Saturday, November 22, 2014



Eleanor Ison-Franklin  grew up in a home where education was paramount.  From the day she was born until the day she died, this Dublin native dedicated her life to studying and teaching others in the science of medical research in an effort to heal the sick and keep the living alive a little longer.  This is the story of one Dublin native who overcame the odds against her to rise to the pinnacle of her profession as a dean of the department of one the nation's most prestigious university medical schools.  

Eleanor Lutia Ison-Franklin was born in Dublin, Georgia on Christmas Eve in 1929.  Her father Professor L.L. Ison was a well-known educator in South Georgia.  While I do not know what brought the Ison family to Dublin, I  surmise that Professor Ison was involved in the school system or the vocational/agricultural  education system.  Professor Ison was a frequent lecturer and was chosen by the Works Progress Administration to supervise a program of Negro Education in Georgia.

Eleanor graduated as the valedictorian of Carver High School in 1944 at the age of fourteen.  Four years later, the superlative student graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in biology from Spelman College, just six months after her eighteenth birthday.  Miss Ison continued her studies by obtaining a Master of Science degree in 1951.  In 1957, Miss Ison became Dr. Franklin when she was awarded a Ph. D degree in zoology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  While working on furthering her college education, Dr. Franklin followed in her father's footsteps by teaching biology at Spelman and the University of Wisconsin.  For her efforts, she was awarded a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. 

Dr. Ison was hired as an assistant professor in Tuskegee Institute's Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the School of Veterinary Medicine.  In 1963, she transferred to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she worked in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. In the late summer of 1965, Dr. Ison took the hand of George W. Franklin in marriage.   While at Howard, Dr. Ison-Franklin excelled in her administrative duties.  In 1971, she was elevated to the position of professor a year after she had been named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  Her appointment marked the first time a woman had been appointed a dean in one of the nation's oldest and most highly respected black universities.  According to one Internet source, Dr. Ison-Franklin was the first woman, black or white, to serve as the head of a university medical department in America.    

The doctor's success continued in 1980 when she was chosen to serve as director of the Edward Hawthorne Laboratory for Cardiovascular Research.  After serving for five years in that position, Dr. Ison-Franklin was selected to head the school's Department of Continuing Education.  She retired in 1997.  A year later, Dr. Ison-Franklin was honored with the title of "Magnificent Professor." 

Dr.  Ison-Franklin dedicated the last two decades of her life to the improvement of cardiovascular medicine to combat heart disease, the nation's number one cause of death.    She concentrated on the relationship between hypertension and the nervous system.  In 1991, she published many of her findings in a symposium entitled Myocardial Hypertrophy. The doctor also worked diligently to improve the technical facilities at Howard.  

Dr. Ison-Franklin's list of awards and grants are too voluminous to list, but among the most prestigious of these were  grants from N.A.S.A., the National Institutes of Health and the Washington Heart Association.   Eleanor Ison-Franklin served on the Spelman College and Howard University Board of Trustees and as president of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College.  She was an organizing director of the Women's National Bank of Washington as well as a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  In 1986, Dr. Ison-Franklin was selected as the third recipient of the Hall of Fame Award by the National Alumnae Association of Spelman.  She was a member and frequent presenter of programs for The National Institute of Health, The National Academy of Sciences, The American Physiological Society, The American Society of Hypertension,  The American Heart Association, The Congress of International Union of Physiological Sciences, the New York Academy of Sciences, Sigma Delta Epsilon, Phi Sigma Honorary Biological Society,  and The National Science Foundation.  

Spelman College honored one of their most illustrious graduates for her extra ordinary contributions to the development and strengthening of the Alumnae Association. Howard University honored this pioneering woman with citations for Outstanding and Dedicated Service in 1980 and for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education. While at Howard, Dr. Ison Franklin served for thirty years as Porter Lecturer from 1967 to 1997. 

Dr. Eleanor Ison-Franklin died at her home on October 2, 1998 after suffering a heart attack.    She survived her husband by two years and was the mother of Dr. Reginald K. Franklin of Atlanta and Clita R. Anderson of Muskegon Heights, Michigan.

In a 1979 interview, Dr. Franklin said that a black woman seeking a place in science and medicine must be "one whose identity of self is strong, whose coping mechanisms have been nurtured within a supportive ethnic environment, whose career choice is incidental to the more important need to achieve academically, and who entered an institution which traditionally accepted the fact that women have a role in the medical profession."  At the same time, Dr. Ison-Franklin's leadership in administration made it easier for the black woman to succeed in the medical field.   

In her obituary published in The Physiologist, Dr. Ison-Franklin was remembered mostly for her great love of teaching and her devotion to helping hundreds of minority students to achieve their goals and realize their dreams of practicing medicine.  She was committed to excellence in all things with an attitude of respect toward all people.  In summing up the rewards of her career in education, Dr. Ison-Franklin said, "It is axiomatic that the only true rewards of an academic career are the successes of one's students.  Therefore, I am a witness to my rewards as I look around.  They sit in chairs of departments, directors of programs, chiefs of divisions, deans, vice-presidents, and researchers.  I hope that in some small way, I have stimulated their development and have imparted to them a modicum of their knowledge.  I hope that through all of the many engagements with my students that I have succeeded in imparting time-honored values  . . .  among these that I hold most high are integrity and continuous learning." 


The Best Boxer You Never Heard Of

Time and even his own daughter almost erased the memory of Jimmy Bivins from the minds of boxing fans.  Though you have probably never heard of him, Bivins, a native of Twiggs County, is regarded as one of the best boxers of his era.  While he never won a championship, Jimmy Bivins, is regarded by experts as one of the best Light Heavyweight Fighters of the 20th Century.

James Louis  “Jimmy” Bivins was born in Dry Branch, Georgia on December 6, 1919.  His parents, Allen and Fleta, lived on their farm on the Old Griswoldville Road in the Smith District of northwestern Twiggs County.  The Bivins joined many other African American families who migrated to work in the industrial complexes of the Northeast and Midwest, leaving their boll weevil infested red clay farm behind.

The Bivins moved to East 53rd Street in Cleveland, Ohio.  Allen worked as a fireman  for the Ohio Cleaning Company.  James and his sisters Viola, Maria and Fanny May attended the neighborhood school.    It was in when he was in his  teens when Jimmy learned how to box.  In his first celebrated match, Jimmy lost to Storace Cozy in the third round of the 147-pound class in the AAU Championship in San Francisco.  

Bivins entered the world of professional boxing as middleweight.  His first professional fight came in Cleveland on January 15, 1940 with a one round TKO over Emory Morgan.  His sixth straight professional victory came in April in Chicago in an eight-round decision over Nate Bolden.  Bivin’s remarkable streak of 19 consecutive wins, highlighted by ten-round victory over Charley Burley,  ended in his last match of the year, when he lost a rematch with Anton Christoforidis.  

Jimmy picked up right where he left off in 1941.  As a light heavyweight, he won six of eight bouts.  In his fourth and probably the most important match of his early career, Bivins beat Joey Maxim in a ten-round decision in a match fought at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.  Maxim won the world light heavyweight championship in 1950.  In defense of his title in 1952, Maxim, a native of Cleveland,  beat challenger Sugar Ray Robinson in the only one of his 201 matches where he failed to answer the bell.  Bivins ended 1942 with a record of seven wins and one loss.  Ring magazine named him the number one contender in the heavyweight and light heavyweight classifications. 

In his opening bout of 1943, Bivins defeated Ezzard Charles, a fellow Georgian and regarded as the third greatest light heavyweight of the 20th Century, in ten rounds.  Bivins continued his meteoric career completing the year with eight victories and no defeats.  His win over Ami Mauriello earned Jimmy the Duration Heavyweight Title.  Bivins won his only match in 1944, a year which saw few matches while he served in the United States Army.  During that last full year of the war, Jimmy Bivins was known as the interim or unofficial  Heavyweight Champion of the World. 

Jimmy’s greatest victory came on August 22, 1945 in his adopted hometown of Cleveland.  In a six round technical knockout, he defeated Archie Moore, selected by the Associated Press as the best light heavyweight of the 20th Century.  He ended the war years with an astonishing record of 48 victories,  two defeats and a draw.

