Thursday, December 13, 2012


Frances could remember the days when she wasn't free. Some seven decades after she received her freedom, she sat down in her home on Bridge Street in Athens with Sadie B. Hornsby to relate her memories of the days when she lived in one room log cabin with a stick and mud chimney. Frances never forgot the day she was free to go were ever she wanted to, when she wanted to. This is her story, in her own words, a woman's story of slavery as she saw it. They are her words, written long ago in interpretation of her own simple dialect.

"I was born way off down in Twiggs County 'bout a mile from the town of Jeffersonville. My Pa and Ma was Otto and Sarah Rutherford," Frances recalled. There were nine children and parents living in a meager hut they called their home. "Our bedsteads was made out of rough planks and poles and some of 'em was nailed to de sides of de cabins," Frances remembered. The mattresses were stuffed with wheat straw while it was in season. "When dat was used up us got grass from de fields. Most any kind of hay was counted good 'nough to put in a slave's mattress," Mrs. Willingham said. "Dey let us mix some cotton wid de hay our pillows," she added.

In her four years of slavery, Frances was somewhat exempt from toiling in the fields. "Us chillun never done much but play 'round de house and yards wid de white chillun. I warn't but four years old when dey made us free," she reminisced.

Frances could still remember her grandmothers and aunts. "I remember once Grandma Suck, she wes my Ma's mammy, come to our house and stayed one or two days wid us. Daddy's Ma was named Puss." Both of her grandmothers were field hands, but her mother worked in the house carding and spinning threads. Her aunt Phoebe weaved the threads onto cloth and her Polly sewed the cloth into threads.

As a child, Frances never had any money. "Nobody never give slave chillun no money in dem times. I never had none 'til atter us had done been give our freedom." But, she did see the money that her master Elisha Jones had. " I used to see Old Marster countin' of it, but de slaves never did git none of dat money. "

Frances spoke somewhat highly of her master. " Our Old Marster was a pow'ful rich man, and he sho' b'lieved in givin' us plenty to eat. It warn't nothin' fine, but it was good plain eatin' what filled you up and kept you well. Dere was cornbread and meat, greens of all sorts, 'taters, roas'en-ears and more other kinds of veg'tables dan I could call up all day. Marster had one big old gyarden whar he kept most evything a-growin' 'cept cabbages and 'matoes. He said dem things warn't fittin' for nobody to eat."

Jones trusted Otto enough to let him go hunting on his won. One delicacy in Frances' family was possum. Her family had to cook everything in an open fireplace. I've seen Ma clean many a 'possum in hot ashes. Den she scalded him and tuk out his innards. She par-boiled and den baked him and when she fetched him to de table wide a heap of sweet 'taters 'round him on de dish, dat was sho' somepin good to eat," Mrs. Willingham fondly recalled.

As a child slave, her clothes were at least decent. In summer, the girl slaves wore homespun dresses, with full skirts sewed tight to fit their waists and fastened down on their backs with buttons made out of cows and rams horns. "Our white petticoat slips and pantalettes was made on bodices. In winter us wore balmorals what had three stripes 'round de bottom, and over dem us had on long sleeved ap'ons what was long as de balmorals. Slave gals' pantalettes warn't ruffled and tucked and trimmed up wid lace and 'broidery lak Miss Polly's chilluns' was," Frances concluded.

The adult slaves on the Jones' plantation wore rough brogan. Frances and the other children wore the hand me down shoes that the Jones children had outgrown. "Dey called 'em Jackson shoes, 'cause dey was made wid a extra wide piece of leather sewed on de outside so as when you knocked your ankles 'gainst one another, it wouldn't wear no holes in your shoes. Our Sunday shoes warn't no different from what us wore evvyday," Frances said.

Elisha and Mary Jones were wealthy by most standards. In the year before the Civil War began, Jones owned $20,000 worth of real estate and $36,500.00 of personal property including slightly more than fifty slaves.

"Marse Lish Jones and his wife--she was Miss Polly--was our Marster and Mist'ess. Dey sho' did love to be good to us. Dey had five chillun of deir own, two gals and three boys. Dey was: Mary, Anna Della, Steve, John, and Bob. 'Bout deir house! Oh, Missus, dat was somepin to see for sho'.

Frances remembered the Jones's plantation house near the Town of Marion, then the capital of Twiggs County. "It was a big old fine two-story frame house wid a porch 'cross de front and 'round both sides. Dere was five rooms on de fust floor and three upstairs. It sho' did look grand a-settin' back dar in dat big old oak grove," the old slave woman looked back.

Mrs. Willingham vividly recalled her old master, "Old Master had a overseer but he never had no carriage driver 'cause he loved to drive for himself so good." Willingham said that she never saw her master do anything except drive his carriage, walk a little and eat all that he wanted to because he was rich man and didn't have to do anything. She recalled that the plantation was very large and although she couldn't remember just how many slaves lived and worked there, she did remark, "Dat old plantation was plumb full of 'em."

Field work was hard. ""Our overseer got all de slaves up 'fore break of day and dey had to be done et deir breakfast and in de field when de sun rise up," Willingham remembered. The slaves would work all day past twilight before they came back to their quarters to eat supper and rest.

Whippings on the Jones place were somewhat rare, at least Frances never saw one. She did remember the dime when she climbed on top of the porch of the big house and flapped her arms and crowed like a rooster. " Dey told me to come on down, but I wouldn't mind nobody and kept on a-crowin' and a-flappin', so dey whupped me down," Willingham remarked.

Frances and the other slaves, although a few miles from the nearest battle at Griswoldville, saw the war coming to an end. Although she was barely four years old, she told her interviewers, "Mercy me! I'se seed plenty of dem yankees a-gwine and comin'. Dey come to our Marster's house and stole his good mules. Dey tuk what dey wanted of his meat, chickens, lard and syrup and den poured de rest of de syrup out on de ground.," Mrs. Willingham remembered.

Free from all the helpless despair of seemingly eternal bondage, Frances Willingham was no better off than she was before she was granted her freedom. She had little that she could truly call her own. Slaves had their freedom, but had little choice of where to go and how to scratch out a living. Many of the things the former slaves had provided for them were now gone or beyond the reach of their somewhat less than meager incomes would allow. Although legally free, many of the slaves remained on the plantations and continued to see their former masters as still their masters.

Education was almost nonexistent in those days for black children. "I ain't never been to school a day in my life, 'cause when I was little, black children weren't allowed to read and write," she remembered.

Going to church was different too. Before the war, slaves and their masters worshiped in the same church. After the war, congregations were ironically segregated. "Colored folks had their own church in a settlement called John the Baptist," Willingham remembered in recalling that she and the other children loved going to baptisms. "Day took dem converts to a hole in de crick what day had got ready for dat purpose. De preacher went fust, and den he called for de converts to come on in and have deir sins washed away," she said.

Funerals were primitive as well. Willingham explained that Elijah Jones had set apart a burying ground for his slaves adjoining his own family's cemetery. "Us didn't know nothin' 'bout no fun'rals. When one of de slaves died, dey was put in unpainted home-made coffins and tuk to de graveyard whar de grave had done been dug. Dey put 'em in dar and kivvered 'em up and dat was all dey done 'bout it," Willingham recalled.

