Friday, February 28, 2014


"The Black Boxcar"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Making Montrose Proud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 3, 2014


A Man of Morehouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Soaring to New Heights

Grover C. Nash could fly a plane with the best of any pilot of his day.  Seventy years ago yesterday he made history during National Air Mail Week.  This is the story of a poor farm boy from Twiggs County, Georgia who piloted his plane into history as he became the first African American pilot to fly and deliver the U.S. mail.

Grover C.  Nash was born in Dry Branch, Georgia way back on April 4, 1911.   He was seventh child and third son of Joe and Annie Nash.   No one alive seems to remember what his life was like as a child, but history tells us that it had to be tough.  
Nash marveled in wonder when he saw planes flying overhead.  Like most boys of his day, Grover dreamed of flying like a bird.  But being black and being in the South, his chances of getting to fly in an airplane were just about as slim as his sprouting wings and flying on his own power.

Grover Nash went North in hopes of attending flight training classes.  The color of his skin prevented him from being accepted. But in 1931, Grover was accepted into flight school. A graduate of Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical University in Chicago and Moore's Flying School in Dayton, Ohio, Nash had earned a Master Mechanic's certificate within two years.  Flying his own plane, a midwing monoplane he dubbed Little Annie, Grover Nash honed his flying skills under the tutelage of Roscoe Turner in St. Louis.  Turner, a World War I pilot, was a champion racing pilot in the 1930s.  He also studied under John C. Robinson, who was one of the founders of the Challenger Aero Club, one of the first black pilots organizations.

Tuskeegee Institute was supposed to be the destination of Nash's first long distance flight.  Flying with him would be Col. Robinson and Cornelious Coffee, two of the nations' most famous pilots.  The trio were engaging in a southern tour to Birmingham, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, as well as stops in St. Louis, Terre Haute and other cities in Illinois.  While they were approaching Decatur, Alabama, Robinson and Coffee had to crash land their two-man plane.  Being the junior members of the group, Coffee and Nash remained in Decatur, while their leader went on to address students at Tuskeegee.  Nash's disappointment vanished when he returned the following year to visit the renowned black educational institution.   

Nash made headlines in January 1935 when he gave a dazzling exhibition at an air show celebrating the seventy-second anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  As a lieutenant of the Military Order of the Guards and a member of the Challenger Aero Club, Grover's reputation in Chicago continued to grow.  To help pay the bills, Nash managed the service department for a chain of automobile parking lots in the Chicago area and operated his own flight school for six years.  

A well-experienced private pilot, Grover C. Nash was somewhat of an automobilist.  In 1937, Nash set out from his Chicago home to visit a sick relative in Los Angeles.  Driving with little or no pauses, Grover made the 2,448 mile trip in 48 hours for an average of 50.8 miles per hour, a record for any automobile at the time.  It wouldn't be the only time that year that Grover Nash would take a long trip to see a relative.  When Grover left home in 1929, he promised his daddy that one day he would return home  in a plane.  There was much joy that day in Dry Branch when Grover's monoplane came over the tree tops and landed on the red clay soil of home.  
The United States Postal Service established National Air Mail Week in 1938.  As a part of the celebration, an experiment was conducted to determine the feasibility of picking up and delivering air mail throughout small cities and large towns throughout the country.   

It was early in the afternoon of May 19, 1938.  Excitement was escalating in Mattoon,  Illinois.  It was the first time the city's mail would be flown to its recipients around the state and the country.  As Nash landed his Davis monoplane in Mattoon, he was greeted by the post master, the police chief, city officials and somewhere near one hundred curious onlookers.   Grover was given a hero's welcome, a tour of the city, and dinner at a local caf‚.  Nash stashed about seven hundred more letters inside his plane and headed off to Charleston, only ten minutes away.

Charleston had never had airmail service either.  But, Grover Nash couldn't have dreamed that his reception there would dwarf the welcome he received on his first stop.  An estimated eight thousand people crammed the runway of the city's first airport.  A band played.  The crowd cheered.  Nash waved to his adoring admirers.     After waiting out a severe thunderstorm, Nash took off at 5:45 for Rantoul with another two thousand letters.  

