Sunday, August 30, 2009


Bishop Henry M. Turner

Bishop, Statesman and Activist

More than two hundred and fifty ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church gathered in Dublin in November 1898 for the annual meeting of the Macon Conference. Presiding over the conference was Rev. Henry McNeal Turner, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. For over half a century Bishop Turner was a guiding force within the church as well as a national leader of African American people throughout the country.

The annual conference convened on November 17, 1898. The Rev. E.P. Holmes, Presiding Elder of the Dublin District, opened the meeting in the temporary absence of Bishop Turner. The opening services were conducted by Reverends E.W. Lee, C.C. Cargile, W.C. Gaines and Dr. J.A. Davis.

Education within the church was the subject of the Sunday session. Prof. John Hawkins, Superintendent of Education, proudly proclaimed that within the last thirty years Negroes had wiped out forty-two percent of their illiteracy. He reported that within his department there were forty one schools, 165 teachers and 1,585 students. Rev. James Henderson, president of Morris Brown College, told the assembly of the improvements at the college. Rev. Henderson reported than in the past fifteen years, more than eight hundred thousand dollars had been raised for education. He was followed by Prof. George Woodson of Payne Seminary. Bishop James M. Dwane of Queensborough, South Africa pleaded with the ministers to appropriate $3000.00 to build a college in his country. A wave of enthusiasm ensued and more than $1000.00 was raised for Morris Brown College.

During the week long conference there were large meetings of the Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society under the direction of Mrs. S.J. Duncan of Selma, Alabama and Mrs. J. Donley of Grenada, Mississippi. Among the noted ministers attending the conference were; Rev. T.N.M. Smith of Savannah, Rev. C.H.J. Taylor of Atlanta, Rev. H.B. Parks, Secretary of Missions, New York, Rev. R.M. Cheeks, Editor of the Southern Recorder, Atlanta, Prof. H.T. Kealing, editor of the Quarterly Review, of Philadelphia, Rev. J.J. Higgs of Springfield, Mass., Rev. Wright Newman of Americus, Rev. F.F. Boddle of Milledgeville, and Reverends A.B. Jackson of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church Macon, J.R. Brazill and B.J. Walton of the Baptist churches of Macon.

On the last full day of the conference, the white citizens of Dublin welcomed the visitors. Rev. George C. Thompson and Rev. J.W. Domingos of the First Methodist Episcopal Church and Rev. J.C. Solomon of Dublin First Baptist Church delivered well received messages to the delegates. Rev. A.A. Whitman, the poet laureate of the church, told the ministers " The human mind is a sea upon which there is room for every wave of thought. No one gets so high that the Gospel cannot reach him." At the special instance of those present, Bishop Turner preached at the Tabernacle at 11:00 a.m. and again at the county courthouse at 3:00 p.m.

As the session came to a close, Bishop Turner ordained elders W.S. Dugged, T.J. Linton, F.J. Reeves, and A.S. Martin. He announced the ministerial assignments for the upcoming year. It was just after midnight when Bishop Turner rose to speak for the final time. His sermon until 4:00 a.m. on November 22nd.

Bishop Turner gave the ministers a message he had been espousing for more than two decades. That message was the Negro had no future in this country and that he should return, at the expense of the American government, to his ancestral homeland in Africa. The Rev. Turner said, " I see no manhood future for the Negro in this county, and the man who is not able to discover that fact from existing conditions must be void of common sense. Our evil, political and social status is degrading, and as degradation begets degradation, the Negro must go from bad to worse ad infinitum. Neither education nor wealth can ever elevate us to the grade of respectability. I say this, because we are surrounded by so many influences that militate against our manhood."

The Bishop continued, " The best thing the Negro can do is to call a great national convention and ask the United States congress for a hundred million dollars to meet the expense of starting a line of steamers between this country and Africa;, thus pioneering a domain for our settlement. With this start upon the part of the general government, which actually owes us forty billion dollars for the 246 years of labor, we could build up a business that would enable us to transport to Africa as many of our race as are fit to go. If the United States has hundred of millions to throw away in useless war, and for other foolish things, surely it can appropriate a hundred million dollars to the most loyal inhabitants it has within its domain."

