Volunteer Voices: Getting to Know Oakland Volunteer LaDoris Bias-Davis

Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over 200 volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitors Center & Museum Shop, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. Weve asked our volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved at Oakland and their experiences here.

Meet LaDoris Bias-Davis

Tell us a little about yourself:
I am LaDoris Bias-Davis. I’m Mississippi born and bred into a family of 13, so you know I have stories to tell! I’m an educator/trainer-consultant and storyteller/actor by trade. I’ve been telling tales and facilitating workshops across the United States for 15 years. My programs are tailored to schools, libraries, youth groups, early childhood organizations, literacy/reading programs, motivational assemblies, corporations, family reunions and more. From fables to fairy tales, fiction to non-fiction, Bible stories to “bet ya can’t tell just one” stories, the Ezra Jack Keats collection, Gullah tales, African-American and inter-cultural tales and “me and Mississippi” collection of personal stories, I try to engage audiences and provide programs for interactive learning. I have a bachelor of arts in speech and theatre, and a graduate degree in early literacy education. But really I’ve been spinning tales and creating characters since I learned to talk.

How did you get involved in volunteering with Oakland?
Oakland was looking for actors of African-American descent for the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours about nine or 10 years ago. The intent was to showcase some of the stories in Oakland’s African American section. I was recommended by someone who knew someone already volunteering at Oakland. I came aboard as Carrie Steele-Logan and the rest, as they say, is history.

What do you like most about volunteering at Oakland?
My role at Oakland is to share stories and bring to life the history and lives of some of the amazing residents here. I volunteer at Sunday in the Park, the Juneteenth observance, and at Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween tours, usually in the role of an actress or storyteller. I volunteer at Oakland because I love being involved in learning about the wonderful people buried there and sharing their stories with thousands of people year after year. I love the camaraderie of the staff and fellow volunteers. What I like most is working with fellow volunteers and bringing to life the characters so their stories can be told and their lives and contributions appreciated. It is an amazing place to be a part of!

Volunteer LaDoris Davis portrayed Dr. Beatrice Thompson during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland.

What is your favorite Oakland experience or memory?
My favorite experience is every single night of the Halloween tours and every single character I’ve played. One particular highlight was when I, playing Julia Hayes Palmer, was paired with a male actor playing Dr. Fred Palmer, a white man who invented Palmer’s Cocoa Butter and married Julia, a former slave. We gave the script a lot of drama as we informed the crowd “our marriage caused quite a stir back in our day!” The crowds roared with laughter! Oakland visitors help make the moments memorable and unforgettable.

HOF Volunteer applications have closed for 2018. However, if you would like to be considered for future volunteer opportunities or want to know more about what our volunteers do, please contact Richard Harker, Director of Special Events and Volunteers: rharker@oaklandcemetery.com or 404-688-2107. 

Oakland Remembers WWI: Captain Alonzo C. Lampkin

Beginning in April 2017 and through Nov. 11, 2018 – the centennial of the WWI armistice – HOF will recognize the Oakland residents who served in World War I in a new blog series, “Oakland Remembers World War I.”

In the fifth installment of our blog series, “Oakland Remembers World War I,” HOF recognizes Captain Alonzo C. Lampkin (1894-1958).


Alonzo Lampkin was a member of Georgia Tech’s Class of 1915.

Alonzo Church Lampkin, Jr. was born in Atlanta on March 3, 1894, to Alonzo and Minnie Lampkin. Alonzo Sr. was a prominent figure in business and civic life in Atlanta. He was listed as a grocer in the 1900 census, and later worked as a real estate agent. Minnie Wiley Lampkin descended from a family of Atlanta pioneers. Alonzo and his siblings, Ruth and Susie, grew up on Hunnicutt Street in the Sixth Ward before moving to 630 West Peachtree Street.

Alonzo Lampkin was accepted into Georgia Tech in 1911. He joined the Gamma Alpha chapter of Sigma Nu, one of Tech’s oldest fraternities. Two months before Alonzo’s 22nd birthday, his father died following a brief illness brought on by an attack of apoplexy. Alonzo Sr.’s illness was widely reported by the Atlanta Constitution, which also published his obituary. Alonzo continued to support his family following his father’s passing.

