Friday, June 19, 2015



It is indeed rare that within the space of 357 days that three athletes from three adjoining rural counties are selected in the first round of major sports drafts. Such was the case between May 8,2014 and April 30, 2015 during two NFL drafts and one NBA draft. As for now, I will say that this triple  take has never happened before.  I will wait until one of you sports trivia experts quickly prove me wrong. 

It all began on May 8,  2014 when the Cincinnati Bengals chose Darqueze Dennard of Twiggs County, Georgia  in the NFL’s annual draft.  Six weeks later on June 26, the San Diego Clippers picked Brian Craig, aka “C.J.”, Wilcox, a native of Dublin, Georgia, as their first pick in the 2014 NBA draft.  To complete the triad, the Pittsburgh Steelers, tabbed  Alvin “Bud” Dupree from neighboring Wilkinson County as their first round pick in this year’s NFL draft.

Darqueze Dennard hails from the tiny Twiggs County town of Dry Branch, Georgia. This rather light defensive back was the 24th choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in last year’s NFL Draft.  Dennard was a member of the 2013 Big Ten champion and 2014 Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans.  A unanimous All-American choice in 2013, Dennard was selected by the Jim Thorpe Association  as the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best collegiate defensive back. Dennard was among the top five finalists for the Football Writers Association of America’s Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive college player.

A three-sport star for the Twiggs County Cobras, Dennard played both defensive back and wide receiver.  Although his stats as an offensive player were good, a few college scouts saw more promise in his defensive ability to read the quarterback and his speed in moving toward the football.  In his senior year, Dennard finished second in the Class A 100-meter dash.

Considered only as a two-star recruit, Michigan State took a chance on Dennard, who missed nearly half of his freshman season due to an injury.  As a sophomore, Dennard began to show the skills his recruiters had seen in him.  Two of his 42 tackles came against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2012 Outback Bowl.  Dennard  continued to improve during his junior season and finished his final season with 62 tackles.

Brian Craig "C. J." Wilcox was born in Dublin, Georgia on December 30, 1990.  Raised by his grandmother down the road in Eastman, Wilcox moved to Utah with his father Craig Wilcox, a Dodge County basketball star and former BYU basketball player.   The 6'6" shooting guard was the 28th pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.  

Young Wilcox didn’t take long to prove that he was a “chip of the old block.  In his preteens, Wilcox began to stand out in AAU games.  He played high school ball at Pleasant Grove High Vikings, where he averaged 22.2 points per game. 

Utah colleges began to take notice, most notably. Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young.  Wilcox decided to leave home and sign with the University of Washington Huskies.  

After being redshirted in his first season in 2009-10, Wilcox was named to the Pac-10 All Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Wilcox was tabbed as an Honorable Mention to the All Pac-10 team for his deadly three-point shooting. Wilcox moved up to the Second Team All Pac-12 during his junior season after finishing with the 11th highest single season point total in Huskie history.

For the second time, Wilcox was selected to the Second Team All Pac-12 despite the fact that he finished his career as the second highest scorer, fifth in blocked shots, first in three-pointers (6th in Pac-12 history,) and ranks as one of only three players in conference history to score 1700 points.  

Alvin Dupree - his friends call him “Bud” - was born in Macon, Georgia and grew up in Wilkinson County, Georgia.   Dupree was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 22nd pick in the first round of last month’s NFL draft. 

  Dupree attended Wilkinson County High School in Irwinton, Georgia. During his senior season for the Warriors, Dupree played both ways, scored 10  touchdowns and garnered more than more than 1000 yards in receiving yards.  Only a three-star recruit, the six-foot, four-inch Dupree, a first team all state player,  tackled 62 runners and sacked the opposing quarterbacks, 10 times.

Dupree signed with the University of Kentucky Wildcats.  In his freshman year, the 269-pound defensive end, played in twelve games. In the same number of games in his sophomore season, the big lineman jumped from 21 tackles to 91 tackles for a career season high. 

A steady performer on defense, Dupree was named to the first team of the All Southeastern Conference in his senior season in 2014 finishing his career with 247 tackles and 23.5 sacks.

The book has yet to be written on Darqueze Dennard, “C.J.” Wilcox and “Bud” Dupree.  Dennard, hampered by the lack of playing time in his rookie season, tackled opposing players seventeen times in four games.  Dupree, plagued by injuries which forced him to start the 2014-15 season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, managed only to appear in only 21 games this season and scored two points as he looks forward to the fall and a chance to play full time. And, of course, the recently drafted “Bud” Dupree has yet to don a Steeler uniform.