Frances reminisced about a single wedding on her master's plantation. She never forgot the day when Miss Polly gave her one of little Miss Mary's dresses to wear to the wedding. "Only dey never had no real weddin'. Dey was jus' married in de yard by de colored preacher and dat was all dere was to it," she recollected.

Frances Willingham fondly recalled Christmas times in her youth. She remembered going to bed early because she and the other children were afraid that Santa Claus wouldn't come to see them. "Us carried our stockin's up to de big house to hang 'em up. Next mornin' us found 'em full of all sorts of good things, 'cept oranges. I never seed nary a orange 'til I was a big gal," she reminisced.

Food was plentiful in holiday times. "Miss Polly had fresh meat, cake, syrup puddin' and plenty of good sweet butter what she 'lowanced out to her slaves at Christmas. Old Marster, he made syrup by de barrel. Plenty of apples and nuts and groundpeas was raised right dar on de plantation. In de Christmas, de only work slaves done was jus' piddlin' 'round de house and yards, cuttin' wood, rakin' leaves, lookin' atter de stock, waitin' on de white folks and little chores lak dat," she remembered. Hard work resumed on the day after New Year's Day.

Medical care, although primitive at best, was available, if only on a limited basis. Of those days, Willingham recalled, "White folks was mighty good and kind when deir slaves got sick. Old Marster sont for Dr. 'Pree (DuPree) and when he couldn't git him, he got Dr. Brown. He made us swallow bitter tastin' powders what he had done mixed up in water. Miss Polly made us drink tea made out of Jerusalem oak weeds. She biled dem weeds and sweetened de tea wid syrup. Dat was good for stomach trouble, and us wore elder roots strung 'round our necks to keep off ailments," Mrs. Frances remarked.

The women of Frances Willingham's day had little rest, even after leaving the fields. She recalled that when the slaves came in from the field, the women cleaned the houses after they eat and washed clothes early in the morning so that they would be dry for the next day. She remembered that the grown men would eat, sit around and talk to other men and then go to bed.

Saturday nights were a time to frolic. Quitting time came around three or four o'clock in the afternoon. "Sadday nights de young folks got together to have deir fun. Dey danced, frolicked, drunk likker, and de lak of dat. Old Marster warn't too hard on 'em no time, but he jus' let 'em have dat night to frolic. On Sunday he give dem what wanted 'em passes to go to church and visit 'round," she reminisced.

Jones allowed his workers little rest from the time crops were planted until they were harvested. "My master did allow us slaves to have cornshuckin's, cornshellin's, cotton pickin's, and quiltin's," said Mrs. Willingham. Jones's groves of pecan, chestnut, walnuts and other trees were lucrative . When all the nuts were gathered, Jones sold them to the rich people in the cities. Afterwards, he gave his slaves a big feast with plenty to drink. After a long celebration, Jones allowed the slaves a few days to recover before resuming their grueling duties.

In her final years, Frances Willingham reflected on her freedom, "Me, I's so' glad Mr. Lincoln sot us free." She believed that if she was still a slave, that she work just the same, sick or not. "Now I don't have to ax nobody what I kin do. Dat's why I's glad I's free," Willingham concluded.

After leaving the Jones plantation, Frances moved to Putnam County, Georgia, where she married Green Willingham, of neighboring Jasper County. "I didn't have no weddin'. Ma jus' cooked a chicken for us, and I was married in a white dress. De waist had ruffles 'round de neck and sleeves," she said as she looked back to her wedding day.

Frances Willingham lived a long life. She worked hard to provide for her seven boys and ten girls. Then as she got older she did all she could to look after her 19 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.

In this month of March when we celebrate Women's History Month, let us look back and reflect on all the Frances Willinghams of the world, who toiled and worked with little rest to provide for their families as best as they could.


A Higher Calling

In a place and time when seeking and holding high public office was seen more as a duty than a way to line one's pockets or further one's own personal goals, Herschel Vespian Johnson, of Jefferson County, Georgia, did it all.  In his nearly four-decade-long political career, Johnson served as a United States Senator, Governor of Georgia, Confederate States Senator, and Superior Court Judge.  One of the few people in the history of Georgia to have a county named for them while they were alive, Herschel V. Johnson is the only person in the history of our state to sit on bench of the Superior Court of the very county which was named for the judge.

Herschel Johnson was born on September 18, 1812 in Burke County, Georgia. Johnson graduated from the University of Georgia in 1834 with classmates, Howell Cobb and Henry Benning.   While a practicing attorney, Johnson appeared in the Laurens County Superior Court in 1843 on behalf of the Central Bank of Georgia.  That same year, Johnson successfully defended Jacob T. Linder in a suit by Dr. Nathan Tucker to recover damages for taking a slave woman, Celia.  The case continued in the courts for several years.  Johnson also represented John L. Martin in minor contract cases.

After an unsuccessful campaign for Congress later that year, Johnson moved from  Louisville, Georgia, which had formerly been the state's capital, some twenty-five miles to the west to the capital city of Milledgeville to better position himself for high political office.  He jumped right in and served as a Presidential Elector in 1844, committed to James K. Polk, a close relative of his wife, Mary Ann Polk. 

Johnson positioned himself as a strong opponent to Mexican War.  When he called Alexander Hamilton Stephens a liar, the little political giant challenged Johnson to a dual.  Although the men would later become friends and political allies, the feud between them lasted nearly an entire decade.  

Johnson lost his first campaign for governor in 1847, but in the process, earned the favor of Gov. George W. Towns, who appointed him to fill the remaining term of United States Senator, Walter T. Colquitt, who had resigned from office in early 1848.  It was in those days when Georgia was politically divided, when Towns, the victorious Democratic candidate, won the election by a mere 1278 votes over Duncan Clinch, the Whig candidate, who was more highly favored by the voters of East-Central Georgia, especially in Laurens where the Democratic candidate received less than five percent of the vote.  Senator Johnson served the remaining term of thirteen months.  While in Washington, the Senator served with political icons, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, Stephen Douglas of Illinois, Sam Houston of Texas and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts.  

On November 13, 1849, Herschel Johnson became Judge Johnson, presiding on the bench of the Ocmulgee Superior Court Circuit, centered in Baldwin County.  He served in that position in 1853 when he launched another political campaign.

As the rift over the issue of slavery, state rights and secession paralyzed the country in the early 1850s, so did it divide the state of Georgia.  In the gubernatorial election of 1853, Johnson was chosen by the State Rights Party to run against Charles J. Jenkins, of the Constitutional Union Party, which was in favor of remaining in the Union, although it was not opposed to slavery itself.

Johnson won the election by 510 votes and a scant one half percent of the total votes cast.  In Laurens, the strongest bastion of the  Constitutional Union Party,  in the state,  Johnson received only 51 of 569 votes cast.  Most of the other counties in East Central Georgia also supported the Union party.  Two years later, the vote tabulation  was substantially the same with  Johnson winning the election despite the overwhelming support from Laurens and East Central Georgia counties  for American party candidate Garnett Andrews. 

As a salute to their party leader, the Democrats honored Johnson by naming Georgia's newest  County in his honor on December 11, 1858.  

As war became more eminent in the latter years of the decade, Johnson modified his position and became an opponent of secession.  At the 1860 Democratic Convention in Baltimore, Johnson accepted the invitation of his former senate colleague, Stephen Douglas as his vice-president.  In that divisive election, the fractured Democratic party could not defeat the solid Republican party led by Abraham Lincoln.  In Laurens County, Johnson's place on the ticket drew little support from local voters.

