhere I can and compete,” Cochran said.

Asking Cochran to punt might be a bit of a stretch, but Cochran said he could do it. Whether Calhoun would follow through on that or is just trying to keep the heat on the team’s full-time punters will be seen. Cochran said punting would just take a little bit of extra practice time.

“You can make it work,” Cochran said.

Cochran is able to function at many positions because of his intelligence, part of which can be credited to his background at quarterback.

Warren said not everyone can handle so many assignments. But Cochran said playing multiple spots helps his overall understanding of the game.

Perhaps Cochran’s unselfishness has kept him from becoming a full-time starter at one position. But Cochran has no issue with that, and his versatility means he will be a “significant contributor,” in the words of Calhoun.

“We’ve at times pulled him in different spots that were best for the team, even though it might not have given him the best chance to play,” Calhoun said. “I want to try to do everything I can to give him the best chance to play.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Howard makes a name for herself with shot put

@ Macon Telegraph

There aren’t many shot put competitors in Georgia as good as Sarah Howard.

She is currently the top-ranked high school shot putter in the state, and she is No. 13 in the nation. And after her sophomore year at Trinity Christian, she already has the second longest throw in Georgia high school history, private and public school included.

In this year’s GISA state meet, she won the shot put by 10 feet, breaking the GISA state record by 4 feet, and added the discus title. For that, Howard has been named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Much of Howard’s success can go right back to her family.

“My dad threw the shot in high school and then in college at the University of Georgia,” said Howard, who also has the highest GPA in Trinity’s sophomore class. “I can remember picking up the shot put when I was 5 or 6, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. As I got older, I tried most of the other sports, but I wasn’t real good at any of them. I seemed to always go back to shot putting and as I got older, I kept getting better.

“I really enjoy it now, because it is a great way to get to spend a lot of time with my dad. He is fun to hang out with and has been a great coach for me. He knows when to push me and he knows when to ease off.”

Howard has been training hard all summer, trying to get stronger. She recently finished second at the New Balance National High School Meet and will travel to Singapore at the end of the month as part of the American team in the Youth Olympics.

“I went to Italy last year for the Youth Olympics and didn’t do that well, but I feel like I am way ahead of where I was last year,” she said. “I feel like I know what to expect this year, and it won’t be so overwhelming to me. I just want to continue to gain experience and enjoy myself, and if I can do that, I think I will perform well. I have put in the time in the weight room and working on my technique, so I feel pretty good about the trip.”

With two more years of high school, Howard really hasn’t thought much of where she will go to college but does hope to continue throwing the shot put on that level.

“It’s something that I really like to do, and I would like to see how good I can get,” she said. “I know that I have a long way to go, but I definitely hope to continue throwing in college. I am usually pretty focused on my training, but it is great to have someone like my dad around that knows the kind of training I need to be the best.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Rear Admiral Bill Goodwin retires

Ends 35-year Naval career with ceremony Friday

@Fox 43

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Rear Admiral John W. "Bill" Goodwin retired from the U.S. Navy following a 35-year career during a ceremony Friday aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) pierside at Naval Station Norfolk.

Goodwin most recently served as the Assistant Chief of Naval Operation, Next Generation Enterprise Network (ACNO NGEN) in Washington, DC. Prior to that, he served in Norfolk as the Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet (AIRLANT).

A native of Dublin, Georgia, Goodwin graduated from the University of South Carolina and was commissioned in May of 1975. He earned master's degrees from the Naval Post-graduate School and the Naval War College.

Goodwin was designated a naval aviator in 1977 and has experience flying the A-7E Corsair and the F/A-18 Hornet. He served as the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 94 and the underway replenishment ship USS Rainier (AOE 7) and was the first commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). As a Flag Officer, Goodwin served a tour of duty with the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany; commanded the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group and served as AIRLANT Commander prior to assuming the duties of ACNO NGEN.