Bivins ran his win total to fifty-two before a devastating loss to Jersey Joe Walcott in the winter of 1946.  Until that point, Bivins had not lost a boxing match since June 22, 1942.   Jimmy lost again in June and didn’t fight until two weeks before Thanksgiving when he was defeated by Ezzard Charles  in the tenth round for his third consecutive loss.   

In 1947, Jimmy Bivins regained his winning style and won ten matches and only losing one.  He carried a five match winning streak into a rematch with Archie Moore, which he lost in the 10th round.  Just sixteen days later, he lost another ten round bout with Ezzard Charles.  After a six round exhibition match with the great Joe Louis on November 17, 1948, Jimmy lost his third match of the year, a defeat by fellow Clevelander Joey Maxim.  

Jimmy Bivins continued to win, garnering six wins in eight matches in 1949.  By 1949, his competition was becoming less noteworthy.  After winning one of only two bouts in 1950, once again Bivins put together seven match winning streak, which came to a screeching halt on August 15, 1951, when he lost a heavyweight match to Joe Louis.   His only consolation was his winnings.  Though he lost the match to one of the greatest fights ever, Bivins was paid $40,000.00 his largest cash prize ever.  His last great fight came in Chicago on November 26, 1952 when he lost to Ezzard Charles.  For the rest of his career, Jimmy could only manage to fight small time fighters.  He won his last four bouts, his final victory coming at home in Cleveland on October 28, 1955.    

After his retirement, Jimmy drove a bread truck for his day job.  But boxing was in his blood.  He trained amateur boxers in the Cleveland area for many years.  

One of the darkest moments in Jimmy Bivins’ life came not on the mat of a boxing room, but in the home of his own daughter.  Forced to live with his daughter after the death of his wife, Bivins was horribly mistreated by his daughter and her husband.  When Bivins failed to show up at the local gym, concerned friends went out to look for him.  Bivins was found in the attic of his daughter’s home, bundled in a urine-stained blanket, missing a portion of his finger, blind in one eye and emaciated down to 110 pounds.     It was the athlete in him that guided him through one of the toughest battles of his life.  Just like he did in the 1940s, Jimmy battled and won, regaining his old fighting weight.  His former pupil Gary Hovrath helped to bring his mentor back to the gym.  

In his 112 fight career, the 175-pound 5-foot 9 inch tall Bivins posted an illustrious record of 86 victories (thirty one by knockouts,) twenty-five losses, and one draw.  He fought seven members of the Boxing Hall of Fame, defeating four of them.  He squared off against eleven world champions, defeated eight of them, including Joey Maxim, Archie Moore and Ezzard Charles. 

Though he never won a boxing title,  the voters of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999  recognized the remarkable achievements of Jimmy Bivins during the 1940s.   A five-man panel appointed by the Associated Press named Jimmy as the fifth greatest light heavyweight boxer of the 20th Century.  In commenting on his induction, the quiet Bivins remarked, “I knew one of these days they would recognize me.  I did the best I could.  I’m glad it was appreciated.” 


King of the K's

Most of you who are baseball fans know that Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood hold the record for the most strikeouts in a regulation 9-inning major league game with 2o. You would have to be a baseball purist to know that Tom Cheney set the game record with 21 strikeouts in a 16-inning game.  Cristen Vitek of Baylor and Eileen Canney of Northwestern hold the NCAA record for 28 strikeouts in a game in sixteen and eighteen innings respectively.  But how many of you know that a former Dexter kid struck out 28 batters in a 9-inning high school game  for a world record.  Millard Whittle of Dexter remembers.  Mr. Whittle remembers a lot about a lot of things. After all, he has been around these parts for more than ninety years.  Mr. Whittle called me and related the story of Hugh Frank Radcliffe.  I was hooked and logged onto the Internet as fast as I could to see what I could find.

Hugh Frank Radcliffe was born on November 27, 1928 in Fort Valley, Georgia.  He spent his early years in the Dexter community.  Sometime during the end of the Great Depression, the Radcliffes moved to Thomaston, Georgia.  Hugh attended Robert E. Lee Institute in Thomaston.  Hugh, or Frank, or "Redbone," as his friends called him, was a four-sport star at R.E. Lee.   Radcliffe was an all state and all South  end and the best kicker in Georgia.  He was an all state guard in basketball and a state champion in the pole vault.  But his main sport was baseball.  Now you will see why.

Hugh was considered big for his day standing  six feet one and one half inches tall without his cleats on  and tipping the scale at 185 pounds.  He was as clean cut as any teenager could be.  His coach described him as unimpressed with accolades and one who disdained alcohol, tobacco and even ice cream sodas.

It was the year 1948.  Hugh was just about half way through his senior year in high school.  As a sophomore, Hugh led his team to the Georgia and Regional American Legion titles.  The game was to be played in Macon, Georgia.  The Rebels' opponents that day were the Poets from Lanier High School in Macon.  The Poets, including future big leager Coot Veal,  were no slouches.  The team had a winning tradition for many years.    The Poets no longer had Billy Henderson, a former Dublinite and a high school All-American baseball player.  Sporting a five-game winning streak, Lanier was always a strong team.  The date was April 19th. The place was Silvertown Ballpark.

Hugh struck out three batters to end the first inning.  The fans and coaches all must have said, "well, Frank's on today."  Then he struck out three batters in the second.  Somewhere during the game he struck out four batters in one inning.  Some of you might say, "how can that be?" Well, the reason is simple.  Under baseball rules, when a catcher drops a third strike and first base is not occupied and there is less than two outs, the runner can advance to first base.  The catcher, or another fielder, must retrieve the ball and throw it to first base.  If the runner beats the throw, he is awarded first base, but the pitcher is given credit for a strikeout.  Usually an error is given to the catcher or the pitcher for allowing the runner to advance. But, enough of the rules, back to the game.

Radcliffe struck out at least three batters in every inning for the rest of game.  High school boys played the old-fashioned game with nine innings.  They play only seven today  to give the boys more time to study, as if they were going home after a long ball game and crack open a chemistry text book.

But before you think that every Poet batter struck out, you would be wrong.   In all, only ten balls were touched by a Poet bat.  Seven were fouled off. One Lanier batter managed to get a hit.  Rebel Coach J.E. Richards commented on the single safety by charging it to an inattentive fielder "who was too accustomed to watching Radcliffe playing the game by himself."  Two other balls were mishandled by Hugh's teammates.  The Rebels plated ten runners and won the game 10-0.  The Macon Telegraph's very brief account of the  game credited the Poets with two hits and two dropped third strikes by Rebel catcher Whitten.

Word of "the one in a million feat" got out and scouts from colleges and professional ball clubs descended upon Thomaston like flies at a church picnic.  When these old baseball veterans saw Hugh pitch, they drooled.  They had plenty of opportunities to drool.  Not since School Boy Rowe and Bob Feller came into the limelight in the early 1930s had such a young pitcher drawn so much attention.  Scouts from the Tigers, Indians, Reds, Senators, Yankees, Pirates, Athletics and Crackers came to watch the sizzling sensation.

At the end of R.E. Lee's eighth game of the season, Radcliffe posted a record of six wins and no losses.  On May 19th, Radcliffe took the mound to face nearby Griffin High School.  Two thousand people showed up for the game, a high school game!  The right-handed hurler didn't disappoint the crowd.  Twenty-five Griffin batters were sent back to the dugout with a "K" by their name in the scorekeeper's book.  Radcliffe had an off day, giving up three, but his offensive gave him eighteen runs, so the outcome of the game was never in doubt.  Radcliffe boosted his season totals to 210 strikeouts in 81.67 innings, or 2.57 strikeouts per inning an astonishing 23.13 per game.  During his senior season, he threw three no-hitters, allowing only 18 hits and giving up three unearned runs for a mind-boggling ERA of 0.37.    During that magical season, Radcliffe struck out 50 consecutive batters and 97 in four nine-inning games. By the way, Hugh hit .450 that season.

