Sunday, February 2, 2014
HONORING WILLIAM "TEN CENT BILL" YOPP
HONORING "TEN CENT" BILL
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.