An astonished Nash later told a reporter for the Chicago Defender that no one seemed to notice his color along the way - especially the  hundreds who pressed him to autograph their letters.  It was, however, the first time that an African American had carried U.S. mail through the air. And, on that day, Nash made the longest flight and carried more letters than any of the 146 pilots, before returning to Chicago, five minutes ahead of his scheduled arrival.

Five months later on Halloween Day, Grover Nash joined hands in marriage with his sweetheart, Miss Lillie Borras.

A group of black pilots in the Chicago area organized as the National Airmen Association of America in an effort to stimulate interest in aviation and understanding of aeronautics.  On August 16, 1939, a petition was filed to incorporate the organization in the state of Illinois.  Naturally, Grover C. Nash was among the founding directors.  The Airmen staged the first national all black air show in United States history earlier that summer.  

During World War II, Grover Nash served his country as mechanical instructor at the US Army Air Force Aircraft Mechanical School.  He spent sixteen months as an instructor for the Army Air Force Training Command. In his first ten years of flight, Grover Nash  logged more than 3,000 flight hours in thirty different types of aircraft.     In 1943, Nash was the only black instructor at Keesler Field in Mississippi and Lincoln Air Base in Nebraska.   After the war, Nash was a member of the faculty of Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago, where he taught before his retirement to Los Angeles.

While visiting his relatives back home in Twiggs County, Grover Nash died on August 10, 1970.  He was buried in the church cemetery of White Springs Baptist Church.  Ten years after his death, Grover Nash was honored by in the exhibit "Black Wings" in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014



There was something special, even magical, which took place under the golden dome of the Georgia Capitol on the 5th day of March.  The occasion was the signing of a proclamation honoring Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia.  With a few strokes of his pen, Georgia governor Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation which honored a black man, who was a soldier of the Confederate army.  After serving with master Thomas Yopp, Bill lost touch with his life long friend for more than forty years.  The winds of fate brought these men together in Atlanta after the end of World War I.  Those winds still whirl around the capital city and on this day brought together a new circle of friends, bound together for the common love and admiration of a single man, some loving him for just being their great great granddaddy and others just in tribute for his undying love for his friends, despite the obstacles society put in his way.

Rosa Chappell, of Laurens County, began inquiring about any available information on her ancestor Bill Yopp.  On another front and completely unknown to anyone else who came to the governor's office that day, local realtor Rusty Henderson, a member of Georgia's Civil War Commission, proposed to the governor's office that this year the state honor Yopp, one of the most well known black Confederate soldiers in the South.   Mrs. Chappell and Mr. Henderson met and the word spread among Bill's descendants.  

Up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Charlie Pittman was putting the finishing touches on  his historical novel, Ten Cent Bill.   Pittman, who has been studying the life of Bill Yopp for more than four years, had lost touch with his contact at the Laurens County Historical Society.  He knew nothing of the ceremony until Betty Page's call to Joy Warren at the library's heritage center.   Warren informed two researchers in the library about the ceremony.  They happened to be Pittman's sister and brother-in-law, who informed him of the pending plans.  Within a matter of minutes, the author was making plans to come to Atlanta and began making contacts with other descendants of the subject of his work.

That's where Doris Taylor and Jeanne Massey of Detroit, Michigan and Lorene Pittman, of Louisiana, come in.  Along with Mrs. Chappell, these four first cousins recently began a serious study of their genealogy.  Despite three deaths in their immediate families, these ladies made it their mission to come to Atlanta to see their ancestor honored by the State of Georgia.  

A delegation began to assemble in the Governor's outer office.  Surrounded by other groups seeking to have their picture taken with the chief executive, the group's numbers began to swell.  Charlie Lott and Ted O'Brooke, commanders of the Sons of Confederate Veterans came in.  They were joined by Debra Dennard, who was representing the Daughters of the Confederacy.  John Culpepper, Chairman of the Georgia Civil War Commission, was also there along with a couple of Georgia legislators and SCV representatives.  Keeping his distance and not wanting to intrude was a young man, whom no one seemed to know.  He may have been a part of the other dozen or so groups crammed into the office.  One by one the delegation shook hands with the governor.  All assembled quickly, smiled for the camera, and then were whisked out the door to make room for the  next group.  In an instant, the ceremony was over.