With all of the praise and accolades piled on him, Radcliffe's high school career game to a disappointing end.  He lost in front of 4,000 fans in the first game of the playoffs, 8-6.  Many of them came to the game on the twenty-six buses parked out in the parking lots and down the streets.  The scouts blamed it on the team and their nine errors, not due to their highly sought after prize, who struck out twenty-four.

The Philadelphia Phillies won the bidding war between 14 teams,  satisfying Hugh and especially his mother.  The young fireballer was assigned to the Phillies' Wilmington, Delaware club with a forty thousand-dollar check in the bank.  Radcliffe pitched well and was moved up to Toronto.    Soon Frank became the property of the New York Yankees and enjoyed a brief stint with the big club before returning to the minor league with the Syracuse Chiefs, Kansas City Blues  and the Birmingham Barons in addition to assignments in Binghamton and Beaumont.

Hugh Radcliffe didn't make it to the current National High School record book.  I guess they don't go back that far, or they just don't have folks like Millard Whittle to remind them of that spring day nearly sixty years ago when a Dexter boy became the "King of Ks," the "Wizard of Whiffs" and the "Sultan of Strikeouts."


Friend and Foe of An American Literary Legend

Emily Whitehurst married the love of her life.  Her husband's best friend was a man she deeply admired.  When her idol slighted her husband's influence on his celebrated writings, her admiration turned to scorn.  But in her own right, she was a woman ahead of her time, a time in the South when her stands on social rights were scorned by many and admired by the very few.  

Emily Whitehurst was born in 1909 in Dublin, Georgia.  Her father, Zollicoffer, or just plain "Z." Whitehurst was a pharmacist, who later became the Superintendent of Laurens County schools.  Her mother was the former Miss Minnie Edge.  Emily graduated from Dublin High School in 1926.   After her graduation, Emily studied at Georgia State Teacher's College and Tulane University, where she obtained a degree in education. 

Emily loved literature, especially classical Greek literature.  She began to read "The Sound and the Fury," by Mississippi novelist William Faulkner.   She took a friend and set out for Oxford, Mississippi to meet her new favorite author.  She said, "here is a real live writer.  I had never seen one.  He was short, but had a great presence."  Emily stayed in Oxford, where she taught school.  She began to write her own novel.  The new single, blond, blue-eyed school teacher was the object of the town's matchmakers.  Emily's friends were all talking about a young man, a Yale-educated handsome lawyer  named Phil Stone.  "He was the most romantic person, all the girls in town were in love with him," Emily remembered.   After all, Phil Stone was the best friend of William Faulkner, the man who's writing "set her on fire."

A mutual friend took Emily's unfinished manuscript to Phil for his review.  There was something in her words that peeked the young lawyer's attention, or maybe there was something in her smile.  Phil sent a letter to Emily inviting her to come by his office.  Emily  was flattered.  "I just primped myself to pieces," said Emily, who married Phil Stone in a New Orleans church, despite the fact that she had disavowed her staunch Methodist upbringing and was generally regarded as somewhat of an atheist.  

It was about this time when Emily's admiration for Faulkner evolved into disdain. Faulkner would come by the Stone home and sit in their parlor while he read his new stories to the Stones, who acted as critics and counselors as well.  Mrs. Stone was intimidated by Faulkner.  Particularly disturbing was his opinion about women.  Emily believed Faulkner saw women as good for housework only and as parasites, who live off the men they marry.  Many times Emily bit her tongue when it came to Faulkner's faults.  She realized the importance of her husband's friendship with Faulkner and learned to respect it.

Faulkner's reputation among his critics and multitude of readers began to soar.  Many people in Oxford thought the highly respected author's work were in reality, written or at least inspired by Phil Stone.  It was generally known and accepted by almost everyone, except Emily, that Gavin Stevens, the southern lawyer protagonist of Faulkner's widely acclaimed mystery novels, was based on Faulkner's best friend Phil.  Emily hated the comparison.  "I got mad.  Phil was not," Emily remembered.  "Gavin was so garrulous and Phil was not," she said as she remembered her fury when everyone thought the lawyer in Faulkner's novels was actually her real life husband.  Emily did admit the similarity between Gavin Stevens and her husband's propensity for telling stories.  

Phil never took any credit, except for giving Faulkner a sense of humor and keeping him in Mississippi and away from New York.  When William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, he took all of the credit and gave his best friend Phil absolutely no praise for his friendship and inspiration.  This was the last straw.  Emily believed with all of her heart that it was Phil Stone who transformed William Faulkner into a writer, or at least into the writer he became.  Phil and William, a high school dropout, were inseparable.  The highly educated Stone exposed William to a diverse group of classic literary works.  Stone purchased a thousand copies of Faulkner's first book, a volume of poetry, to boost his friend's ego and fatten his wallet.  After tolerating his faults for too many years, Emily Stone no longer had any use for the once beloved icon and forever demigod Faulkner. 

Emily simply adored and idolized Phil. She and "Mr. God," as she referred to him had two children, Phillip, Jr. and Araminta.  Early in their marriage, the Stones suffered an irreparable loss.  Their elegant home was destroyed by fire.  Most devastating was Phil's vast library, which included a fifty- foot long, more than a head tall, line of literary works.  Among the treasures lost or severely damaged were some of Faulkner's earliest works, many of which were personally inscribed by the author.  The loss of her and her husband's priceless possessions was compounded by the loss of her most prized possession, her husband.  First he lost his mind and then he died, leaving her to face a new world alone. Emily turned back to her childhood faith and found solace in her new life.  She moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi and then to Montgomery, Alabama and then to Charlotte, North Carolina. 

During the violent racial upheavals of the 1950s and 1960s, Emily Stone saw the absurdity of the cataclysms erupting in Mississippi and throughout the office.   When James Meredith became the first black student to integrate Ole Miss, Emily refused to join in the effort to deny him his rights, but instead took the offensive.  With the courage of a literary hero, Mrs. Stone chastised and condemned their barbaric behavior.  Her pleas went ignored.
Ralph Wood, a professor of religion at Wake Forest, said of Emily, "she was a woman ahead of her time.  She could have been content being a perfect Southern lady - keeping her china sparkling, her silver polished and belonging to book clubs where people didn't read books.  But she wasn't."  Emily did write, but none of her short stories and essays ever garnered any fame, except among her inner circle of friends and colleagues.  As Professor Stone, Emily was a highly respected teacher of English literature at Huntingdon College.

Emily Whitehurst Stone died on June 24, 1992 at Wesley Nursing Center in Charlotte.  In his eulogy of Emily Stone, Professor Wood described her an oxymoron,  "she was a saint without a halo.  She may have thought herself an unbeliever but to paraphrase Tennyson, there lived more faith in her honest doubt than in half our creeds."  


From Lovett Park to Wimbledon

He has been called "The Wizard of Gauze."  Others call him "Billy the Banger" or "Bangers and Mash."   He has spent most of his life in and around many of the most exclusive and glamorous tennis courts of the world.  In his career, Bill Norris had mended scrapes, soothed strained muscles and counseled many  of the world's greatest tennis players  Of all of the places in the world, his career began right here in Dublin, Georgia at Lovett Park.  From such a humble beginning, Bill Norris moved on to a career in professional basketball and found his life's calling as the world's most highly regarded tennis trainer.

William L. Myers was born on August 5, 1942 in Fort Myers, Florida.  He grew up a baseball fan. As a perennial ritual of spring, major league baseball players invaded his homeland to prepare for the rigors of the upcoming seasons.  At the age of 12, Billy Myers knew he wanted to be an athletic trainer.  As a spring training bat boy for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Myers began to learn the scientific method of treating sports injuries.  During his high school years, he worked as an assistant trainer for the Pirates while they were in town.  Though he wasn't much of an athlete, Bill loved sports and wanted to be a part of them. 