Patriot Academy Welcomes New Staff

By 1LT Kyle Key
May 7th, 2010

Human Resources NCO, SFC Tony J. Edmond

“God Bless the Guard!” can be heard echoing through the halls of the National Guard Patriot Academy High School when Sgt. 1st Class Tony J. Edmond reports to work. Edmond, a native of Dublin, Georgia, reported to the Patriot Academy in April 2010 to serve as a Human Resources Non-Commissioned Officer.

The Patriot Academy is the U.S. Department of Defense’s first and only accredited high school for dropouts who wish to serve their country and earn their diplomas. Approximately 1.2 million high school students nationwide drop out each year, a trend the National Guard Patriot Academy is trying to end–one Soldier at a time. Edmond said he has the passion and dedication it takes to help guide these former dropouts to make positive changes.

“I just really want to make a difference in young lives,” said Edmond.

Edmond is a 17-year military veteran having served on submarine duty with the U.S. Navy and as a human resources specialist with the Georgia and South Carolina Army National Guard. He is a 1983 graduate of East Laurens High School in Dublin and is currently scheduled to graduate from the American Military University with his bachelor’s degree in Military History in the fall of 2010.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Keen Fast Tracking In Grand-Am

Jonathan Ingram
Senior Writer, Friday, 2 July 2010.By Jonathan Ingram
Senior Writer

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Leh Keen is on the fast track in sports car racing. That’s not a reference to the infield and oval road course at the Daytona International Speedway, scene of Saturday’s Grand-Am Rolex Series race. Keen’s career is on the fast track.

The driver from Dublin, Ga., began the season as the Rolex Series’ defending co-champion in the GT class. In March, Keen co-drove a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to victory at the Sebring 12-hour in the GT Challenge class of the American Le Mans Series.

In May, he was part of a four-man team that finished second aboard a Ferrari 430 GTC in the 24-hour race at the Nurburgring, the world’s most challenging GT race. In June, Keen was on the podiom in second place aboard the same Ferrari at his first Le Mans 24-hour.

This weekend, Keen is co-driving a Mazda RX-8 for Dempsey Racing with James Gue, who qualified fourth in class behind pole winner Sylvain Tremblay’s Mazda. Over-all, the No. 41 Dempsey Racing entry will start 16th behind Daytona Prototype pole winner Ricky Taylor, whose Dallara-Ford leads the field in the 100th race of the prototype class launched in 2003.

Titled the Brumos Porsche 250, the race will be the fourth in six weeks for the Grand-Am series – and the fifth race for Keen in that span.

A GT class specialist, Keen considers Daytona his home track. While accompanying his father, he saw his first race at the famed Florida track at the age of 13. “I had been begging to go before that,” he said of the relatively easy trip to Daytona from Dublin to watch the Rolex 24 at Daytona, “but my mother made me wait until I was older.”

Most of his friends drove pick-ups, but Keen followed a path laid out by his father, Lehman Keen Jr., a banker with a fondness for powerful Porsches.

Keen’s informal training included track days with the Porsche Club of America in his father’s equipment, which included a Porsche 911 993 GT2 Evo that had raced at Le Mans in 1996. “We showed up with the biggest gun and kicked everybody’s butt,” recalled Keen. A stint at the Panoz racing school at Road Atlanta followed when he was 18.

“I’ve really just always been into driving cars,” said Keen, who taught himself to drive on the dirt roads around Dublin, located in the rolling piney woods region between Macon and Savannah. “I’ve been doing that since I was 16. I always wanted to progress with the car and develop it a little bit better. The first car I drove was a Mercedes E320. It belonged to my grandfather and was four-wheel drive and no traction control. It had very good steering angles. I really had some fun with that car.”

In his first season in the Grand-Am Rolex Series in 2005, Keen co-drove a Porsche to victory at Watkins Glen with Autometrics Motorsport. He scored a victory with Synergy Racing at Mid-Ohio in 2006, then was brought on board at the front-running Farnbacher Loles Motorsports for 2007.