He concluded by saying, " The white people themselves had infinitely better appropriate a hundred million dollars, if we are the raping monsters which the public press charges us with being, than to be shedding so much blood, when I know and you all know how much of that blood is innocent blood, and innocent blood will speak to God day and night for retribution till God overthrows the nation, as he did in the Roman Empire. And I have the ear of the country, it is very likely I shall call such a convention within the next three or six months, for if the Negro does not say or do something in his own defense, he is not only an inferior race, but he is not fit to be ranked as a human being."

Henry McNeal Turner was born in 1834 near Abbeville, South Carolina. He was fervent in his studies and read under the supervision of white lawyers. He was ordained a minister in 1853 at the age of nineteen. In 1860, he was ordained a deacon and two years later in 1862, he was ordained an elder in the church. At the beginning of the Civil War, Rev. Turner was commissioned Chaplain of the First Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops, making him the first Negro chaplain in the United States Army. Following the war, he moved to Georgia and began preaching at St. Phillips A.M.E. Church in Savannah, the mother church of African Methodism in Georgia. It has been said that he founded more than one hundred A.M.E. churches. In 1868, Rev. Turner was elected to a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives from Bibb County. He was unseated by the State of Georgia, but was returned to office by the federal government and his finished his term in 1870. During his time in the legislature, Rev. Turner served as Postmaster of Macon. As Rep. Turner, he introduced bills to establish colleges for Negroes, to establish a black militia to combat the KKK and to give women the right to vote.

In 1877, Turner was elected Vice-president of the African Colonization Society. He was a founder of the Southern Christian Recorder and the Women's Home and Foreign Missionary Society. In 1880, Henry Turner was ordained the twelfth bishop of the A.M.E. Church. For a dozen years, Bishop Turner served as Chancellor of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Bishop Turner led two expeditions to Africa in the 1890s and promulgated the establishment of missionary work in Africa.

Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, A.M.E. died on May 8, 1915. He was mourned by more than twenty five thousand persons who attended his funeral. In his quarter of a century as Bishop, Turner was controversial to say the least. He built bridges with the Baptist Church, appointed a woman as a deacon in the church and alienated many whites across the South, who attempted to discredit him by charging him with crimes.

During this Black History Month, let us remember that Bishop Turner was wrong in his assessment of the future of the Negro in America. In the century which has followed his sermon in Dublin, African Americans have risen to heights far above what the Bishop could ever have imagined.

Monday, August 24, 2009


* Not listed as farm laborers

J. Blackshear
Thomas Clark
Warren Burch
Jordan Burch **
J. Yonks **
D. McLendon
David Willis
M. Amons
Porter Dodd
T. Clark
E. Smith
John McKenney
G. McLendon
Robert Stanley **
Sandy Stanley **
S. Ellington
Louis Daniel
Samuel Mitchell
James Baker
Chuck? Yopp
Norman Yopp
Ezekiel Yopp
Moses Yopp **
Henry Yopp
Harriett Harvard
Daniel Brazeal
Champ Troup
Jessie Troup
Richard Yopp
Samuel Graham
Joe White
Zag? Scarborough
William Mason
Jacob Fullwood
Jacob Coney **
Hamlett McCall
William Coats **
David Lock **
James Tucker
Wright Crawford
Ringold Perry
Madison Troup
Jack Long
George Clark
Rich Troup
Mark Troup
C. Edmond
E. Fuqua
C. Moore **

** Owner of real estate

Sunday, August 23, 2009


A Half Century of Service

This Sunday, the second Sunday in October, the members of Washington Street Presbyterian Church will celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the genesis of the one of Dublin's oldest and most community minded churches. Over the last half century, the members of the congregation have been active in many facets of leadership in our community, and in particular, they have taken a leading role in the education of our children.