Bill began his studies in earnest in 1960 when he enrolled at Manatee Junior College.  After  two years of school, he was invited to join the Class D team of the Milwaukee Braves in the Georgia-Florida League.  And so, for Bill, it was off to Dublin, Georgia  and his first real job as a trainer.  The Dublin Braves were a pretty fair minor league team that year.  Four players, including Bill Robinson, made it to "the show" before their playing days were over.  Bill learned the game under the guidance of veteran minor league manager Bill Steinecke.  

After attending a training school, Bill was hired to work with the New York Mets, the worst team in baseball history.  The Mets assigned Bill to train their minor league teams first in Columbus, Georgia and then in Auburn, New York.  Bill's natural skills as a trainer didn't go unnoticed.  Coach Eddie Donovan of the cross town New York Knicks saw something special in the young Floridian.  When the last out was made, Bill began his conversion to basketball with a promise of returning to baseball when the grass began to turn green again.  During his six seasons with the Knicks, Norris saw to the needs of some of the game's greatest players, including Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere and Walt Frazier.  While he worked with the Knicks, Bill also worked as a trainer for all performers in Madison Square Garden, including boxers, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. 

In 1969, Bill again took another cross town job, this time with the New York Nets of the ABA.  In the early years of the franchise, Norris worked with future NBA legend Rick Barry, leaving the team just before it signed the all time great Julius Erving.   Bill continued to work for the Mets during baseball season during the off season.   But after twelve seasons of professional basketball and several more in baseball, it was time for a career change. 

In 1973, Bill was approached by the Association of Tennis Professionals.  They needed a trainer for their members and Bill was a prime choice.  The association wanted one trainer for all of their male tennis players.  They needed a familiar face run out on the court  to tend to an injury, one person who could know the players and their particular bodies and one who could get into their minds and relieve their aches and pains.  Rarely does Bill see an injury.  He has to rely upon spectator's accounts and those made by anguished players. 

The highlights of Bill Norris's thirty three years in professional tennis come from his association with the United States Davis Cup teams.  He has worked with four winners of the cup, led by a quartet of the greatest legends of the game, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi.   He has also worked with Pete Sampras, Stan Smith and  Ken Rosewall among hundreds of others.Norris also worked with international icons Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Ilie Nastase and Guillermo Vilas.   At all times, Bill's job is to remain neutral and treat each competitor the same.   Bill did become a close friend and drinking buddy of Bob Lutz.  Of all of the players  he trained, Norris most admires the tenacity and determination of Jimmy Connors, despite his obnoxious behavior on the court.  Some have compared bill to the incomparable fictional teacher Mr. Chips, who now after forty-five years of training looks back with fondness for the thousands of young men he has worked with and gotten to know and to admire.      

Bill's job calls for up close and deeply personal contact with his athletes.  Many of the game's greatest players would and could confide in him their deepest  thoughts,  triumphs and fears.  Bill had to become a part time psychologist.  As a trainer, Bill knew what to do to physically prepare his players for their next match, but he learned to observe their mental attitudes as an indicator of how they were going to perform after they left the locker room.  From his position, Norris knows the players better than anyone, maybe even the players themselves.  The players grew to admire and respect Norris, who once with his long hair and strong round glasses, bore an uncanny resemblance to the late singer John Denver.  Their similarities were so indistinct that Bill used to sign Denver's name for autograph seekers and adoring fans who couldn't tell the difference.   His likeness helped him to get free drinks and quite a few laughs.  Jimmy Connors once got in on the joke when he traveled to meet Denver to ask for his advice, pretending that Denver was Bill Norris.  All of that ended after Denver's untimely death in an airplane crash. 

Bill's expertise on tennis injuries drew the attention of amateurs as well.  President Ronald Reagan called on Bill to work on is bad back.  Princess Grace Kelly sought out Bill's comforting hands to cure her sore elbow.  

Today, Bill's schedule has trimmed down dramatically.  He now spends more time with his wife and family, a task which was once difficult to manage. Bill Norris loves the game of tennis and loves helping its players make it up off the court.  Over his forty-five years in sports medicine, Bill looks forward to every new day.  "No two days are the same," said Bill, who thrives on his relationships with every new generation that comes along.  His favorite tournament is at Wimbledon.   "It is like a big reunion," Bill said.    

Bill Norris believes the soul of tennis lies within the amateur players across the country and the world, who have not been exposed to fame and adulation.  He never plans to retire, telling a reporter for the BBC, "I want to die running out to the court trying to help somebody." 


Legendary ATP trainer Bill Norris was honored by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to the sport. Norris is in his 41st year in professional tennis and is the founding father of the ATP Sports Medicine Committee.
Norris received the 2013   Samuel Hardy  and Tennis Educational Merit Award from Hall of Fame President Stan Smith  during a recent awards luncheon in Carlsbad, California.
“As an industry, we are only able to grow tennis with the vision and hard work of dedicated leaders and volunteers,” said Smith. “Bill Norris’ work in sports medicine and rehabilitation has proved vital to improving and extending careers for so many athletes.”
A pioneer in athletic training and sports medicine, Norris developed many principles and protocols of conditioning, preventative care, rehabilitation, and recovery that are standards in sports medicine today.
He began his career in professional baseball and basketball prior to joining the men’s tennis tour in 1973. Norris worked for the New York Mets upon his graduation, and was named the head athletic trainer/therapist for the New York Knicks in 1963 at the age of 21 - the youngest ever hired for any major league franchise.
 @ ATP


                      A Pomological Polymath

    Thomas McCall, one of Laurens County's most successful early settlers, was known as having many of many talents, or a "polymath," if you know the obscure synonym for the term.  McCall, a talented mathematician and surveyor, was known far and wide across theyoung nation of the United States of America as a celebrated vineyardist.

     Thomas McCall, son of James McCall and Janet Harris McCall, was born on March
30, 1765 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.  At the age of six, Thomas and his family moved to South Carolina.   McCall served as a private  in the Colonial army as a member of Capt. Greene's Troup of Horses in Gen. Marion's Brigade.   His service to the new nation entitled him to a grant of land, which he took in Washington County in 1784.  

     Thomas, who possessed a great talent for mathematics and surveying, was appointed by the governor of Georgia as Assistant Surveyor General before his 20th birthday.  His first known survey was recorded in 1784.  For his services to the state, McCall received grants of lands along the eastern side of the Oconee River totaling more than 130,000 acres and eleven town lots in Brunswick.   The largest of his grants totaled 11,875 acres in Franklin County, which originally stretched from present day Oconee County to the South Carolina line.   McCall served as Surveyor General of Georgia from 1786-1795.  As Surveyor General, he found himself nearly embroiled in a controversy known as "The Pine Barren's Fraud," where unsuspecting northerners were granted, for a fee, thousands of acres of land in Montgomery County, which didn't even exist. 

     Included in his land holdings was a 500 acre tract opposite Dublin in the area known as Sandbar.  For years the strip of bottom land was known as the "Corral."  McCall acquired the land in 1794 and the property was subsequently purchased by his son-in-law Jeremiah H. Yopp.   George Gaines, the husband of his daughter Louisa, established the first ferry at Sandbar.  Once the town of Dublin was established, Gaines moved to the west side of the river and built a home in Dublin.  He lived on the street named in his honor.  

   Thomas McCall took the hand of Miss Henrietta Fall in marriage on April 17, 1787. He continued to receive large grants of land in Augusta and Franklin counties, which he turned into cash.  The McCalls lived in Savannah during the latter decade of the 18th Century.  Henrietta McCall died at the age of thirty in 1797. One year and one week later, Thomas married Elizabeth Mary Anne Smith, daughter of James Lawrence Smith and great-great-granddaughter of James Moore, one of South Carolina's early governors. 

     The McCall's moved to Camden County in the southeastern corner of the state.  They lived for a short time in McIntosh County, where McCall designed the layout of the town of Darien in 1806.    Apparently McCall stayed out of politics and left very few records of his existence in the coastal counties.  

