Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SCOTTSVIILLE NEIGHBORHOOD, DUBLIN, GEORGIA

The Scottsville section of Dublin is located in the northeastern section of the city.  Named for a Rev. Darling, or Nathan, Scott, an early resident of the area and founding pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church, Scottsville is generally bounded on the southeast by East Gaines Street, southwest by North Decatur Street, northwest by East Mary Street and northeast by the Oconee River swamp.  The area first began to develop in 1898 when the Dublin Furniture Manufacturing Company establish a factory on the corner of Ohio and Georgia Streets.  Several cottages and a boarding house were constructed along with a factory building.  The company, headed by J.M. Simmons and several of Dublin's leading businessmen, specialized in medium-priced bedroom suites.  The location was chosen because of its proximity to the Oconee River.  Lumber was transported by river which lies within a half-mile of the factory.  The choice of the location turned out to be a poor one. The waters of the Oconee flooded the area when the river was high.  The owners of the factory subdivided the surrounding lands into tiny lots to accommodate "shot gun" style houses for factory workers.  After the factory went out of business about 1907, the factory and its out buildings were abandoned.

In 1909,  R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, and Lee O'Neal, all from the Atlanta area, purchased thirty  acres of land which included the former Dublin Furniture Factory on Ohio Street.  They sold one block  of the land to L.H. Holsey, G.L. Ward, J.H. White, P.W. Wesley, R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, Lee O'Neal, W.T. Moore, E. Horne, and C.L. Bonner as Trustees for the Harriett Holsey Industrial School.  The school provided education in agriculture, domestic science, and other technical skills and was open to all of the Negroes of Laurens County.  The school became known as the Harriet Holsey Industrial School, in honor of the wife of Bishop Lucius Holsey of the C.M.E. Church.  Today the city maintains a small park on the site of the school.  Throughout the mid-20th Century, M&M Packing Company maintained a slaughterhouse and abattoir on the site.  Today Roche Manufacturing Company maintains a cotton gin on the fringe of the old college campus. 

The subdivision around the homes was renamed  Holsey Park.  Streets in the subdivision were named after some of the United States.  The northern part of Scottsville was owned by Mary Wolfe and called North Dublin.  New streets in the southern part of Scottsville were named for several American states, including Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and California, the latter of which was never apparently opened.  Northern streets in Scottsville were named for Republican presidents and in one case an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, James G. Blaine.  Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield, William McKinley and  Ulysses S. Grant had streets named in their honor.

The heart of the Scottsville community was on North Decatur Street where it takes a jog to the left.  Located at that spot was the Second African Baptist Church, the city cemetery and most likely Scottsville School.  The Second African Baptist Church was founded in 1900 as the Scottsville Baptist Church  The original sanctuary building was donated to the members of the church by members of the First Baptist Church who completed their present church building in 1907.   The cornerstone of the church was laid on November 22, 1908 by Pastor B.J. Parker and J.L. Cullens and J. Glenn as Trustees along with the Board of Deacons, which was composed of W.H. Hall, L. Lewis, J. Smith, L. Labinyard, A. Askew and V.B. Rozier. It  was used until May 1, 1934, when  it burned.  A second wooden church was dedicated on November 11, 1934 under the pastorate of Rev. C.H. Harris and is  still in use, but covered now by bricks.   A second Scottsville church  is was established as a Church of God in Christ in 1924 at 410 Alabama St..  It later became Fields Temple Church of God in Christ and finally Zion Hope Baptist Church in the late 1950s.  A third church, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church was established at 806 N. Decatur Street in the 1920s.  

The city of Dublin maintained a school at 709 N. Decatur Street across the street from the church.   In 1909, the school was staffed by Principal E.L. Hall, First Assistant Pearl Simmons and Second Assistant E.B. Caldwell.   In 1926 Decatur Street school was located in the building that later became a missionary hall for Scottsville Baptist Church. The school burned and its students were sent to Washington Street School.

