Tag Archives: Famous Georgians

Sugar Creek Plantation, 1937, Telfair County

Upon its completion in 1937, this Colonial Revival house became both home and refuge for Eugene Talmadge and his wife, Mattie Thurmond Peterson Talmadge, known to all as Miss Mit. Talmadge had just lost the governor’s race after serving two terms and this country estate provided  him a place to revitalize and plan his political comeback. At the time, Telfair County was still seen as the seat of the Talmadge family and the rural anchorage was important, as Talmadge fancied himself a champion of the common man. The same voters who had rejected him for his lack of cooperation with FDR’s New Deal programs in 1937 returned him to the governor’s office in 1941. By now, Talmadge was relying on his unapologetic brand of racism to reach voters, and it succeeded; his well-attended rallies stoked racist fears among poor whites throughout Georgia.

Eugene Talmadge addressing supporters at Fitzgerald, Georgia, 1940. Photograph by Frances Trammell McCormick. Collection of Brian Brown. Copyright Vanishing South Georgia.

After another absence from office, Talmadge ran again in 1946, and became only the second man in Georgia history to be elected to a fourth term (Joseph E. Brown, the Civil War governor, was the other). He died on 21 December 1946, before he could serve his fourth term. The so-called Three Governors Controversy followed, and soon Talmadge’s son Herman became governor. He later served four terms in the United States Senate.

The family seemed to have little interest in maintaining the house, as they lived their lives far away from Telfair County for the most part, and it fell into a state of neglect. For many years, the fate of Sugar Creek Plantation was uncertain. It had long been in disrepair when former Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor Jim Wooten, a Telfair County native himself, purchased and restored the house and grounds in 2011.

Please note: It is now a private residence and security-monitored.

 

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Filed under --TELFAIR COUNTY GA--

Clinton F. Shingler House, 1914, Ashburn

Among Ashburn’s most architecturally significant houses, this was the childhood home of Betty Talmadge, a former First Lady of Georgia.

Shingler Heights Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --TURNER COUNTY GA--, Ashburn GA

Paul Anderson Youth Home, Vidalia

The late Paul Anderson (1932-1994) was known as “The World’s Strongest Man” and beginning in 1961 channeled his fame into helping troubled youth get their lives on track. Truett Cathy, of Chic-Fil-A fame, was his first major patron in this work. After first operating the Paul Anderson Youth Home out of the Mimosa Motel in Vidalia, Anderson purchased this property in 1962, which now includes modern dormitories and other structures.

A marker placed at the site in 1995 notes: Paul Anderson was born October 17, 1932 in Toccoa and attended Furman University where he began lifting weights. In 1955 he traveled as a goodwill ambassador from the United States to the Soviet Union and there his lifting surpassed many world records. Later that year he won the World Championships. He brought home the gold medal from the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. To date, he was the last American to win a gold medal in the super heavyweight division. On June 12, 1957, he lifted a total of 6,270 pound in a backlit, which was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest weight lifted by a human being. Paul Anderson married Glenda Garland in 1959 and the Andersons established the Paul Anderson Youth Home in 1961. The Youth Home is a Christian rehabilitation facility for young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one who otherwise might be confined to penal institutions. Paul Anderson became a professional to raise funds through demonstrations and speaking engagements to support the Youth Home. Over 2,000 young men benefited from the home and the unselfish devotion of Georgia’s beloved Paul Anderson before his death August 15, 1994.

This 1910 Colonial Revival home is the centerpiece of the property.

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Filed under --TOOMBS COUNTY GA--, Vidalia GA

Site of the Original Stuckey’s, 1937, Eastman

This structure, located on the site of Williamson S. Stuckey, Sr.’s (1909-1977) original roadside stand, has the familiar teal blue roof that was a beacon to tourists throughout America from the 1940s until the 1970s. I’m  not sure as to the date of this structure, but it’s probably from the 1940s or 1950s. The Stuckey’s Candy Factory, built in 1948, is located on the property, as well.

In 1937, Mr. Stuckey had a bumper crop of pecans and opened a roadside stand to sell them to the many tourists who passed through town on busy US 23. His wife, Ethel Mullis Stuckey (1909-1991), concocted a rolled pecan confection which quickly became Stuckey’s most iconic treat, the Pecan Log Roll (some love them, some not so much, but their impact on the business can’t be understated). While pecans and pecan-based treats were always the focus, Mr. Stuckey realized that travelers wanted more, and soon added other confections, a restaurant, souvenirs, and gasoline service.