In the 1861 Secession Convention in Milledgeville, Johnson vehemently opposed secession along with his former enemy Alexander Hamilton Stephens and former court opponent, Dr. Nathan Tucker of Laurens County.  Like many of those Georgia leaders opposed to secession, Johnson relented and vowed to support his state when Georgia officially voted to leave the Union.  

Johnson served as a Senator from Georgia in  the Second Confederate Congress,  from 1862  to  1865. Senator Johnson, still not in favor of prosecuting the war, opposed Governor Brown's plan of conscription and the suspension of the sacred right of habeas corpus. 

When the war was over, Johnson along his friend and fellow Unionist, Alexander Hamilton Stephens were elected by the Reconstruction government to represent Georgia in the United State Senate. The  Republican dominated senate declined to seat Johnson and Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America, because of their roles in the Confederate government during the war.

No longer a factor in Georgia politics, Johnson, then sixty years old, returned to the bench of the Superior Court as Judge of the Middle District of Georgia.   His most celebrated case came in the summer of 1875, when he presided over the trials of several Negro defendants charged with insurrection.  The former slaves allegedly plan to reek havoc between Sandersville, Wrightsville, Irwinton and Dublin by pillaging the farms of white landowners.  Interestingly, the defendants were acquitted or the charges were dismissed in a still racially volatile atmosphere.  

Two of Johnson's children would call Dublin home.  In 1878 in Jefferson County, his daughter Gertrude married Col. John M. Stubbs, attorney and businessman with ardent interest in transportation, journalism and agriculture. His son, Dr. Herschel V. Johnson, Jr., who bore a striking resemblance to his father,  practiced medicine in Dublin in the late 1880s until his death there in 1891.

Johnson remained on the bench until his death on August 18, 1880 in his home in Jefferson County.  He is buried in the Old Cemetery in Louisville beside his wife.

On this 200th anniversary of his birth, Senator, Governor and Judge Herschel Johnson was a man who sought out a higher calling, a man who strived to serve his state with honor and a man who helped shaped our state and our nation.  Had his change of beliefs been successful and his desire to keep Georgia in the Union had held firm, the face of our country would have changed forever.


First Marine

You will not find the name of Lester F. Graham on the monument to those Laurens County men who lost their lives in World War II.   Those names are only the men who lived in Laurens County at the beginning of the war, or at least our country’s entrance into the war.   If you were making a list of those who served and fought in World War II, the name of Lester Graham would be right up there at the top.   After his graduation from Dublin High School, Lester joined the United States Marine Corps and entered basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina in the fall of 1934.  

When one thinks of Marines of that day, they think of the Marines who fought in the South Pacific in World War II.   In time, Lester Graham would become one of those Marines.  When Lester got to the scene of the fighting in the South Pacific in 1942 with the First Marine Division, he had already crossed the South Pacific twice on his way to two tours of duty in China.

Lester F. Graham was born on July 14, 1914 to John J. Graham and Pearl Carr Graham, of Empire, Dodge County, Georgia.  

You see, Lester Graham was what they once called a “China Marine.”  With the aid of Russia, the United States and yes, even Adolph Hitler’s Germany, the Republic of China engaged in a war with the Empire of Japan, after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.  To help protect American economic interests and citizens in the area, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the 4th Marines to the vicinity of Shanghai.  

It was in the summer of 1937 when an intense struggle for control of Shanghai erupted.  Just north of Soochow Creek, the antagonistic armies of China and Japan collided in brutal combat - all combat is brutal.  The 300,000 man Japanese Army launched an all out offensive in October, seventy five years ago this week.  Further resistance  was futile. With only 6500 British and French forces and  a mere thousand Fourth Marines in support, the  Chinese retreated to fight another day. 

After a lull in the fighting in downtown Shanghai, Graham took a little time to write his mother, the former Miss Pearl Carr, at her home at 303 Telfair Street, now part of Duncan Tire Company.

“Dear Mom, I hope you aren’t too frightened by me being here, because there is hardly any danger.  All I have to do is to keep near sandbag emplacements and duck when I hear shells and bombs whistling,” Lester wrote.  

Graham told his mother that some  times the Japanese fired into the American  lines, but never hit anyone.  The Dublin Marine reported that only a few foreign soldiers had been killed during the fighting, but he did relate an incident when an enemy aerial shell struck within seventy yards of his fortified position.  When the excitement subsided, Lester and his buddies ventured out to pick up a few souvenirs from a crashed Japanese airplane.  Although he planned to bring some large pieces home on his next visit, Lester sent his mother a small piece of the bounty of war.

“The officers really gave us a workout when we first arrived here.  We had to build sandbag emplacements, put up miles of barbed wire and cut portholes through brick and stone walls,” Graham wrote.  

Graham, a private in C Co., 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, wanted his mother to know that he often talked about her mother, “Big Mama,” to his fellow Marines, and what “darned good biscuits” and ham she can cook.  

He ended his letter with the usual sentiments and asked all not to worry about him.

Graham returned to China in May 1938 aboard the U.S.S. Sacramento for a 15-month hitch.

After serving relatively light duty in his first years in the Marine Corps at the Naval Prison in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Lester received orders just before Christmas 1939 to report for duty at the World’s Fair in New York.  Being in the Big Apple in those happy times leading up to the war was a thrill of a lifetime. At every turn, there was fun and happiness. 

After the war with Japan began in December 1941, Corporal Graham served in Marine installations primarily on the East Coast of the United States and assignments in Puerto Rico and Cuba.  

In April 1942, Corporal Graham was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.  As a part of the Marine Corps’ first major offensive against Japan, the 1st Division attacked on several fronts during the Guadalcanal Campaign.  Roughly 7,000 good men were lost in contrast to the deaths of some 30,000 plus resolute Japanese defenders.

During the middle of the six-month unmerciful campaign, Sgt. Graham was promoted to Platoon Sergeant Graham.  In July 1943, Graham added a fourth bottom stripe on his sleeve when he was elevated to the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant.  

In December 1943,  just three short years after Lester was living the easy life on the busy streets of New York City.  Graham found himself entangled in a savage struggle when the First Marine Division staged its second amphibious landing in a series of fights called the Battle of Cape Glouchester.

Somewhere in the fighting on January 23, 1944, First Sergeant Lester F. Graham was killed in action.  His body was brought back home and buried beside his father in the Rogers Cemetery, near Empire, in Dodge County, Georgia.

 So now you know part of the story of Lester F. Graham, First Marines, a Dublin man, a China Marine,  who fought to protect Americans in the volatile streets of Shanghai, China, seventy-five years ago and became the first Laurens Countian to serve in World War II. 



For all of the last seven decades, Roy Malone, of Dexter, Georgia has fought for freedoms.  In the South Pacific in World War II, he flew a fighter plane fighting for our country's freedoms.   Since his return to Laurens County, Malone has fought to build a better home for his family, better methods of farming, wiser soil conservation and  tree farming policies and ways to improve  the beauty of the Earth which he cherishes so, so much.

Roy Malone's world and his life were turned upside down on March 14, 1944.  Second Lieutenant Roy Malone qualified to become a member of the Caterpillar Club.  To achieve this somewhat dubious honor, Malone had to endure bailing out of his P-40 fighter plane under the most of perilous circumstances.  

