Saturday, August 22, 2015

THE BIG ONE THAT STILL GOT AWAY



The World Record Large Mouth Bass


As fish stories go, this is a big one - a really big one.  For more than three quarters of a century, this verified fish story has withstood the test of time, a drove of doubters, and a congregation of cynics,  and though there is no existing direct evidence to prove, or disprove, his claim, George Washington Perry, a former resident of Telfair County and a native of Laurens County, Georgia, still holds the record for catching the biggest large mouth bass in the history of the world.  This is the true story of his catch and how it still got away.

George Washington Perry was born on March 1, 1912 in Dublin, Georgia.  One of six children of Joseph and Laura Perry, George grew up on farms in central Georgia.  When he wasn't helping out with the chores or working in the fields, George dreamed of going fishing, not only for the sport of it, but for something good to eat.  You see, George lived in the days when the boll weevil came and devoured most of the cotton plants which brought money to everyone, regardless of whether or not they owned or even worked on a farm.  This was the Great Depression.  There was little food to eat.  With what little money George and his family did have, it was a shame to waste it on buying food, especially when he  could reel it in out of a stream, creek, pond, lake or a river for free.

It was early on the morning on Thursday, June 2, 1932.  George woke up, saw it was raining and immediately thought to himself - no farming today,  the fields are too wet.  But, it would be a good day for fishing.  Fish usually bite better when the atmosphere's pressure falls during storms.  So, George called upon his buddy Jack Page to join him for a day of fishing.  The pair hoped to catch a mess of fish for supper that night, but just in case they didn't, it would be good for two teenage boys to talk about things teenage boys tend to talk about, not to mention missing a day of toiling in the hot Georgia sun.

With only one lure between them - a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner - George hopped in Jack's pickup truck bound for Montgomery Lake, an ancient ox-bow lake formed over centuries as the meanders of the Ocmulgee River's were cut off from the river's main run.  The 1931 Creek Chub catalog boasted that the No. 2101 Natural Perch fintail shiner with its beautiful, natural colors, scales, fins, with flat sides and a swishing tail and flexible fins was as near like a living, breathing and wiggling minnow as any human could make.  The company guaranteed their lure would make a fool out of any big old wise fish.  Their promise would turn out to be more than mere puffing, more than George could ever imagine or even dream.

George didn't want to lose his prized plug.  After all, it cost him $1.25 - which in those days, was a good wage for a long  day's work.  Perry pulled back his $1.50 rod and reel and carefully cast his lure between two horizontal cypress trees lying on the surface of the once bountiful lake.   Perry saw a splash.  He felt a tug.  He pulled back.  When nothing moved, George feared that he had hung his line on a pesky stump or a submerged log.

But then, the tug became a pull.  The pull became a strain. The strain became a struggle. a Adrenalin gushed through George's veins.   His instincts took over.  George pulled.  He pulled harder. After an arduous fight, George and Jack got the monster bass to the bank and put it in Jack's truck and set off to Helena, the closest town.

George and Jack pulled up to the store of J.J. Hall and Company.  They knew they had something special, certainly the biggest bass they ever saw and naturally they wanted to show it off.   As they strode into the store to exhibit their prized trophy, all eyes turned, gazed and bugged out in disbelief.

George laid the lifeless bass on a pair of scales.  No one would question the accuracy of these scales which were actually the official scales of the Helena Post Office.  The needle stopped at twenty-two pounds and four ounces.  Someone grabbed up a measuring tape and wrapped it around the twenty-eight inches of the fish's girth and then laid it out on the counter and marked off thirty-two inches.

      There were no digital cameras in those days and certainly not any cell phone cameras.  It was more than six decades before any purported photograph appeared.  The one that did showed an unidentified man and an unidentified young boy holding a big fish.  The palm trees in the picture's background still stand on the post office property and lend some credence to its authenticity.

Someone suggested that Perry submit his fish to Field and Stream Magazine as a part of their annual fishing contest.  Obviously George won it  that year.  Though George Perry was a legend in the Big Bend region of the Ocmulgee River, he never received much of any national recognition until later in life and more so after he died.    As a part of his prize winnings, George did receive a shotgun, a pair of boots, a rod and real and a tackle box, a  seventy-five-dollar value, as the catcher of the biggest fish of the year.   Today his picture and story would be all over the Internet and plastered in every fishing magazine in the country.   Just to put the doubters to rest, George went out and won the contest again in 1934, with a bass weighing a mere thirteen pounds and fourteen ounces.

So what did George Perry do with his big fish?  No, he didn't have it mounted and put on his wall.  He did what every country boy of the 1930s would have done. He gave it to his mama, who cut it up into pieces and fried it in a big cast iron pan. Mrs. Laura served the world record fish with some tomatoes and onions she picked out of her garden and a mess of good old fashioned skillet-fried cornbread.  The Perry's finished off the rest of fish the next day, much to the consternation of ichthyologists around the world.

Jack Page seemingly disappeared.  No one ever seemed to know whatever happened to Jack.  Maybe he left Telfair County to see if he could catch an even bigger fish, always regretting the fact that it could have been his turn to cast the lure into Montgomery Lake that day.

George Perry put aside his fishing tackle as a vocation and took up an interest in aviation.  He worked on planes and opened a flying service in Brunswick.  In 1973, at the age of sixty-one and before he could tell the complete story of his world record catch, George Perry crashed into the side of a mountain near Birmingham, Alabama while ferrying an airplane.

No one in these parts ever caught a more celebrated fish.  Kelly Ward of Laurens County did manage to snare the largest striped bass ever caught in Georgia when he reeled in a 63-pounder in the Oconee River in 1967.  Some say it might have rivaled the world record had it been weighed immediately after Ward caught the big fish.

Catching the world's biggest large mouth bass is no secret.  There are some necessary skills; careful planning, good weather, and a lot of luck that goes into landing the big one. In the words of my late daddy, who considered himself a fine fisherman, when it comes right down to it, "sometimes, you just have to hold your mouth right."

GROVER C. NASH



Soaring to New Heights


Grover C. Nash could fly a plane with the best of any pilot of his day.  In 1938,  he made history during National Air Mail Week.  This is the story of a poor farm boy from Twiggs County, Georgia who piloted his plane into history as he became the first African American pilot to fly and deliver the U.S. mail.

Grover C.  Nash was born in Dry Branch, Georgia way back on April 4, 1911.   He was seventh child and third son of Joe and Annie Nash.  No one alive seems to remember what his life was like as a child, but history tells us that it had to be tough.

Nash marveled in wonder when he saw planes flying overhead.  Like most boys of his day, Grover dreamed of flying like a bird.  But being black and being in the South, his chances of getting to fly in an airplane were just about as slim as his sprouting wings and flying on his own power.


Grover Nash went North in hopes of attending flight training classes.  The color of his skin prevented him from being accepted. But in 1931, Grover was  accepted into flight school. A graduate of Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical University in Chicago and Moore's Flying School in Dayton, Ohio, Nash had earned a Master Mechanic's certificate within two years.  Flying his own plane, a midwing monoplane he dubbed Little Annie, Grover Nash honed his flying skills under the tutelage of Roscoe Turner in St. Louis.  Turner, a World War I pilot, was a champion racing pilot in the 1930s.  He also studied under John C. Robinson, who was one of the founders of the Challenger Aero Club, one of the first black pilots organizations.

Tuskeegee Institute was supposed to be the destination of Nash's first long distance flight. Flying with him would be Col. Robinson and Cornelious Coffee, two of the nations' most famous pilots. The trio were engaging in a southern tour to Birmingham, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, as well as stops in St. Louis, Terre Haute and other cities in Illinois.  While they were approaching Decatur, Alabama, Robinson and Coffee had to crash land their two-man plane.  Being the junior members of the group, Coffee and Nash remained in Decatur, while their leader went on to address students at Tuskeegee. Nash's disappointment vanished when he returned the following year to visit the renowned black educational institution.

