Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010


A Dublin Man's Role in a Moment of History -

The Integration of the University of Georgia

Forty five years ago today the faces of students at the University of Georgia changed forever. In the midst of a political turmoil and mercifully without the infliction of violent attacks, two African-American students entered the halls of the University of Georgia. There to make sure the process was completed was a former Adrian and Dublin man, who was the Assistant Registrar of the University of Georgia. This is the story of Paul Kea and his role in one of the most momentous moments in Georgia History, the integration of the University of Georgia.

For a hundred and sixty five years every student attending the University of Georgia was white. For that matter, every educational institution in the entire state was segregated. In the early years of the state, colleges and universities were segregated between the sexes. With the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education, it was only a matter of time before admission to the University of Georgia could not be conditioned upon the race of the applicant. Beginning in 1943 under a grant in aid program, Georgia paid the surpluses of out of state colleges and universities over state institutions to Negro students attending school outside the state.

The first attempt to integrate the University of Georgia came in 1957 when Horace Ward's law suit was thrown out of court. Charlayne Hunter, an outstanding student at Atlanta's Turner High School, was approached by black Atlanta civic leaders to challenge the University of Georgia's ban on black students. She joined classmate Hamilton Holmes in applying for admission for the year 1959-60. Both were turned down. Hunter enrolled in Wayne State University in Michigan and Holmes attended nearby Morehouse College.

Beginning in 1959 the University hired Paul Kea as the Assistant Registrar and Assistant Director of Admissions. Paul Randolph Kea was born on September 5, 1925 in Adrian, Georgia. The youngest child of Fitzhugh Lillian Kea and Dora Vivian Proctor, Paul Kea attended school in Adrian. His oldest half brother, Morris Dawson Kea, was Laurens County's longest serving attorney. His family lived on Railroad Street. His parents worked day and night to help the family through the depths of the depression. Paul worked in his father's grocery store. The Kea house was always filled with music. Mrs. Kea taught music to the kids of Adrian. In the late spring and during the summer Paul enjoyed swimming in the refreshing waters of the Ohoopee River near Captain James's well. He wrote passionate and reminiscent poems about his coming of age in the then sleepy village, once a bustling railroad center.

Paul Kea served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, he returned home to Dublin, where he worked as a staff announcer at radio station WMLT. While in Dublin, Kea, a talented writer in his own right, taught English in the Laurens County School system. He later taught in Clarke and Oglethorpe counties as well as in the city system of Jefferson, Georgia.

Both Hunter and Holmes continued to make applications for admission on a quarterly basis. Each time they were turned down. Holmes underwent an oral interview by Registrar Walter Danner, Director of Admissions Morris Phelps and Kea. On the basis of hearsay information transmitted to him through Danner, Kea quizzed Holmes about his criminal record. Holmes denied any guilt and without proof of the allegation, Kea dropped the matter. The officials asked Holmes if he had attended interracial parties or patronized beatnik joints. Based on the results of their interview, Holmes was turned down again for admission in the fall of 1960. The interview with Hunter went more smoothly. Though declining her admission in the fall, Kea and Danner did not discount her possible acceptance at a later date as the student body had reached its limit.

With the aid of out of state attorneys, Hunter and Holmes filed a suit in Federal court seeking immediate admission to the university. When Federal marshals could not find Registrar Danner to serve the lawsuit, Paul Kea was added as a defendant. Kea was served as a university official and as an individual defendant. A hearing on their claim was postponed from September to mid December. State Attorney General Eugene Cook, a former resident of Dublin and Wrightsville and a proponent of segregation, represented the State of Georgia. The matter was heard by Federal District Court Judge W.A. Bootle.

One of the first witnesses called to the stand was Paul Kea. Kea was grilled by the plaintiff's attorneys on the standards for admission. One letter after another and totaling near a hundred were shown to Kea for identification. Many of them related to letters by white students, who were denied admission in 1960, but were instructed to reapply or were advised to enroll in other state colleges for later admission to the university. Nearly three weeks later on January 6, 1961, Judge Bootle ordered university registrars to admit both Hunter and Holmes.

The university's first black students arrived in Athens on January 9, 1961. As they entered the registrar's office they were taunted and jeered. Inside the front door, they were met by Kea who processed their paperwork without delay. Though their first days were violence free, a minor altercation arose two days later outside Hunter's dormitory. Athens police restored order and both Hunter and Holmes were suspended from the school and escorted back to their homes in Atlanta for their own safety. The duo were reinstated a few days later and seemingly all enmity died away.

Charlayne Hunter, who did build some lasting friendships with fellow students, graduated in 1963 with a degree in journalism. Hunter became a world renown journalist with the New York Times and a television journalist on the MacNeil Lehrer on PBS and a bureau chief for CNN. Hamilton Holmes graduated the same year with a degree in science. He became the first African-American student to attend the medical school at Emory University. Holmes, an orthopedic surgeon, died in 1995. At his death, he was the Associate Dean of the Emory University School of Medicine.

In 1968, Paul Kea was promoted to the co-ordinator of Continuing Education Programs at the College of Education. He served in that position for 27 years until his untimely death at the age of 58 on June 12, 1984. He is buried in Northview Cemetery in Dublin.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Spike Lee explores his Georgia roots on tonight’s NBC show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

1:21 pm April 30, 2010, by Rodney Ho

Tonight, filmmaker Spike Lee will journey through the South to explore his ancestral roots on the NBC shot “Who Do You Think You Are?” And he digs through parts of Middle Georgia to find out.

The Morehouse College grad’s grandmother lived in Dublin, GA. In the first 10 minutes of the episode I screened, he goes down to Dublin and meets Atlanta University Center assistant archivist Melvin Collier at the Dublin library to get information about his great great grandmother Lucinda Jackson, who was born into slavery and died in 1934.

Collier, who said he spent eight hours with Lee that day, helped him find a newspaper obituary for Jackson, which named her three sons (including his great grandfather) but not Lucinda’s husband. He found the name on the death certificate, which was Mars.