Just after lunch on the afternoon of October 11, 1953, the Rev. Glenn Dorris called a congregation of people to worship in the assembly building of the Dublin 4- H Club. Rev. Dorris, pastor of Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church, had been approached by Lucius T. Bacote and Luther Coleman concerning the organization of a Presbyterian Church for the Negro citizens of Dublin. Coleman and Bacote invited others to join them in their dream of establishing a new church. They met in homes around the city and formulated plans for the initial service. Rev. Dorris took a short lunch break after his morning sermon at Henry Memorial and traveled across the city to the Assembly Building on the grounds of the 4-H Club. For nearly three decades, Dublin was the site of the Georgia Colored 4-H Club. Students from all over the state assembled in Dublin to have fun and to learn how to become more well rounded citizens of their state. During the following November, Lucius T. Bacote, Marine C. Bacote, Freya Bacote, Muriel Bacote, Luther Coleman, Nellie Coleman, and Mary Foster met and formed the nucleus of the founding members of the church. Shortly thereafter, they were joined by Melba Baker, Anne M. Coates, Loutrell Fambrough, Eula Jackson, Mary Hester, and Tranas Long. Officially, the fourteen charter members were considered to be members of Henry Memorial, but in fact they were busy organizing and forming their own church. In the three years before the church became officially established, the members moved their services to the Katie Dudley Village Center.

The members called the well respected Bridges Edwards, Sr. to become the first pastor of their church in August of 1955. The church was under the direction of the Augusta-Presbytery, which bought a house at 112 Carter Street to serve as a manse for Rev. Bridges and his family. Rev. Dorris guided the members of the church through official channels to begin construction on a lot on lower South Washington Street, which was donated by Rep. W.H. Lovett. The building, designed by prominent Macon architects Dennis and Dennis, was built of brick, block, and tile, all donated by Elder Warren Reid of the First Presbyterian Church of Milledgeville, Georgia. The Presbyterian Church's General Assembly granted $40,000.00 and approved a $20,000.00 loan to complete the project. Several church members had a talent for construction and lent their time and labor to the construction of the building under the supervision of Bud Kimbell. Dick Henry of Henry Memorial served as treasurer of the building fund. The building committee was composed of Rev. Edwards, Lucius Bacote, Melba Baker, Hosie Simpson, Luther Coleman, Nellie Coleman, and George Spicer, a Dublin businessman and member of Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church.

The dedicatory service was held in the newly completed sanctuary on November 18, 1956. Rev. Charles Gibbony of Augusta gave the address and presented the congregation with a pulpit bible. Lucius Bacote, Luther Coleman, and Edwin Bates were elected as the first elders of the church. Hansel Baker, Roscoe Brower, Leroy Limeul, and Nathaniel Watson were chosen to serve on the first board of deacons. Lucius Bacote was chosen to serve as the first Clerk of the Session. Rev.Bridges Edwards resigned in 1961. For nearly a year, the church was supplied with a host of interim pastors, including Dr. U.S. Johnson, a leading Dublin physician and public servant, Judge C.C. Crockett, a long time Dublin attorney, along with Reverends Jerry Salter, Leon Anderson, and Daniel O. Honnegan. In May of 1962, Rev. Roosevelt Haynes was called to serve the church. He left after two years to return to school. During an eight month interim period, the church was served by seminary students from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. Rev. Joe L. Spears was called to serve the church in October 1964. Rev. Spears served until May 1969, when he resigned to begin a new project in Statenville, North Carolina. For nearly fifteen months, the pulpit was once again filled with seminary students. The Rev. John Albert Yates began serving as a visiting minister in the summer of 1970. He became the full time minister on September 1 of that year. Rev. Chester Johnston became the fifth minister of Washington Street Church in 1975. Rev. Johnston had a dual role in his ministering to the community. In addition to his duties at the church, Rev. Johnson served as a chaplain at the Carl Vinson V.A. Medical Center. He was succeeded by Rev. W.H. Wilson, who served as an interim pastor for two years. In 1984, Rev. Johnnie Bennett, who holds the record as the longest serving minister of the church (1984-1993), became the church's seventh pastor. It was during Rev. Bennett's term, that a Christian library was established. The library was initially composed of books donated by members and books from the personal library of Rev. Glenn Dorris, whose guidance and direction was so critical to the formation of the church nearly four decades earlier. Roscoe Brower and Shellie Stroman drove hundreds of miles to pick up the volumes and bring them back to their permanent home in Dublin. Rev. Eugene Allen, who served as a senior chaplain at the VA Medical Center, succeeded Rev. Bennett. The present and first woman pastor of the church is the Rev. A. Vanessa Hawkins.