After a heavy crash at Mid-Ohio caused by a car blocking the track curtailed his season, Keen came back to win at the track in 2008 with Farnbacher Loles. A pairing with Dirk Werner in 2009 resulted in a Grand-Am Rolex Series GT championship for Farnbacher Loles, a season that included another win at Mid-Ohio, one of the most technically demanding tracks in North America.

When the Farnbacher Loles team broke up shortly after the end of the 2009 season due to the legal problems of financial consultant Greg Loles, Keen kept in touch with the team’s technical guru, Horst Farnbacher.

Keen credits Farnbacher, whose son Dominik is also a driver at Hankook Team Farnbacher, for sharpening his skills. “I hadn’t really evolved too much at that point (when he joined Farnbacher Loles in 2007),” said Keen. “Then I started to evolve strongly. I always got along well with Horst and I always got along well with Dominik.”

An effort to stay in touch with Horst Farnbacher paid off once his Ferrari team was launched with the backing of Hankook Tires. “It’s just weird how thing work out,” said Keen. “I kind of got to know Horst a little better so I could go to Le Mans. Then we ended up going to the Nurburgring.”

At the Nurburgring, Keen drove in the fastest class over-all aboard his Ferrari in a starting field of 198 GT machines on the famed “Green Hell” circuit measuring over 15 miles. At Le Mans, the GT2 class Ferrari was the slowest of the four classes in the high-speed French race dominated by the prototypes of Peugeot and Audi.

Now he’s back at his home track where the Daytona Prototype category is marking the 100th start for the closed cockpit cars. Keen is open to the prospects of driving a prototype, but it’s not a priority.

“One thing now, I’m getting content with what I’m doing,” he said. “I never had a thing for prototypes. I’m so totally into GT cars.”

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at

Jonathan Ingram
Senior Writer, Friday, 2 July 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Old Bulldog teaches new tricks

June 30, 2010 by RYAN BLACK

@ The Red and Black

Former University baseball player Jasha Balcom may not be in professional baseball anymore, but it is possible in the near future you may see a player he groomed playing in the MLB.

Balcom founded HittersBox Baseball Inc. a little over a year ago.

“I just decided to start my own baseball training company because I got tired of working my 9-to-5 job and I just wasn’t happy,” Balcom said. “When I founded the company, I was still contracting lessons at other facilities, and so I decided I needed to start my own place. I came over here to Competitive Edge Sports [facility], because this is where I used to train when I played for the Cubs, partnered with them to get space…and here we are.”

June 26 marked the grand opening of HittersBox in Duluth, and Balcom put on a free clinic for kids. Former Atlanta Braves catcher Javy Lopez and Atlanta Falcons defensive end Chauncey Davis stopped by to talk with those in attendance.

Growing up in Dublin, Balcom said baseball had “always been a passion” for him, and he was given ample opportunities to play locally since his father worked for the Parks and Recreation Department.

And though he loved Dublin, he said he saw that to reach his goal of becoming a MLB player, he would have to widen his perspective.

“I wanted to be a major league baseball player, and I wanted to do it so bad that I worked hard every day to get out of Dublin,” Balcom said. “I always wanted to go to college and then become a professional. I grew up wanting to go to Georgia, and assistant coach [David] Perno was the first coach to ever recruit me.”

Balcom eventually made it to the University, but not before a two-year layover at the College of Charleston, where he was named a Freshman All-America in 2001.

He transferred to Georgia in 2002 after completing his sophomore year.

“Jasha had great talent and gave us a good left-handed bat with some sneaky pop for [the] long ball,” Perno, now the head coach, said. “He was very athletic and could play all three outfield spots. He always was in a good mood with a smile on his face. He was a great teammate and a wonderful kid to coach.”

Balcom remembered one moment in his Georgia career above all else — getting to play in the first game Georgia and Georgia Tech contested at Turner Field in 2003.

“Playing in front of 10,000 fans that day…was incredible,” he said.