Nash made headlines in January 1935 when he gave a dazzling exhibition at an air show celebrating the seventy-second anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  As a lieutenant of the Military Order of the Guards and a member of the Challenger Aero Club, Grover's reputation in Chicago continued to grow.  To help pay the bills, Nash managed the service department for a chain of automobile parking lots in the Chicago area and operated his own flight school for six years.

A well-experienced private pilot, Grover C. Nash was somewhat of an automobilist.  In 1937, Nash set out from his Chicago home to visit a sick relative in Los Angeles.  Driving with little or no pauses, Grover made the 2,448 mile trip in 48 hours for an average of 50.8 miles per hour, a record for any automobile at the time.  It wouldn't be the only time that year that Grover Nash would take a long trip to see a relative.  When Grover left home in 1929, he promised his daddy that one day he would return home  in a plane.  There was much joy that day in Dry Branch when Grover's monoplane came over the tree tops and landed on the red clay soil of home.

The United States Postal Service established National Air Mail Week in 1938.  As a part of the celebration, an experiment was conducted to determine the feasibility of picking up and delivering air mail throughout small cities and large towns throughout the country.

It was early in the afternoon of May 19, 1938.  Excitement was escalating in Mattoon,  Illinois.  It was the first time the city's mail would be flown to its recipients around the state and the country.  As Nash landed his Davis monoplane in Mattoon, he was greeted by the post master, the police chief, city officials and somewhere near one hundred curious onlookers.   Grover was given a hero's welcome, a tour of the city, and dinner at a local caf‚.  Nash stashed about seven hundred more letters inside his plane and headed off to Charleston, only ten minutes away.

Charleston had never had airmail service either.  But, Grover Nash couldn't have dreamed that his reception there would dwarf the welcome he received on his first stop.  An estimated eight thousand people crammed the runway of the city's first airport.  A band played.  The crowd cheered. Nash waved to his adoring admirers.     After waiting out a severe thunderstorm, Nash took off at 5:45 for Rantoul with another two thousand letters.

An astonished Nash later told a reporter for the Chicago Defender that no one seemed to notice his color along the way - especially the  hundreds who pressed him to autograph their letters.  It was, however, the first time that an African American had carried U.S. mail through the air. And, on that day, Nash made the longest flight and carried more letters than any of the 146 pilots, before returning to Chicago, five minutes ahead of his scheduled arrival.

Five months later on Halloween Day, Grover Nash joined hands in marriage with his sweetheart, Miss Lillie Borras.

A group of black pilots in the Chicago area organized as the National Airmen Association of America in an effort to stimulate interest in aviation and understanding of aeronautics.  On August 16, 1939, a petition was filed to incorporate the organization in the state of Illinois.  Naturally, Grover C. Nash was among the founding directors.  The Airmen staged the first national all black air show in United States history earlier that summer.

During World War II, Grover Nash served his country as mechanical instructor at the US Army Air Force Aircraft Mechanical School.  He spent sixteen months as an instructor for the Army Air Force Training Command. In his first ten years of flight, Grover Nash  logged more than 3,000 flight hours in thirty different types of aircraft.     In 1943, Nash was the only black instructor at Keesler Field in Mississippi and Lincoln Air Base in Nebraska.   After the war, Nash was a member of the faculty of Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago, where he taught before his retirement to Los Angeles.

While visiting his relatives back home in Twiggs County, Grover Nash died on August 10, 1970.  He was buried in the church cemetery of White Springs Baptist Church.  Ten years after his death, Grover Nash was honored by in the exhibit "Black Wings" in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.


HUGH CLAFTON BARRON



On the Wings of a Hero

For sixty eight minutes, an American Airlines twin-engine Convair circled in the skies above Chicago.  With his plane's  fuel nearly exhausted, jet airliner pilot Clafton Barron had to make an emergency landing and make one soon.  Barron and his crew struggled mightily to release the right main landing gear, which has been stuck in the upright position.

Earlier in the day of November 9, 1954, passengers boarded the doomed plane in Fort Worth, Texas for the relatively short flight to Chicago.  Along the way, the plane stopped in Springfield, Missouri to pick up more flyers, including Mrs. Shirley Stratton, wife of Illinois governor William G. Stratton.  It was about five minutes until four o'clock in the afternoon, when the pilot Barron, based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but a native of Dublin, Georgia, radioed air traffic controllers in Chicago that one of his landing gears was stuck and wouldn't drop down into its landing position.  Barron got Capt. Fred Bailey on the radio and went through a series of routine measures to lower the right wheels.

After twenty minutes of futile efforts, Bailey directed Barron and his co-pilot H.L. Henderson to fly north of the city to Glenview Naval Air Station, where there would be a crash and fire crew standing by. Gov. Stratton stayed in contact with airport officials from his Chicago offices on LaSalle Street. By 4:30, Barron reported that he had about 65 gallons of fuel left - maybe enough to keep flying for about 30 minutes.  "I decided that the best way to keep everyone calm was to tell them what was wrong and how I intended to overcome the trouble," Barron recalled.

Barron lowered  the Convair's flaps and began his descent.  Approaching low from the south, Barron attempted to tilt the right wing higher to keep it off the ground upon contact with the runway. As the plane lost speed, the right wing dropped dangerously and deadly toward the ground below.

The crew and passengers braced for a crash.  Barron pulled the flaps all  the way  and gently edged the left and nose wheels to the ground.  For four thousand excruciating feet, the crippled plane slid down the runway until it spun around at a right angle to a full stop. Stewardess Anita Roberson had calmly and brilliantly prepared the passengers on the proper evacuation procedures. All were safe, breathing, but barely.  Within a minute, Navy crash crews had ripped open every door and hatch from the plane and retrieved everyone from the wreckage.

Mrs. Statton and the other passengers praised Capt. Barron for his calm demeanor during  the descent and especially for saving their lives.  Thirty seven men, including an Illinois state senator and three women, made it to safety, though they were visibly shaken as they boarded emergency vehicles.

Capt. Hugh Clafton Barron followed the manual and performed a successful emergency landing in his first try, well almost. 'Bo Peep" Knight was riding his truck on a Dublin road a little more than twenty years earlier on March 31, 1934.  With Wansley Hughes and Bob Gentry aboard, Clafton Barron was taking off in his prop plane.  Arthur Rowe and R.T. Smith saw Barron's plane wasn't going to clear their truck.   They jumped out to save their lives.   One of the plane's wings struck the truck and tipped it over  killing "Bo Peep" on the spot.   The plane spun and came to a stop when it struck a wire fence about thirty yards away.  Barron and his passengers limped away from the crash. Poor "Bo Peep" was laid to rest days later.

Barron's crash on the outskirts of Dublin in 1934 didn't stop him from flying.  He loved to fly and kept on flying.  His kinsman W.H. "Bud" Barron went on to become one of Dublin's and Georgia's most celebrated flyers.  Bud Barron was known to have flown the second most miles of any Army Air Corps pilot in World War II.    Clafton Barron took a job as  a commercial airline pilot with American Airlines in 1942.

On August 4, 1955, just eight months after his first crash landing in Chicago,  Barron piloted his American Airline plane off the runway  at Springfield, Missouri, where his former plane had developed landing gear problems back in November.  Twenty-seven passengers and two other  crew members were aboard.  They had taken off from Tulsa, Oklahoma bound for New York City.  Aboard were eight women, two children and a Catholic priest and missionary, the Rev. George Crock. Daveron and Robert Galloway were traveling with their mother Betty to join their father Robert Galloway in his new job in Jordan as a community development adviser.

Just a few minutes after takeoff, the forty-five-year old Capt. Barron radioed a "mayday" signal to the St. Louis Airport that he had one engine on fire.  For thirty minutes Barron and his first officer William G. Gates valiantly fought to glide his damaged  plane to a nearby military airstrip.  Unlike his successful crash landing in Chicago, this situation was different, completely different.    His plane was on fire and falling fast.  Stewardess Thelma Ballard did all she could to comfort the terrified passengers.
  