It was at Aloe Field on the outskirts of Victoria, Texas where Roy Malone, a Laurens County  farm boy, received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force.   As he and his buddies were preparing to ship out to fighter school, the pilots decided to get in a little practice for the rigorous training which lay ahead.

"Nine of us took P-40 fighter planes up to do some simulated dog fighting," Malone recalled.  Trying to position himself on the tail of another plane and at the same time trying not to allow someone else to line up on him for a shoot down, Lt. Malone got into position behind one of the planes. He was locked in on his target, moving in for the theoretical kill.  That's when Lt. Frank Mesojedec slipped in and got on his tail. "He had locked in on me but was coming in too fast.  As he shot past me he came too close, clipping my right wing with his left wing," Malone remembered. "That kind of thing happens in training, we weren't the only ones," the lucky pilot added.

Both planes fell into lethal spiraling spins.  And, both pilots managed to bail out, though they were flying at low altitudes.  "My chute opened about 200 feet off the ground and it had just enough time to open and sway back  and forth once before I landed in an oak tree about 20 feet up," Malone recollected.  Lt. Mesojedec was not as fortunate.  His chute failed to open in time.

Battered, broken, and bruised, Malone stayed in the hospital for a week. With just one day to spare, Roy, missing one tooth and still sore from the impact,  was discharged and joined his buddies as they shipped out to fighter school.  It was one of the two most memorable moments Malone would experience in his long military career.

It was a day that changed his life forever.  Lt. Malone came within an eyelash of being a casualty of World War II and a hero whom we honor on this Memorial Day.

Roy tried not to worry about the dangers of being a fighter pilot.  "When we came back from a mission, the flight surgeon gave us two ounces of liquor to calm our nerves," he recollected.  Malone, who didn't drink, began to accumulate his liquor in a bottle with his name marked on it.  To relieve the stress, Malone and his buddies wrestled, played games, and exercised whenever they could.

One day an infantryman walked by Malone's tent and asked the pilot if he wanted to buy a Japanese sword.  When Roy responded that he didn't have any cash, the soldier wondered if Malone would be interested in swapping some of his aerial combat liquor for his sword.  Malone agreed. The deal was done.  Today, that sword is among a large collection of memorabilia which has been lovingly curated by Malone's wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Gail Poole.    

Malone has seen dying and death in war time, from high above to down low skimming the deck over places like Nagasaki, Japan, where he photographed the total inhalation of the second atomic bomb.  He takes no glorious pride in the destruction which his P-51 fighter reeked upon the Japanese people and their infrastructure, but he makes no apologies for it was his mission, a mission he was thoroughly trained to do.

August 6, 1945 was one of those days Roy Malone which will never forget, although at the time,  he didn't realize that America had dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

"Before we were sent up there on a flight, we were told to stay away from a particular point by 75 to 100 miles," Malone recalled.  A few hours after the night time explosion, Malone was flying in the Hiroshima sector and observed the mushroom cloud dissipating into the stratosphere as a new era in the history of the world dawned.

Two days after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Malone was ordered to fly over the city at low levels to take pictures of the results of the war ending attack.  It would be the second most memorable day of Roy Malone's career as an aviator.

"I took a wing man with me," said Malone, who was a wing leader at the time.  "Although there was no cease fire in effect at the time, we were ordered not to fire at anyone unless fired upon first," he added.

"About 15 to 20 miles out, I got down on the deck," Malone recalled.   He  flew 200 feet above the obliterated countryside, snapping photographs with his automatic K-34 camera as his plane screamed just above what used to be tree tops and buildings.

"There wasn't anything there but dust.  Every now and then you would see the hull of a building," said Malone, who reported that he never saw any sign of human life at all.

On the left was a mountain and on the right was a place where ships were moored. Malone flew his plane toward the open sea just in case he was fired upon.  Pilots preferred head toward the sanctuary of the ocean where they could be rescued by friendly naval forces if they were shot down.


"When I snapped a series of pictures, I  dropped down near the water and went around the back side of that mountain, which had a sheer drop into the sea.  Then I saw a cotton pickin' heavy cruiser.  I didn't know it was there because it was well camouflaged," Malone remembered.

"I saw Japanese running for their guns and said to my self, 'Dang, I better do something,'"  Malone chuckled.  Deciding that discretion is really the better part of valor, Malone wheeled his P-51, which he dubbed the "Georgia Rebel,"  around and raced to the city side of the mountain, which had been nearly sheered away by the atomic bomb blast.

At first, Malone worried about the dangers of radiation, but was assured that he was never in any real danger. He never thought for a moment that his commanders would put him in a perilous position like that.

The two bombs brought about a quick end to the war, which was projected to last up to  several more years against determined defenders of the island country of Japan.    In the months leading up to the detonations, Malone and his squadron accompanied B-25 and B-29 bombers on raids on important Japanese targets.

"There was no contest as they were saving their fighters for kamikaze suicide planes," Malone remembered.   The former pilot commented that during some of those raids, 80 to 90 thousand people were killed from bomb blasts and the resulting rapidly spreading infernos every single night.  And, he has his own original  pictures to prove it.

"It was terrible. Golly!  When I think that could happen over here in some future war, it's frightening," lamented Malone.

At the end of the war, Roy had to make a decision.  While he was in the service, Roy had been making payments on a piece of land.  Having a desire to farm, unlike his four brothers, Roy chose to come back to Dexter to resume life as a farmer and foregoing a three-year hitch in the Army Air Force, or so he thought.  

After he retired from active duty, Roy Malone joined the reserves.  He fondly remembered going over to Dobbins Air Force Base from Athens, where he was attending the University of Georgia.   Roy always enjoyed flying an old P-51 back home to Dexter just to get in his minimum hours of flying time.

During his time as a pilot in the Pacific, Roy and his fellow pilots lived mostly in tents. Only once or twice did they ever get to sleep in a real building.  "We never got time off.  We lived in tents and had to be ready any minute to go on another mission," Malone recalled.  "At Ie Shima, we dug fox holes next to our tents so that if there was a bomb strike at night, we could dive in them," he said.

"Over there you could save money. We had no expenses and nowhere to spend our paychecks," Roy recalled. To compensate for the lack of decent quarters and less than  decent food, Roy was given separation pay of  slightly more than $8,000.00.  The check came as a big surprise to Roy, who knew exactly what he wanted to do with the money, pay some of his debts off and buy a little more land.

Turns out, he did a lot of both.  Roy came home to Dexter and began farming, married Sarah Weaver and started a family, which included his children, James, Pat, Pam Mullis and Gail Poole.  And, he remained in the Air Force, serving for a total of roughly thirty years.  He retired as Lt. Colonel, serving as an Air Force Reserve instructor and as an advisor to cadets of the United States Air Force Academy.  His awards and decorations are too numerous to mention here.

"I think right now we are in good  shape against China, Russia and emerging nations which could show hostility," commented Malone on the present state of the  military.  

"I would  hope that our academies will be seeking out, finding and getting the very best brains in the country, and that our staff people and our Congress will fund the kind of effort that will keep us ahead of our adversaries," wishes Malone for the future of American military readiness.

