Sunday, June 26, 2016



The year 1926 was a year of hope. It was a time when the economy of Dublin and Laurens County was already in and had been in an economic downturn for more than a dozen years.  As the cotton crops began to rebound, way too many African-American tenant farmers were deserting the county in droves, if they had the financial resources to move to the North for better paying jobs and presumably favorable social conditions.

In March of that year, Charles Saunders, of the Macon Telegraph, took a trip to Dublin to write a paid promotional article exalting the agricultural opportunities and industrial advantages for new entrepreneurs.

In those in between years, Laurens County's population was holding steady at nearly 40,000.  It will be noted that the number of residents  would fall in the decades to come and only return to the mid-1920s level during the 1990 Census.  With nearly 510,000 acres and 810 square miles of area, Laurens County was situated near the center of the state and in the center of a 300,000 person trading area.

Dublin's 1926 population, with  an estimated 8,000 persons, was up some ten fold from its 1890 level before the economic boom of the city's first Golden Age began.

Essential to the recovery of the county was the success of the county's four railroads; the Macon, Dublin and Savannah, the Wrightsville & Tennille, the Hawkinsville & Eastman and The Dover Railroads.

More importantly to the local the local economy was the fact that Dublin was located at the intersection of the Dixie Overland Highway (U.S. Highway 80,) the Woodrow Wilson Highway (U.S. Highway 441,) and the Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Highway 319.)  Although the vast majority of the county's roads were yet to be paved, plans were already in the works to pave the national and state highways in the coming five to seven years.  A positive, but dwindling resource, was the availability of river transportation.

Every community claims it has an ideal climate.  And, Laurens was no exception with an average temperature of 66.8 degrees.  County residents were extremely proud of their recently established health department, which led the way to reduce the number of infant deaths, keep her citizens healthy and provide preventive measures to keep the birth rate at 10 per thousand above the death rate.  The location of the city of Dublin above artesian acquifers made drinking water here a prime, pure and safe commodity.

With its vast abundance of pine and hardwood timber and its close proximity to the rich deposits of bauxite and kaolin in its neighboring counties, Laurens claimed to be a prime location for new businesses.  Dublin boasted rich deposits of clay which were used for the mass manufacturing of bricks.  Land prices were at a recent low following the coming of the boll weevil and the end of World War I in the recent decade.

The county boasted the finest schools and best churches anywhere in rural Georgia.  Chief among the county's promoters were W.H. Proctor, Chamber of Commerce Secretary and J.F. Hart, Jr., the county's farm agent.  Many in town were proud of the recently organized Lions Club under the leadership of Marshall Chapman and Tom Curry.  Many people got the groceries from small grocers who purchased them from wholesale grocers, Cochran Brothers, organized in 1916, and Alsup Grocery, organized in 1919.  The Cochrans expanded into agricultural related products, gloating over the fact that they were the first business to receive a load of chicken feed in the county.

If the country side and its outlying communities were the center of agriculture, Dublin was the center of industrial, commercial and service businesses.

There were lumber mills, a new half million-dollar pulpwood mill, a veneer mill, as well as a bobbin, shuttle and handle factory.   And, there were numerous saw mills and planing mills in addition to a buggy wheel rim factory and barrel stave factory.  

For nearly three decades, Dublin had generated its own electricity, while county residents still dined and read by lantern and candle light.  Georgia Power's 1925 purchase of Dublin's power plant guaranteed the spread of electricity throughout the county.  Another dozen years would pass until  Rural Electrification began to supply county residents with lights.  Another two dozen more years would pass before electricity was available to all county residents.

Dublin boasted two strong banks, the First National Bank and the Georgia State Banking
Company. Both would fail within the next two years.  There were the usual compliment of stores
and business to serve the needs of the city's citizens.

City boosters were right proud of the city's infrastructure, including her schools, the
Carnagie Library, Stubbs Park, the city's two swimming pools and beautiful tree lined streets
which combined to make the city an ideal place to live with unlimited opportunities for success
for every man.

Among the more successful agri industries was the Empire Cotton Oil Company, which encompassed two and one half blocks.  Marshall - Peacock Chevrolet Company became the first modern car dealership in the city.