The game, dubbed the “Spring Baseball Classic for Kids,” was won by Georgia 10-3, with Balcom playing a key role in the victory. He went 2-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and three runs batted in. Balcom came to the plate with a tie game and bases loaded — every childhood player’s dream.

“It was 3-3, I came up, and it was a 3-1 count,” he said. “The crowd was on their feet, and I cleared the bases with a double, and you could hear all the Dogs ‘barking’ in the stadium. It was just an incredible moment. I got interviewed on national television after the game, so that was probably the coolest experience I ever had.”

After his time at Georgia ended, Balcom was picked by the Chicago Cubs in the 33rd round (973rd overall pick) of the 2003 MLB Draft.

Balcom played for the Cubs’ Arizona League rookie affiliate in 2003, and another Cubs affiliate, the Boise Hawks, in 2004.

In his final season with the Cubs organization, he was assigned to the Peoria Chiefs in 2005 before deciding to retire.

Though he never made it to the major leagues, Balcom said he enjoyed his time in the lower levels of professional baseball.

University alum Jasha Balcom works on teaching proper hitting technique with a young player. PHOTO COURTESY QUENTIN DAVIS

“It wasn’t easy being away from home, and all the long bus rides you had,” he said. “But you look back on it, and you’re young, and you’re getting to do something you love. I mean, I would have played for free just to get the opportunity to play every day.”

When he retired from baseball, Balcom then went into a different type of game — the high-stakes world of stock brokering.

“I didn’t know what job I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to make some money,” he said. “People from baseball opened some doors for me, and my uncle was a broker for 25 years at Morgan Stanley, so I saw what he was doing and I decided I wanted to get into that.”

Though Balcom made good money as a broker, baseball was something he could not push away from his mind for long.

He quit his job to give baseball one last shot in 2007, taking time to train in preparation for the upcoming season.

He joined the independent South Georgia Peanuts, appearing in 86 games, attaining a .304 batting average and collecting 100 hits in 329 at-bats. He also led the South Coast League in stolen bases (34) as the Peanuts won the SCL championship by beating the Macon Music 2-1 in a best-of-three series at the end of the season.

When he received no feedback from any MLB teams after his season with the Peanuts, he decided to call his playing career quits for good.

“I felt like I gave it one more shot, and I enjoyed it, but now it’s time to move on to bigger and better things,” he said. “So I’m at peace with my decision.”

Balcom still wanted a way to stay around baseball, so he started teaching lessons with 10th Inning Baseball Academy, Chipper Jones’s baseball and softball training facility in Suwanee for two years before he started HittersBox.

Now, Balcom is combining his love of baseball with the business sense he gained in trading stocks, and he couldn’t be happier.

“I wanted to be able to do baseball and become a business owner,” he said. “I wanted to be a business owner in the community… [and] being able to give back to the community and working with kids. That’s the thing I enjoy waking up every day doing.”

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Dexter's Mark Twain

Millard Whittle lives in a house on a hill. He has lived in that same house, on that same hill, for sixty years. Before that, he lived in an old house in that shady spot for fifteen years. And, before that, he lived in another house, the house in which he was born, for twenty-five years. For all but three days of the last century, Millard Whittle has lived on the same road, Whittle Road, a road which the county named after him. On Saturday, Millard will celebrate his 100th birthday with his family and friends at Mt. Carmel Church, where he began attending before World War I.

Millard Whittle was born on May 1, 1910 to James and Bessie Davis Whittle. William H. Taft was president. Mark Twain had just died, claiming that he came to Earth on Halley's comet and left this world when it returned. Maybe that's when Millard Whittle hopped off the comet and took his place. You see, like Mark Twain, Millard Whittle is a story teller. Not appearing to be anywhere near his biological age, Millard Whittle still has an elephant mind and spins stories of distant yesterdays as if they happened only just yesterday.