Across the street from Second Baptist Church is Dublin's first cemetery for blacks. Although the city purchased twelve acres of land in 1906 for a cemetery (Cross The Creek Cemetery) on the northern banks of Hunger and Hardship Creek, the city  cemetery was used for burials into the 1930s. Among the more famous persons to be buried in the cemetery were Rev. Norman McCall, a well known and revered minister of First African Baptist Church, and his wife, along with Susie Dasher, a dedicated teacher, who is the only person in Dublin to ever have a school named for them.   Though there are less than two dozen marked graves in the cemetery today, a 1936 obituary stated that the cemetery contained the remains of "hundreds of Dublin's finest Negroes."

H.H.  Dudley established a cemetery at the northern margin of Scottsville in the 1920s.  Dudley's land was also used as a ball field for the Dublin Athletics, a highly successful semi-pro Negro League team, which included Herbert Barnhill and Jimmie Reese, both of whom eventually made it into the Negro Leagues.

Among Scottsville's most prominent residents was Dr. Benjamin Daniel Perry.  Dr. Perry, a graduate of Meharry Medical College, was one of the city's first black physicians.  Perry was an educator, as well, and was prominent in the promotion of educational endeavors and a promoter of Colored Fairs for three decades.  

Though most signs of their existence are now gone, Scottsville was filled with small business such as groceries, dry goods stores, cafes and laundries.  Among the earliest businesses were Mattie Tinsley's grocery at 508 Alabama St. and M.H. Hall's grocery at 506 E. Mary St. in 1926.   Milo and Elizabeth Castleberry established a grocery and café at 501 N. Decatur in the 1930s.  Pearl Carroll operated a grocery on Ohio Street in the late 1930s.  In the late 1940s, Mattie Miller and Wilson Coley operated general merchandise  stores in Scottsville.  Minnie Stinson opened her grocery on Alabama St. about the same time.   The The new café in the area in the post World War II era was the Green Pastures at 401  Alabama St..   

The Scottsville neighborhood businesses were at their peak in the 1950s.  Mattie Mitchell operated a luncheon room at 403 Alabama St..  Down the street at 508 and 514 Alabama St. were the groceries of Mattie Miller and Doretha Miller.  May and George  Bell operated still another grocery store at 508 Georgia St..  Robert Trawick and his family operated a laundry and cleaners at 517 Alabama Street for several decades,  sometimes operating under the name East Side Cleaners.  In the mid 50s, Wiliam Redick opened another cleaning establishment at 507 Alabama St..  Rosa Moore operated a grocery at 700 N. Decatur for several years as did Susie Mallard at 319 McKinley St.. and James M. Jackson at 506 Ohio St..   In the late 1950s, Ervin and Idearest Jones took over the operation of the former Castleberry's place on North Decatur.   Amos Parks opened still another grocery at 1008 Ohio in the latter part of the decade.   Ruth May operated a grocery at 414 E. Mary St at its intersection with N. Decatur Street for many years in the 1960s and 70s.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

OBIE WALKER


"The Black Boxcar"

In this corner from Cochran, Georgia, Obie Walker!  He was big. He was strong. He jabbed his opponents with machine gun like speed.   Obie Walker thought he could whip every boxer in the world.  But, the Georgia Goliath never got the chance to fight the world champions Max Baer or Joe Louis.  This is the story of a local man, who once reigned as the Prince of boxing in Europe and among his race, was considered a world champion.

Obie Diah Walker was born in Bleckley County, Georgia on September 19, 1911. Before the age of nine, Obie was living with his maternal grandparents, Frank and Elizabeth Powell of the Frazier community.

Obie moved to Atlanta  as a way  to increase his chances for success as a boxer. His first of 100 professional fights took place some eighty five years ago  on February 16, 1929  against "Battling Connell"  in the Auditorium in Atlanta, Georgia.  The hometown fighter had little trouble against Connell, who lost all three of his career professional fights, two of them to the Brute from Bleckley.

Walker won four straight bouts, some people say eighteen,  until his first loss on points to Happy Hunter on February 3, 1930.  

The "Black Boxcar," built like a bank safe,"  would not lose again in thirty fights (28-0-2)  until he lost a close decision on points to Don "Red" Barry at the Arena in Philadelphia.  His last win in America came against George Godfrey, to capture the title of  the Colored Heavyweight Champion.  

