Saturday, June 27, 2015

Atlanta & Georgia Capitol

We moved on to Atlanta where I wanted to check out a couple of places from when I was stationed there almost 50 years ago.  We also wanted to tour the M.L. King historic site and the Carter Presidential Library and Museum.  Of course, also on our to do list were a couple of local brew pubs and we were not disappointed.  Near where we stayed in Stone Mountain we found Summits Wayside Tavern where they have 116 beers on tap and a very nice menu. It turns out the bartender, Dan, was from the WashPA area and knew a couple of people we know.  Small world.  In Atlanta we went to two brewpubs, Wrecking Bar and Max Lager's, where the beer was great at both.  Bad side at Max Lager's, which is advertised as having wood-fired pizza, was that they had a fire the week before so they had no pizza.  Very disappointing.  
Atlanta is the fifth capital city of Georgia and the present capitol building was built in the late 1880's.  It is the classic design with two wings for the House and Senate on the third floor and two wings for offices.  The office of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State are on the second floor under the legislative chambers.  
Georgia has 56 senators who meet in the east wing.
There is a skylight above the north and south wings which have open grand staircases from the second to the fourth floor which was made a "temporary" museum in 1895.  The museum, with exhibits of Georgia's natural resources and history, is still there today. 
The House of Representatives with 180 members meets in the west wing.
The dome is painted with 43 ounces of native Georgia gold.  It has been repainted three times since 1889. There are several statues and sculptures on the capitol grounds.  This is Richard Russell who served in the Georgia house, as governor and as U.S. senator.
On top of the dome is the statue of a female figure of Freedom with the raised torch and lowered sword to commemorate the war dead. 
There are portraits of all Georgia governors and many prominent natives in the capitol.  These three show how Georgia has changed since I lived there years ago. Left is Lester Maddox who was governor when I lived there.  He was a segregationist who closed his restaurant rather than serve Blacks.  Ironically, most of his employees were Black.  Center is Jimmy Carter who followed Maddox as governor and stated in his inauguration speech that "the time for racial discrimination was over".  Right is Martin Luther King who was killed when I lived in Atlanta. Maddox would not allow his body to lie in state in the capitol and stationed 160 state troopers around the perimeter during the funeral to keep people out.  While there were riots in many cities after King's assassination, Atlanta was calm even with over 250,000 people attending the funeral.
This statue honors the 32 Republican African Americans who were elected to the Georgia legislature in 1868 during Reconstruction after the Civil War.  In August of that year the white majority voted to expel them thus denying a voice to those who had voted for them. 
Statute of Jimmy Carter; Georgia legislator, governor, President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Georgia has come a long way.
We have discovered that every state was given a replica of the Liberty Bell in 1950.  The bell here is displayed in Liberty Plaza with the names of the three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence.
I was disappointed to find that Fort McPherson, where I was stationed from 1966 to 1968, was now closed and I could not get on the old base.  I could see the hospital where I worked, but that was about it.  So much for a walk down memory lane.   
While I was in the Army and for a few months after I got out I worked at Grady Hospital.  Another look back at how Georgia has changed. When Grady was built during segregation there was two of everything side by side; restrooms, newborn nurseries, operating rooms and emergency rooms, one marked Whites Only and the other Colored.
As I write this the news is filled with stories about the confederate battle flag and by extension the glorifying of the confederate culture.  That culture existed on a system of slavery and exploitation to maintain the lifestyle of the southern gentry.  The sculpture on Stone Mountain is another example of that glorification.  While the idea for a memorial goes back to the early 1900's with two different sculptors working on it over the years, the final memorial that you see today was started in 1964 and completed in 1968.  Of course, it was during the Civil Rights movement that the state of Georgia decided to carve a memorial to Davis, Lee and Jackson, three men who turned against the UNITED States of America.  Maybe some day they will carve Georgia's two Nobel Peace Prize winners, Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter, into the mountain. (next post) 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Andersonville & Americus