He named his character in his first major film “She’s Gotta Have It” Mars, inspired by his grandmother, who died in 2006 at age 100. He recalled her saying that Mars was the name of a “crazy uncle” but “she probably said he was a crazy grandfather.” Mars in the film is crazy, he noted.

Lee then goes to the Georgia Archives in Atlanta to find more information about Mars, another man born as a slave. He found out they were using Woodall in the 1880 census, that he changed his name to Jackson later.

The archivist Lee was working with surmises that his family may have been owned by James Woodall, a slave owner. He eventually found out his great great grandfather Mars owned 80 acres after he was freed from slavery. (Lee calls his production company “40 Acres and a Mule,” a reference to providing arable land to former slaves after the Civil War.)

Lee shows up on the land Mars had owned. “Red Georgia clay,” Lee mused. “In tribute to Mars, I had sent to me what I wore in my first film, ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’ ”

“To go from a slave to a land owner?” Lee said. “Now I know where my family gets that entrepreneurial spirit!”

Lee later investigates his slave ancestors, discovering he may be a descendant of a slave owner. He meets a possible relative he didn’t expect to find.

“I always knew who I am,” he said. “Now I know more.”


Who Do You Think You Are? Featured Spike Lee Going South in the Season Finale

Published April 30, 2010 by: Roy A. Barnes

ho Do You Think You Are? featured Spike Lee on NBC on Friday night's season finale. The filmmaker-actor looked for his roots in Georgia and Texas, trying to find out more about his mother's slave ancestry. The filmmaker's mother, Jacqelyn Carroll Shelton Lee, died when Spike Lee was 19, and his grandmother Zimmie, known as "Momma", became the guiding force in his life as she put him through college, film school and helped him fund his first movie. "Momma" died in 2006. This episode of Who Do You Think You Are? was quite moving. The time frame goes back some 150 years, when people were owned by others.

Who Do You Think You Are? Featured Spike Lee Going South, Making Connections with the Georgia Earth

Spike Lee admitted that he regrets not being more inquisitive about his very distant roots, not putting "Momma" on camera to discuss this subject of ancestry. After visiting his mother's grave, he heads to Dublin, Georgia to find out more about his family roots. He found out about Zimmie's grandmother Lucinda, who had 3 kids with a man named Mars. Ironically, "Momma" gave Spike Lee the "Mars" name for a character in She's Gotta Have It. Through further research in Atlanta, it was found out on Who Do You Think You Are? that both Lucinda and Mars were slaves, owned by a man named James Woodall, of Twiggs County, Georgia. Yet the research at the Georgia State Archives found that Woodall's slaves weren't even specifically named in the slave census schedule, and only counted as 3/5 of a person.

Spike Lee was alerted about Mars Woodall (later surname Jackson) being listed as a farmer in the 1880 census, possibly because of the post-Civil War "40 acres and a mule" plan, which often wasn't implemented, according to the NBC season finale of Who Do You Think You Are? Further research found that Mars owned 80 acres of farmland and another 125 acres of various lands. The plantation owner James Woodall may have spoken well of his former slave, which helped him get land in a time and place where blacks were victims of hatred and prejudice in general. Who Do You Think You Are? saw Spike Lee visit his great great grandfather's land, a beautiful wooded area with water, dominated by red clay earth, which Spike Lee dug up some, feeling a connection with Mars, who mysteriously lost his land sometime after that census.

The Series Finale of Who Do You Think You Are? Featuring Spike Lee Brought Civil War History to the Forefront

As the show progressed, Spike Lee wanted to find out more about his great great grandmother Lucinda. He found out that her parents, Wilson and Matilda Griswold, took the name of their former owner Samuel Griswold, who owned a plantation in Griswoldville, Georgia, that's basically non-existent since it was destroyed by Union forces. It was determined that Matilda was a cook. Wilson was a skilled slave (who worked in a cotton gin factory and later a pistol factory for the Confederate Army) because he was mentioned by name in an old legal document, meaning he was valued highly. Later research on Who Do You Think You Are? showed that General William Tecumseh Sherman burned the plantation down and the and the factory, which Wilson worked at. Wilson may have been taken or killed by Sherman, but lots of questions remained unanswered on the NBC show.

Historian Bill Bragg showed the filmmaker-actor a Civil War era factory pistol that Wilson, Lee's great great great grandfather, may have actually help made. Bragg had one picture each of the slave-owning Samuel Griswold and his wife Louisa Griswold. The two looked very unhappy. As for Matilda, it was surmised through more research that Samuel was the father, as she was listed a "mulatto" in the records.

In the conclusion of Who Do You Think You Are?, Spike Lee got to meet a living being with Griswold blood, Guinevere Grier, in Arlington, Texas. They had a very nice and touching meeting, and were fine with apparently being 3rd cousins, twice removed. Grier revealed how much slavery and prejudice against blacks has hurt her. Spike Lee admitted that he can't love Samuel or Louisa Griswold because they owned other human beings, but he's more insightful about his family roots.

One of the strengths of this program on NBC is that it summarizes previous segments and lists the names of ancestors to help keep people from getting too confused. It was funny that Spike Lee had to slow down a bit and make sure he got all the "greats" in when talking about his distant grandparents.


"Spike Lee", Who Do You Think You Are? April 30, 2010, NBC

Monday, March 29, 2010


Georgia's Oldest Condemned Man

In the last eight decades, only six Laurens County men have been put to death by electrocution. Five of the executions took place in the 1940s. The final death by electrocution occurred in the fall of 1957. While all six of the men executed by the State of Georgia were black, half of the men were sentenced to death for killing a white victim, the other half for killing black women. This is the story of the final crime of Herbert Rozier, who at the age of seventy two, was the oldest man ever executed in the State of Georgia and perhaps one of the oldest man ever electrocuted by any state in the United States.