Witnesses at Fort Leonard Wood saw the plane as its glided toward the runway some two hundred to five hundred feet above the ground.  It appeared at first that the plane would make it to safety, but all of sudden there were muffled explosions.  Parts and eventually  the wings dropped off the plane as it tumbled for a quarter of a mile before it  disappeared into a woody ravine only a half a mile from the edge of the landing strip and possible safety.  It was the third time in less than eight months that an American Convair out of Springfield crashed.  Previously in March, thirteen were killed and twenty-two were injured in the only crash Barron was not involved in.

Rescue workers, thwarted by a dense underbrush of vines, scrubby trees and brambles  and the intense flames emanating  from the plane, desperately tried to rescue the passengers and crew.  All of thirty people aboard perished inside the inferno.

Captain Hugh Clafton Barron was buried in Northview Cemetery.   He was born to William J. and Ella May Hughes Barron of Dublin on Christmas Eve 1909.  He married his wife Margaret in 1928 and for a time lived with their daughter Maggie in a house at 318 Rowe Street in Dublin.  After he graduated from high school, Clafton worked as a delivery clerk for the post office.

Clafton Barron may have died in a plane crash, but he died as a hero, sixty years ago today.  During the last thirty minutes of his life and with his very last breath, Barron fought to keep his plane flying, trying to save the other  twenty nine souls aboard. And, those forty two other persons who survived the Chicago crash landing owe their lives and the lives of their descendants to the brave and the dauntless, Captain Hugh Clafton Barron. 

RAWLS A. WATSON


OL’ MAN RIVER


Whether it was in a church or while piloting his ferry boat across the Oconee River, Rawls Watson loved to sing. This giant of a man was a fixture in singing conventions and church services throughout the county.  In the history of Laurens County, no man ever kept the ferry longer. No one ever came close.  No one ever knew more about the river, its currents, eddies, twist and turns.  To his many friends and acquaintances he was simply known as “Uncle Rawls.”  For more than three decades Rawls Watson, just kept on rolling across the river singing the praises of God with the safety of his passengers in his hands.

Roswell Adolphus Watson was born on March 20, 1875.  A son of Seaborn Riley Watson and Mary Catherine Raffield,  Rawls topped the scales at eleven pounds at birth. His grandmother Cynthia Watson commented, “He is the longest baby I have ever seen.”  She predicted that if lives to adulthood, he will become a giant in the land.  Grandma Watson was right.

At the age of 17, Rawls stood 6'2" tall and tipped the scales at 212 pounds.   By the time Rawls Watson reached his 26th birthday, he stood 6' 4" tall and weighed 345 pounds.  In his day when an average man was less than 5'9 inches tall and weighed around 150 pounds, Rawls Watson was indeed a giant of man.

Rawls grew up in the Buckeye and Burgamy districts of Laurens County.  He attended Marvin Methodist Church, which was located on the Buckeye Road.

As a young boy, Rawls became interested in singing.  His uncle Joseph Watson taught singing at Marvin Church.  Two of Rawls’ older brothers, Thomas and Robert, joined the class. Their father dutifully paid the one dollar fee to attend.  Rawls asked his father to let him go. His request was denied.  Rawls again pleaded with his father to let him go. His father refused stating “He did not have money to throw away on you for a ten-day frolic.”  Rawls, as boys will do, ran to his mother.  There was nothing to keep him from going. His chores were done.  Mrs. Watson took up the cause. She asked Mr. Watson why Thomas and Robert could go and not Rawls.  The old man reiterated his staunch position believing that Rawls wasn’t going to sing but to have fun.  Mrs. Watson, undaunted by her husband’s stubborn decision, vowed to sell chickens to raise the money.  Then in an effort to keep peace in the family, Joseph Watson offered to let Rawls attend the class for free.  Later in life Rawls wrote, “I attended the school and made good.”

Rawls didn’t end his musical education there. He studied music until he mastered vocal music. At the age of twenty-one, Rawls moved to Bulloch County to study music to further his career.    It was in Bulloch County where Rawls quickly met the his wife, Miss Mollie “Lanie”  Lane Turner. They married in 1897 and had eight children together.

Rawls Watson learned to teach music to others.  Over his lifetime, Rawls himself conducted more than 116 singing schools.  He estimated than he had taught or tried to teach at least three to four  thousand pupils to sing.  Rawls took solace in the fact that before his father’s death, he rejoiced over his son’s success in his musical career.

Rawls and Mollie Watson established a farm on her father’s land in Bulloch County. Life on the farm was good until the family succumbed to the financial panic following World War I, the devastation of the boll weevil, and Mollie’s illness.   After Mollie’s death, Rawls sold the farm, paid his debts, and removed himself and the family back to Laurens County.  Rawls, with eight children of his own, married the widow of Charles Underwood, who bore him his youngest child.

In those days, people living in the northern section of the county used the ferry at Blackshear’s Ferry to cross the river.  The right to keep and operate the ferry was put up to the highest bidder.  Beginning in the early 1880s, members of the Watson family were often the low bidders.  David Watson kept the ferry during most of the 1880s until 1892, when Joseph T. Watson took over the operation until 1895. He resumed his position as ferry keeper in 1901 for a year and again in 1904 for at least five more years.

So it was only natural that Rawls Watson would have a desire to become the ferry keeper at Blackshear’s.  In 1911, Rawls Watson, who had previous ferry experience,  was appointed ferry keeper by the county commissioners.   It was also natural that he would sing as his ferry boat plied across the waters of the Oconee. His booming voice could be heard long before passengers made it to the banks of the river singing the songs of the Gospel.

He was right proud of his self-composed, “The Boatman’s Song.”  Among its lyrics are: “ Lo my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, Oh, ‘tis written in the book of free grace, I shall dwell forever there, free from sorrow, pain and care, with my Savior in that happy bright place.  Oh, the glory I shall wear, Oh the rapture I shall share, when those fields of fadeless beauty I shall tread. There the river of all grace will reveal His smiling face, with all Heaven’s radiant glories ‘round me spread.”

Watson remembered the great flood of 1925 as the greatest flood of his lifetime with the 1936 flood coming in a close second.  There were a few times when floes of ice would slam into his ferry boat.  He told Eugene Anderson of the Macon Telegraph that his large size and strength came in handy in fighting the magnitude of swift water and chunks of ice striking his boat.

Rawls knew and appreciated the rich history of the land around the ferry. He often talked of the legend that the Indians told of the days when a white tribe came through the area and crossed the  shoals on their westward journey. For centuries, men have speculated that this tribe may have been the survivors of the lost colony of Roanoke.   Watson told of  the place known as Carr’s Shoals a few hundred yards down river where DeSoto’s soldiers crossed more than four centuries before.  Rawls Watson knew of his predecessors, the Trambles and the Bateys, the first keepers of the ferry.   He knew where they lived.  Rawls often related the stories of Temperance Batey Hall and of Chief Kitchee, whose village stood on the high bluff above the shoals.  He knew of the place of the graves of three Indian braves who were allowed to remain to guard the burial grounds of their people. Unfortunately the details of these stories are gone forever.

There is an old story, sworn to be true, that Uncle Rawls would wager that he could stand on the steps of the courthouse and read the inscription on the base of the Confederate monument, some three blocks to the southwest away.  Of course, Rawls, pretending to strain his eyes, read verbatim the words he had already committed to his rich memory.

With the coming of the automobile and better and new bridges across the Oconee River, the need for passage at Blackshear’s Ferry was limited to those residents of northern Laurens County. Beginning in the early 1930s and beyond the end of World War II, the ferry was closed several times due to lack of funding by the county or severe damage to the ferry boat.