"We sit here with the best country in the world, with our abundant resources and with our vibrant people.  And, our way of life is coveted by the whole world.  Some of them covet us because they would like to come here and  live with us.  Some of them covet us because they hate our guts and they would like to take what is ours," proclaimed Malone.

"If we don't stay strong and vigilant, we are going to lose it down the road," Malone warns.  He also hopes that there will be the will on the part of the people to perform when necessary to protect our freedoms.

"We had patriots who were willing to defend and fight for our freedoms, and to defend those freedoms which were gained and preserve them," the former fighter pilot maintains.  "We would like to think that we have the talent, the resources and the will to defend those freedoms.  If we don't, we will be in a tough situation," he claims.

Today, at the age of 91, Roy Malone, a veteran of three war time eras,  enjoys the freedoms that he and millions of others fought for.  On each Memorial Day, he pauses to think about the hundreds of thousands of American military personnel who have given the the last true measure of devotion by sacrificing  their lives for their country.

And on most days, you will find Roy somewhere on his Goose Hollow farm in the Dexter suburb of Springhaven, where he has lived the ultimate American dream for most of the last seven decades.

As he rides through the farm checking on his crops and trees, Roy Malone's thoughts sometime go back to his most everlasting memory of the war on  that March day in 1944, when his life was spared and his buddy Frank Mesojedec didn't make it.

Roy Malone was one of the lucky ones.  He made it home and has enjoyed a most wonderful life.  And, we are all lucky that he did.

Friday, September 14, 2012



Dreams do come true. This Jeff Davis knows. When he was five years old, Jeff climbed the steps of a castle. His father helped him through the "rolling doors." His eyes beheld a dream. And, one day, he told himself and his daddy, that the old Post Office on Madison Street was going to be his very own building.

And, today, on the 100th anniversary of the building's opening as the Dublin Post Office, Jeff Davis's dream has come true. To celebrate the occasion, he has invited his friends to commemorate the beginning of the second century of a true Dublin landmark.

"I remember the steps. And, when I got to the top, it was the biggest building that I had ever seen. I didn't know what to do at the door. My dad came and got me. And, I came in the lobby and thought it was a castle. Even at five, the building floored me," Jeff recalled.

It was on August 2, 1912, when Dublin's grand new post office opened for the first time. Situated on East Madison Street in the heart of the agra-industrial district of the Emerald City, the post office was the one of the city's focal points for businessmen and residents.

Too small even from the beginning to accommodate a post office in a burgeoning city, the capacity of the building was furthered reduced by the need for a Federal court room, a move necessary to accommodate the rapidly growing number of moonshine cases in the district. Accordingly, the Federal government constructed a courtroom above the main workroom of the post office in the late 1920s. Within five years, plans were underway to build a new Federal building on the courthouse square, leaving the Madison Street Post Office to be occupied by sundry offices of county and state government in 1937.

In the early 1970s, Laurens County sold the building to Joe Rutland, who operated a pawn and antique store in the building for three decades. Over the next few years, the building housed a restaurant and a bar, before becoming the home of Will and Jennifer Carter.

"You have to give all the credit to Will Carter and his wife, Jennifer, because they lived here and this building was their home. They loved it and they were good caretakers of the building," Davis proclaimed as he praised the Carters, who knew all the original details and never harmed anything which was original to the building.

After watching the activities in the building for several years and appreciating the rebirth of the downtown area, Davis contacted Carter about purchasing the empty structure. The Carters agreed to sell what was once their dream as well. The Carters even attended Rutland's estate sale, where they spotted and retrieved the building's original blue prints, which now hang in the lobby of the post office building, professionally framed underneath special light resistant glass.

Davis, the current Dublin Rotary Club President, was looking for a new location for his growing data storage business, Alterra Networks, a full service information technology solutions provider.

"From a business and a technology standpoint, Dublin is well located for a data center," said Davis, whose new quarters has a 4500 square foot basement. The Dublin native approached the project with the goal to make the main floor and the second floor like it was on Day One in 1912, adapting them to house his offices and getting a data center in the basement for free. To add icing on the cake, the building is located along the city's fiber optic network line.

"When I bought the building, it took me about four or five times in there to realize that about 85 percent of the building was still here," remarked Davis, who personally flyspecked every nook and cranny of the sturdy structure finding hidden clues to its past. Sometimes the clues came to him in the form of stories of bygone days and visitors to the building. He discovered secret windows in the top of the work room, where the postmaster and inspectors could spy on employees, looking for sticking fingers while they were sorting mail and taking money orders.

There are large fixtures intact as well as small ones. In Davis's personal, second-story corner office, there is an original light switch. There's even a triangular sink in the corner right next to a century old towel holder. From his vantage point, Davis can look out the window gazing toward what was once the heart and soul of the industrial and agricultural center of Laurens County.

He can even tell you where the post office bought their sweeping compound, toilet paper, coal and light bulbs from. He knows this because he contacted the National Archives and received more than 1500 pages of records, which document in exact details all of the activities which went on during the construction and operation of the building during its early years.

With most of the original plans in hand, Davis set out on a passionate mission to restore, replicate, or replace as much of the original building and its fixtures as he could. He doesn't see it as one shot deal, but a long term process.

"Everything that is not here can be put back with one hundred percent certainty," Jeff maintains.

One of the first things Davis noticed was that the original lobby clock was missing. After examining his mounds of documentation, he determined that it was a Seth Thomas Model 21, 14- inch gallery clock, the only one they made that year. Davis went on eBay, quickly found one, and bought it at a price less than a modern day clock would cost. Although the original clock had to been wound by hand, Davis adapted the replacement clock to run off long lasting batteries.

Obviously missing were the original post office boxes, which were removed when the county took over the building in the 1930s. Davis had seen an original one in the Dublin- Laurens County Museum and set out to research the kinds of boxes which were originally installed. It was back to eBay, where he purchased similar boxes by the hundreds, which he then had polished and reinstalled exactly where they were a century ago.

There is one thing that Jeff Davis doesn't plan to immediately restore. There is a row of windows for different types of services which the postal service provided. In front of the main stamp window, there is a bare spot, where the feet of hundreds of thousands of customers completely eroded away the marble floor.

One day he was outside and noticed several dozen people posing for a picture on the front steps. The group assembled there to remember the day many decades ago when the patriarch and matriarch of the family met for the first time. Their descendants gather there periodically to remember the seminal event which led to their becoming a family.

"I don't know anybody who hasn't walked through that revolving door whose breath is not taken away," said Davis about the building's most striking feature.

In 1937, when the county moved in, the building was only a quarter century old and lots of changes had already been made.

"The biggest sin which was committed against the building was the by the Federal government, putting in that temporary courtroom, cutting that room in half. Just to undo that and get the light flowing again and getting the windows uncovered, that is the thing that I am most proud of," said Davis.

"The public has not seen the building like this for 80 years. No one alive, other than the workers, has seen the building in 80 years without the temporary courtroom," said Davis, whose workers had to strip away three coats of paint on each side of the lobby windows to remove the impudent impediments to the building's original grandeur. .

"This building is all about light, natural light. There are very few light fixtures in the building," Davis commented as he pointed to the fact that he and his employees work until early in the evening without turning on a single light.

"I want it to be downtown's formal living room. I want it to be a gathering place," says Davis, who believes that the building is just warming up.