That is when Walker's manager Jefferson Davis Dickson made the decision to take his fighter, with a record of 32-2-2, to take on the best fighters in Europe.  Some say that Walker had fought at least sixty other undocumented bouts with colored fighters in addition to his three dozen professional fights.     

The first European  fight came in Sallewagram in Paris, France.  Walker knocked out Belgian giant Louis Verbeeren in the last round of a ten-round match on Groundhog Day in 1934. Fighting primarily in French and Swiss arenas, Walker knocked out all of his first nine opponents. Only one of the ko's came after the third round.  After losing two of his next three matches, Obie, trained by former Argentine champion Norman Tomasulo,  won nine of ten before leaving Europe on a losing note in June 1936 with a defeat on points.

Named "Enfant Terrible "  by his adoring French fans who stormed the headquarters of Joe Louis following the defeat of Max Baer, Walker was praised  for his strikingly unorthodox and  innovative style.  

In commenting on a possible match with Lewis, Walker said, "I ain't been asked yet.  And, I ain't askin." 

Walker confidently  commented on a match with Lewis, the Brown Bomber, "There ain't no fighter in the world who doesn't make a mistake during a fight. Me, I just stand around and wait for that mistake.  

"I can take it.  And, when Louis makes that mistake, I'll swat him," the Georgia boxer proclaimed.  

As he traveled Europe and the states, Walker, a quiet man who could not write and could only read picture books,  showed off his strength by going to carnivals and picking up the strong men and their hefty weights - all at the same time. 

Obie Walker firmly believed that World Champion Joe Louis and he could beat any boxer in the world.  Walker  yearned to get his chance just to fight Louis or Louis' arch rival Max Schmelling, of Germany.  

"Let Louis clean up the states. I'll clean up Europe. Then we will get together and see what for," Walker once proclaimed. 

Walker's first bout upon his return to the United States came in Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia.  Walker had won a fight at Shibe Park, the home of the Philadelphia Athletics, in 1933. Municipal Stadium  was the same outdoor arena where Gene Tunney captured the world heavyweight boxing title from Jack Dempsey. The bout came at the home of the Philadelphia Phillies, where Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952 to win boxing's heavyweight championship.

Walker pulled himself off the mat and won six consecutive fights in his home territory of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina before losing half of his next eight fights.  Seven straight wins brought Walker to the climax of his career.  No longer the Cochran Colossus he once was, Walker, who had returned to his home at 514 Larkin Street,  lost four of his last six fights before the beginning of World War II.  Walker hung up his gloves after a failed comeback attempt after the war when he lost to Elza Thompson at Dorsey Park in Miami in March 1946 in a close 10-round decision. 

Atlanta Georgian sportswriter Ed Danforth wrote of Walker, "Walker became the toast of Paris.  He knocked cold every topnotcher he met on the continent.  Max Schmelling shrewdly dodged him, the best of the Englishmen too, sidestepped the squatty brown man who carried lightning bolts in both fists.  Competent critics say he could have knocked out Schmelling, Joe Louis and Jim Braddock in one night with the space of ten rounds. 

In the 100 recorded bouts of his twelve- year career, the five- foot nine- inch Obie Walker compiled a record of 77 wins, 16 losses and 5 draws. Walker's powerful arms knocked out 53 of his opponents.  Remarkably, Walker was never himself knocked out - a feat matched only by a few dozen American professional boxers in the history of the sport.

On May 4, 1989, at the age of seventy-seven, Obie Walker unceremoniously died in his adopted hometown of Atlanta.  There is no adequate marker to designate the  final resting place of this once proud and powerful Heavyweight Colored Champion of the World.  Maybe now, many more people will know his story, the story of the Black Boxcar, aka the Bleckley Behemoth, who in a  hundred fights never went down to the mat for the count.






COL. JOHN WHITEHEAD


THEY CALLED HIM "MR. DEATH"


       John Whitehead had the "right stuff."  When it came to flying jet aircraft, he had no fear.  Whitehead flew higher and faster than any African American had ever done before.  Almost every hot shot pilot had a nickname.  In the case of John Whitehead, the United States Air Force's first African-American experimental test pilot,  they called him "Mr. Death," not because of his daring skills in soaring through the stratosphere, but because of his gaunt, shrunken face and skeleton-like frame.