Uncle Rawls was a public servant beyond his duties as the ferry keeper for nearly 35 years.  Watson served as the Laurens County Coroner in 1944. Previously, he had served as a peace officer, deputy sheriff, marshal and chief of police.

At the ripe old age of 81 on September 28, 1956,  Rawls Watson for the last time crossed the river and laid down to rest in the shade of the trees next to his precious Mollie in the Lower Lotts Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, south of Statesboro, off present day Highway 301. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

CLARENCE LLOYD, Baseball Man




A Baseball Man

     In his day, Clarence Lloyd was considered one of the best baseball men in America. First as a sportswriter and then as the traveling secretary of one of the sport's most legendary teams, Lloyd saw many of the game's greatest players in an era when the game was played not for the love of money, but merely for the love of the game. This is his story and how he wound up in Dublin, Georgia. 

     Clarence Frederick Lloyd was born on February 4, 1887 in St. Louis, Missouri. Clarence lived on Cass Avenue with his mother, who worked in the home, and his father Henry, who was a native German bartender in a neighborhood saloon. As a boy, Clarence loved to go to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play at nearby League Park, located some twenty blocks from his home. He would often go watch the Browns, St. Louis's entry in the American League, every chance he got. After high school, Clarence took a job as a sportswriter. He got to know some of the players both on the Cardinals and the Browns including enough Hall of Famers to field two teams. 

     Clarence, a 30-year-old sports writer for the St. Louis Star, claimed an exemption from the draft in World War I to look after his widowed mother, who was dependent on her only child to support her. Clarence and his mother Minnie moved from Cass Avenue to Page Boulevard after the war. It was in 1913, when Clarence was introduced to Branch Rickey, the new and exciting young manager of the Browns. Rickey was fired by the Browns in 1915 and was immediately hired by the Cardinals. As general manager of the Cardinals, Rickey built the team into one of the game's premier franchises. 

     After nearly twenty five years with the Cards, Rickey took over the management of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey changed the face of baseball forever, not by building the Dodgers into a perennial power for more than four decades, but by taking the unthinkable risk of signing Jackie Robinson on the team and in the process, breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947. When Rickey took over the management of the cross town Cardinals in 1919, he remembered seeing Clarence around the ball park. 

     As his first hire as the team's new manager, Rickey, considered to be one of the game's greatest general managers of all time, lured Clarence away from his arduous duties as a beat sportswriter for a job as the team's traveling secretary. It was Lloyd's responsibility to take care of every need of the team while they were on the road. He had to coordinate train schedules, meals, hotel rooms and in the process keep both management and the players happy. While the team was at home, Lloyd was working, planning the next road trip. Clarence Lloyd at times found himself at odds with certain club officials. 

     Both Rickey and team President Sam Brendon and his wife, stood behind Lloyd when times were tough. But the players admired him. He got a one-half share of the winnings after the team won the World Series in 1926. Following their loss in the '28 World Series, they voted him a one-half share, the handsome sum of nearly twenty one hundred dollars. 

      Lloyd built a special relationship with the team's best and most unpredictable star, Dizzy Dean. One day, Dizzy, in one of his frequent moments when he was short of cash and way ahead on his salary advances, came up to Clarence and asked for a twenty dollar bill. Lloyd, under strict instructions to only allow Dizzy to have a single crisp one dollar bill a day, asked Dean why did he need twenty dollars. Dean refused to disclose the reason, but finally, and embarrassingly, admitted it was for a gift for his bride. 

     At the height of Dean's superstardom in 1935, team officials ordered Clarence to be Dean's personal secretary. No one, not even Dean's wife or his brother and teammate Paul, could reach Dizzy by phone without the approval of Lloyd. There was a day in Pittsburgh, when Dean was no where to be found. No one, not even Clarence knew where he was. Was he off gallivanting he was prone to do and often, or had something happened to Ole Diz. Dizzy had a personal appearance. Lloyd and Dean's business manager Bill DeWitt were worried. Finally, Lloyd told DeWitt to find a bell boy and open the door to Dean's room. When the door was opened, the boy found Dizzy, snoozing with his radio blaring away. 

     The Gas House Gang was famous for their antics, both on and off the field. Dean and Pepper Martin were the team clowns. They and others frequently impersonated Clarence and told rookies that they were being sent down to the minor leagues. One of Clarence's best friends on the team was Grover Cleveland Alexander, known to his close friends as "Old Pete." When Alexander died in 1951, Lloyd sent in a contribution to a memorial fund and a letter stating that Alexander was " a great athlete, a great competitor and a good friend.

     "Minnie Lloyd continued to live with her son even after he went to work for the Cardinals. On February 19, 1937, Lloyd, a confirmed bachelor of fifty years, married Dorothy McBride Grossman. After Lloyd left the team after the 1937 season, the couple moved to Dublin, where Clarence took a job with Georgia Plywood Company, where he worked for twenty five years and served as the company's president. 

     Minnie Lloyd died at the age of ninety at the home of her son in Dublin on October 9, 1951. Lloyd was honored by the Baseball Writers Association of America when he was given a No. 1 card in 1966. Lloyd served as a sportswriter for the "St. Louis Dispatch" and the "St. Louis Times" before his association with the Cardinals. 

      In May of 1967, the Cardinals honored Lloyd by inviting him to an all-expense paid trip to St. Louis. The occasion was the final game at Sportsman's Park and the first game at Busch Stadium. At that time, Lloyd held a lifetime pass to all major league games, being the second oldest sportswriter in the United States. 

      Clarence loved to swap baseball stories. It's part of the lore of the game. It's what baseball people do. Former Courier Herald sportswriter Bush Perry fondly remembered talking about the old days of the Cardinals, a team they mutually loved. Ernest Oatts, who dubbed Lloyd as "Mr. Abernathy" hailed his friend as a great man of baseball. 

      Just a week before his death on October 9, 1970, Clarence Lloyd and Bush Perry talked for the last time. The subject was baseball. 

     And so, I salute the memory of Clarence Lloyd in the words of the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamati, "It breaks our heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filing the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops, and summer is gone."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

JUDGE GEORGE WALTON



Montgomery County Jurist Declares Our
Independence

Philadelphia, PA, July 2, 1776 - There was a meeting going on!  A revolution!  Freedom, the unalienable endowment of our Creator, was the solitary topic of discussion.  Over in the corner sat a young Savannah lawyer, the youngest in the congregation of the Colonial America’s most elite and erudite professionals, businessmen, and planters.  George Walton and fifty-five other freedom seeking members of the Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring the thirteen colonies of King George’s colony of America be, then and forever independent and free to enjoy the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Walton, in the in the first year of nearly thirty years of public service, would later serve a  term as Judge of the Superior Court of Montgomery and Washington counties, some of whose citizens became Laurens Countians, when a portion of  those counties was annexed into Laurens County in 1811.

George Walton was born in Frederick County in the colony of Virginia in the middle of the 18th Century.  As an orphaned boy, George was sent by his uncle to apprentice under a local carpenter, who being somewhat of a fool and knowing nothing of the young man’s potential, denied the young man the use of a mere candle, which George yearned to have to satisfy his passion for reading and for learning all that he could.  Undaunted by the ignorance of the craftsman, George, in his spare moments when he could slip away, gathered sundry pieces of wood, which he burned in lieu of the forbidden stick of wax.

When he attained the age of majority, George removed himself from his native land and set out to study the law, a subject which then attracted the most intelligent men in the colonies. Walton, still a teenager by the calendar, began to study law under Henry Young, a prominent Savannah barrister. In four years or so, Walton had become proficient in the understanding the laws of the colony and was admitted to the practice of law in the general courts of the state.