"This building was built when this country was very rich and architecture was an honored discipline. There was a real good quote from the Secretary of the Treasury at the time, 'We can use these post offices in small towns to inspire the citizens. We can put the most architecturally beautiful building in a community and hope that we can inspire the other citizens to build to that level,'" says Davis, who believes that the building was built to make a statement and still can.

"There will never be another one like this building. Even though I am the caretaker of it now, this building belongs to everybody. When you put yourself in that context, you can't really say that you own this building," Davis believes.

"My inspiration comes from thinking about the day when the folks we read about in the history books who built houses on Bellevue came through those doors. They did business down here. And, then there were people who were just regular folks and did business here at the post office," Jeff remarked.

Davis can even imagine the building being here after another 100 years or even a thousand years from now. He foresees, "There will be a day when school children will come here and be informed that once we sent paper to each other and we had to build these buildings to receive and route these paper communications."

"It's a special building. It holds a special place in people's hearts," Jeff Davis believes.

In particular, the building always reminds Jeff Davis of that unforgettable autumn day when his late father stopped in to pick up some shot gun shells to go on a dove hunt out a James Rawls' farm. It was that day, the very first day, when Jeff began to imagine his dream.


"Faith of His Fathers"

4696 Sundays and counting.

The first day in the 90-year life of Thomas M. "Jack" Key came on a Sunday, July 2, 1922 when "Brother Jack" Key was born to Morris Denton Key and Bertha Flanders Key.

"The most powerful influence of my life was my home, my mother and daddy," Key declares. His roots run deep into the communities around Adrian, Georgia. Among his ancestors he counts the Keys, Flanders, Sumners, Hightowers, Beasleys, Drakes and Smiths, all of whom have lived in the area for nearly two centuries.

"My mother had seven years of education. She taught school for a couple of years in a little school close to Poplar Springs Church," spoke Jack of his dear mother.

"Daddy had four years of education between plowings. He read a lot - history and Christian books - and could have gone to college. Many said he was the best man in Adrian," Key said of his father, who had never been any further away from home than Statesboro, that is until he went "over there" in World War I.

There was a strong emphasis on honesty in the Key family. "Don't lie for any reason" was the mantra of Morris Key and his brothers.

Morris Key operated Key's Café right smack dab on a corner in the middle of Adrian for nearly thirty years. Key, famous for his hamburgers, also served a plate lunch - a pork chop or a piece of fried chicken, served with two to three vegetables for a quarter or thirty-five cents.

"We sold ice cream, dipped ice cream (two dips for a nickel) and cold iced down drinks (we called them 'belly washers,)" remarked Key, who fondly recollected the day when Snickers bars were three for ten cents.

Jack Key's journey toward the ministry started out in a Boy Scout troop.

"We didn't have much leadership and we called it 'ABC,' Adrian Boy's Club," Jack Key recalled. Morris Key assumed the direction of and became the guiding force behind the group, which he took to grand old places like Mason's Bridge for camp outs.

The boy's club eventually became an evangelistic club. His brother, Billy Key, "Mutt" Moye, and some of the Gillis and Frazier boys would get up and testify about their faith. Although he never knew him, Jack's grandfather, Francis Key, was a licensed preacher. His Key and Flanders forefathers were known far and wide as being ministers of the Methodist faith. Jack, it seemed, was destined to preach and most importantly, teach the Gospel.

One of the most influential men in the young life of Jack Key was Prince Evans, a black man who worked for Tom Fountain. The Key family was not known as crusaders for equality among the races, but they possessed a deep and abiding love for many of the black families in Adrian. You can still see a tear in the corner of Jack's eye when he thinks of those grand old days, of Prince Evans, Levi Washington, Henry Jenkins, and the old black families like the Fords, whom he came to know and to love.

"That was a special place to us. Some of our first preaching was when we would go down there and especially on Christmas," reflected Jack of the days when he and the boys were 12 and 13 years old and preaching sermons. Professor "Fess" Stephens called the trio of Jack, Billy and "Mutt," 'The Three Young Divines."

First licensed to preach at the age of seventeen in mid summer 1939, Jack vividly remembers the day that the District Conference was held in the auditorium of Adrian school. When he was nominated and accepted into the ministry, Brother Jim "Shouting Jim" Smith, shouted down the halls. Morris Key acknowledged his son's honor with silent pride. Bertha Flanders Key, as the Flanders are known to do, let out a wild and loud "whoopee!"

One day Jack and "Mutt" Moye went down to a Baptist church in Covena. After sweeping out the goat pills in the unlit building, the teenagers held a revival.

"We baptized them in the Ohoopee River, which was close by. We didn't know we were something of a sensation. We thought they were coming to hear the Gospel and not to hear us," Key remembered.

In his younger days, Jack would go down into the woods to study. He didn't take his Barclay's Commentaries with him. Instead he turned inward as he looked outward and upward for guidance and inspiration in formulating his messages.

Then came World War II. Both Jack and Billy felt guilty about not serving in the Armed Forces. Key believed "Uncle Jack" Avery sheltered them from military duty. There were times when people around town and even in Dublin yelled "draft dodger!" Jack went on to college at Young Harris for two years and then more years at Asbury College. Billy, too, went on to college.

"I tried to go into the Navy as a chaplain, "Mutt" Moye did," Key expounded. But the man in charge of the board told Jack that he didn't want him wasting his time, that he was still in the seminary and he wasn't qualified for the service.

In the end, maybe God was just saving both Jack and Billy for greater things to come.

"I was playing first base in a college softball game when I let a warm-up throw get by me. It rolled to the fence, right to her feet. As I picked up the ball, I looked into the bluest eyes I'd ever seen," reminisced Jack of the day he first met the dearest sweetheart of his life. A year and a half later on December 12, 1947, Jack, the President of his senior class, and Ruthanne Shockley, the beautiful blue-eyed orphan from Greentown, Indiana, were married. This year they will celebrate their 65th anniversary.

"She has listened to the same sermons over and over, taught Sunday School, sung in the choir, held offices in the United Methodist Women, prepared countless meals for covered dish suppers, been a volunteer for all kinds of community service, been a wife, homemaker, seamstress, and a piano player," wrote Key of the greatest friend and supporter in his success as Methodist minister.

Jack Key's first regular assignment to a church came in 1947, when he was assigned to Piney Mount Church in Washington County. First ordained a deacon and on probation for two years, Jack was prohibited from serving communion or performing baptisms.

"I broke the rules a time or two, but I believe Christ would have wanted it that way," Key chuckled.

In five years, Jack Key served four circuit churches with 600 total members. The revivals then were both spiritual and social. People from all over Washington County, including Baptists, would come and fill the churches.

The Keys transferred to Hillcrest Church in Macon, when it was built. In his five years there, the membership grew from 150 members to 500. Jack Key left Macon for the first time to serve in Nashville, Georgia and then to Cordele, Georgia until his assignment at Porterfield Methodist in Albany, once the largest church in the South Georgia Conference.

Jack Key became a highly sought after minister, going to Vineville Methodist in Macon and Wynnton Methodist in Columbus, before coming to First Methodist in Dublin and closer to home. Jack Key officially retired from the annual conference twenty-five years ago, but his ministry has never waned.