John Lyman Whitehead, Jr. was born on May 14, 1924 in Lawrenceville, Virginia, a small town on the border of North Carolina.  As a child, John would spend some time in and around Dublin.

John Whitehead attended West Virginia State College prior to entering the U.S. Army Air Force.  After training at Tuskegee University, Whitehead was assigned as a pilot  with the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group of the Tuskegee Airmen.  The 301st primarily performed escort duty on bombing runs over enemy positions in Europe.

"It was an experiment that was established that was supposed to fail, Whitehead said in a 1984  interview with the Portland Oregonian. 

"But the people who were involved in it weren't going to let it fail," added the veteran pilot, who volunteered in the service after his 18th birthday. 

"I had rather fly through this war instead of walk through," recalled Whitehead, who would enter flight training at Tuskegee shortly after his 19th birthday. 

Lt. Whitehead, who earned his wings in 1944,  finally made it to Europe in March 1945, a few months before Germany surrendered.  As he reported for duty at an airfield near Foggia, Italy, his commanding officer, Captain Bob Friend, observed the five-foot, six-inch, 121-pound pilot's skeleton like frame.  

Friend exclaimed, "My Gawd!  What have they sent us  now as a replacement, Mr. Death?" an Ebony Magazine writer wrote in the January 1951 cover story.

Whitehead liked the name and painted it on the nose of his plane.

In his brief stint with the 332nd, nicknamed the "Red Tails" by the bomber crews who were grateful for their fighter support and the "Black Birdmen" by their Germain fighter opponents, Lt. Whitehead was only able to fly nineteen missions.    Although credited officially with only two kills, Whitehead saw plenty of action, some of it nearly fatal.

After his first hitch in the Air Force was over, Whitehead returned stateside to enroll at West Virginia University.  In 1948, the former "Black Eagle," received a degree in Industrial Engineering.  
Whitehead was recalled to active duty in the now integrated  Air Force in 1948.  As a pioneer in the training of jet pilots, Whitehead was a stern, but patient, instructor.   In his tenure at Williams Air Force Base in Utah (1948-1951,)  all but one of his students received their certification as a jet pilot.

President Truman's Executive Order  9981 mandated equal treatment in the Armed Forces although nearly all of Whitehead's students were white.  


Lefty Selenger, "ranking officer at Williams Air Force Base told Ebony Magazine,  "Whitehead has no race problem. He is better liked than most of us by the white boys."  

Whitehead helped to train the Class of 1952 Charlie, which included some four hundred men who would serve as pilots in Korea and Vietnam.  It was during this time when John Whitehead met Roy Black, a trainee from Lithia Springs, Georgia.

In his book, "52-Charlie," Edward Gushee in describing the relationship between the two best friend pilots, Roy "Blackie" Black and John "Whitey" Whitehead, wrote, "Blackie flew an additional twenty missions and when his tour was over, resigned his commission and returned to Georgia.  John Whitehead, who had been raised in Dublin, Georgia, less than a hundred miles from where "Blackie" was born, stayed in the Air Force as a career officer.

After the Korean War, John Whitehead worked as a liaison between the Air Force and Boeing Aircraft and Northrop, two of the country's largest producers of jet aircraft.   Lt. Col. Whitehead  ended his 28- year career with the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in 1974. 

In his nearly three-decade career with the Air Force, Lt. Col. John Whitehead is credited with being the Air Force's first African American test pilot and the first African-American jet pilot instructor.  His heroic and dedicated service resulted in him being awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with seven  oak leaf clusters, along with the Army Commendation Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

John Whitehead, who flew millions and millions of miles in the service of his country,  died on September 6, 1992 . He was laid to rest beneath a bronze marker in the Riverside National Cemetery in Sacramento, California.

Col. Whitehead, like Col. Marion Rodgers, another California Tuskegee Airman who once, albeit temporarily lived in Laurens County, joins Major Herndon Cummings to form a trio of former Laurens Countians who called themselves Tuskegee Airmen and who served their country with pride.  

Presently, a bill is scheduled to be introduced into the Georgia legislature  to honor these three heroes by naming the intersection of the 441 By Pass and U.S. Highway 80 West in their honor.    



