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.