If you ask, he will tell you that at the top of his highlights of his career is the trip that he and Ruthanne took to China in 1988. The Keys were there teaching English to the Chinese and sharing the Gospel when the incident at Tiananmen Square forced them to leave. There were trips to Mongolia and South America as well. He will also tell you that he is proud of obtaining a Doctor of Divinity Degree, though he has never sought out a higher office in the church hierarchy. In fact, he avoided it, leaving such duties to his brother Billy instead.

Jack quickly realized that it is also the little things that make his ministry rewarding. Key points to his experiences with Alcoholics Anonymous while he was in Albany.

"In Albany, I was thrown in with them, but I liked their openness," declared Key, whose experiences with these men helped him in his own ministry and taught him that we should all be kind and compassionate toward people who have problems instead of vilifying them.

"Brother Jack" will readily concede that he is no one special, but he is grateful that he has been given certain precious gifts, the gifts of caring and wisdom. At somewhere around 1300 funerals and up (only the late Rev. Claude Vines (2000+) has more,) Jack Key has officiated at more funerals than any other minister in our area.

"I have seen some very awful things, suicides and early cancer," acknowledged Key, who doesn't seek out preaching at funerals.

"I see myself as belonging to something bigger than the church and that is to just be a friend," commented Key on his role as minister. Key confesses that he was not always clerical, but always tries to be caring.

After completing a long term at Evergreen United Methodist Church last month, Key agrees that he is now retired, if only officially and as of right now. As one of the longest serving ministers in the history of the South Georgia Conference at 73 years and counting, Key isn't slowing down yet. He is filling in at Dudley Methodist and looks forward to teaching Sunday School to the Progressive Class at 1st Methodist, Dublin.

"If folks want me, I can be fulfilled by teaching and speaking to groups," Key says.

It is a difficult choice, but when asked what is favorite Bible verse is, he points to the 92nd Psalm which says in part, "The righteous will flourish like palm trees and they will bear fruit in their old age and remain fresh and green."

He can't tell you a favorite hymn. There are too many. The old ones, the Charles Wesley songs, are among his favorites. There are nights when he closes his eyes and harks back to the days of his youth when he would spend the night with his grandmother, Elizabeth Sumner Key, who would sing songs about how beautiful Heaven must be "In the Sweet By and By." He also thinks of the classic, eternal words of John Newton's "Amazing Grace."

"In this part of the country, people do pray for you all over and you are amazed that some things do happen as a result of those prayers," says Key who is continually amazed by God's grace and the power of prayer.

As for miracles Key asserts, "You don't park your brains when you become a Christian, but there are things we can't explain and some are unbelievable." Jack Key has seen his share of miraculous things, but he doesn't depend on them, but neither will he deny that miracles do happen.

To Jack Key, there are basic principles we all should adhere to.

He says, "Keep up your daily devotions and witness to your faith by using words and without using words. Use words and be kind. Look for those opportunities and take little or no credit for it."

"The miracle is that God became a man and the word became flesh - the human Jesus, the Jesus of the four Gospels. I don't know how you could have a higher aim than to be a human Jesus," Brother Jack proclaimed of what has become the most paramount and appealing goal in his and our lives.

In his sermon, "Words To Live By," "Brother Jack" speaks of four simple words; attitude, gratitude, fortitude and rectitude. If you haven't heard it, ask him about them. If you have, consider them.

"It is an incredible blessing for Mrs. Ruthanne and 'Brother Jack' to get old together, most people don't get old together," says Key of his wife. He doesn't forget his gratitude for his three children, 13 grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

"It has been a great journey and it has been a wonderful life," Key gratefully acknowledged.

Now a nonagenarian, Jack Key keeps on going. Driven by his enduring faith and aided by his devoted wife, exercise and moderate eating habits - he will occasionally order a sausage biscuit at McDonalds,- Jack believes it is a mistake not to have things to do.

One of Jack's fellow McDonald's Breakfast Club members expressed it best, "Jack Key is everybody's preacher." Key is a regular speaker at community events and at churches of all denominations.

"Mamma was a dyed in the wool Methodist, but all Daddy wanted for us was to be a good Christian," Jack will let you know.

In his book "Down This Road, A Long Ways Together," Jack Key recounts many of the important events, people and places in his long journey which began on that Sunday, nine decades ago.

When Jack Key's name is inscribed in the "Lamb's Book of Life," it will be noted that it was the faith of his fathers and his love of both friend and foe, which led him on to preach love with kindly words and that he lived a virtuous life.

It is His amazing grace that has brought Jack Key safe thus far, and His grace that will take him home. Today at ninety and with more than 10,000 sermons behind him, Jack Key has no less days to sing God's praise than in that hour when he first believed.



Show Me the Money!

Willie Bomar was dying. She got the cancer. She wanted her $65.78, and she wanted it, "now!"

Willie Melmoth Bomar was born in 1894 to Dr. Elisha Pinckney "Pink" Bomar and his wife, Ella Tallulah Lane. Dr. Pinckney removed himself and his family to Tattnall County before the turn of the 20th Century. Dr. Pinckney was active in his community, serving a term on the school board and once placing himself as a candidate for the Georgia Senate.

Willie and her older sister Ethel grew up in a somewhat happy home. All of that ended in 1918, when their father found himself embroiled in a difficulty in Lyons with A.S. Mosely and his sons, G.G. Mosely and Howell Mosley.

The elder Mosely fired his shotgun twice and his pistol three times at the 52-year-old physician, who turned and walked away from his aggressors. Just as the doctor was walking away, dozens of bystanders witnessed the Mosely boys firing shots directly into a lung of Dr. Bomar, resulting in his swift death. The murder case against the Moselys was transferred to Jefferson County Superior Court in Louisville, Georgia, where it resulted in a hung jury.

Life for the Bomar women had to go on. Ethel taught music and Willie, a graduate of Georgia Normal and Industrial School, taught domestic service in the local school in Lyons.

Eventually, Willie wanted to do more with her life. So she moved to New York, where she obtained her doctorate in Philosophy from the prestigious Columbia University.

In 1931, Dr. Bomar published her first book, An Introduction to Homemaking and It's Relation on the Community. A second book, The Education of Homemakers for the Community was also published in 1931. In all, Willie Bomar authored four books, including a 1937 book, which she entitled I Went to Church in New York.

It was just near the end of World War II when Willie Bomar began to notice something different about her body. Then came the devastating news. It was cancer and it was in her throat and her chest. Two surgeries followed and so did regular visits to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

It was in the autumn of 1948 when Dr. Bomar was asked by Wheeler County to teach on an emergency basis

The issue first arose at the end of the first term in 1949. The retirement board allowed Bomar to keep her contributions to the retirement fund. Then after a secret meeting, one which Bomar was not allowed to appear, the board reversed its position and took her $65.38 away.

Dr. Bomar kept her 10:30, Memorial Day appointment with J.L. Yaden, director of the retirement system of Georgia. Yaden maintained that since the $65.78 had already been deducted from her check, any refund was out of the question unless she resigned her position with the Wheeler County school system. That would mean that she would lose the excessively pitiful, but normal monthly salary of $198.00, which included a $33.00 supplement for teaching home economics. Remember, this was a teacher who held two masters degrees (in science and arts) as well as a doctorate degree in philosophy.

"I'll take mine now," Dr. Bomar, her voice weakened from the paralyzing effects of her throat cancer, told Yaden. She reiterated that the state deducted her portion of her retirement benefits out of her "puny" salary without consulting her. And, to make things worse she would have to wait to die to collect it.