It is well worth remembering that Wilcox and Dupree were only three star recruits out of high school while Dennard was only rated as a two-star player.  Only one of the three, Dennard, were chosen as an All-American and Wilcox didn’t make the first all conference team.

It shall also be noted that Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas (left)  was the first person from this area to be drafted in the first round of a major professional league draft when he became the 22nd pick of the Denver Broncos of the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.   Of the four area players in five years, Thomas was the most highly heralded both coming out of high school and college.

The record of being the highest pick from this area goes to McIntyre’s Georgia’s Kevin Brown, (left)  who was selected by the Texas Rangers as the 4th overall pick in the 1986 MLB draft.

But I must say that coming in second in the ranks of highest selected local player in a professional draft goes to my classmate Tina Price Cochran, who was selected as the 15th overall pick in the 1978 Women’s Professional Basketball League.  The former Dublin and University of Georgia basketball and tennis star was chosen by the team from Washington, D.C, which was relocated and renamed the Dayton Rockettes.    Tina (below) gave up basketball and tennis to return home to Dublin to raise a fine family and share her blessings with her students in Dublin city schools. 


Physicians are often called "healers of the body."  Ministers are seen as "healers of the soul." Psychiatrists are known as "healers of the mind."  This is the story of the early black physicians of Dublin and Laurens County and their roles not only as "healers of the body," but as "healers of the community" during the turbulent times of the first five decades of the 20th Century in the rural South.
It wasn't until 1876 when the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church established the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College in Nashville, Tennessee that black males in the South were given the opportunity to obtain a medical education.  The medical school, named Meharry Medical College in honor of its founder Samuel Meharry, became part of Walden University in 1900 and became self sustaining in 1915.  

Laurens County's first known black physician was Dr. C.P.  Johnson.  Though little is known of his practice in Dublin in the mid 1890s, Dr. Johnson was known to have been educated by Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the Vice-President of the Confederate States of America.  Dr. Johnson left Dublin in 1895 and moved his practice to Cordele.

The first native black Laurens Countian to practice medicine was Dr. Benjamin Judson Simmons.    Dr. Simmons was born in Laurens County on October 16, 1870.  His family moved to Macon, where the young man dedicated his youth to obtaining the best education available.  Simmons attended the Ballard School in Macon and the Georgia State Industrial School in Savannah before returning home
to teach in the county school system.  Simmons dreamed of becoming a physician. With little or no money in hand Ben Simmons set out on foot for Nashville, Tennessee and Meharry Medical College. When he walked out of Meharry in 1897 with his medical diploma in hand, Simmons was the school's most outstanding student in his studies of human anatomy.  

One day when he walking back and forth from home to Meharry, Ben Simmons met and later married Clementine Slater of Baldwin County.  Dr. Simmons passed his state licensing exam and immediately set up his practice in the old capital city of Georgia.    The first black physician in Milledgeville, he was recognized by his white colleagues as a doctor with outstanding diagnostic skills.  Dr. Simmons successful career came to an untimely end on January 7, 1910, when he accidentally shot himself.  Though he had accumulated quite a fortune, his white friends pledged to pay for a handsome monument over his grave in the mostly white ancient Milledgeville burial ground.

 Henry Thomas Jones, Sr. was born on Oct. 3, 1875 in Hepzibah, Ga.  Like many of his local colleagues, Jones attended Georgia State College in Savannah.  Dr. Jones graduated on Feb. 21, 1900 from Meharry Medical College, where he was the first of his class to graduate under the four year program at Meharry.  Jones began his practice in Dublin on Sept. 23, 1901 and continued here until his death on July 29, 1945.  Henry Jones  married Theodosia Hinton of Warrenton, Ga.  By faith he was a Baptist and served as a Sunday School Teacher and a deacon of First A.B. Church, Dublin, Ga.  Civically, Dr. Jones was a Knight of Pythias and a 33rd degree Mason. 