He'll never forget the killer tornado that struck the Mt. Carmel community 81 years ago. "That afternoon of the tornado was rainy. There was a thunder cloud back in the west," Millard remembered. Millard and two or three of his friends went to play catch with an older man, who loved baseball too. "We got tired and started home. I looked back toward Chester. It looked like a whirlwind, except it was getting bigger and bigger. Pretty quick the wind picked up. Shortly that thing swept out there where we were. We had to hit the ditch. I don't think right there it would have picked us up, but it would have blown you down. You couldn't have stood up out there," he continued.

"I'll never understand. That tornado came in from the west. It tore everything down between Chester and over here on Highway 338. When I approached Mt. Carmel church, it just flattened it. It just went right down. It didn't tear it up. It just squished it. It made a right turn at the new school house across the road there, a hundred yards away, doing just a little damage to one of the porches. I guess it blew a board or two off it. Then it headed directly in this direction," Whittle concluded.

This is Millard Whittle's 101st baseball season. He loves baseball and would have loved to play it as a career, wishing he could have had the opportunities like kids do today. Whittle did play a little ball, playing a few games for Mt. Carmel H.S. and a semi-pro mill team in Thomaston. He has seen all the rookies from Babe Ruth to Jason Heyward. His favorites were Bob Feller and Dizzy Dean, but Millard is, win or lose, a die-hard Braves fan, still watching and listening to every game he can. The pitching foursome of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery were his most recent favorites.

For fun Millard sits in his fifty plus year old rocking chair on his front porch on a warm day watching the cars go by. He remembers his first car, a 1930s Model A, which he bought in 1936 from a Buckhorn school teacher. "I think I paid $175.00 for it. He just had the engine reworked. They must have done a good job on it, because I drove it for 14 years," Whittle chuckled.

For a man who remembers a lot, Millard wants to be remembered as a Dexter man who tried to treat everybody like he wanted to be treated. "I don't think I will leave any enemies here." Mr. Whittle said. "If I owe you some money, I'll pay you back. If I owe you an apology, I'll do the same," said Millard, who farmed his land for more than seventy years. On Sundays, he attends Mt. Carmel Church, where he taught Sunday School, helped others in need and, along with his wife Julia, kept the grounds well groomed.

Although Millard Whittle has more than his share of memories of the past, he never loses sight of the future. He keeps up with the news on television and in the papers. Whittle pondered, "I don't know where we are headed. That last depression ain't like this one. Our leadership is way different. One day, some of these countries that we owe so much money to are going to want their money, ain't they? How we got into this mess, I don't know. I thought, we thought, we were electing good common sense hard-working people."

Mr. Whittle invites his friends to join with his children, Winston, Royce and Jane, this Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at Mount Carmel Church to celebrate his milestone. If Millard Whittle had just one wish on this, his 100th birthday, he would wish for our society to change. "I'd love to see the world as a whole change back to the way it used to be. Everybody is in a hurry now. People loved one another back then. I realize if you went back to the way we used to be, money was short, but if I had anything to do with it, I'd love to see some of the old days," Whittle prays. So when you blow out your candles, all of us will be wishing and blowing with you. So, here's to you Millard Whittle, may you have another century or at least until your comet returns in 2062.

Meanwhile, the mourning doves still coo, the mockingbirds still mock and bumblebees still buzz out on the Millard Whittle place, just as they have for the last one hundred years.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Somehow Bay-Bay found his way

By Doug Roberson

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

6:34 p.m. Friday, April 23, 2010

Mother in federal prison. Grandmother in federal prison. Father often absent because of the Army. At least seven homes and five caretakers. And one choice that a child shouldn't have to make.

The life of Demariyus "Bay-Bay" Thomas could have gone in many directions, nearly all of them bad. But after his standout career at Georgia Tech, his life has come to this: The boy who had reason to cause trouble but never did was drafted by the Denver Broncos on Thursday and will soon be a millionaire.

Why didn't he use his circumstances as an excuse?

Ask Bay-Bay, and he'll say his determination kept him on track.

"Aside from my family, this is the most important thing to me," Bay-Bay said. "I won't let anything get in the way."