"It's a preposterous thing they are trying to do to me. They want me to wait until I'm dead with old age to collect it. Well, I've got cancer. I need the money for treatment. And, cancer won't wait," cried Willie.

It was Bomar's position that since she had been hired by the Wheeler County school board as an emergency teacher, she was exempt from paying any retirement contributions.

Yaden called Superintendent T.C. Fulford, who reluctantly agreed to terminate the contract of the esteemed professor. That's when Willie Bomar had to make snap decisions.

"I am resigning under protest, but that is all I can do," she lamented.

Delayed and denied at every turn, Dr. Bomar decided that only a drastic tactic would work. The vibrant home economics teacher vowed to stay in Yaden's fourth-floor office until she achieved her modest demand or die right there in the office from the cancer which she knew was rapidly killing her.

Yaden walked out, leaving the dark-haired, matronly school teacher, dressed in her best blue dress sitting there in anger and disbelief, as she shouted, "I protest! I protest!"

A comfortable sofa in the ladies lounge would be her home until Yaden and his board surrendered or she died on the spot, whichever came first.

Not all people defended Willie Bomar's stance. The editor of the Dallas Morning News called her demand for benefits "shameful under the guise of liberalism and social progress."

Others, were more than sympathetic. Custodian C.C. Lord, himself laboring at the lower end of the pay scale, brought Ms. Bomar hot cups of coffee and sandwiches during the night. Encouraging newspaper reporters furnished Coca Cola and Hershey bars to aid the embattled teacher in her fight for right.

After 53 hours of waiting and most likely a call to or from Governor Herman Talmadge, a native of adjoining Telfair County and a politician who championed the cause of the common man, Yaden approached Dr. Bomar and informed her that the board had agreed to her demand.

A swarm of newspaper reporters and photographers barged their way into Yaden's office. With cameras flashing, Bomar triumphantly smiled as Yaden signed her highly coveted check.

"I won! I got my money! It was worth it," Bomar exclaimed.

"I won," said Yaden, who felt that negative feedback from unfavorable nation wide coverage of the impasse was not worth maintaining the state's rigid and unpopular stance.

Straining to get her words out, Willie Bomar was still thinking about teaching again, probably outside of the state somewhere. Writing or editing was also a possibility. Willie bought a train ticket and headed for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

"I want to pay instead of saying I am too poor. I've been teaching school in Georgia," Dr. Bomar proclaimed.

Upon her arrival at the Mayo, Willie offered herself as an experimental patient at the University of Illinois for betatron cancer treatment. She told the press, "the situation appears to be out of control."

In the end, Willie Bomar was right. She died in 1950. Willie never wanted to accept charity and wanted to pay her own debts. Her perseverance paid off when the mighty State of Georgia backed down and showed the money to this little ol' school teacher from Glenwood, Georgia.


The Great Gastronome

Ebb Floyd wasn't exactly a big, fat man. Few people in his day were fat. But ol' Ebb could eat. There was no one around who could eat more and eat faster than this ravenous tenant farmer from the heart of Georgia. This short, stout, and merry gastronome had a sweet tooth for his favorite foods sweet potato custard pies and sugar cane.

It was just before Thanksgiving back in 1888 when Ebb Floyd found himself at a log-r0lling contest. After the competition was over, the participants set down for a tasty supper. To finish off the grand meal, fifteen custard pies were set out. Everyone knew that the sweet potato desserts were among Floyd's favorites. So, one man dared Floyd to eat half of them.

The pie afficionado accepted the challenge, vowing to swallow at least ten of the orange pies. Floyd encircled himself with ten succulent sweet potato pie plates and commenced to move in a clockwise direction. One down, then two, then three, four and five. Ebb kept on stuffing them down. Six down, seven, eight gone, nine and then ten pies gulped. The crowd roared!

The last five were put in front of him. Three were devoured in short order. That's when the agony began. The last two eventually found their way to the bottom of the big eater's belly. Ebb Floyd received no award that evening, other than winning the bet and winning it big, not to mention stuffing his belly full of his favorite food.

A few weeks later, Ebb accepted another good opportunity to stuff himself. Not to be outdone, Ebb set his sights on a Thanksgiving feast. After downing a stomach- stuffing dinner of Thanksgiving turkey, dressing and the traditional fixings, Floyd ventured over to a neighbor's house for a cane eating contest. Ebb knew that he was not going to be able to move at all after the end of the gorging, so he planned on finding a soft spot and collapsing onto it.

Word of Ebb's ravenous eating skills brought out a large audience to see just how much sugar cane, the master feaster Ebb Floyd, could eat at one sitting. As a less than satisfying appetizer, the gobbling glutton consumed fourteen stalks of sugar cane. Then for supper, Ebb nearly got his fill consuming an old fashioned Thanksgiving supper, complete with possums saturated with thick gravy and complimented with dozens of sugary yams.

To make things interesting, the host announced a cane-eating contest and invited all comers to sit down and chew as many stalks as they could. To make things more interesting, a school teacher spoke up and suggested that the contest be one of speed more than endurance. And, to make it more interesting, the teacher proffered a wager that Ebb Floyd could not chew three stalks in under ten minutes. Ebb, a ceaseless gourmand, readily accepted the bet.

The teacher, attempting to hedge his bet a little, picked up three nice-sized stalks, laid them out in front of Ebb, pulled out his watch, and announced it was time to begin. Ebb took only five minutes to chew, chomp and gnaw two stalks into mush. Already feeling the pains of his previous meals that day, Ebb picked up his pace. The third and final stalk succumbed in a mere two minutes.

Then, that's where the fun began. Gamblers conceived of more and more interesting wagers to test Ebb Floyd's inherent ability to eat well more than the average man. With the debate as to Floyd's ability to rapidly chew sugar cane settled, an observer offered to wager, two to one, that the exceptional eater could not swallow a quart of sugar cane juice without taking a breath. Ebb grabbed the jug and chugged it's contents down in less than sixty seconds. To prove his point and double his winnings, Ebb guzzled an extra pint of the nearly pure sugar liquid just for good measure.

Still there were those who believed ol' Ebb could drink still more. A smaller sugar cane mill was brought in. Twenty stalks were run through the hand cranked mill, generating three more gallons of juice. He guzzled it all down. To top off the day of frequent feasts, Ebb Floyd vowed that he would take the twenty smashed stalks and eat all of them before retiring to bed. Another wild roar went up in the room. Vowing not to even show an effects of his daily dessert, Ebb sat down next to his last few morsels of the day. Howling doubters couldn't leave without satisfying their belief that no one man could eat that much in a single day.

Ebb opened his mouth and began to chew. One stalk of cane after another was slowly and methodically stripped of it sheath and leaves. The pile of remnants began to grow as the pile of the remaining stalks diminished at the average rate of one every three and one half minutes. Finally, the astonishing eating exhibition was over.

Ebb Floyd was hailed as the hero of Twiggs, much in the same category of generals, governors, and politicians who have hailed from the nucleus of the Peach State. Those who once doubted Floyd's superior eating ability sent out the word far and wide, that Ebb Floyd could out eat any man in the country, no matter what the food may be.

After his few fleeting moments of fame, Ebb Floyd never appeared in the headlines of newspapers around the country as he did in those days of that November when he was one of the world's greatest gastronomes.