Friday, June 19, 2015
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
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.
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.
The Sailing Surgeon
When Captain A.L. Bryan came to Dublin on Maundy Thursday in April 1944, he was on a mission. During his naval career, Bryan had sailed all but three of the seven seas. There was still a war raging in Europe and the Pacific. It would be two more months before the Allied armies would invad the Normandy coast. Captain Bryan was ordered to report to Dublin, Georgia to establish a naval hospital, a large facility situated more than one hundred miles from the nearest ocean. It would be a hospital to treat the flood of expected casualties of a war which seemingly had no end. This is his story.
Born on April 4, 1892 in the tiny East Iowa farming community of Dixon, Alanson Leroy Bryan was a son of telegraph operator Lindsey Bryan and his Norwegian born bride Mary. Before Alanson and his twin sister Alice reached the age of ten, his family moved north to Anoka, Minnesota on the Mississippi River above Minneapolis.
At the age of twenty-four, Alanson Bryan graduated from the prestigious medical school at Vanderbilt University in 1916. Dr. Bryan began his internship with the United States Public Health Service following his graduation. As President Woodrow Wilson was considering asking Congress for a declaration of war in Europe, Bryan entered the United States Navy when he was commissioned a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Naval Reserve on February 1, 1917.
Following the entrance of the United States into World War I, Lt. Bryan traveled to the nation’s capital where he entered the Navy’s Medical School and was commissioned a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the regular Navy.
Lt. Bryan’s first assignment came in Boston, Massachusetts to serve as a lieutenant aboard the USS Vestal and the USS Supply, an 1873 iron steamer, until the summer of 1919. As a first lieutenant, Bryan served the next three years aboard the U.S.S. Fulton and the U.S.S. Eagle.
Bryan returned to shore duty taking courses at a New York University and serving at a Boston hospital from 1922 to 1924. Around Christmas, Bryan reported for duty to oversee the fitting of the U.S.S. Memphis, a light cruiser which sailed both the Atlantic and Pacific during Bryan’s 14-month stint. After eight months aboard the USS Procyn, Bryan received his first assignment in a hospital, the Navy’s premier hospital in San Diego, California, where he served until the fall of 1930.
After a nine-month stint aboard the USS Chaumont and the USS Medina, Commander Bryan, trained in eye, ear, nose and throat surgery and specialized as a general surgeon, began to settle down to shore duty at Mare Island, The Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor and back to San Diego where he served until the end of the 1930s. The commander returned to Pearl Harbor as the tumultuous decade of the 1940s began to serve aboard the U.S.S. Maryland. Bryan was reassigned stateside in the spring of 1941, but the Maryland remained at her base, where she was severely damaged on December 7, 1941.
Commander Bryan’s first experience in establishing a naval hospital from the ground up came in Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as the Chief of Surgical Service during the hospital’s first six months of operation.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bryan’s skills and expertise were needed to assist the Navy in converting older ships into virtual sailing hospitals. Bryan worked aboard the French ship Normandie, which was converted to the U.S.S. Lafayette. Working with Bethlehem Steel, Captain Bryan oversaw the construction of the U.S.S. Massachusetts, a Dakota Class battleship, which was engaged in the Battle of Casablanca in November 1942.
From December 5, 1942 until March 6, 1944, Bryan, a slender, sandy-haired, sailing surgeon, served as Senior Medical Officer of the U.S.S. Relief, a base hospital ship of the Atlantic Fleet based in Charleston, South Carolina. In the winter of 1943, the Relief set sail for Boston in preparation for the duty in the South Pacific, where she saw duty in the engagements around the Solomon, Gilbert and Marshall Islands, including Tarawa and Kwajalein.
Dr. Bryan’s staff of surgeons, nurses and orderlies took on the unenviable task of treating massive numbers of Marines many of whom had been gravely battered on the beaches of the paradise islands of the South Pacific as the island hopping campaign slowly began it’s deadly swing toward their main destination of the island of Japan.
Captain Bryan left the horrific fighting in the South Pacific for a new and completely different assignment. His mission was to travel to rural east-central Georgia to serve as the Navy’s Prospective Officer in Command of its new hospital in Dublin, Georgia.
When Captain Bryan arrived in Dublin, he brought with him his wife, the former Margaret Grady of New York and his daughter Mary Anne, who enrolled in Dublin High School. His sons were following in his footsteps. John Dennis was serving as an ensign in the South Pacific and Alanson, Jr. who was serving a surgeon in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The Bryans lived in spacious brick home on the hospital grounds. Bryan and his wife immediately became involved in the community affairs of Dublin. Captain Bryan joined the Rotary Club.
Bryan’s red-letter day came on a rainy Monday, January 22, 1945 with the dedication of the $10,000,000.00 dollar Naval Hospital. Bryan worked closely with Commander Louis Dozier, in charge of the building of the hospital, the contractor Beers Construction Company and his executive officer, Commander A.J. Delaney.
During his early months in the completed hospital, Captain Bryan arranged for the visits of Helen Keller and World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker to the hospital to help raise the spirits of the patients at the hospitals. Bryan was also instrumental in convincing some of the country’s greatest bands to stop by the hospital during their cross country travels to play unscheduled performances for his patients.
Within four years of his departure from the Naval Hospital, Captain Bryan died on October 5, 1950 at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, where he has spent many years during his thirty plus year career in the Navy. He is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, some 2300 miles down the road from where he oversaw the establishment of Dublin Naval Hospital.