Bay-Bay's father's house in Hampton looks like a bachelor pad. A black leather-sectional sofa faces a big-screen TV. It's very clean but very sparse. Because Bobby Thomas travels a lot for the Army, there's not a lot of time to accumulate clutter.

The few mementos hanging on the wall or sitting on the TV cabinet are the only evidence that Bay-Bay is his son. A plastic orange from the Orange Bowl with Bay-Bay's autograph and a trophy he received for his work in the weight room are the most prominent.

But you don't need to see the trophies to know that this is Bay-Bay's dad. They'll give you the same looks when they talk. They have the same upper-body shape, the same easy-going temperament. They even have the same walk.

Sitting on the sofa, Thomas beginsto tell how Bay-Bay got where he is today.

Bobby met Katina in the summer of 1985. A friend introduced them at her home in Allentown, near Macon. An Army enlistee, he was to report to Ft. Rucker in Dothan, Ala., later that year. Despite his situation and 200-mile distance, they decided to date. On Christmas 1987, Demaryius was born and quickly nicknamed "Bay-Bay," a take on Bobby's nickname of "Boo-Boo."

The 3½-hour drive began to take its toll and Bobby and Katina split. He would see Bay-Bay on weekends and on holidays. There were no disagreements between the two over Bay-Bay.

But soon her trouble began.

She was arrested when Bay-Bay was 5 and charged as an accomplice to a robbery. It was her second brush with the law in three years; she and her mom, Minnie Pearl Thomas, were arrested in 1990 for selling pot.

Bobby Thomas had just landed in Saudi Arabia and quickly made arrangements for Bay-Bay to stay with an aunt. When his deployment ended in 1991, he and Bay-Bay moved in with his mom, Gladys, in Dublin.

Bay-Bay was 6 when his mother finished her year in Wilkinson County jail, and he asked his dad if he could move back. Not wanting to keep his son away from his mom, Bobby said yes.

But when she went to prison in 1999, there would be no moving back for Bay-Bay, then 11.

Nor could he stay with Bobby, who didn't know where the Army would send him next.

Not wanting to leave his friends, Bay-Bay asked his dad whether he could stay in Dublin. Bay-Bay had always played sports – he and his momma used to compete in foot races and basketball -- but he began to realize that he was good at them. Always one to try to make Bay-Bay happy, Bobby arranged for him to move in with Gladys again.

That didn't last. A foster parent, she had three girls living with her. So, Bay-Bay's father arranged for his sister, Sheila, to take the child.

Bay-Bay began to develop a pattern that would make him successful: He would take the conflict in his off-the-field life and carry it into his game. It focused him on the field. Sports became his release.

His aunt didn't want to deal with the hassle of shuttling Bay-Bay back and forth to practices and games.

Before Bay-Bay went to school one morning, she told him that after the final bell rang he had to come home, he recalls.

He stayed after for practice.

When he did get home, she told him to choose between her and sports.

How do you give up the one thing that was always there for you?

Bay-Bay couldn't do it.

He chose sports.

"I needed to move on," Bay-Bay said, " so I moved on."

His next stop was family, too.

Sitting on a dark plaid couch, surrounded by her parents, sister, grandmother and cousins, Bay-Bay's cousin Angela picks up the story.

She saw Bay-Bay in the hallway one day while walking to class. She could tell that something wasn't right. She invited him to stay over at her house, with her mom, Shirley, and her dad, James.

One night turned into two. Before long, Bay-Bay was living at the little yellow house, with the add-on here and the add-on there, already bulging with Shirley's sister and a foster son.

Uncle James and Aunt Shirley gave him stability and discipline. And they did it the old-fashioned way: with chores and religion.

James worked for Georgia Power during the week and was an usher and deacon at Macedonia Baptist Church, a tiny concrete homage to the Almighty nestled between the railroad tracks that bisect Montrose, a cemetery, and some seasonal marshland.