     It appears that McCall suffered some sort of devastating business loss about the year 1815.  It was about the year 1816 when Thomas and Elizabeth McCall left the secure and glamorous life of the low country and moved to Dublin.  Curtis Bolton and Company recovered a multi thousand dollar judgment against McCall in the Superior Court of Laurens County in 1816.  Practically all of his personal possessions were subjected to a levy by the sheriff.  His brother, Capt. Hugh McCall, who wrote the first comprehensive history of Georgia, purchased the lien and saved his brothers precious library of two hundred volumes, as well as his slaves  

     No one for sure can tell where Thomas and Elizabeth McCall lived.  Their home "Retreat," was located somewhere between Fish Trap Cut and the Glenwood Road (Capt. Bobbie Brown Highway.)  Though there is no deed on record, McCall appears as an adjoining land owner in the area and did buy an island in the Oconee River, possibly the island just above Fish Trap Cut.

     McCall aptly named his plantation, for during the last quarter century of his life, he seemed to retreat from the public eye.  He was a regular member of the Laurens County grand jury from 1819 to 1830 as well as sitting on a few trial juries, but that was the extent of his recorded public service.  But, McCall wasn't a total loner.  He often opened his home to distinguished visitors, including U.S. Senator and Attorney General John M. Berrien and Rev. Patrick Calhoun, father of Vice President John C. Calhoun, who baptized his oldest three girls.  

     It has been said that McCall's closest friend in Laurens County was Governor George Troup.  Both men moved to the county at approximately the same time.  Both were highly educated. Both loved to fish.  It was well known that each man kept a skiff tied up on the their respective sides of the river, so they could quickly cross to visit one another.  George Troup liked to drink fine wine and in Thomas McCall, Troup had the ideal neighbor.  

     Perhaps McCall's greatest fame, not only locally, but on a regional scale, came from his remarkable ability to cultivate the natural grapes of the area, as well as imported ones,  and to create new varieties which could withstand the sweltering summer temperatures of 101 and frigid ones at ten degrees .   By some accounts, Thomas McCall was regarded as the best vineyardist in the South. 

     Among McCall's most successful varieties was the Warren/Warrenton.  The grape was first grown in Warren County and ably adapted by McCall, much to the delight of Prof. J. Jackson of Athens, who spent a day with the celebrated wine maker in 1820 sampling his Madeira made from the same grape Jackson had tasted fifteen years earlier.  McCall had success with a similar grape, known as the vilis sylvestris.   Of the native grapes, the Wild Muscadine, or Bullus, made a tart with a fine claret wine with a slight yellowish tint. 

     After reaching Laurens County, McCall began to keep detailed records of his vineyard and his wine making processes.  In 1825, McCall summarized his nine-year study  in a highly respected essay published in magazines and newspapers throughout the country.  One Pennsylvania news editor wrote, " No effort in the United States to raise or improve the grape, has been more successful than that of Thomas McCall, Esq. of Laurens County. His wine from the native grape is superior to any wine the writer of this article ever drank, excepting the first quality of foreign wine."   Wine from his grapes  was served at the Jubilee celebration in the summer of 1826 in Miledgeville. 

     McCall maintained hundreds of vines in his vineyard.  In 1828, he made nearly 500 gallons, which he sold at a premium price of two dollars per gallon.  McCall was cited by experts as the first person in Georgia to successfully cultivate grapes and make them into wine.   His success came from adding sugar to the wine before it fermented.

     According to some experts, McCall is considered the founding father of modern wine making in America. 

     Elizabeth McCall died on June 20, 1831.  Her body lies in a grave near the center of the old City Cemetery.  Her grave marker is reminiscent of the those found in ancient American cities like Savannah, Charleston and Williamsburg.  

          Thomas McCall died on April 4, 1840 and lies beside his wife.  His marker was placed there many years after his death by his descendants.


Doctor, Lawyer and Judicial Chief

  Peter Early Love was a man of many accomplishments.  His life, albeit too short, was one of public service to his community and state.  This is the story of a Laurens County man and how he became  a leading citizen of antebellum Georgia.  During his two decades of public service, Love was a lawyer, solicitor, doctor, senator, representative, editor, mayor, judge and Congressman.

Peter Early Love was born on July 7, 1818 in Laurens County, Georgia.  His merchant father Amos Love, Clerk of the Superior Court of Laurens County, named him  for Governor Peter Early of Georgia, who was the first judge of Laurens County Superior Court.   His mother was the former Margaret James.   Peter had two sisters, Jane, who married General Eli Warren, and Mary Ann, who married Moses Guyton.   Educational opportunities in the area were virtually nonexistent.  So, Peter was home schooled by his parents and possibly by a live-in teacher.  At the age of eight, Peter had to face the first crisis of his life, the death of his father.  Margaret Love married Samuel Caldwell and the family moved from Laurens County.  Peter lived with his guardian and older brother-in-law General Eli Warren in Houston County.  Under the guidance of General Warren, Peter began to plan a career as a lawyer.  

Love matriculated at  Franklin College at the University of Georgia in 1834.  He left Athens in 1837 to pursue a career as a  doctor. After attending the Philadelphia College of Medicine, Dr. Love entered the medical field.      He first married Martha Stroud, who died shortly after their marriage.  He then married Mary Bracewell of Hawkinsville.  Dr. Love decided that the practice of medicine was not in his future.  

After a short stay in Houston County, Love moved to Thomasville in Thomas County.  Thomas County became the nucleus of legal and political activities of South Georgia.  In 1840, he served as a delegate to the Electoral College, voting in favor of William Henry Harrison.   Dr. Love was admitted to the practice of law by the Superior Court of Thomas County, Georgia. Among Love's fellow attorneys were James L. Seward, Archibald T. McIntyre and Augustin H. Hansell, all of whom moved from Middle Georgia to Thomasville.

Peter Love made his first venture into elective office in 1843 when he was elected Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit, which stretched from Laurens County to Charlton County in the southeastern corner of the state to Decatur County in the southwestern corner.  As Solicitor General, Love was charged with the responsibility of prosecuting criminal cases.  The large dimensions of the circuit required Love to be constantly on the road, appearing at least twice a year in each of the counties within the circuit.  He took office on November 11, 1843, replacing Augstin Hansell and served for four years.

After a year out of office, Love won the election as the Senator from the 12th District of Georgia  in 1849.  It was a time of immense political upheaval across the state and the nation.  Each southern state was faced with the question of secession or reaching a compromise by allowing new states to enter the Union free of slavery.  Love took the position of leaving the Union, a position not shared by the populace of Thomas County.  Though he was pro slavery, Love owned a small family of slaves in 1840.  By 1860, he had disposed of all of the 19 slaves which he had owned a decade before.  

During the decade of the 1850s, Love rose to the pinnacle of his life.  In 1852, he replaced Judge Hansell as Judge of the Southern Circuit which meant another return to the road.  He was elected in 1853 and again two and four years later.  Despite the rigors of his trial schedules, Judge Love was a leading citizen of Thomas County.  In 1856, he helped to organize a college for women, which eventually became known as Young's Female College.  Along with William H. Hail, he owned and edited the Wiregrass Reporter.    When it became apparent that the South was headed toward a military crisis with the North over the issue of state rights and slavery, many communities organized their own military companies.  As Captain Love, Peter was given the command of the Thomas Guards.  As if they were kindred spirits and going through parallel lives, Augstin Hansell was right there with Judge Love, serving as his first lieutenant. 

Judge Love, a popular judge throughout the state, sought higher inspirations.  In 1858, he resigned from the bench to conduct a successful campaign for a seat as a Congressman for the 1st Congressional District of Georgia replacing Congressman James L. Seward, a native of Dublin and his former law partner.  Judge Love returned to the bench for a brief time and remained there until he was scheduled to take office in the winter of 1859.  Near the end of his first term, Congressman Love addressed the Congress on the issue of slavery.  Love challenged his fellow congressmen to find a single sentence in the Bible which condemned slavery. In fact, he cited several passages which distinguished master and slave and proclaimed that the Bible provided guidelines for the regulation of slavery and therefore justified its existence.  

