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.”