AN INSIDE VIEW OF SLAVERY


Dr. Charles Grandison Parsons, an ardent abolitionist, abhorred slavery.  The Maine physician wanted to personally see what slavery was really like.  So, in the autumn of 1852, he left his comfortable home in the Far North  and set out to go to the South to conduct what he called, “A Tour Among the Planters.”

In his writings and speeches, Parsons, who fought for temperance as well, saw slavery as a sin and a blight on the nation.  In his travels throughout the South, Dr. Parsons wanted to interview both master and slave.  Along his way, he kept meticulous notes which he assembled into his landmark 1855 work, “A Inside View of Slavery.”  Abolitionists praised the work, while Southerners marked it as pure propaganda. One of his stops was a visit to the home of Governor George M. Troup of Laurens County.

Focusing mainly on Georgia in his writings, Dr. Parsons, a graduate of Bowdoin College,  arrived on November 22, 1852 in Savannah, where he first visited with relatives before setting out on his travels.  

During one of his adventures into the interior of Georgia, Parsons became deathly ill.  After recovering, he set out along the Darien-Milledgeville Road, the coast to capital highway which ran along the northern bank of the Altamaha and the eastern bank of the Oconee River.

His prime target was the venerable George M. Troup, one of the states’ largest slaveholders. Troup was an early leader of State Rights in America after serving Georgia as a Congressman, Senator and Governor.

Parsons arrived at the Troup home, known as Valdosta, where he found the former governor eating his early afternoon dinner.    Troup, as he invariably did,  invited his guest to dine with him.  Troup was feasting on a meal of cornbread, bacon and corned beef.  When Troup learned of the doctor’s feeble health, he ordered a servant to prepare his visitor a pot of coffee, instead of his normal fare of spirits of all kinds.

Parsons observed, “ The upper part of a pig's head — "the minister's face"— was on the table. The ears had not been cut off previous to baking, and they were so very long, and stood up so straight, and wore a mark so singular, that 1 was probably eyeing it too sharply to seem respectful.”

Troup facetiously remarked, "You see I am an honest man, sir, for that is my own mark in the pig's ear."

As the interview unfolded, the doctor discovered that Troup was a typical large slaveholder, who had been unfortunate with his sons.

Troup’s slaves, which numbered approximately one thousand, were spread among  several plantations, Rosemont and the Mitchell Place in Montgomery County and Valdosta, Vallambrosa and the Thomas Cross Roads plantations in Laurens County.  The Montgomery County plantations were originally managed by his brother, Dr. Robert L. Troup.

“He led a dissipated life, and found an early grave. I was told that he confessed to a minister, a few days prior to his death, that he had terrible remorse of conscience in the reflection that many of his own children would be left as his brother's slaves.” Parsons wrote of the late, lamented physician.

In his will, Dr. Troup left his slaves to the governor and his son, George M. Troup, Jr.  The younger Troup, although a graduate of the University of Georgia and an officer during the Indian Wars of 1836, was somewhat of a ne’er-do-well.

Of the junior Troop, Parsons noted, “ Troup's eldest son succeeded his brother as the manager of the lower plantation, where he lived a few years in dissipation, and died from its effects. His youngest, and now only son, was sent to take the place of the first, and he followed in his footsteps. After being wrecked both in morals and mind, he was sent, as I heard, to the Insane Hospital, — and I suppose he was there at the time of my visit.”

Parsons was impressed, if not stunned, as he described some of the slaves in the Troup household, a series of disjointed, unimpressive and atypical of a mansion befitting such a man of Troup’s standing  in society.

“If the sons of his Excellency were as fine looking as any one of the bright boys I saw about his house, he surely had good reason to lament their untimely end. I saw no young men on that river who appeared so intellectual, and so highly endowed with natural qualities, as some of the mulatto servants in Governor Troup's family,” the author recorded.

“They seemed devoted to his happiness, but I ascertained that they fully appreciated their liability to a worse fate after his death, — as he was far advanced in years, and his only heirs were two maiden daughters, who would not be likely to keep the slaves together long after they should be left upon their hands,” Parsons continued.

“Two of the whitest boys walked at my side as I rode to the gate, about fifty rods from the old house, — and I felt so deep an interest in their welfare that I took the liberty to converse with them in relation to their situation,” said the traveler who found an instant affection for the youngsters.