Differences between the North and South continued to diverge.  Congressman Love traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to attend a convention on the issue of secession from the Union.   He won reelection to Congress that fall.  But more importantly to Love and the nation as a whole, Republican Abraham Lincoln defeated a split ticket of three Democratic candidates. The Southern states held true to their promise and voted to secede from the United States to form the Confederate States of America.  On January 23, 1861, Congressman Love and his fellow Georgia congressional delegates resigned their seats and left Washington, D.C.  As one southern state after another adopted resolutions to leave the Union, war seemed imminent. 

Congressman Love still had a burning desire to serve the people of Thomas County.  In the summer of 1861, his fellow citizens elected him to represent them in the state legislature.  He served for two years during the early years of the War Between the States and was honored by his fellow colleagues, who named him Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives.  In 1863, he returned to Thomasville, where he was elected mayor.  

On November 8, 1866, at the relatively young age of forty-eight, Peter Early Love died.  He was buried in a family plot in the Old City Cemetery.     Peter had four  children. His sons Amos J. Love, a Confederate cavalry captain, and Peter Early Love, Jr., both died never having married.  He had two daughters, Mattie, who married Rev. Robert Harris and Margaret "Maggy," who married O.C. Hall.  The city of Thomasville permanently honored the memory of Congressman, Judge, Solicitor, Senator, Representative and Mayor Peter Early Love by naming one of the city's busiest thoroughfares "Love Street."  


A Paradigm of Ethics

 Randy Evans always knows the right thing to do.  He was raised that way.  This native of Dublin is a mixture of two of Laurens County's oldest families, the Thigpens from the east side of the river and the Evans family from the west side.  In a world when all too many lawyers are looked upon with distrust of their true motives, J. Randolph Evans is regarded by his peers as one of the best attorneys in the nation.  His clients have included several of the nation's most prominent politicians and erudite  corporations, but his roots to Laurens County still run deep.

Randy Evans was born in Dublin, Georgia on September 24,  1958.  His father James C. Evans is a son of Elton Evans and Martha Hilliard Evans of Dexter.  His mother Betty Evans is a daughter of Malcolm Thigpen and Marie Clements Thigpen of Rockledge.  Randy grew up in Warner Robins, where in 1976 he graduated from Northside High School.   Randy and his brother Greg spent most of their summers on their grandparents' farms.

"I decided to become an attorney before I started school and never wavered," Evans recalled.  Randy was awarded a scholarship on the debating team at West Georgia College, which he entered in 1976.  Evans was elected Judiciary Chairman of the Student Government Association and in 1979 was chosen by his fellow students to serve as President of the association.    Randy was a member of the debate team, one of the top three teams in the nation.    A Summa Cum Laude graduate, Evans majored in Political Science and minored in Mathematics and Speech.

While at West Georgia, he met a professor who would shape and mold his life forever.  Law and politics are often inseparable.   Evans met Newt Gingrich and volunteered on his campaign staff in 1976 and again in 1978, when Gingrich was first elected to Congress.  During the summer of 1979, Randy lived in the basement of Gingrich's Virginia home while he interned for the freshman congressman.

In 1980, Randy Evans began his study of the law at the University of Georgia. While in law school, he was a member of the Editorial and Managing Boards of the Georgia Law Review.  His Moot Court team was one of the top four in the nation.  In 1983, Randy was awarded a Juris Doctor Degree Magna Cum Laude along with citations of honor from the Order of the Coif and the Order of the Barristers.


Randy was asked by the firm of Boundurant, Miller, Hishon & Stephenson to join the firm as an associate.   Inspired by the wave of conservatism and old-fashioned values espoused by Ronald Reagan, Randy entered the world of politics and was elected chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party in 1985.  Later that same year,   Evans was asked to join Arnall, Golden and Gregory, one of Atlanta's most prestigious firms, in their legal malpractice section.

Before the age of thirty,   Evans assisted Newt Gingrich by taking an integral role in drafting the ethics complaint against the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright, which eventually led to his resignation and Gingrich's rise to the speakership. In 1991, Randy was elevated to partner and was appointed chairman of the Professional Liability Group of the firm.   Now recognized nationwide as an expert on professional liability insurance, Evans is the author of Practical Guide to Legal Malpractice Prevention.  In 1996, Randy Evans was chosen by his colleagues to head the bar's second largest section, the Torts and Insurance section.

When Speaker Newt Gingrich found himself on the hot seat in 1996 after an ethics complaint was filed against him, he called upon Randy to defend him in the Congress.  Evans became the speaker's personal attorney representing him in his divorce, in book deals and in contracts as a news analyst for Fox television news.

As his star began to rise,   Gingrich's successor as speaker, Dennis Hastert, retained Randy to act as his outside counsel in 1999.  That same year, Evans was appointed by Georgia Chief Justice Norman Fletcher as a Special Master for the State of Georgia for a five-year term which ended in 2004.    With Speakers Gingrich and Hastert on his client list, Evans became the logical choice to represent the Republican party in Georgia.  His stock in the law firm was also on the rise.  In 2001, he was named co-chairman of the Litigation Department at Arnall, Golden & Gregory.

One of the busiest attorneys in the nation, Randy Evans was named in 2001 to head  the business companies owned by former speaker Gingrich.  In 2002, he began to represent J.C. Watts, the former and always popular congressman from Oklahoma.  After one year, Watts named Evans to head his business interests as well.  That same year he accepted employment as the outside counsel of house majority whip Roy Blunt.

When the Republican party took over control of Georgia politics in 2002, Evans became more active in state politics, serving on the Georgia State Board of Elections and as general counsel for the Georgia Republican party.  Evans continued to represent his clients in book deals, negotiating Speaker, by Dennis Hastert and National Party No More for Zell Miller.   Though most of his known clients are well-known Republicans, Evans also represents many members of Congress and the Senate from both sides of the aisle.

In 2003, Evans became chairman of the Financial Services practice group at McKenna, Long & Aldridge in Atlanta.  He continues to try cases as well as author hundreds  of  law articles as well as being a coveted speaker at seminars and legal programs.   He finds that by writing and lecturing on legal issues, he is forced to keep up with the rapid changes in the law.   In his spare time, Evans is a member of the Roswell Baptist Church, the United States Supreme Court Historical Society and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Historical Society.  His wife Linda is a former Wall Street lawyer.  He has a twenty-year-old son, Jake.  His hobbies include chess and collecting lapel pins.  He also enjoys following his beloved Georgia Bulldogs.  He once told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, "I bleed red and black."

The editors of Best Lawyers in America have cited Randy in the practice areas of Commercial and Legal Malpractice in 2004, 2006 and 2007.  He has been recognized as one of Georgia's Super Lawyers by Atlanta Magazine.  James Magazine has named him one of the  most influential persons in the state  in the last two years.  

Like all good lawyers Evans describes himself as a solution-driven lawyer.  As it relates to a main area of expertise, Randy Evans defines discipline as "doing that which you don't want to do when you most don't want to do it."


“A True Survivor”

For the last fifteen years, millions of persons all over the world  have tuned their television sets to watch the popular television show Survivor.  The king of reality of shows features everyday people who endure the elements and undergo a variety of contests.  Sixty five years ago, William Wallace and thousands of other American soldiers and civilians faced the same challenge.  However, this challenge was real. It was constantly brutal,  frequently deadly and unfathomably heinous.

William Wallace, son of Lase and Frances Wallace, was born on April 1, 1922 and grew up in Millen, Georgia.  After his graduation from High School, William enlisted in the Army Air Corps and began his training at Fort McPherson in Atlanta.    Private Wallace was assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group (L)as a tail gunner.  The group was assigned to duty in the Philippine Islands in November 1941.  Wallace was at his station when the Japanese attacked the island chain on December 7.

The invaders launched a ferocious siege upon the American and Filipino forces, who had little food and an ever dwindling supply of ammunition.  After the three months of constant fighting, the American forces surrendered.  William was taken prisoner and along with thousands of other prisoners, was forced to endure the infamous “Bataan Death March.”  The weakened men were force-marched sixty miles in intense heat.  The only drinking water was found in mud puddles along the way.  Rest periods were rare.  Slow walkers were beaten.  Stragglers were bayoneted.  Six or seven hundred men were left dead on the side of the road.