While in Americus, in addition to visiting Plains and the President Carter historic site, we also visited the Andersonville National Historic Site.  The site includes a museum, a national cemetery and the historic prison camp.  At the beginning of the Civil War most prisoners were exchanged so they were not held for long periods.  The exchanges stopped when the south refused to exchange Black soldiers who began to serve in the Union Army after the Emancipation Proclamation.  Camp Sumter in Andersonville was the site of one of the confederate prisoner of war camps during the last 14 months of the Civil War.  Nearly 13,000 soldiers, 29% of those held here, died. 
The National Prisoners of War Museum at the site has exhibits on the plight of not only POWs held during the Civil War, but of all American POWs.  The building is designed to look like a prison camp with its dark walls and guard towers.
One display deals with the horrible conditions of the Bataan Death March where between 60,000 - 80,000 American and Filipino soldiers were forced to march 60 miles to a prison camp after the fall of the Philippines.  Because of the physical abuse during the march it was judged to be a war crime following WWII. 
Another exhibit dealt with conditions of American POWs during the Vietnam War where many were kept in solitary confinement.  It explains the extent they went to to communicate with various codes to keep their spirits up.  Several POWs of that war were held for years including one who was held for nine years. 
Being here on a day when it was 95 degrees gave us just a small hint of what it must have been like for the prisoners.  They lived in shelters made with whatever they brought with them.  The camp was surrounded with a stockade wall with guard towers.  Nineteen feet inside the wall was a simple rail fence that marked the dead man zone where they were shot if they crossed it.   
The camp covered over 26 acres.  The stone pylon marks the corner with the other end near the monuments.  On the other corner is the restored wall shown above.  The white poles mark the stockade wall and dead man zone fence.  The only source of water was a small stream that flowed through the bottom and wells that the prisoners dug themselves.
A drawing of what the camp looked like.  It is unimaginable the horror faced by the prisoners.  Camp Sumter was just one of several prisons used by both sides during the war and they all had high death rates, but none as bad as here.  As a result, the camp commander Swiss-born Henry Wirz was tried, convicted and hung as a war criminal after the war.
Monuments to those who were imprisoned here.  Soldiers from eleven northern states died here.
This sculptured wall depicts the struggles of the prisoners.  Their only real aid came from their fellow prisoners who all banned together with a common goal of survival.  Even the water flowing around the wall is crystal clear at its source then becomes stagnant and scum covered inside the camp. 
Andersonville National Cemetery was established in July 1865 as a permanent resting place for deceased veterans.  The first to be buried here were the prisoners who died in the prison camp.  By 1868 another 800 Union soldiers who either died in the hospital, other prisons, or on the battlefield were interred here bringing the total to over 13,800.  While 500 of the graves are marked unknown, most are identified because of Dorence Atwater, a nineteen year old prisoner who worked in the hospital and secretly recorded the names and grave locations of the deceased.  After the war he worked with Clara Barton to have the Army publish the register of the dead so families could visit the graves of their loved ones.  Because of his work 95% of the graves were identified.
The graves that are close together are those of the solders buried during the Civil War.  Those graves are clustered together in three sections of the cemetery.
The cemetery is still an active national cemetery open to all veterans with a total of more than 19,000 interments to date.  
Something else we found near Americus is a statue of Charles Lindbergh who bought his first plane and soloed here in 1923.  He had been a wing walker and parachutist at aerial circuses but had not piloted a plane.  The Army was selling surplus WWI JN-4 Jennys in crates.  He bought one and had a few locals put it together for him.  He then taught himself to fly, only four years before he became famous as the first person to fly solo and nonstop from New York to Paris.
Americus is a neat old town with many well preserved buildings.  The Windsor Hotel that was restored in 2010 is one of the neatest.  The city is also the International Headquarters of Habitat for Humanity but we did not have time to visit on this stay.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Tuskegee Institute & Airmen