Henderson made arrangements to allow the ladies to view the battle flag of the 14th Georgia Infantry, which has been fully restored and kept in a vault on the first floor of the Capitol.  This was the actual flag that would have been carried in the position next to Yopp, who was the regimental drummer.   The young man, who didn't want to intrude, introduced himself as Shawn Peacock. He was a descendant of G.B. Faulk, who served with Bill Yopp in Civil War.  Yopp and Faulk were just teenagers when they began serving in the Army.  

Then, without a moment's hesitation, the ladies and Shawn began to hug each other.  Tears flowed.  Just as their ancestors had ignored their outward differences, these descendants  became good friends.  

Those who came to honor Bill Yopp had one more item on the agenda.  They assembled in the Confederate section of the Georgia's Confederate Cemetery in Marietta.  As they made their way down the windswept hill toward Yopp's grave, everyone seemed to notice that Bill Yopp was in a row by himself.  Yopp's remains occupy a single row, not by design, but because of the fact that he was the last of the veterans of the Confederate Soldier's Home to die and be buried in the cemetery.  Symbolically he held out until all of his friends were safe from the ravages of old age before he took his place at the head of the unit, just as he had done as he beat out the rhythms of the march.

Hanging around the cemetery was a middle age man with a ball cap.  He meekly introduced himself as Larry Blair.  Blair, who grew up in the neighborhood of the cemetery, makes it his life's mission to take care of the state cemetery, which gets little or no funding from limited state funds. Blair's adopted hero was, of course, Bill Yopp. He had studied his life for decades. Someone from the Capitol had alerted him of the visit.  Once again the winds of fate had joined another into the band of those who revered this once forgotten hero.  Tears flowed, stories were told and more friends were made.

Dee Taylor was thrilled and blessed to witness the accolades heaped upon her great-grandfather.  As she stood at the foot of Yopp's grave, she felt love and pride.  Her mother Lucile Davis, is Yopp's last surviving great-grandchild.  "We have come full circle back to the place where it all began with our Grandpa Bill Yopp," Taylor said, as she was representing her mother and those who had gone before her, including her great-grandmother Rosina, a daughter of Bill Yopp.

Jeanne Massey said, "In the Capitol when I saw the style of drum that our great great-grandfather played during the march into battle, it evoked a new sense of pride and elation about my heritage."   "When the actual battle flag for the 14th regiment was presented to us, along with Sean, I again felt my heart soar. But nothing compared to meeting Larry Blair and seeing his dedication to "10 Cent Bill." The location of "10 Cent Bill's" monument and his position as drummer leading the troops gives insight to the appreciation of those of the lighter nation for a great man," Massey concluded.

Henderson has for the last ten years with the Governors Office to proclaim April as Confederate History Month. “This year being the 200th anniversary of the founding of Laurens county I thought it appropriate to build the theme around a prominent Confederate from our own county. That is where Bill Yopp came, in addition it tells a story many people are unaware of. That is the role African-Americans played in the War for Southern Independence. Bill is also a role model for reconciliation and brotherhood between Black and White Georgians who have lived together as family for hundreds of years. Bill was a former slave, who like Saint Patrick returned to his home to help his people in the best ways he could. We should all follow his example today and promote the best examples of our history for all to see.” Henderson said..

Yopp's grave marker indicates that he was a drummer in Co. H of the 14th Georgia Infantry.  The color of Bill Yopp's skin  is not noted on his tombstone, and when it comes to friends, that's  the way it should be.


A Man to Whom Friendship Was Paramount

History will be made in Georgia's capitol building next week. For the first time ever, the State of Georgia will recognize and honor an African-American Confederate Soldier. Governor Sonny Perdue will sign his annual proclamation honoring Confederate Memorial Day by recognizing Bill Yopp, a native of Laurens County, for his contributions to the State of Georgia. Bill Yopp is more than just a black Confederate soldier. Bill's life was not just that of a soldier, a porter, or a servant. His life was centered on the essential element of human life. His friendships transcended slavery, racism and politics. To Bill, friendship was paramount to any barriers set in his path of life.