By the late 1960s, there were over 350 Stuckey’s franchises throughout the United States, and their teal blue roofs were as iconic then as McDonald’s golden arches are today. The family sold the business to Pet Milk in 1967, but the focus became more corporate and less personal and changing travel patterns saw the rise of other roadside businesses that were quite competitive. From 1967-1977, Williamson (Billy) Stuckey, Jr., served five terms in the U. S. Congress. In 1985, determined to see his family name return to national prominence, Mr. Stuckey and a group of investors bought back the family business from Pet Milk. Though the familiar Stuckey’s locations of yesterday are no longer in operation, the brand remains strong and store-within-store locations are once again found throughout the eastern United States. In 2019, Stephanie Stuckey took over as CEO with plans of expanding even more, insuring the Stuckey’s name will be known well into the 21st century.

 

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Filed under --DODGE COUNTY GA--, Eastman GA

Ephraim Ponder House, 1856, Thomasville

Built for Ephraim G. Ponder, a slave trader, this house originally featured a square cupola at the center of the roof. Ponder enslaved the Flipper family and one of their children, Henry Ossian Flipper (1856-1940), was the first black cadet to be admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1877.

Detail of albumen cabinet card of Lieutenant Henry Flipper by Kennedy of Wilberforce, Ohio, circa 1877.  Courtesy U.S. House of Representatives. Committee on Military Affairs. Public domain.

Flipper earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army. He was also the first black officer to lead the buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. He went on to serve in the Apache Wars and Victorio’s War but was troubled by rumors that led to his eventual court martial and discharge. He continued to work for the United States, as an assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in Mexico and Central America. Flipper’s family sought and received a complete pardon in 1999. It’s a nice irony that the slave trader is largely forgotten today while Mr. Flipper is honored with an annual award in his name at West Point.

Dawson Street Residential Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --THOMAS COUNTY GA--, Thomasville GA

Bethany Congregational Church, 1891 & 1914, Thomasville

Bethany Congregational Church was built in conjunction with the Allen Normal & Industrial Institute (1885-1933), a progressive school for black children sponsored by the American Missionary Society. The Society was the missionary department of the United Church of Christ. The school had initially been established in Quitman but the white community there burned the school to the ground scarcely six weeks after its opening. The institute moved to Thomasville after this racist episode and built a new home. Bethany was built in 1891, but only the rear section visible above. The front of the church, including the steeple, was added to meet the needs of a growing congregation in 1914.

Andrew Young served as pastor here in 1955, just after graduating from Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut. He went on to become a seminal figure of the Civil Rights Movement, an ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --THOMAS COUNTY GA--, Thomasville GA

Hayes House, Circa 1851, Thomasville

This home was built by Thomas Jones of Greenwood Plantation as a wedding gift for his daughter Harriet and her husband, Dr. David S. Brandon, a prominent surgeon. [It’s referred to as the Dr. David Brandon House in the National Register of Historic Places]. Dr. Brandon sold the house to Mrs. John R. Hayes in 1862. In the last days of the Civil War, Professor Joseph LeConte of Liberty County was granted refuge here by the Hayes family.

Originally a one-story brick house, the second floor and mansard roof were added in the 1870s. The brick was stuccoed at that time. The roof is covered with octagonal slate tiles, featuring a decorative flower design.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --THOMAS COUNTY GA--, Thomasville GA

Fletcher Henderson House, 1888, Cuthbert

This home was built by Professor Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Cuthbert’s preeminent black educator for well over half a century. Professor Henderson served as principal of Howard Normal School (later Randolph County Training School) from 1880-1942. The institution was owned by the American Missionary Association, a leading advocate for African-American education in the years following the Civil War. Henderson married Ozie Lena Chapman of Cuthbert in 1883. Mrs. Henderson also became an educator.

It’s likewise important as the birthplace of Fletcher Henderson, Jr., and Horace Henderson, who were influential in American music in the first half of the 20th century.  Upon completing college at Atlanta University in 1920, Fletcher (aka Smack) moved to New York and soon began working for Pace & Handy, a prominent publisher of African-American music. He was also an active member of the Harlem Symphony and later fronted a touring band that featured singer Ethel Waters. The band has the distinction of having the first known broadcast of jazz on radio, at New Orleans in 1922. At the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Henderson was the go-to accompanist of the great blues singers of the era and led the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra at Roseland Ballroom for many years. He worked with numerous instrumentalists, including Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Green, Don Redman, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Dixon, Fats Waller, and June Cole, among others. He sold his arrangements to Benny Goodman in the 1930s and worked with Goodman’s orchestra in the late 1930s and 1940s. The up-tempo jazz that Henderson had been playing in the 1920s came to be known as “swing”. Benny Goodman noted…Fletcher had one of the first great jazz swing bands in America and influenced any number of musicians in America.