Early in the evening of April 15, 1943, Herbert Rozier came to the house of Essie Evans, his estranged wife . Rozier opened fire with a shot gun he stole from a trunk in the house of Lula Lord, Miss Iris Minton's washwoman. Essie's son Ed returned the fire. Rozier broke the latch on a window and attempted to enter the house. Essie and another son fled to the safety of a locked room. Frustrated and angry, Rozier left the house and commenced to take an axe and broke the windows and lights of the Evans car. He then took a knife and shredded nearly all of the car's upholstery. Ed Evans, his face still stinging from powder burns from Rozier's shot, fired a shot which inflicted a minor flesh wound on Rozier's left arm.

W.G. Davis and his family were sitting in their living room enjoying a fine spring evening and discussing what Warren the eldest son might be doing in the Navy. Suddenly a commotion was heard coming from Essie Evan's house about a thousand yards down the road. W.G. Davis heard gunshots. Thinking that he needed to quell the fracas, Davis grabbed his gun and said, "I'm going over there." His wife begged him to stay home. Moments later a gun shot rang out, followed by a trio of rapid shots.

As he approached the Rozier home, Davis encountered Herbert Rozier, a seventy-two year old itinerant farmer and frequent malefactor moving away from his estranged wife's house. "Herbert, what is the trouble up there," Davis asked?

Without a hint of a warning and without hesitation Rozier fired his shot gun into Davis's abdomen first with one shot and then fatally with three rapid blasts. Davis attempted to return the fire, but to no avail. Rozier sprinted toward the woods as fast as his septuagenarian body would allow. Davis managed to stumble about sixty three yards until he fell in front of the home of J.H. Davidson, Sr.. He called toward the house for help. With her husband sick in bed, Mrs. Davidson was afraid at first, but she and Alfred Maddox finally summoned her son, J.H. Davidson, Jr., to go out side to see what the matter was. William Henry Lee found old Herbert's shotgun in a ditch about twenty yards from the scene of the shooting. He would later present it to the sheriff, who ascertained that the gun had a cut shell still inside the chamber.

About that time, Walter Davis, the victim's son, came up his father and asked him who shot him. "Old Herbert Rozier shot me all to pieces and I am gone," the elder Davis moaned. Maddox, the younger Davidson and Walter Davis helped put the dying man into the Davidson car. The Davis and Davidson boys raced up the Telfair Road to Claxton's Hospital on Bellevue Avenue, where they were met by Dr. E.B. Claxton.

Dr. Claxton examined the victim and found Davis's entrails protruding from a wound below his ribs "large enough to get a person's hand in it." Claxton removed some packing and a large number of shot from Davis, but the patient succumbed around 2:10 the following morning. While still conscious, Davis was aware that he was dying. Just as if he knew all of the essential legal elements of a dying declaration, Davis calmly related the entire series of events of the moments leading up to his encounter with Rozier.

Deputy Sheriff Baum Wilkes raced to the crime scene. Bloodhounds were brought in to follow the scent of the suspect. A small army of deputies and state patrolmen combed the community for the whereabouts of Rozier. Deputy Wilkes went to the Henry Tolbridge house, where he knew Rozier had been earlier in the evening. His eyes constantly scanning for evidence, Wilkes observed blood on the floor of the inside of the house. The deputy followed a trail of blood back to the scene of the crime. Owing to the darkness of the night, Wilkes resumed his pursuit of the perpetrator the following morning. With the aid of Joe Guyton, Deputy Wilkes crossed the Turkey Creek bridge at the store and found Rozier hiding in a house about five miles from the murder scene. Rozier was armed. Guyton pleaded to the old man to surrender, which he did without resistance. Rozier, still wearing his blood stained jacket, confessed that he did it because he was mad that Ed Evans had shot him.

A day after his death, the body of W.G. Davis was funeralized at Bluewater Church. In his funeral, Rev. Claude Vines praised the memory of the Monroe native and popular farmer. Ben Burch, Douglas Shepard, W.H. Shuman, Coke Brown, W.P. Roche and Dee Sessions carried Davis's body to its final resting place in Northview Cemetery.

Herbert Rozier was taken to a Macon jail for safekeeping. Rufus I. Stephens was appointed to represent him in his murder trial. At the trial, Dr. Claxton, Walter Davis, Mrs. J.H. Davidson and J.H. Davidson, Jr. were allowed to testify as to the statements made by the victim. Each time Stephens repeated his objections to the testimony as hearsay. Hearsay statements are out of court statements made for the purpose of proving the truth of the statement. Normally, such statements are not allowed because the maker of the statement is not available for cross examination.
Obviously Davis couldn't be asked about what he said, because he was in the cemetery. But all rules have exceptions. Courts have always recognized a "dying declaration" as an exception to the hearsay rule. Statements made by one who is dying and knows they are dying have some degree of reliability and are admissable.

It is a question for the jury to determine the weight of the evidence, responded Solicitors James F. Nelson and Lester Watson.

Rozier was found guilty. His attorney appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia objecting the admissibility of Davis's statements and to the voluntariness  of Rozier's alleged confession. The court reasoned that Davis's declarations to the witnesses were admissible and that the testimony of Essie and Ed Evans corroborated Rozier's confession to Deputy Wilkes in unanimously upholding the trial court's verdict, declaring that Herbert Rozier must die.

On April 17, 1944, Wilkes accompanied Albert Curry, Davis's brother-in-law, and two of Davis's brothers to Tattnall State Prison near Reidsville to witness the execution of Herbert Rozier. Just after noon, Rozier, then seventy two years old, was strapped into the state's electric chair and put to death. Following the elimination of the electric chair as a means of execution, it is likely that Herbert Rozier of Laurens County, will remain as the oldest person in Georgia and one of the oldest in the nation to be executed by electrocution.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Years ago I told you some stories of several remarkable people. They were Laurens Countians. All of them lived to be more than one hundred years old. All of them were black, and all of them had been slaves. Here are more stories of former slaves. But, I will also tell you about some more remarkable people. Although they never had to endure the shackles of slavery, they did face their share of challenges.