William H. "Bill" Yopp, the fourth of eight siblings, was born in Laurens County, Georgia. Like his parents, he was a slave belonging to the family of Jeremiah Yopp. The Yopp family owned two major plantations. One was located in the western part of Dublin centered around the Brookwood Subdivision. A second was located along the eastern banks of Turkey Creek near the community known as Moore's Station. Other small plantations were scattered over the county. Jeremiah Yopp assigned Bill to his son, Thomas. Bill once said that he followed Thomas like "Mary's little lamb." The two instantly became friends. They fished, hunted and played together. Bill's childhood, while stifled by slavery, was molded by education and religion within the plantation, which included regular church services.

On January 16, 1861, John W. Yopp attended the Convention of Secession at the state capital in Milledgeville. Laurens Countians voted to side with the Cooperationists who favored remaining in the Union. Yopp, the largest plantation owner in western Laurens County, was joined by Dr. Nathan Tucker, a wealthy plantation owner from northeastern Laurens County. Dr. Tucker, a northerner by birth, voted to remain in the Union. Yopp cast his vote with the majority who voted for secession.

The first company of Confederate Soldiers in Laurens County was organized on July 9th, 1861 as the Blackshear Guards. The company eventually became attached to the 14th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Thomas Yopp was elected First Lieutenant. Nine days later Lt. Yopp was promoted to Captain when Rev. W.S. Ramsay was elected Lt. Colonel of the regiment. Bill desperately wanted to join Lieutenant Yopp. So, he enlisted in the Blackshear Guards as the company drummer. Marching in front of company going into battle was not the best place to be, especially if you cared about living. After the company completed its training in Atlanta, they moved to Lynchburg, Virginia just after the Battle of the First Manassas. In August, the company was sent to West Virginia, where they fought under the command of Gen. John B. Floyd, a former Secretary of War in the Buchanan Administration. Gen. Robert E. Lee was in overall command of the West Virginia campaign.

Bill often found himself between the battle lines. He often said "I had no inclination to go to the Union side, as I did not know the Union soldiers and the Confederate soldiers I did know, and I believed then as now, tried and true friends are better than friends you do not know." On several occasions, Private Yopp was sent out on foraging missions. Bill ceased to forage for food because his Captain and friend found it to be "wrong doing." Bill obtained a brush and box of shoe blackening and began to shine the shoes of the men of the regiment. He soon began performing other services for the men. Bill charged ten cents, no matter what the service was. The nickname of "Ten Cent Bill" was penned on Bill. Bill often had more money than anyone in the company. His fellow company members took delight in teaching him to read and write. When he was sick, they took care of him.

Bill had a case of home sickness. Captain Yopp paid for his trip home. Bill realized that his place was back  ith Captain Yopp in Virginia. During the winter of 1861, the company became part of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The first battle of the peninsular campaign of 1862 took place on May 31st.  The 14th Georgia, under the command of Gen. Wade Hampton, got into a bloody fight with the Federal forces. Four Confederate Generals were wounded or killed.

Captain Yopp was also wounded in the Battle of Seven Pines. Bill comforted Captain Yopp and accompanied him to the field hospital. After a short stay in a Richmond Hospital, Bill went back to Laurens County with the Captain, who recuperated from his injury and went back to join the company by the fall of 1862.

At the bloody siege of Fredericksburg, Captain Yopp fell when a shell burst over him. Again Bill was there, coming to the aid of his friend. Captain Yopp recovered during the winter. The company saw Stonewall Jackson being carried off to a field hospital at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Bill witnessed the pure carnage of Gettysburg from the company's position on Seminary Ridge. The Blackshear Guards missed most of the fighting those three days in July, 1863. On August 31, 1863 Capt. Yopp cashiered, or bought out his commission. He returned to the ranks as a private until April 2, 1864. Captain Yopp transferred to the Confederate Navy on board the cruiser "Patrick Henry." Bill was not allowed to go with Thomas Yopp.