"You have an easy life here, boys," the physician  remarked and added, "You are lucky to find a home so good as this."

"Oh, yes, master," one of the boys sadly replied.  “But we don't know how soon our master may die, and then we shall be sold away, and our lot may then be much harder," one of the young boys commiserated.

Parsons replied, "Well, boys, I would not borrow trouble, but would rather be thankful for so many blessings. You fare so much better than the slaves generally do, that you ought to be happy."

The young boy concluded, "I know that, master," replied one of them, "but still we cannot help thinking what we may have to suffer by and by."

As he resumed his travels, the Yankee doctor counseled the boys, “ Well, be good boys, — don't drink whiskey, — take good care of your old master, — always do right, and you will be sure to fare the better for it. Good evening!"

During his travels in the South, what Charles Parsons observed had a profound influence on his life.  Parsons died in 1864, living just long enough to see Abraham Lincoln  issue the Emancipation Proclamation, but not long enough to the see the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

In summarizing the results of his travels, Dr. Parsons declared, “No man can visit the South for the first time without having his views of slavery, whatever they may be, to some extent modified” 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

WILLIE HALL


Making Montrose Proud


If you were to say that Demaryius "Bay Bay" Thomas was the first native of Montrose, Georgia to play major college football and for a team in the National Football League, you would be wrong.  That high honor goes to one Willie Hall, who although he lived only a short time in his native home, was the first from his community to play football  on Sundays.  In fact, Hall played on many Sundays including the most heralded football Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday.

Willie Charles Hall, according to Wikipedia, was born on the 29th day of September  1949 in Montrose, Georgia.   Willie's family moved to New Brittain, Connecticut, where he was a multi-sport star at Pulaski High School, including running out the backfield,  throwing the javelin and putting the shot in track.  Hall, a talented athlete, did not go to a major college but opted instead to attend Arizona Western.  His team lost to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M college in the 1969 National Junior College Championship.  Hall became a defensive stalwart and caught the  eye of John McKay, coach of the University of Southern California Trojans.    The Trojans, led in previous years by running back O.J. Simpson, were considered one of the top teams in the country.

Hall, a small (6'3") but solid (214 pounds), stepped right in and led the staunch Trojan defense.  His first game was one of his biggest.  The Trojans traveled to Alabama to face the Crimson Tide under the direction of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.  It was the first time in the history of Alabama football that a fully integrated team had played in the state.  The Californians triumphed by defeating the Alabamians, 42-21. With no let up in the schedule,  the Trojans, minus their usual squad of All-Americans, played well on defense, but failed to live up to their reputation as an offensive powerhouse.  Hall's team lost to rival UCLA, but ended the 1970 season on a positive note with a drubbing of national rival Notre Dame to finish the season fifteenth in the national polls at 6-4-1.  Hall was named the Player of the Game for his outstanding defensive performance of eight unassisted tackles and in hounding Irish quarterback Joe Theismann all day long.  

A revenged loss to Alabama in the Rose Bowl and three straight losses to Oklahoma, Oregon, and Stanford was too much for the Trojans to overcome.  In the second half of the season, the team played well with victories over Notre Dame, California, Washington, and Washington State, along with a season-ending, sister-kissing, oh-no tie with U.C.L.A for its second straight 6-4-1 season and a 20th spot in the polls.    

In between his two football seasons, Willie was a member of the U.S.C. track team. 

Despite his team's lackluster performance, Hall, in his final collegiate season, had one of this best seasons of his football career.  As team co-captain and wearing jersey number  83, Hall was chosen as a first team player on the Pacific 8 All-Conference team at linebacker.  He was honored by his teammates as the team's most valuable player in addition to his winning the Gloomy Gus Henderson Trophy for most minutes played.  Willie  Hall's penultimate honor came when he was selected as linebacker on several NCAA Division I All-American teams.    

The post season honors continued to pile up for Hall.  He was selected to represent the West team in the 1971 East-West Shrine game, the North in the 1972 Senior Bowl game, and the College All-Stars in the once perennial summer preseason game against the NFL's  defending World Champions, in this case, the Dallas Cowboys.  Because of injuries and circumstances beyond Willie's control, he did not make the last two games.