"Sis Crecy" was born Lucretia Neil between the two Briar Creeks up in Warren County, Georgia on March 10, 1866. Her parents, who belonged to the Edwards family before the Civil War, moved to Laurens County, where they were told the living was better. Crecy came along too as a grown woman at the age of 26.

Before she came to Laurens County, "Sis Crecy" picked and chopped cotton all day long during pickin' time and worked wherever she could when there was no cotton in the fields. She began to teach, first in Warren and Glascock counties. When she retired, Lucretia's teaching career had spanned more than fifty years.

Widowed at the age of 75, Mrs. James Hill did her own work around the house. She cooked, washed, cleaned, cut firewood and sewed her own clothes.

Rarely ill, "Sis Crecy" despised doctors and hospitals. She put her trust in the Lord. "My motto is do the right thing, live right and trust the Lord," Mrs. Hill maintained.

Her friends and family threw her a big party to celebrate her 100th birthday. They had to wait a few weeks later to celebrate because the guest of honor was too busy - still sewing, working in her Pinckney Street home and attending services at Wabash Street Church of God, which was most of the time. Oh, by the way, "Sis Crecy" was still playing her piano at the age of 102. Lucretia Hill passed into Heaven on August 3, 1968 and was buried in Dudley Memorial Cemetery in Dublin.

Just down the street lived the Rev. J. R. Roberson. Pastor Roberson was born in Hancock County, Georgia on March 31, 1875. During his five and half decades in the ministry, Rev. Roberson served 17 churches. He never quite officially retired and preached the Gospel as long as he could speak. Although he never had much schooling, Roberson learned about life in the church, out in the cotton fields, and in the loving home of his aunt and uncle, who raised him to follow the Lord. At the age of 101, Rev. Roberson went to the polls and cast his ballot.

It was about 1949 when Rev. Roberson and his wife moved to Laurens County. She died about three years later. Roberson married again, this time to his beloved Ardella. Long living ran in Roberson's family. His older sister lived to more than 106 years old. In the later summer of 1978, the Rev. J.W. Roberson died. He was buried in Dudley Memorial Cemetery in Dublin.

Aunt Daisy Wilson claimed that she was born in 1804, two years before Laurens County was created. According to the Macon Telegraph, there were white people who stated that she had authentic records showing that she was 117 years old in the summer of 1922. Daisy was born into slavery in North Carolina and purchased by John Manson, who brought her to Wilkinson County. She lived there well beyond her 100th birthday. If her claim could be substantiated, Daisy Wilson may have been the oldest woman in Laurens County history and one of the oldest in the State of Georgia.

Thomas Allen maintained that he was born in 1800 and was 114 years old just before he died on the plantation of Dr. W.B. Taylor, outside of Dexter, Georgia. Owned by the Giles family, the former slave was a native of Wilkinson County. Although his age cannot be documented by census records, Dr. Taylor, who knew the old man for many years, did not doubt the accuracy of his claims.

Jane Smith believed she was born in September 1812. Mrs. Smith told everyone she had been a slave of John Chapman on his farm at Kewanee, between Dudley and Dexter. Not surprisingly, the Atlanta Constitution reported that at the age of 107, Mrs. Smith was "unable to sit up much."

Andrew Isler, whose age has been confirmed by census records, was born in 1813, although he claimed to have been born three years earlier. Isler married his wife Phebe in Laurens County in 1850. The Islers lived in the Bailey District of Laurens County. Isler, who had been a slave of D.F. Scarborough, had an older brother, who reportedly died at the age of 105. It was said that all of his family lived to be very old. Isler died in 1913.

Uncle Hampton Powers died in 1907. Folks said he was 102 years old. Powers once belonged to Governor George M. Troup. Uncle Hampton's funeral at Robinson's Chapel Church was attended a large crowd of both black and white mourners.

By far the oldest documented Laurens Countian was Hester Hubbard. Although she was only known to herself as "Aunt Hester," her name appears as Hester Hubbard in the 1920 Census of Coffee County, Georgia. Born near Dublin in spring of 1799, "Aunt Hester," by the beginning of the Civil War, was already a grandmother. She died at the census documented age of 120 in October 1920 in her home near Nichols in Coffee County, Georgia.

If Hester's age could be documented, her death at the age of 120 would easily eclipse that of Gertrude Baines, who died last year at the age of 115 and who, according to Wikipedia, is the oldest Georgian ever. Her age would even exceed Jack Robinson, who died in 1872 in Laurens County at the census corroborated age of 118. Her ten dozen birthdays would also make her the oldest person in the history of the United States and the third oldest in the history of the world.

There are others who claim to have lived longer than Aunt Hester. Take James Walter Wilson, of Vidalia, for example. Wilson, according to both Time and Life magazines, died at the age of 120 years and seven months. When the news of Wilson's advance age began to appear in the papers, "Uncle Mark" Thrash wanted everyone to know the he was 122 years old and even had a twin brother who was still alive in 1942. It may be noted that an early census record put Thrasher's age at a mere 112 years.

Authentic dates of birth, especially in the early 1800s, are difficult, if not impossible, to verify. But, let's just say that Aunt Hester and these remarkable people lived long, long lives, perhaps through good genes, hard work, good eating and maybe, just maybe, by the grace of God.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ben Smith plays big, lifts JU Dolphins

by Gene Frenette

If you haven’t made it to a Jacksonville University basketball game this season, put it on your to-do list this week because a player the likes of Ben Smith must be appreciated by being there.

The senior point guard might be only 5-foot-10, but he is, in fact, Big Ben.

I’ve covered or watched JU hoops for 28 years. I can count on one hand the players whose game, character and presence are so special, the total package literally uplifts a program.

Let me put this in a context most people will understand: Ben Smith is in a league with the school’s most famous Smith, Otis (now the Orlando Magic general manager), for overall impact. Not necessarily as an NBA prospect, but for his ability to ensure that a team maxes out its talent.

It’d just be wrong for Ben Smith’s last two home games at Veterans Memorial Arena — Thursday against Campbell and Saturday against East Tennessee State — to pass by without acknowledging the biggest difference-maker in a generation of JU basketball.