Labor sources were adequate to meet the needs of employers, primarily in the agriculture related industry.  The county's main crops were: cotton, corn, oats, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, tobacco, melons, sugar cane, wheat, peaches and pecans while farmers raised large numbers of cattle, hogs and poultry.

The diversification measures put in place by farm organizations, the Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Department of Agriculture's agents kept the county from collapsing when the one major cash crop began to fail after the boll weevil invasion of 1914.

While there was still hope in 1926.  Those faithful wishes came crashing to halt in October 1929 when the Stock Market crashed.    The aftermath of World War II saw a renewed growth in the agricultural and industrial areas of the local community.

Everyone does or should promote their community at all times.  Otherwise, who else would?

So, I leave you with this wise maxim as proclaimed by former Dublin city councilman, Junior Scarboro, who said, "It is a poor frog who won't croak his own pond."

The West Point Class of 1936

In the long history of the United States Military Academy, few classes have had such an impact on the history of the United States as the Class of 1936.  The cadets of the 1820s through the 1850s shaped the future of our country during the horrific War Between the States.  The Class of ‘36, with its forty- eight future generals, made unprecedented contributions to their country and the cause of freedom in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and during the decades of the Cold War which bridged the three conflicts.  One young man, a son of a general but unique to his class, helped to bring the black soldier to the forefront of the United States Military.  This is the story of the West Point Class of 1936, who for a few hours eighty years ago this week were treated to the finest hospitality the men and women of Dublin could muster.

It was the beginning of their senior year at West Point.  After achieving the rank of first class cadets, these 277 young men were bound for ten days  of intense infantry training in the sweltering sun of Fort Benning.  They traveled from New York to Savannah on the U.S.S. Chateau Thierry.   After a hardy breakfast, the cadet corps traveled by truck convoy along U.S. Highway 80 from Savannah. The first item on the days itinerary was midday lunch in Dublin at Stubbs Park on July 31, 1935.

Mess Officer Capt. William R. McKennon arrived a day early to begin preparations to feed more than 500 cadets, officers, escort crew and guests.   Capt. McKennon set up the mess hall in the Hargrove Gym, the high school’s wooden gymnasium which was located on the present site of Stubbs Park Gym.   Mayor Marshall Chapman requested that everyone in the city display their American flags as sign of support for their troops.  Milo Smith, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, made all of the arrangements with a host of volunteers at his direction. Wilbur S. Jones, the local Sinclair dealer, had adequate gas standing by to supply the convoy for the remainder of its trip.   MS William Moon and his twelve assistants provided a delicious meal of baked ham, mashed potatoes, stewed corn, cold sliced tomatoes, ice cream, cake and lemonade placed on tables just outside the gym.

Of the young men in the park that day, three cadets would become listed among the leading Army generals of the 20th Century.   They were Creighton Abrams, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. and William C. Westmoreland.  Creighton Abrams commanded armor battalions during World War II.   During the Korean War, Gen. Abrams (left0 served as Chief of Staff of the I, IX and X corps.   Just as the war in Vietnam was escalating, Abrams was promoted to Major General in 1965 as deputy commander and later commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command. Gen. Abrams served as chief of staff of the United States Army from 1972 to 1974 and supervised the withdrawals from Vietnam until his death.  Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the son of the country’s first and only black general, was shunned by his classmates and forced to eat in silence and to speak only when spoken too.  The abuse only aroused his desire to succeed in his academic and military studies.  When Davis graduated 35 out of 276 in his class, he joined his father as the country’s only two black line officers.  Five years later, Davis found himself assigned to a flight training program at Tuskegee, Alabama.    Davis led his “Tuskegee Airmen” to unrivaled success over the skies of Europe, where one of every sixteen military personnel killed in action during the war lost their lives.  During his group’s 200 escort missions, not a single bomber was shot down by the German Luftwaffe.