In the months following the U.S entry into WWI, Lampkin enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 82nd division. Nicknamed the “All American Division,” the men of the 82nd hailed from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. In September 1917 Lampkin and thousands of other Atlanta recruits were ordered to report for training. Departing soldiers were treated to a barbeque on Hemphill Avenue. The menu included everything from “Brunswick stew to cued lamb, pig, beef plats, and many other edibles.” Following the meal, the troops were transported by Southern Railroad trains to Camp Gordon in Chamblee. Camp Gordon was one of 16 National Army Training Camps established in preparation of the U.S. entry into war. The camp covered 2,400 acres and could hold up to 47,000 troops. The camp was abandoned in 1920, and later became the site of the Peachtree-DeKalb Airport.

WWI-era Motor Transport Corps poster.

Lampkin served in the Motor Transport Corps, which was tasked with supervising all motor vehicles for the military. He quickly moved up the ranks. Lampkin became a lieutenant in April 1918 and was later promoted to captain in October 1918. The 82nd Division began sending troops overseas in April 1918. Prior to his departure, Lampkin married Martha Brown Edmondson, a southern debutante from Anniston, Alabama.

Lampkin’s division joined the St. Mihiel Offensive in mid-September and participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October. Captain Lampkin was stationed in France when the war ended on November 11, 1918. He returned to the states in May 1919 and was honorably discharged on October 13, 1919.

At some point following his return, Captain Lampkin and Martha divorced. In 1925 he remarried Elizabeth Smith in Petersburg, Virginia. The 1940 census shows the couple and three daughters (Barbara, Elizabeth, and Patricia) living in Marietta. Captain Lampkin listed his profession as a traveling furniture salesman. Alonzo C. Lampkin died on March 31, 1958. He was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery in the Wiley family lot, next to his parents.

Alonzo’s final resting place at Oakland Cemetery.

Oakland Resident Spotlight: Atlanta Street Names, November 1867

by Larry Upthegrove

Activity on Peachtree Street, near Five Points in downtown Atlanta, in 1875. Picture shows the east side of Peachtree Street, from a point just south of Decatur to and including First Methodist Church on Houston Street still in process of construction. In the photo one can see W. J. Land’s chemical laboratory, M. Wiseberg’s Millinery, and Henry R. Powers Groceries. (File Photo from AJC Archives).

In 1867 Atlanta, once more the winds of change are blowing.  There are those that believe to be more “fashionable,” Atlanta should change its street names to be more like New York City and other cities with “Avenues” and “Front” streets, etc., in spite of the fact that there is no waterfront to be found in the city.

Atlanta City Council is now wrestling with the problem and has appointed a committee to make recommendations for changes to the Council.  It is interesting to note that neither of the arguments concern themselves with the recent Confederacy or perceived heroes thereof.  That will come later, as new subdivisions are developed and streets are named by the developers.

Future Oakland Cemetery resident James Clarke, who sometimes writes for the Intelligencer, has called himself a “Minority Committee” and has answered the recommendations with a different opinion that he would like to see submitted to the Mayor and Council.

Here is the Committee’s report, followed immediately James Clarke’s response. (Editor’s Note: This report has been rewritten it in its entirety because the newspaper source is so badly distorted that it is extremely difficult to read unless one is practiced in parsing old texts.)

To the Honorable Mayor and Council of the City of Atlanta:

The committee to whom was referred the petition of many citizens, asking for the re-naming of streets and the numbering of houses, &c. beg leave to report:  That, having fully considered the matter, they are satisfied that the adoption of the plan offered will afford great convenience to our citizens, and do away, to a great extent, the confusion with strangers, and recommend the granting of the petition as follows:

1st.  That the city be divided by the Georgia Railroad and Western and Atlantic Railroad, running on a general East and West line; and by Whitehall and Peachtree streets, running on a general North and South line; for the purpose of numbering the business houses and residences.  The numbers, beginning at these lines, shall run North and South, East and West.

2d.  That where two streets run into each other, they shall hereafter be known under one name.

3d.  That all streets crossing the Georgia Railroad, shall have the word ‘North’ prefixed, when north of these roads, and the word ‘South’ prefixed when south of the same.  And all streets crossing Whitehall and Peachtree streets shall have the word ‘East’ prefixed when east of these streets, and the word ‘West’ prefixed when west of the same.