Perhaps of all of the African-American physicians of the early 20th Century, the most well known and admired was Benjamin Daniel "B.D." Perry.  Dr. Perry was born on April 12, 1876 in Laurens County.  He graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. on February 26, 1902. He began his practice in Brewton, Ga. on May 10, 1902 near his ancestral home on the Wrightsville Highway.   In his early adult hood, Perry, like many physicians of his time, taught school during the day. Dr. Perry practiced in Dublin for over 40 years  and was a member of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. He married Eliza J. O'Neal and died on Oct. 8, 1957.  In the 1950s, Dr. Perry was honored by Laurens County with the naming of B.D. Perry High School, which is located across the highway from his family home.   Dr. B.D. Perry was buried in Perry Cemetery on Highway 319 opposite East Laurens Middle School. 

The fourth of a group of early black physicians was Dr. J.W.E. Linder.  Dr. Linder graduated from Meharry in 1908 and began his practice here seven weeks later on May 23, 1908.  Very little is known of Dr. Linder and he may have moved on to another city to practice his profession.

Dr. Ulysses Simpson Johnson was born on July 18, 1882 in the Jones County town of Clinton.  A son of Henry Johnson and his bride Elizabeth Bland,   Johnson attended local schools before matriculating at Georgia State College from 1895 to 1897 while he was in early teens.  At the age of 17, Ulysses graduated from Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  During the time he was attending school, Johnson taught school during his free time.    

Dr. Johnson graduated from Meharry Medical College in 1908 and set out to practice medicine in Dublin in 1918.  A convert to Christianity from the age of fourteen, Dr. Johnson believed that he was given the call to heal the souls of his community's citizens.  On March 17, 1922, Dr. Johnson also became known as Rev. Johnson when he was licensed to preach at St. Paul's AME Church in Dublin. Nineteen months later, he was ordained a Deacon in the church and in 1925 was designated as an elder.  He pastored churches at Cadwell, Dexter, Wrightsville, the Strawberry Circuit, Smithville and Eastman before his appointment as Presiding Elder of the Hawkinsville District in 1937.  From 1938 to 1940, Rev. Johnson served as the Presiding Elder of the Dublin District, before returning to Hawkinsville to service.  During his long career, Rev. Johnson attended dozens of annual conferences.

 In 1924, Dr. Johnson, who lived on South Jefferson Street and practiced in his office across the street, began publishing  "The Record." the city's first newspaper exclusively for black citizens.  Dr. Johnson served as a Trustee of Morris Brown College for more than thirty years.  He served as President of the State Medical Association of Black Doctors and was Vice Chair of the National Medical Association.

He was active in many local civic organizations, including the Masons, Knights of Pythias and Woodmen of the World.  His first wife, Josephine Hutchings, died early in his life.  His second wife was Miss Cleo P. McCall.

Ulysses Simpson Johnson was named after one of the 19th Century's most popular Republican presidents, U.S. Grant.  Fittingly it seemed only popular that nearly one hundred years after the end of the Civil War, Dr. Johnson served as one of the old line black delegates to the Republican National Convention in 1960.  He died on March 17, 1962.  Dr. U.S. Johnson was the last of the old school black physicians, who dedicated their lives to serving their community in every possible way.

Friday, May 29, 2015



      Another day dawned this morning and Jeralean Kurtz Talley turned 116 years old.  Mrs. Talley, a native of Montrose, Georgia, holds on to her official title as  the oldest living person in the world..

Mrs. Talley was born on May 23, 1899 to Samuel James Kurtz and Amelia Kurtz.  William McKinley was President of the United States.  On May 23, 2014, some nineteen presidents, fourteen hundred plus full moons and 42,000 sunsets later, Ms. Jeralean  reaches yet another milestone in the time line of her longest life. 

Jeralean, who was among a dozen children of Samuel and Amelia Jones Kurtz, grew up in the outskirts of Montrose, Georgia in western Laurens County, Georgia.  Her grandfather, Andrew J. Kurtz, husband of Rachel Kurtz, was most likely a slave owned by Dr. William J. Kurtz,  who owned nearly two dozen slaves during the Civil War.

Jeralean and her family moved to Inkster, Wayne County, Michigan during a vast migration of African-American farm workers who left Laurens County in the 1920s for Detroit, Michigan. That group includes the family of world champion boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson and Ford Motor Company inventor and innovator, Claude Harvard.  

Jeralean married Alfred Talley, who died in the 1980s.  Although she was from large family,  Jeralean had only one child, a daughter, Thelma Holloway, who is now seventy-five years old. She has three grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren. 

As for Talley, she credits her God for her longevity.  When asked by Congressman John Conyers as to what her secret to a long life was, she pointed upward and said, "The good Lord up above. If it wasn't for Him, none of us would be here."