Bay-Bay had no choice but to go with his aunt and uncle. Eventually, he took to it, and to them.

"Ma'ams" and "sirs," "please" and "thank you" were the norm. Shirley was the enforcer. James was the softy. He would put $2 on the dresser every day for lunch and $10 more every Saturday.

And so the pattern was cast.

Bay-Bay would take his feelings and turn them into fuel on the playing field. Once the game was over, he would go back to living his life. Most popular. The mentor. Off the field, he would make sure that everyone felt loved.

No one in the house can ever remember Bay-Bay doing anything bad, other than driving solo when he was 15 to ease the burden on his new family.

"If I wasn't there," BayBay said, "I wouldn't be here."

Katina walks into the visitation room at the federal prison in Tallahassee. . She looks just like Bay-Bay. Same face, same cheeks, same mouth, same smile. Same courteous manners, too. .

She puts her hands on the table and it's obvious why Bay-Bay was one of the most coveted receivers in the draft.

His are her hands: Thick with long fingers. She's slightly embarrassed to show them, but proud that her son shares them.

In her prison dorm room she keeps three folders that are 12-inches thick, crammed with photos and articles. The mementos come from the Internet and the prison's library, fished by her out of the recyclables.

Sitting beside her mother, Minnie, both wearing identical prison-issued plain brown tops and pants, Katina has only an hour to tell her part of Bay-Bay's story.

The last morning of her freedom, Bay-Bay was a sixth-grader. She didn't want to embarrass him with a tearful goodbye. So before she put him on the school bus she simply hugged him and said, "I'll see you when I get back."

Waiting nearby, federal agents took her and Minnie to the county jail in Macon. Minnie had turned to selling drugs out of her double-wide trailer in Dublin, just a few miles down the road from where James and Shirley lived.

Leading up to that final arrest, Bay-Bay had recognized that something wasn't right. His mother would finish the third shift at the local factory and pick him and his sister up from his grandmother's trailer and take them home. Around the house, he would watch his mom hide thick stacks of money.

"I always had this feeling that they were going to get caught," Bay-Bay said. "I asked my mom to stop but she never did."

Federal drug agents had tapped their phones, planted a camera at a neighbor's house and watched Minnie's trailer.

Bay-Bay's grandmother, with two strikes already, got life. His mother was offered eight years to provide evidence against her mother. She refused and got sentenced to 20.

Though they talk on the phone several times a week, just 15 minutes a time, per the rules, Bay-Bay has only seen his mother three times in 11 years, most recently before Tech played at FSU last season.

She remembers asking him once, "Are you that good?"

"Yes, momma."

She watches every game. She and other prisoners take black eye-liner and write Bay-Bay's number "8″ on one cheek, and "GT" on the other.

Bay-Bay is sitting in his agent's office, surrounded by photos of NFL greats.

He wears black workout gear given to the players at the NFL combine. His voice is flat. When he's thinking, he bites his lower lip, just like his mother. He only occasionally makes eye contact. He's so detached, he could almost be one of the portraits hanging behind him.

When he decided to leave Georgia Tech after his junior year and go pro, it became clear that an NFL team would find out about his past.

After consulting with his dad and agent, he asked his mom whether he could break his promise never to talk about it.

He doesn't talk about his mother often, but he thinks about her all the time. He has lost count of how many letters she's sent. He keeps them in a shoebox and re-reads them from time to time. He plans to see her before mini-camps start.

His mother is to be released in 2017. Bay-Bay's career could be over by then., and she hopes that he's able to stay healthy so that she can see him play in person, at least once.

Meanwhile, he hopes that he's able to repay everyone who has helped him along the way. He wants to buy a home for his mom. He wants to build a halfway house or a new church in Dublin for his Uncle James to run.

Those he loves most haven't always been there for him, but others have. Together, they helped Bay-Bay become a young man of grace and determination.

"One of the biggest reasons we're so proud of him," his mother said, "is in spite of everything he has succeeded."