View of Peachtree Street, circa 1864.

4’th.  That the Georgia Railroad and Western and Atlantic Railroad shall be known as ‘Railroad Avenue West,’ from Whitehall street to the limits of the city west.

5’th.  That the Macon and Western Railroad shall be known as ‘Railroad Avenue South.’
6’th.  That Alabama street shall be known as ‘Front Street’.
7’th.  That Collins street shall be known as ‘Washington street’
8’th.  That Lloyd street shall be known as ‘Ivey street.’
9’th.  That Decatur street shall be known as ‘Marietta street.’
10’th.  That Peachtree street shall be known as ‘Whitehall street.’
11’th.  That McDonough street be changed to ‘Calhoun street’
12’th.  That Broad street be changed to ‘Broadway.’
13’th.  That we recommend an ordinance that all streets to be opened, shall in no case be less than sixty (60) feet wide.

14’th.  That we recommend the establishment of easy and permanent grades to the streets, and the grading to the inner sides of each lot, by permission, so that the fencing may be on a level with the street, and conductors for water made inside this line, and that all lot owners or tenants be requested to set out shade trees.

15’th.  That the City Engineer be requested to furnish to each owner or occupant of any business house, or residence, the number, properly attaching upon the plan of subdividing (into fronts of twenty-five (25) feet, running back one hundred feet, or less as may be where not already build upon.)  at his earliest convenience, and the number entered upon the new map to govern future deeds.

16’th.  That a contract be made by the city for numbering each business house and residence, and the owner or tenant be required to pay the same.

17’th.  That the Street Committee be authorized to put up a suitable number of sign boards at the corners of the different streets indicating the same.

18’th.  That the name of ‘Oak’ be given to the cross street connecting Peachtree street with Ivey street, commencing at W. M. Lowry’s residence, and ending at (Formerly) Fishback’s property.

James M. Ball, Chairman

L.P. Grant
W.B. Cox
Rushton L.H. Davis
D. Thurman Joseph Winship
G.W. Adair
John C. Wallace
James E. Gullatt
R.K. Rawson
Richard Peters

Mr. Clark, one of said Committee, submitted the following as a minority report:

The Daily Intelligencer office, circa 1864.

Minority Report on Col. Ball’s Plan For Changing Names of Streets, Numbering Houses, ETC.:

To the Honorable Mayor and Council:

As far as this scheme proposes the alterations of the names of certain streets of the city, it is subject to several grave objections.  We do not say that no circumstances will justify a change of the names of streets; but we do say, that such change should not be made without very solid reasons, and without the unanimous consent of the property holders on the street to be changed.  We see here no sufficient reasons for, and see many strong reasons against the change.

1’st.  All the title deeds of the entire property of the city are made with important reference to the present names of the streets; the boundaries, the identity of every man’s property, are ascertained by the streets under and by their present names.  The changes contemplated would have an unsettling and disturbing influence on property interests and possessions throughout the city.  In their metes and bounds, they will have no connection or reference whatever to the new-fangled names, but are evidence and identified on the records of the country, and by the judgements of the courts, alone by the present streets with their present long-established names.  The changes, therefore, would be unsettling and disturbing in their influence, and might lead to litigation and confusion.

2’nd.  It is a ‘Bad Precedent’.  The same disposition to change, with reasons fully as strong as any that may lead to the innovations proposed now, may, in future years, repeat the same unsettling and disturbing influence, to the utter want of that stability which should exist in all human affairs.  This tendency should be guarded against by the city government, by arresting, at the outset, every attempt to innovate or unsettle what has been long established.

3’rd.  The changes contemplated would invade private, vested rights.

We lay this down as a clear principle:  every man who has purchased property on a street has a vested right to the name of the street, on which this property is situated.  To make this principle more distinct and specific, we hold that every man who holds a conveyance to real estate on Peachtree Street, has not only a vested right to the property conveyed, but also to the name of the street, the name of the street has a direct influence on the price of the purchase, and becomes, as a consequence, a part of the purchase itself, and this interest can no more be taken away by the government of the city, than the title to the property itself can be taken away.  Nothing will warrant or authorize the change of the name of a street that has inhabitants and improved property on it, but the unanimous consent of the property holders for the street.  If even a single owner of property on this street (Peachtree) should object to changing the name of this street, there would be no power in the city to make the change than there would be to destroy the title of the owner to the property itself, which lies conterminous to this street; and so with the owners of the property on all the other streets.