Savannah, the southernmost port city of the American colonies, was rapidly becoming a “hot bed” of those who favored liberty from the tyrannical acts of King George.  In the summer of 1774, Walton allied himself with “The Liberty Boys,” a group of men who held a bitter, deep and unceasing  hatred for the King of England for his numerous and continuous acts of repression he had heaped among the colonists of America.   Some of the Liberty Boys gathered at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah to discuss a plan of action to bring a halt to the oppression. A year later, on July 4, 1775, in a meeting held in Tondee’s Long Room, Walton was elected Secretary of the Provincial Congress of Georgia.  By December, Walton was elevated to the position of President of the Council of Safety, which governed the colony in the absence of and contrary to any British authority in the area.  Walton was the last President of the council before it became equated with being governor of the state - Archibald Bulloch would hold that distinction.

In the winter of 1776, Walton was honored by his colleagues with his election as a delegate to the Continental Congress to be held the following summer in Philadelphia.  Joining Walton as delegates were: Lyman Hall, Archibald Bulloch, John Houston, John J. Zubly, and Wimberly Jones.  Walton arrived near the end of June, just before the deliberation on a resolution, which would change the history of the World forever.  Walton took his seat in the hall on the 1st day of July, the day in which Thomas Jefferson presented his draft of the Declaration of Independence.  The following day, the delegates officially adopted a resolution sponsored by Richard Henry Lee and John Adams, which declared independence from the Crown.

       Technically, but not officially nor traditionally, July 2nd, was the date of our “Declaration of Independence.”  For the better part of two days, the delegates debated, discussed and edited Jefferson’s words, an act which Jefferson saw as a personal insult to his intellect and beliefs.  Late in the afternoon on the fourth day of July, twelve of the thirteen colonial delegations voted to adopt Jefferson’s document - the New Yorkers did note vote because of an unavoidable technicality.

     The following day, a cool day for July in Philadelphia, Jefferson and his committee  began the process of printing the declaration for signing by all of the delegates, Walton being the last of the Georgia delegates to sign. Lyman Hall and Button Gwinett subscribed their names first.

George Walton remained in Congress until the fall of 1777, when he returned to Georgia to a more active role in governing the affairs of the state and protecting the citizens from the British Army.  After receiving a commission as a Colonel, Walton took command of the First Regiment of the Georgia Militia.  Despite the best efforts of Walton, John Laurens, Count Casimir Pulaski and others under the overall command of General Robert Howe, the city of Savannah fell into the hands
of the British just after Christmas in 1778.  Col. Walton, seriously wounded but fortunately in the care of skilled British physicians, was taken south to Sunbury, where he was held as a prisoner of war until he was exchanged for a British naval officer in October of 1779.

Walton wasted very little time in returning to the rebel government.   Walton traveled to the isolated areas of Georgia north of Augusta encouraging the citizens to keep up the fight.   In November, he was elected Governor by the State Assembly.  He served only two months.  Walton found himself embroiled in a bitter battle between two factions in Georgia politics. He sided with Lachlan McIntosh, who eventually killed his opponent, Button Gwinett, Walton’s co-signer of the
Declaration of Independence, in the most celebrated duel in the history of Georgia. For his role in the affair, Walton was censured by the Georgia legislature.

Walton returned to Congress in the dark days of the Revolution in 1780.  Things were not going well.  The British had control of the South and defeat seemed eminent. With the aid of the French government, Washington’s forces were able to defeat Lord Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown, which inevitably led to the defeat of the British in the South.  Walton left the Congress in 1783 and returned to Georgia to spend the last twenty years of his life.  Walton, thought of as a highly superior lawyer, was appointed Chief Justice of the State.  He remained in the judicial branch of government until 1789, when he was elected Governor of Georgia, serving only a portion of year when Georgia’s government was re-organized.  In that same year, he was sent to capital city of New York as a delegate to the first Electoral College, which elected George Washington as our nation’s first president, under our current constitution that is.  John Hansen was technically our country’s first president, under the previous government based on the Articles of Confederation.  In 1795, Walton returned to New York to fill an unexpired term of James Jackson in the United States Senate.

Walton failed to win reelection to the Senate and returned to Augusta to engage in farming. But, Walton had one more duty of public service to perform.  On January 17, 1799, he was sworn in a Judge of the Middle Circuit of Georgia, which had jurisdiction of a wide area ranging from Warren, Richmond, and Columbia counties on the northeast and Washington and Montgomery counties on the
southwest.  Judge Walton remained in office until his death on February 2, 1804.

     In 1848, his remains were re-interred in Augusta as a part of the monument to the
signers of our “Declaration of Independence.”

MERLE BARWICK



A Good Friday Indeed


As it began, the day was like any other early spring Friday in Central Georgia.  It was Good Friday and Easter was only two days away.  It was such a nice day that Mrs. Merle Barwick decided to take her class on a field trip around the still young Cochran airport on Airport Road, some four to five miles northeast of the center of the town of Cochran.  As it unfolded, the day turned dark and violent.  As it ended, this Good Friday turned out as a triumph in the face of tragedy - all to the credit of a couple of Bleckley County school teachers.
Mrs. Merle Barwick had been teaching the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic to her students for many years.   It was said that "Miss Merle," as she was known by her students, was so enthusiastic about her teaching position that she spent most of her summer vacation preparing for the opening of the next school term.   As two Army fliers would soon learn, it was the non-basic lessons which Mrs. Merle learned which saved their lives.

All of a sudden, Mrs. Barwick and her students noticed a plane in trouble.  In those days, teachers and students, as well as almost every American, paid close attention to low flying airplanes in the skies.   With a war starting in Europe and raging in the Pacific, nearly everyone kept their eyes upward when they heard the roar of propellers above.  

Two planes were flying on a northwesterly course from Savannah, presumably to Cochran Field near Macon.  Not to be confused with Cochran's Airport, Cochran Field was a air base south of Macon, which was initially used for the training of Royal British Air Force cadets    

Mrs. Barwick, then a 42-year-old elementary school teacher, at first thought nothing of two American planes flying overhead.  Soon, she perceived that something was wrong as one of the planes began to break from its tandem formation.  Barwick  heard the crashing  of the United States Army twin engine bomber, as it slammed nose-first into the sandy soil.  Sensing a grave situation, the Samaritan sprinted two hundred yards to the scene of the crash.  

Initially, it appeared that the plane intended to land, but overshot the runway.  When  the pilot attempted to pull the plane up, the engines stalled and it crashed to the ground after clipping the tops of the trees along its perilous path. 

As she approached the crash scene, Mrs. Barwick quickly analyzed the situation, looking for the most severely wounded among the crew.  The teacher, turned medic, treated Lieutenant Lee Scott, the plane's pilot, who appeared to be the most critically injured.  

Using the first aid skills she had learned in Red Cross classes, Mrs. Barwick applied pressure to the wounds of  Lt. Scott, whose head had  slammed into the cockpit controls crushing his skull.  Barwick never left her patient until more experienced medical personnel came to his aid.

It was just about that time when Ned Smith, a salesman from Dublin, and Marshall Wining, the instructor at the aviation school at the nearby airport, came to their aid and pulled the injured men from the plane.  

Teacher Barwick's assistant, Miss Mary Will Morgan, knew first aid.  She too had taken classes in life saving, just in case she came upon a drowning person or an injured passenger in a car wreck.  Mary Will never dreamed that she would be treating a downed airman on Bleckley County soil.

Miss Mary Will found Sergeant Fred Mangold was writhing in excruciating pain.  His leg, bleeding in multiple places, suffered compound breaks in the three places.  Mary Will, too, never left her patient.  She put together a makeshift tourniquet.  Concerned for his safety and bound to stay by Sergeant Mangold's side,  Mary Will volunteered to go along for the wild  ride in a speeding car bound for the base hospital at Cochran Field.  Mrs. Barwick, too, volunteered to escort her patient to the hospital, more than a half hour away.

Two other crewmen were aboard. Private C.B. Wood was also taken to the base hospital with unknown, but apparently minor injuries.  A fourth crewman, known only as Johnson, was positioned in the nose of the plane and only endured a few minor scratches and cuts. Luckily, the plane did not burn upon its head on collision with the ground and remained virtually intact. 