Talley was almost 107 before she moved out of her home and into her daughter's home.  She gave up bowling when she was a mere 104.   And, she scored a very respectable 200 in her last game.
With 116 years behind her Jeralean has many stories to tell.  One of her favorites is the tale of her first and only attempt to drive a car. 

"I tried that one time," in her 30s, she said. 

"I  didn't hit the right one to make it go forward and it went backwards," Talley told Elisha Anderson of The Detroit Free Press.

When her husband Alfred yelled at her, she opened the door and got out of the car and never drove again.

A verified supercentenarian is a person who is at least 110 years old and whose age is documented by at three or more reliable documents as determined by an international body - the most respected organization being the Gerontology Research Group.

The world's oldest verified person ever was a French woman Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 122 years, 164 days.

Happy Birthday Ms. Jeralean! 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Laurens County African American Farmers.

For more than two centuries they have toiled in the fields, first as slaves, then as sharecroppers and, eventually, as owners of farms.   Throughout our past the contributions of these men, and women too, have left an invaluable impact on our local economy and our way of life.  This is the story of the African American farmers of Laurens County.

When Laurens County was created in 1807, the first black farmers were slaves.  Three years later the first census of the county enumerated 485 slaves.  Most of these people lived in the northern regions of the county on the large plantations.   By 1860 that number had increased to nearly 3,300 persons, some of whom were employed in non-agricultural positions or were too old or too young to work in the fields.

The end of the Civil War brought about the liberation of the black farmers. While many farmers were relegated to living and sharecropping on the lands of their former masters, some were given land or were quickly successful enough to buy their own piece of land.  In 1870, there were fifty black farmers who were more than just farm laborers.  Among these, David Lock, William Coats, Jacob Coney, Moses Yopp, S. Ellington, Sandy Stanley, Robert Stanley, J. Yonks and Jordan Burch owned their own land.  The granddaddy of these farmers was 80-year old William Coats.  Harriett Harvard was the only female farmer in that census year.

During the latter decades of the 19th Century, the leading black farmers included Ringold Perry, Daniel Cummings, Hamlet McCall, D.  McLendon, Jacob Fullwood and many members of the Yopp and Troup families.  Adam McLeod, of Lowery's District, was so successful that he was known to have been the first black man to buy a car in Laurens County.  

In 1910 near the zenith of cotton production in Laurens County, there were 2266 black farmers in Laurens County, ten more than their white counterparts.  In that year, 274 farms were owned and cultivated by their black owners.  Nearly three fourths of all of Laurens County's five thousand farms were cultivated by tenant farmers, 2027  of them were black.  Though the net wealth of a black farmer was less than $40.00 per person, farm ownership increased by 76% in the first decade of the
Twentieth Century.   

The rapid growth in the impact of the black farmer came to a screeching halt in the next decade when the boll weevil came to Laurens County and all but eliminated cotton as the most important part of the local farm economy.  By the mid 1920s, many of the tenant farmers were leaving in masses for the North and better paying and more reliable industrial jobs.  One notable migrant was Walker Smith, Jr., father of boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson, who moved to Detroit to make $60.00 per week as opposed to $30.00 per month on his Laurens County farm. 

In effort to lessen the devastation of the coming of the boll weevil, Laurens County hired the first black farm agent, a man known only as Mr. Robinson and later Mr. Carlton of Tuskegee.  Essex Lampkin took over the duties in 1930.  Five years later, Emory Thomas came to the county and organized community farm clubs and 4-H clubs throughout the county.  The work of these pioneers continues today under the leadership of Gary Johnson and his staff and volunteers.

These farm programs worked and worked well.  Emmett Hall won national recognition for his planning and budgeting procedures.    With the aid of Farmers Home Administration and Georgia Extension Service, Hall, a tenant farmer for twenty six years, bought his own farm.  Through careful planning and hard work, Hall not only managed to pay off the farm's debt in five years, he bought two more farms.  Hall and his sons built nearly six miles of terraces to prevent erosion on their hilly farm north of Dublin.  Hall needed the extra money, for had eight children to feed.