No disrespect to any of Ben’s teammates, especially fellow senior Lehmon Colbert, also instrumental in resurrecting a previously stagnant program. But if there’s one player that illustrates why the Dolphins are relevant under fifth-year coach Cliff Warren, it’s the smallest guy on the floor.

Smith is third on JU’s all-time scoring list (1,842 points), a nice statistic. But these numbers truly demonstrate what Big Ben means to the Dolphins: he’s been on the floor for 4,238 of a possible 4,805 minutes. Plus, JU’s Atlantic Sun Conference record is 51-21 during his four years as a starter, compared to 28-48 in four years before his arrival.

Warren recruited Smith out of Dublin (Ga.) High because his skill and work ethic captivated him, including a 96-84 Class AA state title win over Thomasville. The JU coach watched Smith account for 16 consecutive points (scoring or passing) in a second-half surge.

“Ben’s will to win that game was evident,” Warren said. “I said to myself, 'We have to get this guy.’ ”

What JU got is a player of more substance than style. He sets a strong example on and off the court, thanks in no small part to his upbringing from parents Curtis and Brenda Smith.

“I wish I could take credit for something Ben has done,” Warren said. “Everything was instilled in Dublin [Ga.].”

Ben’s mother nurtured most of his spiritual side at William Grove Baptist Church. His father, who played one year of college basketball and works in the Dublin recreation department, served as Ben’s basketball coach until junior high. That produced a gym rat who never strayed from his value system.

“Toughness, hard work, doing whatever it takes, those are the things my Dad taught me,” Smith said. “He said, 'Son, you’re little, and when you’re little in basketball, you got to be special.’ He wouldn’t allow me to get complacent.”

There’s not enough column space to fully explain Smith’s value to JU, which can clinch a share of a second consecutive A-Sun title by beating co-leader Campbell on Thursday.

All spectators will be allowed into the Campbell game for free. If you go, there’s a good chance you’ll come away feeling Ben Smith is worth any price of admission.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


My Story

I was born on a Monday. I died on a Monday. As I lay on my dying bed, I saw the Lord coming for me. My family was there. They cried. Mrs. Edith Louder, my faithful nurse, was there too. She was always there for me when I got sick after my darling Vinie died.

When I look back on my one hundred and six years on this wonderful earth that my God has made, I had a good life. Yes, it was a good life. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful wife, lots of fine children, and good crops to feed me and my family. I've been powerful lucky.

My name is Daniel Cummings. I was born a slave. My momma and daddy were slaves, too. After I got my freedom, I took the last name of my master, Marse Robert Cummings. Marse Robert was good to me. He was a doctor. He helped a lot of folks to get well.

I was near about thirteen years old when Marse Robert told us he was going off to fight the Yankees. I was there that day when he rode off on his fine bay. I fetched his sword from his office and handed it to him. He told me to take care of his missus. "Yas, sir," I said!

It was the last time I saw him. Somewhere up around Richmond, Virginia, near where my momma was born, he got the cholera and died. We got the bad news in a letter from Captain Carswell, who lost his own brother up there in a big fight. I helped bury Marse Robert in the Stanley Cemetery up near the Big Ditch. Just four months later, we had to bury Marse Robert's baby son. He was only eight months old. Miss Leah cried for months after that. She had just lost both of her parents right before the war. Her brother, Mr. James Stanley, was killed in the war too. All she had left was her baby girl, Miss Margaret. It was so, so sad.

The Yankees came riding down the road one day. They were headed east toward the river. I never took sides in that war. It was so terrible. Mrs. Cummings came to me screaming that the Yankees were coming. I always liked Miss Leah. She asked me to help her take the gold and silver down to the swamp on Big Sandy. I wrapped it up in a blanket and put it up in a big hooty owl hole in the top of an oak tree. I grabbed some moss and covered it up real good.

When the Yankees were here, I toted water and buttermilk to them for their supper. I did the same thing for General Wheeler's rebs when they were riding through these parts trying to catch up with the blue soldiers. Nobody ever knew I was toting water and milk to both of them.

It was soon after the war that I met my wonderful wife. Her name was Miss Elizabeth Vinie Jones. She was nineteen and the prettiest thing I ever saw. We were married for seventy years before she went to Heaven. We never had a fight. Well, there was this one time when a school teacher lived with us. I got to noticing that he got to noticing her too much, so I asked him to leave. We never had no trouble after that.

Vinie and I had a lot of fine children. I always promised my kids that they could go to college and make something out of themselves. Most of them did. I was real proud of them, especially my girls. My daughter Elizabeth was a dentist. She was one of the first colored women in the South to be a dentist. She married Dr. H.G. Harrington and they lived over in Birmingham, Alabama. Anne teaches school up in Augusta. Mary married a Smith and teaches the Bible in Detroit. My daughter Laura works for the government in the big capital in Washington. As for me, I went to school for two months. I learned what I know on my own.

Despite all the bad times I had, I still had some good ones. I was lucky. I started out renting a small place to help feed my family. I made $200.00 the first year, then I did the same thing for three more years. That gave me enough money to buy my own place. So, Monroe Rozar and I bought on halves a piece of land on the Old Macon Road from Mr. John Weaver.

Three years later, I bought out Monroe's half. From the front door of the house I built, I could almost see Wilkinson County. Although we lived far out in the country, there were plenty of folks passing by at the crossroads of the Old Macon Road and the road which ran up to Chappel's Mill. I lived there for the rest of my life. Just after 1900, I was able to buy the Steely Place. It was about 405 acres. Before I knew it, I owned almost 700 acres. Life was good.

Vinie made all of our clothes with an old spinnin' wheel. When the crops were good, I bought her and my children some clothes from the store. We used to walk every wherever we went, but when I was making good money, I bought a buggy. I was an old man when I got my first automobile.