The crash would be the first time that the Bleckley County State Guards (Unit 99) would be called into action during the war.  The unit, under the command of Captain Harry L. Daniel, took over the duties of guarding the plane from curiosity seekers and souvenir hunters until military police officers arrived on the scene.  Bystanders obeyed the guards and not a single person attempted to cross the line during the night and early morning which followed. 

Flying aboard the second plane was Sergeant Mangold's brother, whose plane turned around and landed to give aid to their fellow airmen.

Lieutenant Scott and Sergeant Mangold were stabilized and sent to another hospital in Middle Georgia.  Scott, from Jackson, Mississippi,  was somewhat restless over the Easter weekend, but counted his blessings that he was alive, thanks to the acts of his savior, Mrs. Barwick.  Mangold, from Indianapolis, Indiana, rested comfortably under the intensive care of his doctors. 

Both men, through the loving hands of their saviors,  survived their wounds, It  is not known to this writer how they fared after they left their loving hands.  What is known is that these two school teachers, turned angels through the grace of God,  just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

The whole experience led to a boom in the teaching of Red Cross first aid and life saving techniques in Bleckley County schools and Middle Georgia.  And, guess who became the instructor of first aid at Limestone School?  You got, it, Mrs. Merle Barwick. 

Merle Barwick, daughter of long time Bleckley County School Superitendent, I.A. Willis, was born in the early years of the 20th Century.  While she had no children of her own, "Miss Merle" was beloved by her students during her seventeen years as principal of Union Hill School and her many years as a 7th grade teacher at Cochran Junior High School.  Among her peers, Mrs. Barwick was considered a leader in the field of education in Georgia. 

Merle Barwick, who molded the lives of several hundreds of school teachers and saved the lives of two Army fliers, died on August 21, 1957.  She is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Cochran beside her parents. 

A COLOSSAL COUSIN



MORE LAURENS COUNTY CONNECTIONS

A Colossal Cousin

 Bobby Davis, it has often been said, was the biggest baby ever born in Bowie County in the great state of Texas. Weighing fourteen pounds at birth, Bobby tipped the century mark on the scales before he started school. When he became a teenager, the scales began to strain as the needle hit the two hundred pound mark. As a grown man, Bobby grew to at least three hundred pounds. What, you may ask yourself, does this large behemoth of a man have to do with the history of Laurens County? 

Well, first we will need to turn back the clock some two hundred years or so. Don't read ahead, please don't. You might spoil your surprise. Young Keen, son of John, came to Laurens County with his widowed mother when Laurens County was still in her infancy. Keen fathered sixteen children by three wives. Kindred Lawrence Keen, a son through his Young’s wife Margaret Jones, joined the Troup Volunteers, Company B of the 57th Georgia Infantry. Keen, who played the fife in the regimental band, surrendered with nearly all the Confederate forces entrenched in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863. Unlike many of his comrades, Keen escaped injury - a result which will play prominently in this story.

After the war, Keen and his wife, Mary Alice Chipley, decided to pull up their stakes and go to Texas to find a new, and hopefully better, life. Before they left, the Keens were blessed with their first daughter, Mary Alice Robena Keen. Lawrence, a mechanic by trade, landed in Navarro County and later removed himself and his family over to Erath County. Lawrence, as he was known to his family and friends, got the calling to become a Baptist minister in Palo Pinto County. He had been a deacon in Bethlehem Baptist Church in Condor in eastern Laurens County before moving to the Lone Star State.

Being a minister, Rev. Keen and his family moved around quite a bit. Keen possessed a great talent for singing and taught school kids how to sing, for a small fee of course. He died in 1906. His body lies in an old grave in the Garland Cemetery, south of Annona. Mary Keen married a Davis and they had a daughter who they lovingly named Mary Arizona Davis. Mary Davis married Ora.

I can't give you Ora's last name right now because the identity of the mysterious cousin would become instantly obvious. Mary and Ora's second child and first son was born in Bowie County, Texas fifteen days before Christmas in 1928. Bobby, always big for his age or any age for that matter, claims he got his size from his mama's side of the family. When he was six, his family moved to O'Donnell, Texas where Ora worked on farms and eventually bought and operated his own grocery store, a handy thing to own with a son like Bobby who devoured everything on his plate. By the age of thirteen, Bobby could carry a hundred pound sack of feed, fertilizer or flour under each arm to load on his daddy's customer's trucks.

When he really wanted to show off, said old friend Bob Clark, "Bobby lifted his car by its rear axles." Bobby never tried to be a Hercules. He tried his hand at boxing, but gave up after one round with a professional fighter over in Odessa. Bobby attend Texas Military Institute. In 1946, he was named the vice president of the class and lauded as the most popular and best natured member of his class, probably because he was fond of practical jokes, good natured ones, not the cruel kind.

In college, Bobby planned to major in the social sciences and physical education. In his senior year at Sul Ross, Bobby was bitten by the acting bug and graduated with a degree in drama. Shortly after graduation, Bobby was promoted to a sergeant in the 45th Oklahoma Division during the Korean War. As soon as he was discharged, and as fast he could get back home to Texas, Bobby married the love of his life, Dolphia Lee Parker, his college sweetheart. Inside his humongous human physique was the astute mind of a scholar. With a framed master's degree hanging on his wall, Bobby Davis taught grade school in Senora, Texas and in Carlsbad before he and his family moved to Glendale, California, where he planned to work on his Ph.D. degree at the University of California at Los Angeles.

While studying at UCLA, Bobby was a substitute teacher to help pay the bills. He always wanted a career in education, but he loved to act too. One day in 1956, Bobby was invited to appear on Gunsmoke, the granddaddy of all western television shows. And as they say, the rest was history.

 In 1959, the producers of a new show tabbed Bobby to play the role of "Eric" in a new western. Don't get ahead of me yet. Eric was one of a group of half brothers who lived with their father on a Nevada ranch. If you ever watched a western on television, I think you know who I am talking about. But if you never heard of Eric, you missed the one show in which his real name was revealed. Named for his maternal Swedish grandfather, Eric was known by one of the most enduring terms of endearment ever penned on any television character.













 You see, this mountain of man, who always wanted to be a school teacher and grew tired of acting, was fondly known on the show and to the hundreds of millions of viewers as "Hoss" Cartwright. Bobby's given name was Bobby Dan Davis Blocker, who played the affable character for thirteen seasons on NBC.

Though his career as "Hoss Cartwright" was nearly over in the early 1970s, Blocker had become an astute businessman as the owner of Bonanza steakhouses across the country. Because of his superior people skills and intellect, which he displayed weekly on television, and his passion for politics,

Dan was often asked to run for governor, senator or congress. In one of the most tragic cases of celebrities who died all too young, Dan Blocker died after a clot formed in his body following gall bladder surgery on May 13, 1972. 


He was only forty-three years old. Which brings up two philosophical questions. What would have happened if Dan Blocker's great grandfather had been killed or wounded at the Battle of Baker's Creek along with dozens of his fellow Laurens Countains? What would have happened if his grandmother never moved to Texas with her family?

The answer is quite simple. We would have never loved and admired this man whose ancestral roots run deep into Laurens County and who as "Hoss," carried the heart of a lamb and the brilliant mind of professor inside the frame of grizzly bear.



GEORGE ELLIOTT LUCK



The Right Stuff


George Luck died as he lived.  From an early age when he accompanied his uncle on his first ride in an airplane, George decided that he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up.  This is his story.  It is a story of a baby born in Dublin and raised in Wrightsville, Georgia who became one of the military’s top test pilots during the Vietnam War Era.