Henry Josey followed Emmett Hall's example.    In a good year as a sharecropper, Mr. Josey would make about $5.00 a week.  With the aid of extension agents P.L. Hay and Luther Coleman and state leader P.H. Stone, Josey turned a hilly farm, with most of its top soil eroded down to the clay, into a highly profitable six thousand dollar a year enterprise.  Josey built terraces and planted lupine, kudzu and legumes to halt erosion.  He added to live stock to supplement his field crops.  Josey's yield of corn increased five fold.  After saving up enough money to put down on a farm, Josey said, "We had $29.00, 35 bushels of corn, and a broken down mule to make a crop with."    But Josey and his wife persevered.  The former sharecroppers paid off their loan in a few years, and increased their acreage from 40 to 184 acres by the end of World War II.   After thirty years of struggling to make a living on the farm, life was good for the Henry Josey family.

During the war years farm production was critical to the war effort.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the Farm Security Administration to ensure increased production.  The Federal agency gave out awards to families who had gone above the goals set by the department for food production for home use and marketing with a special emphasis put on hogs, poultry and peanuts.  In 1942, six black farmers - Dempsey Wright, Johnny Beard, Jordan Wright, Ed Mathis, Emmett Hall and Bob Blackshear - were awarded certificates of merit for food for freedom production in a special ceremony held in the Laurens County Courthouse.

The location of the Georgia 4H Club for black youth in Dublin only helped the work of 4H programs in the community.  Willie Brantley lost his father and had to drop out of school in the 8th grade.  With no hint of hope in sight, Willie turned to Emory Thomas and his friends in 4H.  With their encouragement, Brantley worked hard and gradually began to increase his production of corn and livestock.  He served as chairman of the Laurens County 4-H Council for three years and garnered several awards.  In 1940, all of Willie Brantley's hard work and prayers were answered when he was awarded a scholarship as the state's most outstanding 4H club member. 

With the advent of the Civil Rights movement, black farmers, and especially their children, were afforded opportunities outside the farm.  Tenant farming was becoming a part of the past.  Farmers, like Robert Coleman of Dudley, took jobs in industry and worked on their farms on a part time basis. Coleman told a reporter for the New York Times in 1992, " It's twice as hard for the black farmer. We lose our land after a bad year or through bad management practices.  Some of us just can't afford new techniques to produce higher yields.  As for me, I'd have lost my farm if it wasn't for my job at the mine."  Fifteen years after the New York Times predicted that the extinction of black farmers was near, there are now less than sixty black farmers left in Laurens County.

Though the time of the black farmer in Laurens County may be coming to an end, their legacy of their steadfastness, dedication and hard work will endure for centuries to come.      

Monday, May 11, 2015


Georgia’s Second Female African American Dentist

Dr. Annie Yarborough may or may not have been the first African-American female dentist to practice dentistry in the State of Georgia, but she was certainly the second African-American woman ever to be awarded a license by the state.  Dr. Yarborough was the first woman ever to practice her profession outside of Athens, Georgia, where Dr. Ida Mae Hiram hung her out her shingle in 1910.

Born Annie E. Taylor on July 18, 1882 in Eatonton, Georgia, Dr. Yarborough was the mulatto daughter of the Rev. Hilliard Taylor and Anna E. Pennaman.  Her maternal grandfather, Morris Penneman, was a successful farmer and mill right and for his time a large landowner among a small group of former slaves who owned land in post Civil War Georgia.

Annie attended the public schools of Eatonton. After she graduated from high school in 1896, Annie enrolled at the Atlanta University.  Life was difficult for Annie and her family after Rev. Taylor died all too young.    She was educated in the field of education and took her first job in her hometown.    Miss Taylor moved out of town and taught in the Putnam County schools before moving to Jasper, Dodge and Laurens Counties.   In her spare time and between school terms, Annie was quite a successful dressmaker and fancy seamstress.

It was during her tenure in Laurens County that Annie met Dr. Adolphus Yarborough.  They fell in love and married on February 22, 1906.    Adolphus Yarborough learned his dental skills while working as an office boy.   Before he entered Dental School, Adolphus worked as a porter.   He was regarded by many as the best mechanical dentist of his race in Georgia.    Adolphus Yarborough, born in September 1881,  was a son of Nelson and Charley Yarborough and was the first African American dentist to practice in Laurens County.  When they first got married, Adolphus and Annie lived in his father's home on Marion Street in Dublin. 

Annie longed to work beside her husband.  Adolphus' office hours and home visits rarely allowed the couple to see each other, so Annie made up her mind that she was going to become a dentist.  There was only one problem.  There were no black female dentists and Georgia and no black dental schools in the state either.   