And this principle holds, whether the name has any intrinsic value or not; it is sufficient that it has a value in the estimation of the property holder himself, and however others may view it, so far as its value is concerned, it is his right for which he has paid his money and it should not be violated.

4’th.  This city has grown up and acquired its present importance with their present existing names of her streets.  In the names of the streets there have been found no hindering cause to our progress.  The names of our principal commercial streets are well known throughout the South, so far as our trade and commercial correspondence extend.  Orders have been sent for years to houses on these streets by their present names.  City registers, for the information of the public, have been compiled, and sent forth at considerable expense of labor and money.  The city, then, so far as it is known abroad, is known as it is, by and with the present names of its thoroughfares.

Now, would it be sound policy, would it be just to merchants and owners of property, who have obtained notoriety and advantages abroad by and under the present names of the streets, to destroy this notoriety and these advantages, by the introduction of new names, and thus to throw that confusion into the city that would inevitably result?  The principal streets of the city are well known, at home and abroad, as important streets, by their present names, and have been from an early period of our history.  A change of their names would be clearly an invasion of their importance.  Even the man who has acquired eminence under a certain name, with a new name given and the old time-honored one obliterated, would, with the loss of his name, lose much of his distinction in the world.  So that we see there is much, and can be much, in a name.

There is nothing in the names of the streets proposed to be changed that is objectionable, and no reason whatever against the names.  Marietta street has a pointing towards a young city on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which, before the war, was distinguished for its beauty, the refinement and intelligence of its people, and for its growing importance; and will become equally as distinguished again, and may well give name to that important street of our city which leads in that direction.  The standing Peachtree is a locality well known in Georgia for the last generation, and as it has given a name to an important street of Atlanta for more than twenty years, the name has acquired a notoriety and respectability which may not be assailed.

Decatur street directs to Decatur, an important and fashionable town when the street was named, and within six miles of our city, and which, if this city increases in population and importance, as anticipated by it friends, will again acquire respectability and importance by is near proximity to us.  Take, therefore, Decatur as it was, and as it will again become in a few years, there is every reason why this name, consecrated, as it is, by one of our most illustrious naval heroes, should remain unaltered.

Alabama street has a pointing to an important State on our western border, a liberal patron of our trade for many past years, and will certainly be a more munificent patron when the important railroad to Jacksonville is completed.  The name, therefore, of the street derived from this great State, so important to us at present and in prospect, should not be changed.

We therefore object to any alterations in the names of the streets.

So far as this scheme contemplates giving names to the reservations on each side of the railroads centering here, thus dividing the city, by these avenues, into four grand divisions, which we consider the most important feature of the plan, we make no objections, and are much in favor of having all the tenements on the streets numbered.  We cannot conceive the present names of our principal streets, widely and well known as they are, to be, in any sense, and obstacle to this work.  The numbering can be accomplished on the present streets with their present names as accurately as under any new names that might be given, as new names would neither increase nor diminish the number of houses to be numbered; nay, each number and house would be better known and more readily found and approached on the streets having the present well known and familiar names, than they could by and scheme of alteration in names that could be adopted.

We therefore recommend that the plan, so far as it concerns the railroad and avenues in the city, and the numbering of the houses on the streets be adopted—the names of the streets remaining unaltered.  All of which is respectfully submitted.

James Clarke

If you would like to discuss Mr. Clarke’s opinions or objections with him, he can be found within the red circle during Oakland Cemetery’s normal hours — and he is quite attentive!

 

PRO Team Field Notes: Restoring the McKinley Lot

By Dr. DL Henderson and Ashley Shares

Jacob McKinley’s monument, which is leaning significantly.

The headstone belonging to Jacob McKinley is located in Phase 1 of the African American Grounds restoration project. It is a pedestal-style monument, composed of multiple units of marble “freely” stacked, one on top of another, without any pins or dowels holding them in place.