Davis (left) returned to action in 1953 in Korea. The country’s first black Air Force general, Lt. General Davis retired in 1970 to accept an appointment by President Nixon as Assistant Secretary for Transportation for Environment, Safety and Consumer Affairs.  William C. Westmoreland, a former artillery officer and Superintendent of U.S. Military Academy, was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1965.    Gen. Westmoreland command the United States Troops in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968  and served as Chief of Staff of the Army from 1968-1972.

 LTG John H. Michaelis was a senior aide to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower during World War II.  After the war, he served as Chief of Staff of the Allied Powers in Europe.  After serving as commander of the Army in Alaska and a stint as Commandant of the U.S. Military Academy, Gen. Michaelis served as commander of the 5th Army from 1966 to 1969.  Michaelis left that position to serve as Commander of U.N. and U.S. forces in Korea.  Gen. Michaelis was aided by his deputy commander and former classmate Gen. John H. Chiles.  Bruce Palmer, Jr., a son of a brigadier general and grandson of a medal of honor winner in the Civil War, retired as a four star general.  Gen. Palmer was passed over for the command of the troops in Vietnam after his classmate Gen. Westmoreland’s promotion in favor of another classmate, Gen. Abrams. Palmer, deputy commander under Gen. Abrams,  made his mark on the Vietnam war by writing a scathing report on the failure of the Army and the White House to design a plan to win the war.

Gen. William Westmoreland 

Ten Cadets never made it through World War II.    William Fickes was killed by lightning just four months after graduation.  Maj. Peter McGoldrick was killed in N. Africa in Nov. 1942.  Maj. Frederick Kellam, a member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was killed in action in the first few hours of D-Day.  Maj. Leonard Godfrey, of the 16th Division, was killed in the first few moments of the Normandy invasion at Omaha Beach. LTC Francis Oliver and LTC Duncan Dowling, Jr., of Augusta, Ga., were killed in the summer of 1944 in France.  Majors Carl Boehr, John Goldtrap, Karol Bauer, and Lawrence Prichard endured the Bataan Death March only to be taken prisoner by the Japanese.  These four officers and thousands more soldiers were herded as POWs into unmarked transport ships bound for Japan. Many of these ships were bombed and sunk by American fighter pilots, who were oblivious to the human cargo in the holds of their targets.

General Howell M. Estes was elevated to a four star general by President Lyndon Johnson and placed in command of the Military Air Transport Command in 1965.     Gen. John A. Heintges, the commander of the 7th Infantry Regiment that captured Hitler’s villa at Berchtesgaden in May 1945, was second in command of the Army in Vietnam from 1965 until he was replaced by classmate Creighton Abrams.

Gen. Howard M. Snyder served as a physician to General and later President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1946 to 1948 and from 1951 to 1960.  It was with Dr. Snyder’s approval that President Eisenhower sought a second term after a near fatal heart attack in 1955.   Gen. James Landrum, then Lt. Col. Landrum, was talking to celebrated war reporter Ernie Pyle when he was killed by a Japanese machine gunner on Okinawa in April 1945.  Lt. Gen. Albert Clark was appointed to head the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970.  Maj. Gen. Chester Clifton, Jr. served as the senior military aide to President John F. Kennedy.  Gen. Clifton gave President Kennedy daily morning briefings on military intelligence reports.  Clifton was riding in the motorcade with the President when he was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

The general continued to advise President Lyndon Johnson in that capacity until his retirement in 1965. Gen. Charles Billingslea, a former World War II paratrooper, was given command of army units assigned to enforce desegregation at the University of Mississippi in 1962 and to protect a group led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who sought to end racial discrimination in Birmingham in 1963.  Perhaps most notable among the cadets who weren’t presented their diplomas in June 1936 by World War I Supreme Commander, Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing was cadet I. Chang.  Chang, who was sent by the Chinese government to study American military tactics,  transferred to VMI, where he graduated in 1936.  Capt. Chang and his entire company were killed in the defense of Nanking in Dec. 1937.

As these young men paused to enjoy southern cooking at its finest in the cool breezes of the ancient pines of Stubbs Park, it is inconceivable that they had any conception of the impact that they would have on their country in the next four decades and for many decades to come.

To view the Class of 1936 graduation ceremonies, click  above.