Annie had to leave Dublin and move to Nashville, Tennessee where she enrolled at Meharry Medical College.  During her first year at Meharry, Annie was elected to teach sewing and domestic science at Walden University.  In another rarity, Annie was both a student and a teacher at the same time.  

In the spring of 1910, Annie Taylor Yarborough walked across the stage and accepted her diploma as a graduate.  Dr. Ida Mae Hiram, credited as the first female African-American dentist in Georgia was also a member of Class of 1910.    Later that same year Dr. Hiram passed the dental board examinations and joined her husband in their dental office in Athens.    It would be another year before Dr. Yarborough would be officially licensed to practice in Georgia.

Dr. Yarborough was active in the Baptist Church.  She was an outstanding member of the Household of Ruth and the Court of Calenthe.  

The onset of World War I provided new opportunities for dental students and practicing dentists as well.  Black dentists finally thought this may be their chance to expand their practices beyond their own race.  Applications to the newly created Dental Reserve Corps poured in.  Annie Yarborough was one of the first to apply.  On June 6, 1917, just two months after the United States officially entered the war, Dr. Yarborough volunteered for service.  Her two brothers had served in the 9th and 10th Cavalry during the Spanish American War and at the age of thirty four, Annie believed it was her duty to serve her country.  She informed the Army that she was one of the few female dentists in her state (either black or white) and had completed four years of dental education at Meharry College.

Four weeks later, the office of the Surgeon General of the Army issued its standard denial of all women applicants, though the offer was appreciated.  As the war progressed, the policy of no women in the Dental Corps changed. 

During, or shortly after the war, the Yarboroughs divorced.  Annie, with no children, changed her name back to her maiden name and lived in a house at 626 South Jefferson Street in Dublin with her mother and her sister Leola Smith and her husband Henry.

Following the 1920 Census, Dr. Annie Taylor seems to vanish from Dublin.  I could find no records of her.  Perhaps she, like her father, died young.  Maybe she moved to another town.  Who knows?  If you know, contact me immediately.

Dr. Annie Taylor Yarborough was a woman of high integrity, high education and one whom all of Laurens County can rightfully and deservedly be proud of.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The Scarlet Scourge

In his day, Matt Brown was considered one of the best football players in the football powerhouse state of Ohio.  Not a big man at all and weighing in as a senior in high school at 157 pounds, Brown played in an era when the single wing formation was the offense of the day.  Brown, a fast and strong blocker, was a natural quarterback and fullback, who blocked for the halfback who ran and threw passes under the single wing formation.  
Matt Brown, a son of Solmon and Thenia Brown,  was born in Dublin, Georgia in 1922.  The Brown family soon moved to Canton, Ohio.  Ironically Canton is the home of the National Football Hall of Fame.  And, it was football which made Matt Brown famous in the State of Ohio. 

Brown was more than a fast and effective blocker.  In those days, most players played both ways on offense and defense.  It was on defense where Brown shined at linebacker.  Although no defensive stats from his days at McKinley High in Canton, Ohio and at Ohio State University survive, Brown was regarded by his peers as one of the best of the Scarlet and Gray, the runner up for the 1944 NCAA National Championship. 

Brown enrolled in McKinley High, an integrated high school in Canton.  McKinley High is seventh in the nation in all time football wins with 739, coming in behind its chief, long time rival, Massillon.  The two Starke County schools, located 8 miles apart, are the all time kings of Ohio high school football and two of the nation's greatest football programs.  McKinley won the 1934 High School National Championship.   Massillon was the top team in the nation in 1935, 1936 and 1940.  

Matt Brown joined the team in 1939 as a 160-pound right half back under coach John Reed.  One of his idols at McKinley was the great Marion Motley, a fellow Georgian, who went on to become a stalwart member of the Cleveland Browns and the second African American  member of NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. 

In the 1939 contest, Matt Brown managed to score his team's only touchdown in yet another loss to Massillon. 

After Massillon's victory in the 1940, their legendary coach Paul Brown paid homage to Matt Brown, the McKinley captain,  for fighting his heart out  in an effort to win the game.  It would be Paul Brown's last game as a high school coach and Matt Brown's last as a high school player.  The following year, Coach Brown took the reins of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  After the end of the war, he became the coach of the Cleveland Browns leading them to 4 AAFC titles and 3  NFL championships.