This monument was leaning at a significant angle and its stabilization with a high priority. The Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team hand-removed the urn and other small elements. We set up scaffolding to dismantle the larger pieces, which were lifted with a trolley and chain hoist attached to an aluminum I-beam. Each piece was braced with a nylon strap and carefully moved several feet away.

The sub-base supports a monument below ground and isn’t intended for viewing. Mr. McKinley’s monument sub-base is composed of brick, slate, and other stones; small marble slabs; and general rubble held together with a soft mortar. Because the monument had been so un-level, we decided to remove the sub-base and create a completely new one. This new sub-base was made from reinforced concrete.

After repair, the monument is properly aligned.

After giving the sub-base 24 hours of dry-time, we poured a soft mortar mix on top and each of the marble blocks were re-stacked. Pieces of angled lead were placed between layers to help space them evenly, and to allow for a “joint” that could later be filled with a soft mortar grout. The purpose of such grout is to prevent water penetration that may lead to stone deterioration.

Jacob McKinley was a formerly enslaved carpenter who amassed a small fortune after his emancipation. He owned several businesses and became one of the wealthiest African American men in Atlanta by the 1890s. When the Atlanta Constitution reported McKinley’s death in January 1896, the obituary described his wealth and philanthropy and lamented the loss of a good citizen.

Born into slavery in Newnan, Georgia circa 1830, McKinley had prospered in post-Civil War Atlanta and gained a reputation among local businessmen for industry and integrity. By his own reckoning, McKinley apparently had a rough upbringing, but at age 16 while still enslaved, he was apprenticed as a carpenter. No doubt because of his outstanding carpentry skills, in 1853, McKinley was sold for $1,550. However, as a freedman his personal worth would quickly eclipse his monetary value as a slave.

After gaining his freedom, McKinley demonstrated that his skills were not limited to manual labor. Over the years, he developed several successful businesses and at times employed over 150 laborers—white and African American. He became a prosperous merchant, real estate owner, and a dealer in wood and coal; he owned a brickyard, a grocery store, and a large amount of real estate. He donated a piece of land to start a Baptist church named in his honor, “McKinley’s Chapel.”

McKinley’s death is noted in the January 24, 1896 Atlanta Constitution

Jacob McKinley extended his investments beyond real estate in 1886 when he joined other African Americans in securing a charter to establish the South-View Cemetery Association. South-View provided an alternative burial ground for African Americans who did not want to be buried in the segregated grounds at Oakland or Westview cemeteries. In 1890 McKinley and Oakland residents Henry Rucker, Thomas Goosby, C. C. Cater, and Nicodemus Holmes, along with other African American investors, established the Georgia Real Estate Loan and Trust Company. The new business offered yet another opportunity for economic advancement for McKinley and the other investors, while providing much needed business financing for their African American customers.

According to scholar Rev. E. R. Carter, in 1888 McKinley paid taxes on $40,000. McKinley owned 12 shares of stock in South-View Cemetery, valued at $900. It may seem ironic to some that McKinley is not buried at South-View, but he had purchased his family lot at Oakland in 1879 to bury 6-month-old Joseph McKinley. The McKinley family apparently was unwilling to disinter the infant and two other previously interred family members to move them to South-View. Like many African American families in Atlanta, the McKinleys continued to use their family lot and buried multiple generations of family members together at Oakland.

Jacob McKinley listed among the founders on a monument at South-View Cemetery.

As HOF begins planning for the African American Grounds hardscape and landscape restoration, community engagement and support is critical. You can make a financial contribution to the restoration project in person at Oakland Cemetery’s Visitors Center & Museum Shop, located at the Bell Tower. Or donate online by clicking here. On the online donation page, be sure to select “African American Section” from the designation drop-down menu. Visit our African American Grounds page to learn about this restoration project in-depth.

Dr. DL Henderson is a professional genealogist and Board Trustee at Historic Oakland Foundation.

Ashley Shares is Preservation Manager at Historic Oakland Foundation.

Note: Jacob McKinley’s biographical information is excerpted from Dr. Henderson’s forthcoming book, South-View: An African American City of the Dead. It will be published in January 2018.

Oakland Remembers World War I: John Robert Marsh

Beginning in April 2017 and through Nov. 11, 2018 – the centennial of the WWI armistice – HOF will recognize the Oakland residents who served in World War I in a new blog series, “Oakland Remembers World War I.”