It was on November 5, 1934 when Ettie Lee Drake Luck and James Miles Luck became the parents of their son George, who was born in a Dublin hospital. Ettie and James lived their remainder of their lives in Wrightsville.  James, a postal carrier, died in 1982 while Ettie, a daughter of George and Ellen E. Drake, died in 1983 in Dublin. Both are buried in Westview Cemetery in Wrightsville.

“My father decided to become a pilot after an uncle took him flying at a young age,” said George’s son Mike.

Following his graduation from Wrightsville High School, George, the second Johnson County boy to earn the Eagle Scout Award,  received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but left after his first year.  He returned home to Georgia, where he enrolled at Georgia Tech to study aeronautical engineering.  Once again, Luck transferred, this time to fill his appointment to the nation’s newest military academy, the United States Air Force Academy, in its only second year of existence.

“He was a mentor for the younger cadets,” recalled Andi Biancur, the president of
the academy’s Class of 1960.

After graduation, Lt. Luck enrolled in the Air Force’s Test Pilot school, where he was put through mentally and physically strenuous tests to design and fly new planes, faster and higher than jet aircraft had flown before.

“His  job was to test new planes and new designs — pushing them to their limits, landing them safely and recording the results, Mike Luck said.

“Early in George's illustrious Air Force career he flew the B-52 out of Kincheloe AFB,  including many tense missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He then graduated from Air Force Test Pilot School and was stationed at Edwards and Wright-Patterson Air Force Bases. As a test pilot George flew cutting edge missions in the B-52 mothership, zoom flights in the F-104 to extremely high altitudes, many varieties and alterations of the KC-135, and C-5 galaxy tests, among other things. His test pilot duties were interrupted by the war in Southeast Asia where George flew combat missions in the A-1 and A-26. George was later responsible for training bomber and tanker pilots, and instructors, while Deputy Director of Operations of Castle Air Force base in California,” his obituary writer wrote.

In 1969, Luck was deployed to South East Asia on duty with a Special Ops unit in Thailand.  His wife, Carolyn, tagged along and performed missionary work there to stay close to her husband.

“In 1968-69, I served as a test pilot in the Directorate of Flight Test at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. One of my projects was to fly a B-57 test bed airplane in the development of a new IR sensor for the RF-4C. Another project was to fly and evaluate the prototype B-57G with a low light level television sensor. Both programs involved many nights on the Eglin AFB photo resolution range; and both programs were successful and were deployed to SEA.

“During the summer of 1969, I was assigned to the 609th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) (call sign: Nimrod) as a pilot to fly the Douglas A-26 Counter Invader. The two-month crew training was conducted at Hurlbert Field at Ft. Walton Beach, FL. Hurlbert was the home of Air Force Special Operations. After transition flying, formation and dive bomb, skip bomb, rocket and strafe patterns, we switched to night operations. First striking above the flares, then attacking under the flares and finally attacking in total darkness using Navy sea markers.

I arrived in Nakhom Phanom RTAFB Thailand. Our mission was to interdict the trail complex in Laos and to provide air support for the Royal Lao Forces in their fight against the Pathet Lao and NVA. After two months of night operations, the A-26s were deactivated along with the B-57s, F-100s and U-10s. Ten of the A-26s were flown to Tucson, AZ for storage; the remaining five were given to the VNAF. I led a flight of three on the ferry trip back to the bone yard. We flew the old Pan Am Clipper route: Bangkok, Clark, Anderson, Wake, Midway, Hickham, McClellan and D-M.

The crew members were then up for grabs. I took an assignment in the 56th Special Operations Wing as a flying safety officer. This assignment required me to check out in another airplane. For me, it was the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. I was attached to the 602 SOS (call sign: Firefly). During my check flight on my fifth A-1 mission, I was shot down by ground fire over the Plain of Jars in northern Laos. I got to ride the Stanley Aviations Yankee rocket extraction system. It worked like a charm. My right seater and instructor was shot and critically wounded as he parachuted down. After an hour on the Plain, we were rescued by two Air America helicopter crews. I completed the assignment flying 80 combat missions and investigating numerous accidents and incidents. When I arrived at NKP, we had 100 Skyraiders, but after one year, we had lost 40, and after two more years, the numbers dwindled down to only a handful.

My next assignment was to Test Ops at Edwards. I was the project pilot for the RC-135U. It had phase array radar antennas on the nose, tail and each wing tip. It was to be used for triangulating SAM radar sites in SEA,” wrote Luck of his career in the Vietnam War.

Luck ended his career training pilots to fly and flying a desk in the Pentagon with the office of Joint Chiefs of Staff.  During the remainder of his Air Force career, Luck trained pilots and served at the Pentagon twice — once with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After a quarter of a century of service to the Air Force and his country, Col. Luck retired and went to work for Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas and Everett, Washington.   Luck continued to fly for recreation and once again to serve his country as a pilot with United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Air Division.

Hailed by his peers, George Luck was chosen as the Washington Pilot’s Association Pilot of the year 1996.  Just after his 80th birthday last year, Luck was inducted into the United Flying Octogenarians, a group of active pilots over the age of 80.  In 2011, he was given a Wright Brothers “Master Pilot“ award from the Federal Aviation Administration for 50 years of “outstanding contributions that further the cause of aviation safety.”

“George was one of the legends in our community, and perhaps one of the legends in the aviation community at large,” said Steve Dame, a fellow pilot. “Despite being fairly senior, (Mr. Luck) had a sound mind and judgment and flying skills,” Dame said. “He was just one of those guys that had the right stuff,” Dame concluded.

Known as a mentor for Boy Scouts and aspiring pilots, George Luck was killed on June 10, 2015 in a plane crash in Everett, Washington,  when a Beechcraft Bonanza crashed during a flying lesson after taking off from Paine Field. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

MCKINLEY BOATWRIGHT



Bravo!

McHenry Boatwright could sing.  Man, could he sing!  If you were to typecast this young man from Tennille, Georgia, with his tall frame and handsome rock and roll star looks, you would swear he would have been a "doo wopper" of the fabulous fifties.  You would be wrong.   This young man from Washington County catapulted himself to the top of the music world, not as a member of a pop vocal group, but as one of the leading baritone-bass opera singers in America.

McHenry Boatwright - he was once called "Mac Henry Boatright" - was born on Leap Day, February 29, 1920.  The youngest son of Levi and Lillie Boatright, Mac first lived in a home at 112 South Church Street in Tennille.  Levi, a switchman in the rail yards in Tennille, was out of work when the Great Depression struck in 1929. Mac's mother Lillie helped to support the family by  working as a cook in a private home.  Mac's siblings Valeria, Annie,  Levi J., Ruth, and Grover later lived at 418 N. Smith Street in the railroad town.


By the age of seven, McHenry's interest in music had manifested itself in the sanctuary of St. James A.M.E. Church.  A talented piano player, the young man's future seemed to be not so bright in the waning South, which had been stripped of her cotton and railroad fortunes.  His older sister, recognizing that her brother's chance for musical success could only come in the culture rich northeastern states, summoned McHenry to come to Boston and join her.  So, McHenry left T.J. Elder school and the only world he ever knew and moved to Boston at the age of twelve. 


In making a choice between high school and playing jazz music, Boatright chose the latter, but completed his school studies at night.  To pay for his tuition at the New England Conservatory of Music, McHenry worked as a cab driver, elevator operator and other jobs.  Near the end of his studies at the conservatory, McHenry decided to major in voice.  To pay for his voice lessons, McHenry tutored other students in the art of singing.

McHenry Boatright's first real success came in a performance of Berlioz's oratorio, "The Damnation of Faust," accompanied by the Boston Symphony.  His big break came in 1953 at the Chicagoland Music Festival.  An overnight star at the age of thirty three, McHenry was chosen the best of nearly two thousand hopeful participants.   That outstanding performance led to an appearance on "Chicago Theatre of the Air," and eventually a national solo on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the
Town."