Flectcher Henderson died in 1952.  His brother Horace, who led his own smaller band, went on to do arrangements for the Glenn Miller Orchestra and toured with Lena Horne at the height of her popularity. He continued to work with small bands until the 1970s.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --RANDOLPH COUNTY GA--, Cuthbert GA

Stovall-George-Woodward-Gregory House, 1908, Vienna

This landmark of the Neoclassical style was built by Dr. C. T. Stovall after “Whitehall”, his previous home at this location, burned. Stovall was Vienna’s primary physician for many years, in addition to serving as the city’s first treasurer and eventually alderman and mayor.

In 1914, he sold the home to Walter F. George, who was then serving as the Superior Court judge for the Cordele Circuit. George was elected to the United States Senate in 1922 where he would serve as one of its most influential members until shortly before his death in 1957. He sold the house in 1924.

Subsequent owners were the L. L. Woodward family, Georgia Supreme Court Associate Justice Hardy Gregory, Jr., and his nephew, Bert Gregory. Mr. Gregory graciously allowed me to photograph the house, which he is preparing for sale.

It’s been a wonderful showcase for Mr. Gregory’s numerous collections and served as his law office. The desk in this photograph came from the old Cordele depot.

A balcony affords nice views of Union Street.

A sun room over the porte cochere is an interesting feature.

It was added in the 1920s.

 

 

National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under --DOOLY COUNTY GA--, Vienna GA

Dedication of Morris Abram Mural, Fitzgerald

I was honored to be at the ceremony dedicating a mural to one of Fitzgerald’s most accomplished native sons, Morris Berthold Abram (19 June 1918-16 March 2000). Mr. Abram was an attorney and tireless civil rights advocate who notably argued the case before the Supreme Court that ended the county unit system in Georgia that gave rural votes equal value with urban votes. The system was a juggernaut which allowed discrimination at the voting booth and gave undue power to local political bosses. The decision essentially ended voter segregation by upholding the principle of “one man, one vote”. I remember very well that many people in my hometown didn’t have a great opinion of Abram for his “meddling” in local affairs, but as a teenager I read his autobiography, The Day is Short, and developed a great respect for the man. Among Abram’s numerous accomplishments: He was appointed first general counsel to the Peace Corps by President Kennedy and served on various commissions under four more presidents; president of the American Jewish Committee; president of Brandeis University; chairman of the United Negro College Fund. My friend Richard Owens fondly recalled: Morris was George H. W. Bush’s ambassador in Geneva when I started my UN job there in 1991. It was phenomenal to have a Ben Hill-Irwin connection to a man of such stature and courage. His dinner table was famous for encouraging often-spirited debates among people from very different backgrounds and perspectives.

Penson Kaminsky, a lifelong friend of my family and scion of  one of Fitzgerald’s oldest Jewish family’s, gave the invocation.

The dedication was done in conjunction with Georgia Cities Week and I must say that I was very proud of my hometown for the great job they did honoring Mr. Abram.

Fitzgerald mayor Jim Puckett presented a proclamation to Ruth Abram, daughter of Morris Abram, who was in Fitzgerald with her son, Noah Abram Teitelbaum. Ruth has been an advocate for numerous good causes and is quite accomplished in her own right. She conceived and directed the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, one of New York City’s most visited museums, and has been a tireless advocate for women’s history and scholarship. She’s also the author of Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America 1835-1920. She recalled  her father’s time in Fitzgerald, and the challenges of a poor immigrant Jewish family in early-20th-century South Georgia. It was quite moving, with Noah giving voice to his grandfather’s words.

Noah Abram Teitelbaum and Ruth Abram unveiling the plaque detailing Morris Abram’s work and accomplishments.

I had a great time talking to mural artist Dylan Ross, whose work you may already know. Dylan has quickly become one of Georgia’s most sought after muralists.

Clark Stancil, of the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, designed the mural using archival images.

 

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Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--, Fitzgerald GA