The church has always been blessed by a host of dedicated servants, many of whom served as educators in the Dublin public school system. Among those people, not previously mentioned herein, are: Nathaniel Watson, Issac H. McLendon, Ethel Beard, Pearl Cullens, Irving Dawson, Sr., Roscoe Brower, Columbus Jackson, E.J. Jones, Edward Copenny, Alton Roberts, Shellie Stroman, William Walthour, and Bonnie Crawley. Additionally, the Women's organization, the essential element of any successful church, has been led by Mrs. Nellie Coleman, Mrs. Columbus Jackson, Mrs. John Green, Marine C. Bacote, Mrs. Charles Manning, Mrs. Nathaniel Jackson, Mrs. Willie O. Beard, Mrs. Edward Copenny, Mrs. Pearl Cullens, Mrs. Lois Stroman, and Mrs. Bonnese Thomas Brower McLain, among others.

The founding of Washington Street Presbyterian Church was uniquely special in the post World War II South of the 1950s. While the evil storms of hate and racial prejudice swirled all over the nation, the people of two races and one faith came together and, along with the help of many others, established a church founded on the principles of Christian faith and service. These principles were espoused not just within the walls of the church, but throughout the community. It was this dedication, especially among the inordinate number of members who were school teachers, that led our community through the perilous times of the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Their efforts have left a positive and indelible mark on the people of Dublin, one which will continue to last for decades to come. Congratulations to the present and former members of Washington Street Presbyterian Church for fifty years of ceaseless dedication to our community.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Jimmy Ricks (lower right) and the Ravens


His voice was considered one of the most influential in the history of rhythm and blues. There was no one who could sing any lower and as well as Jimmy "Ricky" Ricks. As a member of the vocal group, the Ravens, Jimmy Ricks's lead vocals set the standard for doo-wop and rhythm and blues groups that followed him.

Jimmy Ricks was born in Adrian, Georgia in 1924. When he was a small child, Jimmy's family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where Jimmy remained until World War II, when he removed to New York to seek a career in the music business. Ricks had a unique bass voice, one which would catapult him to stardom in the blossoming rhythm and blues field. In 1945, while working as a waiter in the Four Hundred Tavern in Harlem, Ricks joined the Melodeers, a group led by Herb Kenny, whose brother Bill was the lead singer of the legendary Ink Spots. The group disbanded when Herb joined the Ink Spots as their "talking bass singer." While working at the Four Hundred, Ricks formed a friendship with Warren Suttles. The duo began singing along with jukebox records. They decided to form a group and invited Zeke Puzey, an amateur champion singer, and Ollie Jones. They called themselves the Ravens. They hired as their manager, Ben Bart, who also managed the Ink Spots.

The Ravens began their musical career in the summer of 1946 when they recorded six songs for Hub Records. Their first gig was at the Baby Grand in Harlem. The audiences loved the new sound of the Ravens, with Ricks on the bass lead. While record sales were slow at first, the Ravens's tunes were popular with the juke box crowd. Their first big break came with an appearance on Arthur Godfrey's radio show. Their next big performance came before Christmas 1946 with an appearance at the Apollo Theater following Nat King Cole. The audience went wild. The new stars were invited for a return engagement.

