Friday, June 19, 2015



It is indeed rare that within the space of 357 days that three athletes from three adjoining rural counties are selected in the first round of major sports drafts. Such was the case between May 8,2014 and April 30, 2015 during two NFL drafts and one NBA draft. As for now, I will say that this triple  take has never happened before.  I will wait until one of you sports trivia experts quickly prove me wrong. 

It all began on May 8,  2014 when the Cincinnati Bengals chose Darqueze Dennard of Twiggs County, Georgia  in the NFL’s annual draft.  Six weeks later on June 26, the San Diego Clippers picked Brian Craig, aka “C.J.”, Wilcox, a native of Dublin, Georgia, as their first pick in the 2014 NBA draft.  To complete the triad, the Pittsburgh Steelers, tabbed  Alvin “Bud” Dupree from neighboring Wilkinson County as their first round pick in this year’s NFL draft.

Darqueze Dennard hails from the tiny Twiggs County town of Dry Branch, Georgia. This rather light defensive back was the 24th choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in last year’s NFL Draft.  Dennard was a member of the 2013 Big Ten champion and 2014 Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans.  A unanimous All-American choice in 2013, Dennard was selected by the Jim Thorpe Association  as the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best collegiate defensive back. Dennard was among the top five finalists for the Football Writers Association of America’s Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive college player.

A three-sport star for the Twiggs County Cobras, Dennard played both defensive back and wide receiver.  Although his stats as an offensive player were good, a few college scouts saw more promise in his defensive ability to read the quarterback and his speed in moving toward the football.  In his senior year, Dennard finished second in the Class A 100-meter dash.

Considered only as a two-star recruit, Michigan State took a chance on Dennard, who missed nearly half of his freshman season due to an injury.  As a sophomore, Dennard began to show the skills his recruiters had seen in him.  Two of his 42 tackles came against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2012 Outback Bowl.  Dennard  continued to improve during his junior season and finished his final season with 62 tackles.

Brian Craig "C. J." Wilcox was born in Dublin, Georgia on December 30, 1990.  Raised by his grandmother down the road in Eastman, Wilcox moved to Utah with his father Craig Wilcox, a Dodge County basketball star and former BYU basketball player.   The 6'6" shooting guard was the 28th pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.  

Young Wilcox didn’t take long to prove that he was a “chip of the old block.  In his preteens, Wilcox began to stand out in AAU games.  He played high school ball at Pleasant Grove High Vikings, where he averaged 22.2 points per game. 

Utah colleges began to take notice, most notably. Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young.  Wilcox decided to leave home and sign with the University of Washington Huskies.  

After being redshirted in his first season in 2009-10, Wilcox was named to the Pac-10 All Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Wilcox was tabbed as an Honorable Mention to the All Pac-10 team for his deadly three-point shooting. Wilcox moved up to the Second Team All Pac-12 during his junior season after finishing with the 11th highest single season point total in Huskie history.

For the second time, Wilcox was selected to the Second Team All Pac-12 despite the fact that he finished his career as the second highest scorer, fifth in blocked shots, first in three-pointers (6th in Pac-12 history,) and ranks as one of only three players in conference history to score 1700 points.  

Alvin Dupree - his friends call him “Bud” - was born in Macon, Georgia and grew up in Wilkinson County, Georgia.   Dupree was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 22nd pick in the first round of last month’s NFL draft. 

  Dupree attended Wilkinson County High School in Irwinton, Georgia. During his senior season for the Warriors, Dupree played both ways, scored 10  touchdowns and garnered more than more than 1000 yards in receiving yards.  Only a three-star recruit, the six-foot, four-inch Dupree, a first team all state player,  tackled 62 runners and sacked the opposing quarterbacks, 10 times.

Dupree signed with the University of Kentucky Wildcats.  In his freshman year, the 269-pound defensive end, played in twelve games. In the same number of games in his sophomore season, the big lineman jumped from 21 tackles to 91 tackles for a career season high. 

A steady performer on defense, Dupree was named to the first team of the All Southeastern Conference in his senior season in 2014 finishing his career with 247 tackles and 23.5 sacks.

The book has yet to be written on Darqueze Dennard, “C.J.” Wilcox and “Bud” Dupree.  Dennard, hampered by the lack of playing time in his rookie season, tackled opposing players seventeen times in four games.  Dupree, plagued by injuries which forced him to start the 2014-15 season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, managed only to appear in only 21 games this season and scored two points as he looks forward to the fall and a chance to play full time. And, of course, the recently drafted “Bud” Dupree has yet to don a Steeler uniform.

It is well worth remembering that Wilcox and Dupree were only three star recruits out of high school while Dennard was only rated as a two-star player.  Only one of the three, Dennard, were chosen as an All-American and Wilcox didn’t make the first all conference team.

It shall also be noted that Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas (left)  was the first person from this area to be drafted in the first round of a major professional league draft when he became the 22nd pick of the Denver Broncos of the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.   Of the four area players in five years, Thomas was the most highly heralded both coming out of high school and college.

The record of being the highest pick from this area goes to McIntyre’s Georgia’s Kevin Brown, (left)  who was selected by the Texas Rangers as the 4th overall pick in the 1986 MLB draft.

But I must say that coming in second in the ranks of highest selected local player in a professional draft goes to my classmate Tina Price Cochran, who was selected as the 15th overall pick in the 1978 Women’s Professional Basketball League.  The former Dublin and University of Georgia basketball and tennis star was chosen by the team from Washington, D.C, which was relocated and renamed the Dayton Rockettes.    Tina (below) gave up basketball and tennis to return home to Dublin to raise a fine family and share her blessings with her students in Dublin city schools. 


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.