My friends thought I was rich. I guess I was. One day I took my wife to the hospital in Dublin. The doctor said she had to have an operation. I asked him to give me the price. Then, I reached in my back pocket and pulled a big fat roll of bills. That kind doctor said, "Dan, had I known you had all that money, I'd been harder on you." From then on, I was careful about showing my money before the job was done.

Money was never important to me. But, like most folks, I needed it. I was visiting my boy in Philadelphia when I heard that a bunch of banks back home went bust. I was lucky - lost only ninety cents. My rainy day money went into a postal savings account.

When I was about fifty-six, I got together with my friends, C.D. Dudley, D.W. Wiliams, J.J. Jenkins and Thomas Kinchen. We went to a lawyer. He set up a corporation. I called it the Georgia Investment Company. We built a building at the corner of South Lawrence Street and West Madison Street. My friends insisted that I call it the "Cummings Building," which I finally did.

I turned one hundred years old on September 25, 1948. Most of my family was there. I wish my granddaughter, Mrs. Pearl Davis, had been there. She was one of the first colored ladies to be a pharmacist. I knew she was going to be successful, but she died while birthing a baby back during the first World War. My grandson, Herndon Cummings, flew airplanes in the next big war. He went to Tuskegee and learned how to fly. They locked him and his friends up one night when they tried to take a drink in the white man's officer's club. I took a drink one time. I got drunk. Then I swore I'd never drink again. And, I haven't.

They had a big funeral for me. My good friend, the Rev. D.D. Edmond, preached my eulogy. Everyone above me was crying. Then I saw my Vinie coming toward me. I took her hand and we walked through the pearly gates. Yes, God is good to me!

The preceding story was based on a 1953 interview of Daniel D. Cummings by Dublin historian, Sarah Orr Williams. I wrote it in first person to give you a different look at a wealthy man, not in cash and land, but one who accumulated his fortune in the love he shared with his family and his community and in the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


A Deliverer of Believers

William Dinkins loved the Lord from the time he was seven years old. He loved the Lord all of his long life. It was said that during his lifetime he delivered more than seven thousand believers to the altar, built or improved forty-seven churches and one school, the Harriet Holsey Industrial School of Dublin.

William Anderson Dinkins, Jr. was born to Anderson and Minda Dinkins of Houston County on September 15, 1867. His father, a mullato native of South Carolina, was a minister of the Congregational Methodist Episcopal Church for more than four decades. The elder Anderson pioneered the growth of the C.M.E. Church in the decades following the end of the Civil War. Six of his nine sons followed in his footsteps and became clergymen, one of whom joined the Baptist faith.

Young Dinkins got the best education he could in the village of Fort Valley, Georgia before moving to a better school in Perry, where he was taught by Dr. Duffy, a white teacher who was said to be a friend of the colored race. With nothing more than a meager education, Anderson Dinkins, who accepted the faith at the  age of seven, kept his focus on his goal of becoming a minister. By the age of 15, William Anderson Dinkins, Jr. achieved his goal, left the family farm in the Lower Town District of Houston County, and moved to South Carolina in the mid 1880s, where he had the great fortune of being under the tutelage of Bishop Lucius H. Holsey, one of the greatest leaders of the C.M.E. Church in the late 19th Century. Bishop Holsey assigned the 19-year-old minister to serve as Presiding Elder of the Charleston District, making him one of the youngest presiding elders in the history of the denomination.

Before removing to his father's native state, Rev. Dinkins took the hand of Miss Mamie Collins, of Perry, in marriage. Mrs. Dinkins, a student of Atlanta University and a teacher for most of her life, was given a great part of the credit for her husband's successes. Dr. Dinkins once said, "All men should appreciate, respect, care for and love their wives, and be perfectly willing to carry out in good faith the sacred promises that were made at the altar, both in the presence of man and of God."

After one year in South Carolina, Rev. Dinkins returned to accept the pastorate of Holsey's Temple Church in Augusta, where he served for five years. While he was preaching in Augusta, Dinkins took advantage of the educational programs at nearby Paine College. In 1893, after five years of preaching and studying, Rev. Dinkins was granted a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the church's most prestigious educational institution.

Anderson Dinkins was somewhat of a consummate musician. In addition to his seminary studies, Dinkins completed a four-year course in instrumental music. Those who heard him ranked the preacher as one of the best in the denomination. During his commencement exercises Dinkins played all of the musical selections. For six years he was the official organist of the Georgia State Conference.

Rev. Dinkins left Augusta and moved to Savannah in 1897 when he succeeded Dr. I. S. Person as the minister of Saint. Paul Church.

Savannah was the place where Rev. Dinkins began to achieve fame as a deliverer of believers. Often cited as one of the greatest events of his life, Dinkins' stirring sermons induced more than five hundred persons to confess their faith and join the C.M.E. Church.

Any successful church needs funds to operate. And, Dinkins was known as a master fund raiser too.

From 1898 to 1902, Dinkins was assigned to supervise districts around the state. When he returned to Fort Valley, he added 375 members to the church in his first year.

Another highlight of Dinkins' career and of special importance to the citizens of Dublin, Georgia came in 1905, when Dinkins helped to found the Harriet Holsey Industrial College on the northwest corner of East Jackson Street and South Decatur Street. Named in honor of the wife of the reverend's mentor, the college was the city's first college and was established to teach black students in the arts of agriculture, technology, and home making. As always, Mamie Dinkins was by her husband's side contributing to the early success of the project. Their daughter, Miss Mamie F. Dinkins, also a talented musician and a student of the Boston Conservatory of Music, was in charge of the music at Harriet Holsey Normal and Industrial School. She later worked as a teacher and music director in the city schools of Augusta, Ga.

During his nearly fifteen years in Dublin, Rev. Dinkins served as the editor of the Christian Herald, the statewide newspaper of the C.M.E. Church.