The Ravens re-recorded their first songs with Maithe Marshall, who replaced Jones, as the lead tenor. Listeners of a New York radio station voted the Ravens as the "Best New Singing Group of 1946." The Ravens signed a contract with National Records and began performing with Cab Calloway at the Strand on Broadway. In the spring of '47, the Ravens began their National recording sessions with one of their biggest hits "Ol' Man River, " the classic song of Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern. It rose to number 10 on the R&B charts. Their next hit was "Write Me A Letter," which went to number 5 on the R&B charts and number 24 on the pop charts. The Ravens continued to release cover songs of classics such as "Summertime," by George Gershwin. The Ravens were climbing to the top of the charts. In an effort to cash in on their new popularity and the flying saucer fad sweeping the country, the group reportedly staged a publicity stunt by flinging copies of "Ol' Man River" off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River.

The Ravens went back to the studio in the fall of 1947, recording nearly twenty new songs, including some of their greatest hits, "Be I Bumble Bee Or Not," "Always," and "Fool That I Am." Included in the 1947 sessions was a tune called "Rooster," a very humorous minstrel show style take off on a farmer and his rooster, which he threatens to make into dumplin's if he doesn't win the prize at the county fair. The Ravens continued to turn out one record after another in 1948, before going out on a tour of the South. The highlight of the year was a one week engagement at the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles and two weeks at the Bali Theater in Washington, D.C. As the Ravens became more successful, they incorporated their group and began to invest in other business ventures including owning a prize fighter and a turkey farm, which they named, "Ravenswood." Although the Ravens were enjoying success in 1948, two of the main members, Warren Suttles and Maithe Marshall left the group. Maithe returned in time to record "Silent Night" and "White Christmas," which rose to number 8 and number 9 on the R&B charts.

Jimmy Ricks

Jimmy Ricks (Upper Left) and the Ravens

Suttles returned in early 1949 just before the Ravens made their national television debut on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town." Sullivan presented the group with the "Top Vocal Group of 1948," given by the readers of "Cashbox" magazine. The Ravens had enjoyed their most successful year in 1948, breaking records at the Apollo Theater in New York and the Paradise Theater in Detroit. They won six popularity polls and continued their string of cover hits of classic tunes, such as "Deep Purple," "Tea For Two," and "Without a Song." Jimmy, known as "Ricky" to his friends, wrote and sung, "Ricky's Blues," which peaked at number 8 on the charts. The Ravens ended the Forties with their last chart hit, "I Don't Have to Ride Anymore," which also rose to number 8 on the R&B charts. The lyrics told of a man not being thrown out of the house because he had won the numbers game with "6-9-4." It has been said that while the Ravens were performing in Atlanta, local bookies refused to accept the three now famous numbers.

Despite their songs were not making the charts, the Ravens still enjoyed a vast popularity with their fans. In the winter of 1950, the Ravens performed with such greats as Dinah Washington and Artie Shaw. Warren Suttles left the group and was replaced by Louis Heyward. The group had their last recording session with National Records in the summer of 1950, before going over to the Columbia label, when Jimmy Ricks joined the Benny Goodman Sextet in performing, "Oh, Babe," and "You're Gonna Lose Your Girl," the former rising to number 25 on the pop charts. Ricks performed the song, "Oh Babe," with Goodman on his television show on the Dumont Network. With Jimmy's success with Goodman, the Raven's producers decided to use swing musicians to back the group.

The year 1951 was another successful one for the Ravens as they continued to churn out one song after another for Columbia. They received thousands of dollars a night to perform. Louis Heyward and Maithe Marshall returned to the group, but not for long. The main group broke up and the new Ravens signed with Mercury Records, with Jimmy Ricks as the sole surviving member. The new group continued the old group's success by recording cover versions of classic American songs, such as Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" and Hank Williams's "Hey Good Lookin!"