By some accounts, Bill returned home until the close of the war. By another, and more official, record, he was present at Gen. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. In May of 1865, he learned of Captain Yopp's return home. He left just in time to see the wagon train of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his attempted escape through Laurens County.

Times were hard for people of both races. Bill worked as a share cropper until 1870. He went to Macon, taking a job as a bell boy at the Brown House. There he became acquainted with many of the influential men of Georgia. Bill accompanied the owner of the hotel back home to Connecticut. After his duties were finished, he was given train fare to return home. Bill became fascinated with New York City and worked there for a short time. In 1873, Bill returned home for a short time before taking a position with the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. He fell ill with yellow fever and returned home to recuperate and spend some time with Captain Yopp.

Bill returned to New York where he worked as a porter in an Albany Hotel.  There he again met the influential men of the state. He briefly served a family in California. In his travels, Bill visited the capitals of Europe. He worked for ten years as a porter in the private car of the president of Delaware and Hudson Railroad. Bill then worked for the United States Navy aboard the "Collier Brutus". His travels amounted to a trip around the world.

As the world was at war for the first time, Bill realized that old age had crept upon him. He returned home and found his friend Captain Yopp in poverty. Captain Yopp was about to enter the Confederate Soldier's Home in Atlanta. Bill took a job on the Central of Georgia Railroad. During World War I, Bill was given a place to live at Camp Wheeler near Macon. He made regular visits to the Soldier's Home providing Captain Yopp with some of his money along with fruits and other treats. Bill won the admiration of the officers at Camp Wheeler, who presented him with a gold watch upon his departure. Bill's generosity toward Capt. Yopp soon spread to all of the soldiers in the home. He enlisted the help of the editor of The Macon Telegraph for aid in a fund raising campaign. Bill and his friends were able to raise funds for each veteran at Christmas time. The campaign became more successful every year. The Dublin Courier Herald contributed to the campaign in 1919 when the amount given to each veteran was three dollars. Bill took time each  Christmas to speak to the veterans in the chapel of the home. The veterans were so impressed they presented him a medal in March of 1920. Bill had a book published about his life. The books were sold with the proceeds going to the soldiers in the home.

Bill and Thomas Yopp at Confederate Veteran's Home

Captain Yopp's health failed. The Board of Trustees voted to allow Bill a permanent place at the home. Bill stayed at his friend's side, just as he had done in the muddy trenches of Virginia nearly sixty years before. Captain Yopp died on the morning of January 23rd, 1920. Bill, now in his eighties, gave the funeral address.  He reminisced about the good times and his affection for his friend. Bill was a popular member of the Atlanta Camp No. 159 of the United Confederate Veterans, who held their meetings every third Monday at the capitol. Bill died on June 3, 1936. He was buried with his fellow soldiers at the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia. After the body of Amos Rucker was disinterred to be laid next to the body of his wife, Bill became the lone African - American soldier of the Confederate Army to lie in the cemetery. His gravestone provided by the State of Georgia reads:



Physicians are often called "healers of the body."  Ministers are seen as "healers of the soul."  Psychiatrists are known as "healers of the mind."  This is the story of the early black physicians of Dublin and Laurens County and their roles not only as "healers of the body," but as "healers of the community" during the turbulent times of the first five decades of the 20th Century in the rural South.

It wasn't until 1876 when the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church established the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College in Nashville, Tennessee that black males in the South were given the opportunity to obtain a medical education.  The medical school, named Meharry Medical College in honor of its founder Samuel Meharry, became part of Walden University in 1900 and became self sustaining in 1915.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1924, Dr. Johnson, who lived on South Jefferson Street and practiced in his office across the street, began publishing  "The Record." the city's first newspaper exclusively for black citizens.  Dr. Johnson served as a Trustee of Morris Brown College for more than thirty years.  He served as President of the State Medical Association of Black Doctors and was Vice Chair of the National Medical Association. He was active in many local civic organizations, including the Masons, Knights of Pythias and Woodmen of the World.  His first wife, Josephine Hutchings, died early in his life.  His second wife was Miss Cleo P. McCall.

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


Georgia’s Second Female African American Dentist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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