For his efforts in his final two seasons, Matt Brown was named to the All-Ohio team.  He was generally regarded as McKinley's best player in the 1940 season.   Going with Coach Brown to Ohio State was his assistant coach, Carroll Whiddoes.  Both men remembered Matt's heart, drive and determination in the two games against Massillon  and convinced him to join the team.  They made a wise choice as Dublin native lettered for three seasons.

The 1943 Buckeyes, decimated by the loss of many of their best players to the war effort, managed to earn three easy victories, but the Ohioans lost twice as many games in Paul Brown's final season in the collegiate ranks.  In 1944, Brown joined the Navy and coached a team at  the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. 

For most of the 1943 season, Matt Brown was nagged by injuries.  On October 9, 1943 at Ross Field in Chicago, Matt Brown was a part of trio of backs who made college football history.  In the game against Great Lakes, Matt Brown started at fullback, Red Williams started at quarterback, and Jasper Harris was the starting halfback.  What was remarkable about that lineup was that all three backs were graduates of the same high school, McKinley High in Canton. It was a mark which has rarely, if ever, been matched in the 145 years of college football.   Brown played some at quarterback, who in the single wing formation was primarily only a blocking back. 

It was during his junior season of 1944 when Matt Brown stepped it up another notch. Brown was a monster on defense, then under Coach Whiddoes.  Brown, on defense,  lead the team which easily outpaced all of its opponents, except in the Michigan game, which they won by only four points.   

Brown was one of two starting offensive backs with experience. The other was Lee Horvath, a graduate student in dental school, who was allowed to come back and play in his last year of eligibility.  Horvath had a breakout season in 1944, gaining 669 rushing yards and 1,200 all-purpose yards as the Buckeyes turned in a 9 0 record and finished second in the national polls, behind the powerful and unbeatable Army team. 

In 1945, Brown was a stalwart on defense, playing with Oliver Cline, who went on to play six seasons in professional football.  The Buckeyes finished 7-2, with a close loss to Michigan and a stunning upset by Purdue.  

After leaving football at the end of the 1945 season, Matt Brown returned to the athletic fields in 1948 when he was hired by Coach Bill Bell as the boxing coach of the North Carolina A&T Aggies.    Brown coached the Aggie boxing team to a Central Inter-collegiate Athletic Association tide in 1952. In 1952 and 1953, Brown's tennis team garnered the conference championship. 

Brown left A&T in 1954.  Fourteen years later he returned as the head tennis coach and assistant football coach under Hornsby Howell. 

At A&T, Brown was heralded as one of the university's exceptional backfield coaches.   His star players included William "Red" Jackson, the Aggies' All-American quarterback in the early 1950's. Brown also coached Art Statuni, who won the NCAA heavyweight boxing championship in 1953. 

After a long illness, Matt Brown died on June 22, 1976 in a Greensboro, N.C. hospital.   Brown was still in the prime of life as a coach.   

In his brief stay on the Earth, Matt Brown was one of the lucky ones, a group of young African American Laurens County boys from the 191os and 1920s, which included boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, baseball all star Quincy Trouppe, Negro League footballer Otis Troup,  inventor Claude Harvard, N.A.S.A. physicist Robert Shurney and Tuskegee Airmen; Cummings, John Whitehead and Marion Rodgers.  These young men were able to escape the bondage of the South's social and political ways of their youths to exceed at the highest levels in athletics, science and military service. 