The new group suddenly became the old group in late 1952. Warren Suttles and Zeke Puzey, the original co-founders, returned. In Pittsburgh, the Ravens were as popular as ever, garnering the 1953 poll as the best vocal quartet. Once again the Ravens were one of the most popular recording acts in the country. The last Ravens original record with Mercury was fittingly a 1954 cover version of Cole Porter's classic, "I've Got You Under My Skin." 1955 was Jimmy Ricks's last year with the Ravens. On his final record with the Ravens, Ricks sang the lead on "Boots and Saddles/I'll Always Be In Love With You," which was released in February of 1956. While the Ravens continued to perform for more than a decade, Ricks embarked on a less successful solo career releasing two dozen solo 45s.

Jimmy Ricks died on July 2, 1974, while he was attempting a comeback as a singer for the Count Basie Orchestra. The Ravens, who were inspired by the Ink Spots and who released nearly five dozen singles, were considered the first real rhythm and blues group. They were the first group to use dance steps in their act. Ricks's deep bass and Suttles booming baritone influenced a younger generation of doo-wop singers and the male soul groups of the late 60s and 70s. In 1998, the Ravens were inducted as initial members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The Quiet Hero

Percy Ricks was born into a world which was black and white. Over the next eight decades, the line dividing the two faded into obscurity. In a society which segregated its schools, ball teams and soldiers, Sergeant Percy Ricks of Adrian, Georgia stepped over the line into the new integrated Army. Absent was the fanfare surrounding a fellow Georgian, Jackie Robinson, when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, just across the river. Percy Ricks died last month. Except for an obituary in the "Augusta Chronicle," his adopted home’s newspaper, the notice of his passing was quiet, much the way he led his life, quietly with honor and pride.

Percy Ricks was born in 1920 in the town of Adrian, Georgia centered on the line dividing Johnson and Emanuel counties. He attended the public schools of Adrian, where he graduated as valedictorian of his class. Percy wanted to go into business. His dream was to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta. In the months preceding World War II, Percy tried to beat the draft and sought to volunteer into the service in the United States Army in preparation for the war, which everyone knew was coming. Ricks and his friends were turned away at the recruiting center in Macon. Ricks came back to Adrian for a short time before he was drafted into the Army.

He trained at Fort Francis E. Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Camp Hogan, California, before transferring to San Bernadino, California, where he was assigned to a communications unit. Army officials quickly saw Percy’s leadership qualities and promoted him first to corporal and then to sergeant. In 1942, Ricks was once again transferred, this time to Fort Lewis, Washington and then to Camp White, Oregon. Sergeant Ricks was given the task of locating and establishing an entertainment center for black soldiers at Camp White. It was during this time, when he gained experience working with white officials of the camp’s military police and the local police in Medford. Ricks wasn’t just a desk jockey. He set a camp record on the obstacle course.

In August of 1942, Ricks was promoted to first sergeant and given command of training two companies at Camp Carson, Colorado. One of his duties was the transportation of Japanese-Americans, who were being relocated into interment camps. In April of 1943, Ricks’s unit boarded a ship bound for Oman in North Africa. Ricks, who was one of the youngest black first sergeants in the history of the Army, and his fellow soldiers as members of "The Red Ball Express" hauled bombs and supplies to elements of the 8th Army Air Corps, which was conducting bombing runs into Italy. While black soldiers were kept out of combat, Ricks and his fellow drivers were often subject to enemy fire. Once the Allies established a foothold in southern Italy, Ricks’s unit was right behind. Ricks made it to Caglieri on the Island of Sardinia. While serving in Sardinia, Ricks’s company supported the 5th and 8th Army Air Forces missions, which eventually bombed the Third Reich into submission.

In the months following the Allied victory in Europe, Sergeant Ricks returned stateside for discharge. While coming back home, Percy talked with another sergeant, who encouraged him to find the best job he could once he got out of the service. He was given an honorable discharge in Norfolk, Virginia and immediately headed home for Georgia. Ricks didn’t stay in Georgia very long. He traveled to Fort McPherson in Atlanta, where he reenlisted for a three-year term in the Signal Corps.