Hall was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft.  The young linebacker's career got off to an inauspicious start.  His injury before the All-Star game kept  Willie from playing a full schedule of games in his rookie season.  But like all good players, Willie Hall shook it off and got right back in the game in his second season with the Saints.  He told a reporter for the Times-Picayune, "I suppose I had a bad year last season, if you call getting hurt and not getting to play a bad season."  Hall added, "I wasn't expecting a lot  of things I found in pro football.  I had to rearrange my thinking. The Saints improved in Willie's second season, but only to a five-win, nine-loss mark.  

Following the 1973 season, Willie was let go by the Saints and became a free-agent.  The Oakland Raiders picked him up just before the opening of the 1975 season.  Finally, Willie was back on a winning team.  The Raiders went 11-3, captured the AFC West championship, but lost in the AFC Championship against their new rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Hall saw limited playing time in seven games in his first year with the Raiders.

During the 1976 season, Willie played in all the games for the Raiders, intercepting two passes.  The Raiders went 16-1 during the regular season and in the playoffs.  And, on January 9, 1977, Willie Jones was back at home in front of 110,000 screaming fans in the Rose Bowl in the biggest game of career, Super Bowl XI.  Playing along side Willie were his former U.S.C. teammates, Clarence Davis, Alonzo Thomas, Mike Rae, and John Vella.  Hall, starting at right inside linebacker, had a rough day running all over the field trying to keep Minnesota quarterback Fran Tarkenton contained.  In the second  half when the Vikings were rallying to bring the score within five points, Hall stepped in front of a floating pass, picked it off, rambled for 16 yards, ending the Purple Gang's comeback hopes.  "The other halfback was my man but I saw Tarkenton look to the inside and that's where I went," said Hall. "I don't think he saw me coming. He just threw it, and I was there."   In the game, Hall stopped another Vikings drive with a fumble recovery at the Oakland 6-yard line.  The Raiders, with seven future NFL Hall of Fame members,  defeated the Norsemen, in a 32-14 rout.  


The Raiders went 12-4 in 1977, but failed to make it past the AFL Championship.  But, on December 11th, in a rematch of the Super Bowl, Willie, wearing his silver and black #39 jersey,  picked up a fumble on the bounce at the Minnesota 2-yard line and took the ball into the end zone for the first and only touchdown of his career.  He also picked up his third career interception that year.  

In his final season in the NFL, the Raiders dropped to an uncharacteristic 9-7 record.  Hall, playing only in eleven games,  picked up his 5th and final career interception and his third fumble recovery.

I am sad to say, I don't know what happened to Willie Hall after he left the NFL.  I have met some of his relatives, but regretfully didn't follow up with them on his status.  If there is someone out there, who knows more about Willie Hall, Montrose, Georgia's first NFL player, please let me know.  But for now, let us all cheer Montrose's newest NFL star, Demaryius Thomas, and hope that he will play at least a hundred Sundays and come back home to Montrose with one or more big fat gold Super Bowl rings on his hands. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

DR. BRAILSFORD BRAZEAL


A Man of Morehouse


When you think of Morehouse College, you think of tradition -a tradition of higher learning for African-American college students.  When you go back seventy-five years, you think of a day unlike today when a mere few, the lucky few, had the opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning, much less one with the honorable tradition as Morehouse.  For nearly four decades, one Laurens County native helped the school rise to the prominence it still retains today.

Brailsford Reese Brazeal was born in Dublin, Georgia on March 8, 1903.  The son of the Rev. George Reese Brazeal and Walton Troup Brazeal, young Brailsford attended Georgia State College and Ballard Normal School in Macon.    Late in his life Dr. Brazeal recalled that it was his Baptist preacher father's guidance and teachings that kindled his imagination as to what was beyond his neighborhood.  Brazeal recalled that his mother and his oldest aunt, Flora L. Troup pushed him to leave Dublin because he wouldn't be able to obtain anything but an elementary education in Dublin.  His uncle and namesake Brailsford Troup gave him a job during summers as a carpenter's helper.  Brazeal realized that the life of a laborer is not what he wanted and promised himself that he would do all that he could to break the barriers of race and segregation. 