There are two park service sites in the little town of Tuskegee that are not to be missed, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and at Moton Field the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.  The institute was started in 1881 as the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers.  The first leader of the school, Booker T. Washington, started the school with 30 students who met in a small shanty on the grounds of a church.
A big part of the students lives was working to raise their own food. They also constructed many of the original buildings that were designed by Tuskegee architect Robert R. Taylor who was the first African American graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  They even made the bricks for the buildings on campus.  This is Tompkins hall that was the dining and assembly hall.  It still serves that purpose as well as being the student union.
The George Washington Carver Museum has many displays of his work on innovative farming methods for the Southern farmers,  While he is remembered for his work with peanuts he worked on all areas of agriculture.
The exact date of Carver's birth is not known, but he was born into slavery during the Civil War in Missouri.  In 1890 he entered Simpson College to study art and piano.  A teacher recognized his talents and urged him to enter Iowa State, where he was the first Black student, to study botany. After graduating he became the first Black faculty member at Iowa State.  In 1896 Booker T. Washington hired him to teach at Tuskegee where he stayed for over 40 years. 
Some of the artifacts from Carver's lab.
Tuskegee had a mobile school that would travel around the rural areas of the south to teach the farmers the latest farming methods that Carver and others were working on at the institute.  The Jessup Wagon was named for Morris K. Jessup, who financed the project.  
The Oaks, Booker T. Washington's private home, was also designed by Robert Taylor.  It was the most modern home in the county at that time.  Washington wanted it to be an example of what could be achieved when someone became educated.
The graves of Carver, who died in 1943, and Washington, who died in 1915.  Between the two of them they spent over 80 years at Tuskegee Institute. 
One of the areas of study at Tuskegee was aeronautics.  In the late 1930's with the war in Europe the government started the Civilian Pilot Training Program.  After Roosevelt visited Tuskegee in 1939 the institute began to receive money to train African American pilots.  Above is Moton Field, the only remaining training site. 
In 1941 the all Black 99th Pursuit Squadron started training.  The first class graduated in 1942 and graduate pilots were commissioned 2nd Lieutenants in the Army Air Corps.  Among the first graduates was Benjamin O. Davis who was already an Army captain and West Point graduate.  Davis was made a Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the 99th.  He served over 40 years and became the first Black general.  The Stearman PT-17 was used for flight training.
In addition to training 994 pilots, Tuskegee also trained about 17,000 support personnel including mechanics, communication and electrical specialists, armaments specialists, parachute riggers, cooks and others.  Many of these jobs were done by women and all those who were there were considered Tuskegee Airmen.
Of course, even though they were fighting and dying for their country, the Tuskegee Airmen still faced discrimination at home and on base.  They took up the idea of the Double V: victory at home and aboard.  Even though the segregation signs came down at Tuskegee, pilots in the 447th Bombardment Group at ironically named Freeman Field in Indiana were arrested for peacefully protesting a segregated officers club.  Finally in 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 calling for the end of segregation in the U.S. military.  
In 1944 the 99th along with the 332nd began flying the P-51, the best fighter the U.S. had during WWII.  They became known as the Red Tails when the painted the tails of the P-51 red.  They escorted bombers flying over Germany to bomb oil refineries.  During the war the Tuskegee Airmen flew 1,578 missions and shot down 112 enemy planes.  66 airmen were killed, 32 were taken as POWs and 13 were MIA.
These two pictures, now on display in the hanger here, are from the Tuskegee Airmen float we saw at the 2010 Rose Parade.  We actually saw these being made when we toured the float building company.
We even got to meet some of the airmen.  Here is Nanc shaking hands with one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, very neat.
This is the float with the Red Tails carrying several of the airmen.  The picture on the left is one of the ones we saw in Tuskegee.  If you are near Tuskegee, Alabama a visit to the institute and Moton Field should be on your to do list.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Two Presidents

We have been in full tourist mode as we travel across the Southeast, an area we have not spent any time in since going on the road.  Because of that I am behind with the blog that I usually like to keep in chronological order.  That and the fact our picture with President and Rosalyn Carter got more likes and comments than anything I have put on Facebook, here is a post on two Presidential stops we toured in Georgia.


The first one was Roosevelt's Little White House in Warm Springs.  Franklin Deleno Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 while vacationing at the family summer home on Campobello Island in New Brunswick.  Here is a link to the blog entry when we visited there in 2010.  After hearing that the warm spring water in Georgia helped relieve the symptoms of the disease, he visited here for the first time in 1924 and felt the waters refreshing. He was sitting for this portrait on the day he became ill and died of a massive stroke.  It was never finished. 
In 1932 while running for president the first time he had this little cottage built for his visits.  The 48 star flag is like the one that flew there during his stays.  The cottage was very simple and when FDR got his first electric bill he was surprised that it was much more than the bill for power at his New York home.  After that he came up with the idea for rural electrification.
The cottage is very simple with a small kitchen, living room and the bedroom where Roosevelt had a small single bed.  The interior walls are wood and are stained from the smoke of FDR's three pack a day habit.
Next to the cottage are two small buildings for staff and guests.  It is interesting that some of the most powerful people in the United States stayed in this tiny, simple guest cabin.
Along this walkway are flags and stones from each state.  Each stone is unique to the state, from those carved in the shape of the state to others that are just a block of rock.  The Pennsylvania stone was presented by the Woman's Club of Slippery Rock, PA
The new FDR Memorial Museum has many artifacts from his time in Warm Springs and his presidency.  A wheelchair with the wooden chair like seat and braces he wore when he needed to stand.  Very few photographs of the president in his wheelchair were ever taken.
Because of his disease FDR started the March of Dimes in 1938 to help fund the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.  The foundation funded the development of the iron lung and appointed Dr. Jonas Salk who developed a vaccine for polio.  That vaccine was developed in 1955 and I still remember everyone in school lining up to get our polio shots. 
Roosevelt's 1938 Ford convertible that was equipped with hand controls he designed.  He used to drive the car on the rural roads to meet the local people and see how they lived.  These visits were a catalyst to many of the programs he created to help the working poor. 
The Warm Springs Foundation built pools for polio patients who were brought to Georgia for therapy.  Left is an iron lung that would be used as the disease attacked a patients lungs.  Right is a slanting bed which helped them sleep.  While the vaccine has eradicated polio, the Roosevelt Warm Springs Hospital now works with people who have spinal injuries and a full range of illnesses. The museum and Little White House give you a great insight into the type of person FDR was and are both well worth a visit if you are in the Warm Springs area.