After three months and fifteen hundred deaths at Camp O’Donnell, the prisoners were transported to the nefarious prison at Cabanatuan.  William remained there until September 1943.     It was in the latter months of 1943 that the Japanese government began to transport American prisoners back to the mainland to work in the coal mines.   Wallace and six hundred other prisoners were crammed into the hold a cargo ship, which set a course for Osaka.

Along the way, the ship detoured to Formosa in China.  The men were sent to a coal mine and were worked more than a half day, every day.  William was forced to push a heavy coal car up hill.  Any slip might result in a beating.    A prisoner’s daily diet consisted of three cups of rice.  If they were lucky, the men were given a prize morsel of meat, a pickled grasshopper, known to its consumer as a “Georgia Thumper.”

By 1944, William was assigned to a coal mine of the Rinko Coal Company in Japan. Conditions in the mine were unbearable.  The men were placed in an open building, left to face the brutal winters with virtually no shelter.  Each man was given old clothes to wear and a single blanket to keep them warm.  On the coldest of nights, six men would lie on one blanket and lie together, three with their heads on one end and three at the other end, with the five blankets on top.  At least the meals were better.   Stewed fish and boiled soybeans were added to the customary, but highly treasured, three daily cups of rice.   Once a week, the men got a bath.

Wallace described the winter of 1945 as the worst.  Snow falls ranged from three feet and more.  In order to avoid work and gain a stay in the hospital, Wallace would hold his breath and fall flat into the snow to make it appear that he had lost consciousness on six or seven occasions.  His captors never realized his ruse.  Had they done so, he would have been immediately executed on the spot.  “Getting out the snow, the freezing rain and still being allowed to eat was worth the risk,” said Wallace.   During that winter, William suffered from dysentery and double pneumonia and spent Easter Sunday, his 23rd birthday, in the hospital.

Conditions in the camp began to deteriorate rapidly.  The men began to steal food and cigarettes from each other, but were strongly disciplined if caught.  Distribution of food was scrutinized down to the pro rata bean and crumb of rice.

William was not released until the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  When he left the coal mine, he weighed 87 pounds.  Constant hunger and debilitating malaria and beriberi nearly killed William.  Thousands of others who weren’t so lucky.  

In August 1945, William returned to the United States and entered a hospital in California.   When he arrived home,  he possessed six stitches in his head, a result of an unprovoked attack by a Japanese civilian with a large chunk of coal.   After a period of recuperation, William returned to Georgia.  Among the first to greet him was his high school sweetheart Mary Dickey.  The couple married in 1946, but William believed his obligation to his country was not yet completed.  He returned to the Army Air Corps for a three-year hitch.  Though he tried to live a normal life, the haunting memories of his incarceration prevented William from sleeping with a light off for more than eight years.  Talking about his experiences was difficult, if not impossible.  It wasn’t until the survivors held their first reunion when William began to relate the horrors of his internment.  Wallace’s  remembrances are featured in Donald Knox’s “Death March,” the story of the Bataan Death March and its survivors.

Wallace told Knox, “the further we went into captivity, the worse it became.”  He began to doubt whether or not he could ever survive, but came to realize “that the human body can suffer nearly everything and still survive.”

William Wallace graduated from Mercer University with a double major in religion and history.  For forty-one years, he served small rural Baptist churches in our area and worked at Warner Robins AFB until poor health forced his retirement in 1943.  His last sermon was delivered in 1991.

In January 1992, nearly fifty years after his capture,  William Wallace was presented the Congressional Prisoner of War Medal in his hospital bed by Congressman J. Roy Rowland.   Never bitter toward his captors, Wallace was disappointed that Japanese Americans interned in camps in our country were given a reparation of twenty thousand dollars, while he and the four thousand survivors and the families of the five thousand who died never received a cent of compensation.

The Rev. William Wallace died on February 27, 1995.  The lung disease he contracted in the camps eventually killed him.   Wallace survived one of the most brutal prison camps in the history of the world.  He endured to serve his fellow man and to espouse the word of the Gospel and spread the message of peace and love toward all mankind.  On this Memorial Day, take a moment to remember William Wallace and the millions of brave Americans who sacrificed their lives, their homes and families to preserve our freedoms.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The Legend of a Legacy

     A century ago tonight, a political legend was born.  None of our county's congressmen, not even the indomitable George M. Troup, nor the incomparable Alexander Hamilton Stephens, have surpassed the lifelong legacy of Congressman Carl Vinson of Milledgeville.  For fifty years and one month, Vinson represented the citizens of the 6th and 10th Congressional Districts of Georgia with unwavering tenacity, dutiful honor, and distinguished patriotism.  His contributions to the people of Laurens County and to the nation as a whole are no less than monumental.

     Carl Vinson, one of seven children of Edward S. Vinson and Annie Morris Vinson, was born on November 18, 1883 in Milledgeville, Georgia.  As a young man, Carl was a good student and a born story teller.   After completing his classes at Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College during the day, he worked in Culver and Kidd's Drug Store and two other department stores in town.  He once supervised the distribution of an Atlanta Paper throughout the town, for which he earned a paltry $15.00 a week.

     At the turn of the 20th Century, young Carl became interested in studying the law.  He read law under the supervision of Baldwin County Court Judge Edward Hines.  He enrolled in law school at Mercer University in 1900 and graduated two years later.  After taking the oath of admission to the bar, Vinson accepted Judge Hines' invitation to form the partnership of Hines and Vinson. With the benefit of Judge Hines' influence, Carl Vinson became Solicitor of the County Court of Baldwin County in 1904. He was reappointed to that position in 1906.

     In 1909, Carl Vinson was first elected to public office as a State Representative from Baldwin County.  At the age of twenty-seven and during only his second term in office, Vinson was elected Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives, a prestigious honor to anyone of any age.  Rep. Vinson was denied a third term in the House following the reapportionment of Congressional districts following the 1910 Census.  Vinson supported the transfer of Baldwin County to the 6th District and into a district where the major population center was in Augusta.  Voters resented his actions and turned him out of office by a scant five votes.  It was the only election that he would ever lose, but it was one that may have turned his life around forever.  Vinson, not through with politics by any means, accepted an appointment as Judge of Baldwin County Court, in which he had previously served as solicitor.

     Following the death of Augustus O. Bacon, a United States Senator from Georgia, in 1914,  6th District Congressman Thomas Hardwick, of Sandersville, announced his candidacy for the vacant seat.  Vinson, unsatisfied with being a jurist in a inferior court, announced his intention to return to legislative service, this time at a national level.  Vinson easily won the election to fill Hardwick's remaining term and to a full second year term beginning in January 1915.  On November 3, 1914, Judge Vinson took the oath of office and became Congressman Carl Vinson, a position that he would hold for longer than anyone else in history until his retirement.  Cong. Vinson's only serious opposition came in 1918, when he was challenged by Populist leader Thomas E. Watson of McDuffie County.  Vinson won a close election over Watson, who was thought to be politically finished, but  soon won an election to the U.S. Senate. 

     During his second term in Congress, Vinson was appointed to the House Naval Affairs Committee.  The appointment was unusual in the fact that the congressman's district was no where near any large body of water and there were no naval installations within the district either.  During the early days of the country's involvement in World War I, Vinson made an electrifying speech before Congress espousing President Woodrow Wilson's declaration of war.  From the very beginning of his congressional career, Vinson became a proponent of building a bigger and better naval force. He maintained that he would like to see the fruits of his labor in Congress and bases and ships were visible evidence of his work.

     In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Congressman Vinson to the Morrow Board. The Board was formed following the court martial of Billy Mitchell, who criticized the Defense Department for their lackadaisical attitude for a strong air force program.  By 1923, all of the Democratic members of the Naval Affairs Committee were no longer in office, leaving Vinson as the senior Democratic member.  Acknowledging his expertise and aptitude for military matters, the committee chose Vinson to author many of the board's main recommendations, which included the establishment of an Air Corps and increased funding for building more planes and training more pilots and ground crews.