First Sergeant Ricks was assigned to a Signal Corps unit in New Jersey. In 1946, Percy was ordered to lead a unit in the Army Pictorial Center in Long Island, New York in an old silent movie studio. It would the first time that a black soldier would be given official command on an integrated army unit. "They sent me there to integrate the unit. At the time, I didn’t know what to do," said Ricks to Chairman Brackett, a writer for the "Augusta Chronicle." Ricks enjoyed his time in the military, though there were some tenseness in his early days, before President Harry S. Truman, ended segregation in the armed forces forever in 1948.

It was in New York, where Percy met and fell in love with his wife, Mildred, a southern transplant from McCormick, South Carolina. Mildred Ricks described her husband as "a gentle and loving man, who knows how to get along with people." While working in the Pictorial Center in New York, Sergeant Ricks established a friendship with a budding writer, Larry King, not the television personality, but the author of "Confessions of a White Racist" and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." King, in his book on racism in America, described his friend Percy as "a man who carried himself with careful dignity."

In his latter years, Sergeant Ricks was finally given the attention that he so richly served, but didn’t understand what "all the fuss was about." Playing down his service as the first commander of a racially mixed army unit, he was nevertheless an American hero. During his service in the army, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the United National Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Service European Medal, and the American Service Medal.

In recognition of his valuable service to the Signal Corps of the United States Army, the army established the "First Sergeant Percy Ricks Room" at Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia. The room contains personal papers and belongings of Sergeant Ricks, including his uniform and a 1946 Oscar statuette presented to the Signal Corps for its film, "Seeds of Destiny."

Sergeant Percy D. Ricks, Jr. died on July 14, 2002 at the Veterans Medical Center in Augusta after suffering for months with the ravaging symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. He was laid to rest in Memorial Gardens in Augusta.

Sources: "Ricks Paved Way for Corps’ African-Americans," Sgt. Anastasia Norman, "Army Communicator," Fort Gordon, Georgia; "The Augusta Chronicle," July 19, 2002; "Ricks Led Unit With Diversity," Charmain Z. Brackett, "The Augusta Chronicle," Oct. 21, 2001; "Fort Gordon Honors Silent Hero," Denise Allen, "The Signal," Feb. 1, 2002.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Coming Out of the Dark

In the year 1909, leaders of the Georgia C.M.E. Church and local ministers, including Rev. P.W. Wesley of Lovett, Georgia, and lay leaders of the Church established the Harriett Holsey Industrial Institute in Dublin. The school was named for Harriett Holsey, wife of Bishop Lucius H. Holsey, one of the founders of the school. This is the story of Bishop Lucius Holsey, who in conjunction with such Methodist ministerial icons including the Rev. Henry M. Turner, led their people out of the depths of despair of the abolition of slavery and the horrors of the post war South into the bright new days of the Twentieth Century.

Lucius Henry Holsey was born into slavery on a farm near Columbus, Georgia on July 3, 1842. His owner, James Holsey, was also his father, whom Rev. Holsey described as " a gentleman of classical education, dignified in appearance, and lacking the ability to shine his own shoes or saddle his horse." His mother, Louisa, was the mother of fourteen children, Lucius, being the oldest. Holsey was sold to T.L. Wynn of Sparta following his father’s death in 1848. After Wynn’s death, Lucius became the property of Col. R.M. Johnston, with whom the young man had a close relationship. In his eight years with Col. Johnston, who was a professor at the University of Georgia, Lucius was introduced to education and religion, both of which had a profound influence on his life. He was impressed with the sermons of Rev. H.M. Turner, who became one of the greatest African-American ministers in our country’s history. In his later years, Bishop Holsey saw slavery as "a blessing in disguise to me and to many - a link in the transactions of humanity, which must have a great bearing on the future."