In the fourth installment of our blog series, “Oakland Remembers World War I,” HOF recognizes John Robert Marsh.


John Robert Marsh was born on October 6, 1895 in Maysville, Kentucky. He was the third of five children born to Mary Douglas Toup and Millard Fillmore Marsh. Named for president Millard Fillmore, Marsh’s father was the editor of the Maysville Daily Bulletin. After a bout of scarlet fever damaged his hearing and left him with a mild case of epilepsy, young Marsh spent most of his time with his father at the newspaper office. He developed an interest in the paper, and friends of the Marsh family thought he would follow his father into the news business. But in 1904 Millard Fillmore Marsh died of a heart attack. Marsh’s mother accepted a teaching position at the First Ward School in Maysville to support her family after her husband’s death. She later became principal of the school, and saw to it that all her children received a college education.

Marsh featured in the 1916 Kentuckian yearbook, University of Kentucky.

In 1912 Marsh moved to Lexington to attend the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky. He became the associate editor of the college yearbook (The Kentuckian) and was the editor of the university’s newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel. Marsh joined the staff of the Lexington Herald, a morning paper, as a proofreader. Later, he became a reporter for the evening Lexington Leader. In 1916 Marsh graduated from college with majors in English and journalism. He was accepted into graduate school and started a job as a part-time English instructor to support himself.

Marsh in uniform (right). Photo courtesy of Gordon Renick Marsha and Peachtree Publishing.

In September 1917 Marsh joined the ranks of thousands of young men and enlisted in the Army. He joined the Barrow unit — a hospital unit organized by Dr. David Barrow of Lexington — and staffed by Kentucky doctors, nurses, and soldiers. The Barrow unit was sent to England and set up a hospital at a large country estate near Southampton. It became one of the largest American hospitals in Europe, and Marsh found a position in a hospital office. He later moved to France to serve. Marsh spent roughly seven months in England and France, and was later honorably discharged as a sergeant.

In June 1919 Marsh returned to Kentucky to work for the Lexington Leader. Within a few months Marsh moved to Atlanta and filled a reporter position with the Daily Georgian. In 1921 Marsh met Margaret “Peggy” Mitchell at the March Hare Tea Shop, a downtown Atlanta “tea room” better known as the “Rabbit Hole.” The speakeasy was a popular gathering place for college students, writers, and newspapermen. The pair began talking, and Marsh was pleased with their easy conversation. A courtship developed between Mitchell and Marsh, but was complicated by the fact that Mitchell was also dating Berrien Kinnard “Red” Upshaw. Upshaw, a violent man and alcoholic, charmed Mitchell and offered her independence. Marsh wanted to propose marriage, but Upshaw beat him to it and proposed to Mitchell. She accepted.

The 1922 wedding of Margaret Mitchell and Red Upshaw

Peggy Mitchell and Red Upshaw married on September 2, 1922, with John Robert Marsh serving as best man. The marriage was short-lived. Upshaw left Atlanta after four months of marriage and moved to the Midwest. He never returned and the marriage was annulled two years later. Marsh and Mitchell began dating again and he proposed in January 1925. The couple married on July 4, 1925 in a simple ceremony at the Unitarian-Universality Church on West Peachtree Street.

Marsh joined the advertising department of the Georgia Railway and Power Company (which became Georgia Power Company) and later became director of the publicity department. The couple set up their household in a small apartment on Peachtree and 10th Streets, affectionately called “The Dump,” where Margaret began writing a novel that ultimately became Gone with the Wind. The novel’s simple dedication, “To J.R.M,” hints at Mitchell’s love and respect for her husband, John Robert Marsh.

John Robert Marsh died of a heart attack on May 5, 1952. He was brought to Oakland Cemetery and buried next to his wife, who died three years earlier after a traffic accident on Peachtree Street.

To learn more about John Robert Marsh, attend our HOF Members Only Event celebrating Margaret Mitchell’s 117th birthday, or join us for the “Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind” special topic tour, which will return in Spring 2018.