Our next stop was to go to the Jimmy Carter National Historical Site in Plains to see the boyhood home of the 39th President.  We had heard there was a chance that we could see and meet him if he was in town and when we checked into the RV park we learned he was at home so we made it a must do. Read on.
Jimmy was born at the Wise Sanitarium on October 1, 1924 making him the first president born in a hospital.  His mother was a nurse at the sanitarium and she and her doctor decided he would be born there.
President Carter's boyhood home is about three miles outside of Plains. His family moved there in 1928.  The home was on a 360 acre farm and had no electricity or running water when the Carters moved in. Power became available in 1938.
The home was very simple but comfortable with a breakfast, kitchen and formal dining room, bottom.  Top is the living room, the indoor bath that was added when they got running water and Jimmy's bedroom.  While the Carter family was not wealthy, they made a middle class income on the farm and the commissary where the farm families bought supplies. 
This is the tennis court, commissary and windmill that provided running water.  The water was pumped up to the barrel using wind power so it was high enough to flow into the house.
Old Plains High School is now the park service visitors center.  It is a fitting location as Jimmy gives the school's principal and teacher, Miss Julia L. Coleman, a lot of credit for being a guiding force in his life.  Carter graduated in 1941 and after two years at local colleges entered the U.S. Naval Academy where he graduated in June 1946.  There is a very good video about his life.
In July of 1946 he married a local Plains girl, Rosalyn Smith.  He served in the Navy's new nuclear submarine program until 1953 when his father died and he returned to Plains to run the family peanut business.  Rosalyn was not happy with that move after having the chance to travel and see so much as they changed duty stations.  She said it took her a year to accept they would be living in Plains for the rest of their lives.  Little did she know what life had in store for them. 
A replica of  Carter's presidential desk.  Which one would you vote for to take that spot? 
The office of the Carter Peanut Warehouse.  Rosalyn was the bookkeeper, a job she continued to do for the family's finances even when they were in the White House.  In addition to running the family business Jimmy became active in local politics.  He was elected to the school board, the Georgia Senate and in 1970 he became governor.
Being a peanut farmer, the smiling peanut became the symbol of his 1976 presidential campaign.  When he started campaigning so many people would ask Jimmy Who?, that the local stray dog was given that name.
The old Plains Depot was his local campaign headquarters.  Virtually everyone in town joined the campaign and Jimmy Who became the president of the United States of America.
Jimmy's brother Billy's gas station.  If you remember those years Billy was quite a character and even had a beer named after him.
So how do you get to meet and get your picture taken with the former president?  You go to church.  The Carters now attend Maranatha Baptist Church and Jimmy teaches Sunday School every Sunday he is home.  Anyone is invited to attend and as you can see many people take advantage of the chance to meet the former president.  We spoke to a couple and their two sons who traveled 800 miles from Indiana just to hear him speak.  The doors open at 8:30 AM to enable the Secret Service to screen you for the 10:00 Sunday School lesson. The morning worship service is at 11:00 and after it is over the Carters have their picture taken with EVERYONE.  To me this simple act of kindness really shows what kind of human being Jimmy Carter is, a caring individual who not only teaches life's lessons in Sunday School, but who lives those lessons everyday.  That sentiment goes for Rosalyn too.  Another couple told us they were at the visitor center where it just so happened Roslyn was there too.  She took time to speak with them and get their pictures together.  They are very down to earth, approachable people.
This is right up at the top of the list of experiences we have had while on the road.  Meeting the man who negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, signed the Panama Canal treaties, established diplomatic relations with China, started the Departments of Energy and Education and won the release of America Hostages who had been held for 444 days in Iran was fantastic.  This last event really cost him the chance to win reelection in 1980 as the announcement that the hostages were coming home was made the day of President Reagan's inauguration..  Since leaving the office he has become a highly respected world leader for his work through the Carter Foundation, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his many humanitarian efforts around the world and at 90 shows no sign of slowing down.  If you are near Plains and want to met President Carter and Rosalyn you can check the schedule at the Manaratha Baptist Church website.