During his long ministerial career, W.A.Dinkins served as President of the Epworth League of the State of Georgia for six years. Dinkins did double duty for a decade and a half in the pulpit and the classroom, being one of a few licensed black teachers in Georgia. He was Secretary of the Farmers' Home Company of Augusta, Ga. The company owned more than six thousand acres of land, which it planned to use to establish the first Congressional Industrial School in the State of Georgia. Rev. Dinkins was active in fraternal circles as a Master Mason, Odd Fellow and Knight of Pythias.

Dr. Dinkins was the recipient of many high and esteemed honors. Atlanta's Morris Brown College conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. This accolade is significant in that it came from an African Methodist Episcopal Church, and not from the Congregational Episcopal Church.

Dr. William Anderson Dinkins was known and respected throughout the state as preacher, lecturer, editor, musician, financier, and a man who worked for the Lord with all of his heart and soul.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Henry Burney knew the way out of town. Any way would do. The shorter the better. Burney didn't take too long to take his badly beaten bruised body out of Dublin to meet the 48-hour vigilante-imposed deadline and avoid being beaten, stabbed, shot, hung, or a combination of any or all of the above by a violent mob of lynchers.

Henry Burney's nightmare began on the night before Christmas in 1887. Santa Claus had abandoned his sleigh for a boat as cold winter rains transformed the city's sandy sidewalks into a boggy branch.

The Christmas rush was over. It was time for J.M. Reinhart, Jr. to close up the Red Barn and settle down for a cold winter's night. There was no safe in the place. So, the young merchant stuffed $2100.00 in cash in a large wallet and then slid it inside his overcoat. As the clock struck ten, Reinhart turned out the light and set out along a once bustling street toward his home, only some two hundred yards away.

As he approached his house, Reinhart was struck from behind. The heavy blow, softened somewhat by the cushion of his umbrella, was nevertheless, a severe one. He collapsed. In a few moments, Reihart was able to rise from the ground. In the dim light emanating from his front hallway, the victim was able to catch a glimpse of his attacker as he disappeared into the darkness, but not before Reinart managed to fire several pistol rounds in his direction.

Reinhart unequivocally identified his assailant as one Henry Burney, a Negro already suspected of violating the laws of the state. City police officers immediately sought out and quickly apprehended the suspect, whom they promptly threw into a cold damp cell.

While Henry languished in his jail cell on Christmas morning, J.M. Reinhart returned to open his bar. Later in the day, Reinhart felt bad. He went home and straight to bed.

Henry's day in court was delayed long enough for Reinhart to appear as the state's main witness on the following day. David Ware, a Dublin attorney, prosecuted the case on behalf of the State of Georgia against the defendant Burney, who was ably represented by attorneys Hightower and Roach. Ware tendered a ten-foot pole the size of a grown man's arm as the weapon used by Burney. The prosecutor maintained publicly that Burney had an accomplice, but never produced evidence to prove his theory.

The defense attorneys pointed out the fact that Reinhart's back and head bore no sign of blunt force trauma which they claimed proved that the purported victim was not struck as alleged. Some doubted that a robbery took place at all. Despite the exculpatory evidence in the day long trial, Justice of the Peace W.H. Walker ruled there was enough evidence to bind Henry Burney over for a trial on the charge of attempted murder and armed robbery, committed him back to jail and set a bond of $1,000. In his main trial, Burney was convicted and sentenced to four years based on the jury's recommendation for mercy.

That's when the most intriguing part of the case began. Burney was worried that he would be lynched. Jailer Arnau assured him that if he would holler when anyone was trying to get to him, he would be protected. Just before midnight on the morning of January 13, 1888, Burney heard voices outside of his cell. He yelled. Some forty-two masked men swarmed into the jail. Burney picked up a board and threatened to take a few of them out if they tried to take him away.

The masked men began to sing in an understandable dialect which appeared to be some sort of Negro spiritual. Henry put his board down and moved toward a corner. Just then, a rope, fit for lynching, was thrown around his neck. As Henry struggled, the avengers threatened to kill him. One tried to do just that by striking Henry with the butt of his gun.

Jailer Arnau, visibly shaken, could not tell the race of the alleged emancipators, first saying that they were all white and later stating that it was a mixed crowd. While Arnau stated that only five masked men entered his jail, other witnesses put the number of liberators anywhere from twenty-five to forty-two.

The mob carried Burney up the Irwinton Road toward Hunger and Hardship Creek and Blackshear's Ferry. There he was hacked and beaten some more. Not a hide nor hare of Burney could be found the next morning, so almost everyone assumed that he had met with Judge Lynch and dumped in the nearby swamp.

Burney escaped to Oconee, Georgia, where he carried a double-barreled shotgun in anticipation of his capture by the law. Capt. G.W. Shackleford, of the Georgia Central Agency, enlisted the aid of J.J. Dunn to receive the $100.00 reward for the fugitive. On the morning of February 2, 1888, the men found Burney peacefully working at the home place of Judge G.J. Elkins. Dunn offered Burney a drink while the Captain drew a bead on Burney's torso and commanded him to raise his arms. Dunn slapped a pair of handcuffs on Burney, who then drank his dram. The officers took Burney to a Macon jail to await his testimony before the next session of the Laurens County Grand Jury.

Burney told his captors that masked marauders had beaten him repeatedly with fence rails and stabbed him numerous times. "They asked me if I knew the way out of town to which I said, 'yes,' " Burney said. He added, "They told me, 'Well then, we'll give you two days to get out of and never come back again.' " Henry showed the officers a piece of rope which was strung around his neck as he was led out of town. He also pointed out a severe gash on his cheek which came at the hands of his so-called liberators.

After being granted a new trial, Burney testified before the jurors that he was innocent and that Reinhart was never robbed. He alleged that the entire matter was a convoluted scheme between Reinhart and his partner, Capt. Louis C. Perry. Arnau and Perry, along with messers Waters, McGowan and Webb, were indicted by Grand Jury for unlawfully releasing Burney from jail.