     The Congressional redistricting following the 1930 Census forced Vinson to return to the 6th Congressional District. When two incumbent Congressmen were placed within his district, one of them being Congressman William W. Larsen of Dublin, Vinson had to take action to avoid a highly contested election for the first time since 1918.  Congressman Larsen retired and the other fellow congressman died before the primary election in the summer of 1932.  

     But then, and apparently out of nowhere, a new candidate emerged. It would become the second most contested election campaign of Vinson's career.  It would also be an election which would have the most impact on Laurens County.  Judge R. Earl Camp of Dublin announced his candidacy to unseat the popular congressman from Milledgeville. In a letter published in Army-Navy Air Force Journal in February 1961, Judge Camp wrote to Cong. Vinson and said, " I am going to give you hell, I mean nothing but merry hell, and I don't mean maybe.  I am going to take the flesh, bone, marrow, hide, and hair off you."  Vinson refused Judge Camp's offers to debate the issues.   Camp was faced with overwhelming challenges. Vinson had become popular in national circles for his work on improving national defense.  He always made sure that members of his district were taken care of with their share of federal programs, a practice that would affect Laurens County in many ways in the decades to come.

     Vinson canvassed the entire district in the hot summer months leading up to the September  Democratic primary, speaking in every town in Laurens County.  Judge Camp struck back with faultfinding criticisms.  He belittled  the very core of Vinson's platform, a powerful U.S. Navy.  The strategy didn't work.   Vinson garnered nearly 65% of the vote in defeating Judge Camp, who managed to carry only four counties out of the district's eighteen, including the judge's home county of Laurens.

Before the 1932 election, Vinson was made chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee. He would serve in that office until 1947 when the committee merged with the Military Affairs Committee to form the House Armed Services Committee.  Under Vinson's leadership in the1930s, the United States naval force was essentially rebuilt.    Congressman Vinson was a workaholic when it came to being a congressman. He was in his office well before 8:00 a.m on most days and spent his nights reading nearly every scrap of newspapers, books and reports as they related to the work of his committee.  In 1938 and again in 1940, Cong. Vinson authored and ushered through Congress the Naval Expansion Acts which helped to prepare the country for the inevitable second World War.  His efforts went somewhat un-applauded until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

     At the beginning of World War II, Carl Vinson was one of the most powerful men in Georgia and in the nation.  He had served longer in Congress than any other Georgian and had been a member of the House Naval Affairs Committee longer than any other Congressman in the country's history. From his Washington office, Congressman Vinson led the civilian effort to win the war on  two oceans.  He constantly pushed for more ships and more personnel. In the end, Vinson's efforts to build the greatest navy in the world were finally and wholeheartedly endorsed by the Congress and the President.  As the war came to a close, Vinson made it clear that the country should not and must not scrap the country's naval force like it did following World War I.  He was somewhat successful though many ships which were no longer necessary were sold to private companies for conversion into civilian ships and for scrap.

     It was during the World War II years that Congressman Vinson's lasting legacy to Laurens County began.  When county farmers lost their work force to the war effort and county leaders were denied an application to establish a prisoner of war camp here, Congressman Vinson stepped in and approved the transfer of some of the German and Italian soldiers incarcerated at Camp Wheeler in Macon to a camp in Dublin in the summer of 1943.  For three summers the prisoners filled the void left by the hundreds of farm workers who were in military service.

     Right in the middle of the war Congressman Vinson wanted to make a lasting contribution to the citizens of the county who had stood behind him for many years. Vinson envisioned the establishment of a naval scarlet fever research hospital on the outskirts of Dublin. Still today some question the location of a naval facility more than 120 miles inland.  The answer is simple.  Dublin needed the economic shot in the arm that a hospital would generate.  As many as one thousand people and a greater number of jobs were generated by the establishment of the hospital here in January 1945.  The facility became part of the Veteran's Affairs Department in 1948.   The hospital was renamed the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in honor of the man who was responsible for the location of the facility which has a profound impact on Laurens County.

     Ancillary to the location of the naval hospital was the location of an airport to facilitate the transportation of patients and personnel into the hospital. The airport was eventually turned over to the county and has been an important economic tool and recreational facility for more than sixty years.  Obviously important in the location of the two facilities were the vast number of support jobs that were necessary to serve the civilian and military personnel working at the hospital.  New homes were built by the hundreds to house families who were moving here from all parts of the country. Even local citizens built new homes with the security of their new found employment.

     In the post war years, the Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon began the transition to dissolve the union of the Army and Air Force into two separate branches.  Incumbent in that plan was the necessity to establish a separate military academy for the training of the finest officers and pilots in the country.  One of the finalist communities to house the new Air Force Academy was Laurens County.  Vinson, whose influence extended mainly to naval affairs, wanted to place the facility in Laurens County.  When the naval and military affairs committees merged and Vinson was not elected chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, his plan was averted.  Had he been chosen chairman, it begs the question, "what might have been?"  

     As the Cold War began to heat up, military planners began a massive base construction program to stem the tide of Communism throughout the world.  A plan was made to construct a base on the elevated plateaus of the Buckeye District of northeastern Laurens County and neighboring Johnson County.  Excitement was rampant through out the county.  The government planned to establish an Air Force base to house a pride of the fleet, the legendary long range bomber, the B-52.    The news of a  base electrified some because of the economic jolt it would bring to the local economy.  Others feared that it would bring the county on the fringes of a target in the sight of a Russian "A bomb."  The plans didn't turn out like Congressman Vinson had hoped.  The base was closed even before it was built.  

    In the 1950s,   President Dwight Eisenhower began to resurrect the idea of a national interstate highway system.  The network of roads was designed to allow motorists to travel at high speeds with little impediments along their way.  The roads were also designed to allow the military to move rapidly throughout the country.  Georgia was susceptible to an attack because of her large number of military installations.  Interstate Highway 16 was designed to run from Macon in the center of the state to Savannah at the coast, tying in the air base at Warner Robins with Ft. Stewart near Hinesville.  The original route of the highway was to have run north of Dublin nearer the Central of Georgia Railroad, which ran through McIntyre, Toombsboro, and Tennille.  A subsequent modification brought the highway closer to Dublin.  In 1962, Soperton's Jim Gillis, Chairman of the Georgia Highway Department, and Dudley's R.L. Hogan, businessman and President of the Bank of Dudley, enlisted the aid of Congressman Vinson to move the route even further south.  Gillis, Hogan, and Dale Thompson, county attorney for Laurens County, visited with Congressman Vinson in his office and asked him to move the new highway to benefit more of the citizens of his district.  Vinson took the proposal to President John F. Kennedy.  After a five minute presentation, Cong. Vinson emerged and announced, "Gentlemen, you have your road."  Just like that with a handshake, Interstate 16 became an integral part of our county's infrastructure for centuries to come.  

   When a bitter dispute arose over the issue of a new county courthouse in 1962, Congressman Vinson stepped in and saved the day.  Voters disagreed over whether or not to build a new courthouse on the courthouse square or at another site in town or simply to keep the old courthouse and renovate it.  When a bond issue failed to provide the funds to build a new courthouse, the county commissioners turned to Carl Vinson for help.  Vinson convinced his fellow law makers to appropriate funds from a newly created federal program designed to aid towns and cities with urban renewal projects.  In doing so, the program funding half the cost of the construction of the present Laurens County courthouse.  In the summer of 1964, Congressman Vinson appeared at the dedication of the new courthouse, the first federally funded county courthouse in the United States.

   Carl Vinson's final legacy to Laurens County came later that year. In one of his last beneficial acts in office, Carl Vinson was enlisted by Elizabeth Moore, his old friend and director of the Laurens County Library, to help the citizens of Laurens County to build a modern library to replace the antiquated Carnegie Library building.  Vinson came through again.  With the aid of the same federal program, Vinson was able to secure the necessary funds to complete the project.

     Carl Vinson died on June 1, 1981.  During his life time of service to our county, district and nation, he was a stalwart for a strong national defense and was a champion for the members of his district.  The next time you pass by the VA Hospital, drive down the interstate, or check out a book at the Laurens County Library, stop and, just for a moment, give thanks to the memory of Carl Vinson.