Friday, February 6, 2015


In the short month of February when the short days seem to fly by, I will present a series of footnotes of February in our past. This week, in conjunction with Black History month, here are some brief happenings which relate to the African American heritage of our community. THE KING OF THE SHOE SHINERS - There had always been a barber shop in the New Dublin Hotel on South Jefferson Street. In 1962, the shop moved across the street south of the old bank building. In 1902 Richard Hamlet opened the first shop. He was followed by Joe Underwood, S.F. Beasley, and J.C. Williams. For fifty of those sixty years, "Ether" Jackson shined shoes in the shop. "Ether" - he called himself that because he was so smooth that he put people to sleep - came with Joe Underwood from Gibson, Georgia, about 1910. He took on other odd jobs to support his family. Jackson figured that he shined between 25 and 35 pairs of shoes a day, six days a week, for at least fifty seven years. That is somewhere between three hundred thousand and a half million pairs of shoes. Ether was one of the most popular persons in the downtown area while he was shining shoes for thousands of Dublin's men. One day, Ether was having a conversation with State Senator and Courier Herald Publisher, Herschel Lovett. Lovett, bragging to Ether said, "Ether, you see that they have named that new bridge over the river for me." Yes, sir," Ether retorted," but they put it on my street, E. Jackson Street." Dublin Courier Herald, June 23, 1962, Aug. 30, 1967, p. 1. THE FIRST BLACK BUSINESSMEN - The first corporation organized by Black Laurens Countians was the Farmers Enterprise, Incorporated. The company dealt in farm equipment, supplies, and goods. Founders of the company included Rev. A.T. Speight, George Fullwood, George Locke, John Thomas, Ed Thomas, and Ed Foster. The corporation's offices were located in a building which was formerly located at the northwest corner of South Lawrence and West Madison Streets. Five months later, Dr. U.S. Johnson, Joe Hudson, and N.T. Brown incorporated the first black owned pharmacy, the Regent, on South Lawrence Street. DCH 1/15/1914, p. 6, DCH 2/19/1914, p. 8, DCH 5/7/1914, p. 4. HIS FIRST TIME ON THE STAGE - Little Lorenzo didn't go the movies very often as a child. When he did go, he always sat in a certain section of the theater. Lorenzo never got the chance to get close to the stage. He always sat in the back, up the balcony. He never even got to go on the main floor of the auditorium. You see little Lorenzo was forced to sit in that section. It was during the days before theaters were integrated. Little Lorenzo grew up and left his hometown for a higher education. Little Lorenzo became Lorenzo Mason, an engineer for an architectural engineering firm. Mason's firm was hired to design the engineering work for a theater. Mason, as the chief engineer, designed the removal of the old balcony, which separated the patrons of the theater by race and which was replaced with a new balcony - this time for sound, light, and air conditioning equipment. Mason and his colleagues had to find a way to keep the ground water out of the theater - a problem which plagued theater owners and patrons for forty years. That problem was solved in short order. Some of his friends and fellow construction personnel never knew that Mason was born and lived in that same town. The time came for the final inspection of the construction work on the theater. It was then, over thirty years later, when Lorenzo Mason finally made it to the stage of the Martin Theater (Theatre Dublin) for the first time - this time as the chief engineer of the project to renovate the theater where, as a child, he was never allowed to go on the main floor. As suggested by Richie Allen, formerly of Allen's Plumbing and Heating. A MIGHTY PREACHER MAN - The Rev. Norman G. McCall served as pastor of the First African Baptist Church of Dublin for nineteen years. Rev. McCall was a giant of a man and known all over for his Herculean strength. Rev. McCall worked on the riverboats and it was said that he could swim across the river with two sacks of fertilizer under his arms. Rev. McCall was active in the organization of the schools in the black community in the 1880s. His family lived in the southwestern portion of Dublin between Marcus and Marion Streets. Rev. McCall served on the Executive Board of Central City College and as President of the State Sunday School Board of Education. He was a member of the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Laboring Friends. On June 15, 1904, after suffering for several months with dropsy, Rev. McCall fell dead in his field. His funeral procession was one of the longest in Dublin's history, nearly one mile long. Dublin Times, June 18, 1904, p. 1. DISTINGUISHED ELDERLY CITIZEN - One of the oldest, if not the oldest citizen of Laurens County, was Madison Moore. Mr. Moore died on November 15, 1912, at the authenticated age of 112 years. Madison Moore had lived most of his life on the old Gov. Troup place on the east side of the Oconee River. Madison Moore, who was known as "Hatless" Moore was a body guard and coach driver for his master, Gov. George M. Troup. His nickname came from the numerous times his hat blew off while driving Governor Troup. At his death Mr. Moore's descendants numbered in the hundreds. Many of his descendants live in Laurens County today. Dublin Courier Dispatch, Nov. 21, 1912. A TERRIBLE DEATH - Albert A. Lewis, of Laurens County, loved his country. He served for six years in the United States Army through all of World War II. When the United States entered into the Korean War, Lewis re-enlisted in the Army. Sergeant Lewis fell into the hands of the North Koreans and was sent to a prison camp. Word was sent to the American government that Lewis died of pulmonary tuberculosis. Nearly three years after his death the truth was revealed about the death of Sgt. Lewis. Lewis did not die from tuberculosis, but from malnutrition. He starved to death. "Dublin Courier Herald, July 16, 1955."