Don't get me wrong, Henry Burney was a bad man. And, being bad was probably the reason he was convicted. Captain Perry and jailor Arnau were outstanding citizens of the community and no one would believe that they could be involved in such an elaborate scheme. The defendants were never tried, although many others believed Burney was innocent. As for Burney, he seemed to have disappeared from sight, at least from the headlines which told the whole world of his nightmare in winter.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


A Troubled Woman

Izola Ware Curry led a troubled life. Born into a meager existence in Adrian, Georgia in 1916, Izola’s life was a series of troubles. Her marriage was troubled. Her life was troubled. Her mind was troubled. Her mind in turmoil, her reasoning gone, she took a letter opener and plunged it into to the breast of Dr. Martin Luther King. She almost changed the face of America forever.

Izola Ware married James Curry. The couple lived in Savannah until the late thirties when they separated. Izola moved to New York City. She lived on the top floor of a tenement house at 121 W. 122nd Street in Harlem. She worked as a domestic, but in the fall of 1958, she was unemployed.

Izola’s mind, clouded with thoughts of fear, fear of a false enemy, began fail her. For five years, Izola feared the N.A.A.C.P.. She believed that the members of the organization were all Communists. She believed that they were conspiring to keep her from getting and keeping a job. “ They were making scurrilous remarks
about me,” she confessed. She couldn’t point to any specific person, but she was sure that they were after her. Izola moved from place to place to avoid what she saw as persecution. She believe that the N.A.A.C.P. and Dr. King were watching her every move. When the fear became unbearable, she bought a gun.

Izola left her apartment on Friday night to go to the movies. As she approached the intersection of 125th Street and 7th Avenue, Izola noticed a large crowd, which she described as a mob. She walked around them. She heard a band playing music. Someone in the crowd told her it was “this King man.” She didn’t  even know his first name: “Arthur or Lucer or something like that.” Izola continued on to the theater. She saw a Tarzan movie that night. Before returning home, Izola stopped by to see a friend she called “Smittie.” Despite telling police officers that she had known him for twenty years, Izola couldn’t remember his last name or very little about him.

Just before three o’clock on Saturday afternoon, September 20, 1958, Izola left her home. She went out to do some shopping. She wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just window shopping. She went inside Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem, about four blocks from her home. She looked around for a while. Then she saw a crowd gathered around Dr. King, who was doing a book signing at Blumstein’s. His book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” was his account of the boycott he led of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system. Dr. King had been arrested seventeen days before the book signing for failing to obey a police officer. He was released a day later, when his fine was paid by the police commissioner.

Izola told District Attorney Howard Jones, “ I walked up to him and I said to him, you have been annoying me a long time trying to get this children. I have no objection of you getting them in the schools at all, but why torture me? Why torture me? I’m no help to him by killing me. Don’t mean after all Congress is signing
anything. By torturing me, don’t mean Congress is going to sign. I can still get a blood clot from this aggravation today. After that day, Congress isn’t going to sign anything, and I’m just dead.” Her remarks reveal the irrational thoughts running through her mind. When the D.A. asked Izola what Dr. King’s response was, she responded, “ I was drunk in my head, and I don’t know what he said.”

Dr. King remembered Izola asking “Are you Martin Luther King?” “ I answered yes. I was looking down writing and the next minute I felt something sharp forcefully into my chest,” he recalled. Izola reached in her bag, took out a letter opener, closed her eyes, and plunged the opener into Dr. King’s chest. When  asked why, she told the D.A. “because after all if it wasn’t him, it would have been me. He was going to kill me,” Izola maintained.

Police officers grabbed Izola. Her bag and its contents fell out into the floor. Besides the usual contents of her purse, Izola also had a white bone handle automatic Italian pistol. She bought the gun in Daytona a year before for twenty-six dollars. She bought it, loaded it, and never took the gun out of her home until that
day. When asked why she took it out that day, Izola told the investigators, “I haven’t got a job and what in world I’m going to do for a living, with their pulling me off the job every day and I’m trying to work and they’re trying to force me to make me drop my head to drink either become a prostitute, and I’m not either one. I was going to protect myself if some of these members attack me. Because I know his members
are you know, following him.” She figured there would be trouble that day, that King or his followers would bother her as they had done before. Mrs. Curry told investigators that she had been to the police precinct on six occasions and had reported her concerns to the F.B.I. and President Eisenhower. She sought restraining orders against people whom she thought were out to get her.

Dr. Theodore Weiss and Dr. John H. Cassity, both qualified psychiatrists, examined Izola. They found her to be a paranoid schizophrenic and consequently incapable of understanding the charges pending against her. Most disturbing to the doctors were signs of confusion, giving irrelevant answers to direct questions. The
doctors reported that the patient fluctuated between occasional fairly logical thinking and very confused illogical thinking.

Dr. King was rushed to Harlem Hospital. From his hospital room three days after he was stabbed, Dr. King issued a statement which harbored no ill will against Mrs. Curry. He hoped that she would get help. He thanked government officials, church leaders, and the thousands of people who sent flowers, cards, and letters.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recovering in a hospital after an attack on his life.

King saw the event not as an attack on one man, but as an attack of hatred. Before doctors could remove the letter opener could be removed, surgeons studied their options. The dagger had stopped on the surface of King’s aorta. Doctor’s decided to open King’s chest to remove the weapon. Any sneeze may have caused a cut in the aorta and endangered his life. The operation was successful.

Dr. King recovered and went on the lead the Civil Rights Movement for nearly a decade. Invariably the question arises: “What if?” What if Izola had used her loaded pistol? What if Izola had thrust her dagger a little harder? What if Dr. King had died? There would have no March on Washington, no “I Have a Dream” speech, no Selma to Montgomery march. The speculations can be mind boggling. Even Dr. King reflected back on the events of the day and wondered what might have not happened. Izola Curry was committed to the Mattewaan Hospital for the criminally insane for the rest of her life.

To this day few people, if any, know of the whereabouts of Izola Curry, of even if she is alive.   Surprisingly, the entire event never happened in the eyes of curious journalists who would have ordinarily cover the case in great detail.  Few, if any, photographs of Izola Ware Curry exist.

Photos @ Jet Magazine