It was as the New England Opera Theater where McHenry was discovered by the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, only eighteen months his senior, and
invited to sing with Bernstein's New York Philharmonic Orchestra.  In 1956,  Boatwright sung the lead role in Clarence Cameron White's "Ouanga at the Metropolitan Opera House in a performance sponsored by the National Negro Opera Foundation.  

In the early 1960s, McHenry Boatright sang the role of "Crown," a tough stevedore  in the first stereo recording of George and Ira Gerswhin's "Porgy and Bess."  

In 1974, Boatwright returned home to his old school in Tennille.  He stopped in on his way to a performance in Atlanta.  People from all over the county filled the auditorium to hear one of the county's most famous sons.    

Late in his life, McKinley married Ruth James, who was the only sibling of the legendary musician Duke Ellington.  Duke and Ruth were inseparable.  They traveled together and some say Ruth reduced the likelihood of Duke's many girlfriends bickering with each other.   Ruth's life was remarkable in her own right.  After graduating from Columbia University in 1939, she studied and taught in Europe.  While she was in France, she met and developed a close relationship with the immortal singer Josephine Baker.   In 1941, Ellington asked Ruth to manage his business.  She accepted and took care of his business affairs for more than half a century.  McHenry sung the eulogy song at Ellington's funeral in 1974.  In 1982, Boatwright aided his wife in managing his brother in law's tribute Sacred Concerts in New York and London.  

Among Boatwright's most celebrated performances were those with the Schola Cantorum of New York, the Boston Symphony, the Boston Pops, the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra along with concerts in Carnegie Hall. Among his most cherished awards were two from the Marion Anderson Foundation and the National Federation of Music Clubs. 

McHenry Boatright died of cancer on November 5, 1994.  He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City.  His wife Ruth died on March 6, 2004.  

ABRAHAM MAAS


TO DREAM THE AMERICAN DREAM


As Abraham Maas wandered about his home land in the Rhineland Valley of Germany he dreamed  of his future.   What was beyond the mountains of Belgium and Luxembourg?  What was beyond the Atlantic Ocean?   He had heard of the American Civil War, but he also read about the economic expansion there following the war.  Thousands of Eastern European Jewish men were leaving their homes to engage in the mercantile business in the United States.  Abe wondered, what would life hold for him in America? 


So in his 20th year,  Abraham Maas, who was born in Dolgsheim, Germany on May 22, 1855,emigrated to the United States in 1875.  Maas joined his brothers, Solomon, Isaac and Jacob, who were just beginning in the mercantile business in Georgia.  

The Maas brothers established a store in Cochran, then in Pulaski County, Georgia.  At that time, Dublin was without a railroad. Cochran, on the Macon & Brunswick Railroad, was a booming railroad village.   In 1879, the brothers Maas constructed the first brick store building in Cochran,
which had not existed at the end of the Civil War.  

In an 1878 advertisement in the Dublin Post, the brothers proclaimed that their motto was to “please and suit everybody” by guaranteeing that all of their goods were as represented and that they were the largest stock and best stock ever brought to this section of Georgia from New York and the markets of Europe.   In praising their goods, the Maas Brothers guaranteed that their prices would astonish everyone. 

In the late 1879 or early 1880s, Solomon Maas sent brother Abe, a single man, to Dublin, where he rented a store building and went into business.  So confident as to  the quality of his merchandise, Maas guaranteed a $500.00 reward to any man or woman who was not completely satisfied with their purchase. 

When the 1880 census was taken, Abe Maas was living in the home of wealthy farmer, David Ware, Sr., in his home in Dublin.  Also boarding with the Wares were grocer Blanton Nance, farmer J. Freeman Moore and his family, and Dublin Times printers William Brown and J.H. Etheridge.  

Abe Maas’ store, most likely located in the 200 block of West Jackson Street, burned to the ground in two hours on the evening of January 28, 1882.   The fire caused a total loss to his goods, but the young Maas wisely carried full insurance.  As a tenant, he suffered no direct loss of the building, which he rented from LC. Perry & Co..

Abe Maas remained in Dublin for another year or so.  Soon his thoughts turned to a beautiful young woman from his homeland.  Eight years his junior, Bena Wolf emigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio along with her brothers to join their uncle in hopes of a better life in the United States.

Abe traveled to Cincinnati, some say with marriage on his mind.  The couple were married in September 1883 and returned to Georgia, where their first child, Solomon, was born on the 4th of July of the following year.

Dublin’s economy remained steady but without significant growth in the early 1880s.  With promises of a railroad coming and going, Abe Maas made a life altering decision.  He would move his family and start a new life.  So Maas and his wife packed all of their belongings and moved to the waterfront village of Tampa, Florida, which wasn’t too much larger than Dublin.  He would never move again. 

Abe and Bena Maas (left with Sol and Jessica)  opened their first store, Abraham’s Dry Goods Place, on the corner of Franklin and Twiggs Street two weeks before  Christmas in 1886. The very small store, located some four blocks from the Hillsborough River, was the only brick store building in 800-person  town and only one of two brick buildings below Ocala, Florida.   By 1887, brother Sol moved from Ocala to join Abe and form the first Maas Brothers store in Tampa. 



 The brothers never looked back in regret. Nearly four decades later, Maas told the Tampa Tribune, “I have never had reason to doubt the wisdom of that decision.  

At first, business was slow, but Abe, Bena and Sol persevered in provide customer service. Their hard work ethic paid off. 

Near the end of the 19th Century, the Maas Brothers, riding the wave of a booming business, moved down Franklin Street to its corner with Zack Street.  As the Roaring Twenties came and Florida was enjoying is first great boom, business was better than ever.  The Maas Brothers Store moved in 1921 eventually taking over the entire American National Bank Building.  In 1929, the store was sold to the Hahn Department Stores, a large national chain, but kept doing business under its original name as Tampa’s Greatest Store.

A public spirited citizen, Abe Maas served as President of the Schaarai Zedok Temple during the first  31 of the synagogue’s 33-year existence.  Maas retired from the office in 1927. Lauded  as an honored member, faithful officer, zealous worker and generous contributor to the congregation Maas’s influence was said to have been felt in every cause tending to the benefit of humanity and Judaism.   The beloved founding father of the synagogue continued to serve as President Emeritus until his death.  

Maas’ business interests included  his own realty company.  He served as a director of the Morris Plan Bank of Tampa, the Thompson Cigar Company and a member of the Board of Trade. Maas was the founding member and first Exhalted Ruler of the city’s Elk’s Lodge.  Abe proudly proclaimed membership in the Masons, the Knights of Phythias and the Kiwanians.  Always one sympathetic to the needs of the poor and the downtrodden. Maas helped to found the Old People's Home.  During World War I, Maas worked tirelessly as the chairman of Europe relief. 

Bena Wolf Maas, who also hailed from the village of Dolgsheim, worked along the side of Abe in the business.  She served as president of the non-denominational Children’s Home for more than twenty-five years, a charter member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek, and a founder of the Community Chest, the predecessor of today’s United Way.  She died in 1947.



The store became part of Allied Department Stores in 1935.  That same year, Issac Maas died. Brother Abe took over the chairmanship of the company.  After a series of mergers and expansions to new stores, the flag ship store in Tampa closed in the early 1990s.  It was razed to the ground in 2006 after many years of neglect.  

Abe Maas died on June 7, 1941 at the age of eighty six.  

When he came to Dublin to open his own business, he was twenty five years old.   Every day he opened his store, he worked toward serving the needs of his customers and providing good quality merchandise.  In his first fifty years in business, Maas grew his business from a less than a thousand square foot storeroom in a primitive wooden buidling with no electricity and no indoor plumbing on a dusty dirt Jackson Street in Dublin to an 8-story, 75,000 square foot, brick and steel building on a busy avenue in the burgeoning metropolis of Tampa, Florida.






When he was laid to rest in the family mausoleum in Myrtle Hill Memorial Park, it could have been rightfully said, that not only did Abe Maas dream the American dream, he lived it.