He completed his studies  at Morehouse Academy, a high school, in 1923.  While at Morehouse College, Brazeal came to know Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who served as his debate coach in college and would later serve as President of Morehouse.   After graduating from Morehouse in 1927, Brazeal continued his studies and obtained a master's degree in Economics  from the ultimately prestigious Columbia University in 1928.  

 
Salute to Dr. Brazeal, Morehouse College 2013
Brazeal was immediately hired as a Professor of Economics by Dr. John Hope, his alma mater's first black president.    By 1934, Brazeal was chosen to chair the Department of Economics and Business.  He was also selected to serve as the Dean of Men, a post which he held until 1936.  

In his early years at Morehouse, Brailsford met and married Ernestine Erskine of Jackson, Mississippi.  Mrs. Brazeal was a graduate of Spellman College in Atlanta.  An educator in her own right, Mrs. Brazeal held a Master's Degree in American History from the University of Chicago.  She taught at Spelman and served for many years as the Alumni Secretary.  To those who knew and loved her, Mrs. Brazeal was known to the be the superlative historian of Spelman History, though she never published the culmination of  her vast knowledge.   

The Brazeals were the parents of two daughters.  Aurelia Brazeal is a career diplomat and has recently served as the United States Ambassador to Ethopia, Kenya and Micronesia.  Ernestine Brazeal has long been an advocate for the Headstart Program.

The Brazeal home in Atlanta was often a home away from home for Morehouse students.  Especially present were the freshmen who inhabited the home on weekends and after supper for the fellowship and guidance from the Brazeals.  Among these students were the nation's greatest civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Maynard Jackson, the first black mayor of Atlanta.   It was Dr. Brazeal, who first recommended the young minister for acceptance at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.  Dr.  Brazeal wrote that King would mix well with the white race.   The Brazeal's bought the four square home near Morehouse in 1940.  Today, the home at 193 Ashby Street (now Joseph Lowery Boulevard) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.  

Through scholarships, Brailsford Brazeal was named a Julius Rosenwald Fellow and in 1942, obtained his Ph. D. from Columbia University in economics.  As a part of his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Brazeal wrote about the formation of the of one of the first labor unions for black workers.  In 1946, Brazeal published his signature work The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.    For decades, labor researchers often cited Brazeal's writings  in his landmark work and other papers and journal articles.

During the 1950s, Brazeal worked in voter registration movements.  He wrote extensively about racial discrimination in voting, especially in his native state. He detailed many of the activities in his home county of Laurens.    In his Studies of Negro Voting in Eight Rural Counties in Georgia and One in South Carolina, Brazeal examined and wrote of the  efforts of H.H. Dudley and C.H. Harris to promote more black participation in voting in Laurens County.  He chronicled the wars between the well entrenched county sheriff Carlus Gay and State Representative Herschel Lovett and their desire and competition for the black vote.   He wrote of fair employment practices, desegregation of higher education, voter disfranchisement of black voters, voter registration, and many other civil rights matters. 

The members of the National Association of College Deans elected Dr. Brazeal as their president in 1947.   Brazeal a member of the Executive Committee of the American Conference of Academic Deans and as a vice-president of the American Baptist Educational Institutions. 

During his career Dr. Brazeal was a member of the American Economic Association, the Academy of Political Science, the Southern Sociological Society, the Advisory Council of Academic Freedom Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, the N.A.A.C.P., the Twenty Seven Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Sigma Pi Phil, Delta Sigma Rho and the Friendship Baptist Church.

In 1967, Dr. Brazeal was inducted into the prestigious national honor society, Phi Beta Kappa as an alumni member of Delta Chapter  of Columbia University.  He organized a chapter at Morehouse, known to many as one of the "Ivy League" schools for African Americans.  

Dr. Brazeal retired in 1972 after a career of more than forty years, many of which he served as Dean of the College.  At the age of seventy eight he died in Atlanta on April 22, 1981. His body lies next to that of his wife, who died in 2002, in Southview Cemetery in Atlanta.  

GROVER C. NASH


Soaring to New Heights

Grover C. Nash could fly a plane with the best of any pilot of his day.  Seventy years ago yesterday 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.