Holsey took up sharecropping on a "one-horse farm" in Hancock County after his emancipation. His wife Harriett washed clothes for the students, who lived in Col. Johnston’s boarding house. Then, the calling came. It was always there since his youth, but Lucius felt the urgent need to proclaim God’s truth. It was February 1868. Bishop George F. Pierce, a historian and sage of Methodism in 19th Century Georgia, examined Lucius with difficult questioning and pronounced him ready to become a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church South - whites and blacks were members of the same church then. Holsey already knew Bishop Pierce, who had reared his wife Harriett before giving her to his son-in-law, a Mr. Turner. The couple were married in the Bishop’s home on November 8, 1862. Bishop Pierce’s wife and daughters spared no expense in elaborately decorating their home and lavishly preparing a splendid meal for the Holseys and a host of their friends and relatives.

Holsey, who considered himself an inferior preacher because of his low decibel voice, traveled the Sparta Circuit until 1869, when the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church of Georgia held its first conference in Augusta. Bishop Pierce assigned Rev. Holsey to his first church, Andrew Chapel, in Savannah. Holsey was forced to leave the church when the A.M.E. Church took control of Andrew Chapel. The trustees of Trinity Methodist Church allowed him to preach to the colored Methodist citizens of Savannah in the church library. The wealth of Savannah allowed Holsey to start reading again, learning about anything he could. After sixteen months, Holsey returned to Sparta to attempt to find his direction in life. He found it.

In 1871, Rev. Holsey was appointed to Trinity Methodist Church in Augusta, the largest church in the conference. In the 1873 General Conference of the C.M.E. Church held in Holsey’s home church, the delegates elected Rev. Holsey one of the three Bishops of the Church. Holsey drew the area of Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Despite his annual salary of eight hundred dollars, Holsey and his family of fourteen struggled just to survive, recycling cinders to build fires with and going hungry many nights.

In 1869, Bishop Holsey first advocated the establishment of a school for training ministers for the Church. For nearly fourteen years, Holsey lobbied church leaders in Georgia and around the Southeast for their support of his plan. In 1883, The Paine Institute, now Paine College, was established in Augusta with the help of Holsey’s old friend, Bishop Pierce. Bishop Holsey continued to actively support the school for the remainder of his life.

Bishop Holsey was often called upon to represent Georgia in national conferences. He served for more than twenty years as Secretary of the College of Bishops. Holsey compiled the first hymnals and manual of discipline for the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1881, he represented the C.M.E. churches of the United States in an Ecumenical Conference in London, England, where he preached from the same pulpit where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in America, once preached. In 1882, Bishop Holsey was the first African-American to attend the Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held that year in Memphis, Tennessee. He wrote a paper for the Centennial Conference of the Methodist Church in America in 1884. In 1891, he attended the same conference in Washington, D.C..

Holsey found himself embroiled in a controversy on the direction of the church for the last several decades of his life. As for politics, he thought ministers ought to stay out saying, "We must make no stump speeches and fight no battle of the politicians. We think it better to let the dead bury the dead, while we follow Christ," Holsey proclaimed. Despite his disdain for politics, Holsey found himself drawn into a battle with other church leaders. Being somewhat of a conservative and being the son of a white man, Holsey urged cooperation with the white Church - a position not taken by Bishop Henry Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Bishop Lucius Henry Holsey died in 1920. In reflecting on his first thirty years in the Church, Holsey said " The Colored Methodist Church in America has a remarkable career....Green from the fields of slavery, raw in the experiences of church tactics, in membership and ministry, without houses of worship or literature, with many of its organizing feats being performed out of doors and under trees, it overcame difficulties that made it more than an experiment. Being in the dews of its youth, it has not yet attained its destined dignity and power for those among the colored race. But it is advancing in every department. During his fifty years in the ministry, he led his people through the bad times and the good times. His life and his teachings, without a doubt, rank him high as one of the most important and influential Christian leaders in Georgia history.