Oakland Tours in Focus: Ivan Allen: Making a Modern Metropolis

by Andrew Fowler, Education Program Intern

On Sunday, November 5, Historic Oakland Foundation hosts a program celebrating several Atlanta mayors and Oakland residents who had a hand in transforming the city from a rural railroad town into one of the nation’s leading cities. Join us for “From Moses to Maynard: Oakland’s Legacy of Atlanta Mayors”


With the Atlanta Falcons’ season kicking off, the Braves’ season winding down, and the Hawks’ season right around the corner, it is important to remember that our home teams have not always been a part of the city. A look back at the history of sports in Atlanta inevitably leads to Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. (1911-2003), a two-term mayor and Oakland Cemetery resident. Mayor Allen played a pivotal role in bringing these sport teams to Atlanta, but his impact reached beyond the playing field. Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. guided the city through the turbulent 1960s, and his political leadership helped to transform Atlanta into a progressive metropolis and international city.

Allen grew up in a prestigious Atlanta family and entered into the business world after graduating cum laude from Georgia Tech in 1933. As one of Atlanta’s business leaders and a president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Allen recognized the negative impact that segregation had on Georgia’s economy. He ran on a segregationist platform during gubernatorial bids in 1954 and 1958, but soon changed his political philosophy on segregation. Allen defeated Lester Maddox, a restaurant owner and segregationist, in the 1961 mayoral election. Much of his support came from Atlanta’s African American community.

On his first day in office in 1962, Mayor Allen ordered the removal of all “White” and “Colored” signs on City Hall property, which would mark a theme of integration and social equality that would define his term as mayor. Allen would go on to desegregate many city departments, including the Atlanta Fire Department, and further worked to have many Atlanta hotels, restaurants, and public places integrated before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The landmark legislation of 1964 moreover pushed the city towards full integration, with Allen playing a pivotal role in its passage. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy asked Allen to testify before Congress in favor of what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Allen was the only Southern politician to do so and received death threats in the process. Allen recognized the benefits of a unified city, and his efforts led to a wave of economic growth throughout the city.

Front page of the Atlanta Constitution after the Orly Airport crash. Mayor Allen, shown in the top right, leaves for his grim task in France in 1962.

Mayor Allen served as a leader for the city, but he also had to serve as a healer during moments of extreme tragedy. Just a few months after taking office, momentous misfortune struck the heart of Atlanta’s cultural and artistic community. On June 3, 1962 over 100 Atlanta citizens were killed when Air France flight 007 crashed departing the Orly Airport in Paris. The Atlanta victims were art patrons and cultural leaders who had been touring Europe’s galleries and museums. The Orly crash was considered the deadliest aviation disaster at the time. Allen undertook the solemn task of flying to France to identify and bring the remains home. Allen later reflected on the experience, remarking:

“I was nothing but the Mayor of Atlanta and a friend and neighbor of 106 people who had been killed at this same airport only the day before…These were my lifelong friends. This was my generation. This was also the backbone of Atlanta’s cultural society, the city’s leading patrons of the arts. There was no precedent for this kind of agony.”

The devastating tragedy was a catalyst for Atlanta’s arts community and led to the founding the Woodruff Arts Center. Tragedy once again loomed over Atlanta after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Allen participated in marches in the days following, as well as speaking with and comforting Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

Mayor Allen walking with Coretta Scott King as they lead a march through Atlanta after her husband’s assassination in 1968.

In addition to his Civil Rights advocacy, one of Ivan Allen’s most notable and lasting legacies of is imbedded in Atlanta’s three major professional sports teams. In what seemed to be a politically and financially risky move, Allen campaigned during his 1961 mayoral run on building a large stadium to attract a Major League Baseball team to Atlanta. In early 1963 as plans were underway to build a stadium in what was the Washington-Rawson neighborhood south of downtown, Mayor Allen announced that negotiations were underway to bring the Kansas City Athletics to Atlanta. The deal seemed to be going perfectly until July 1963, when the American League denied the team’s relocation. Mayor Allen was now stranded with a partially-built $18 million stadium and an empty promise of a baseball team. But in October 1964 the Milwaukee Braves announced that they would relocate to Atlanta for the 1966 season. Atlanta finally had a Major League Baseball team.

Ivan Allen at the plate taking a pitch from Georgia Governor Carl Sanders at the opening night of Atlanta Stadium in 1965.

With the new baseball stadium completed in April 1965, interest in obtaining a professional football team for Atlanta grew. Prospective owners from both the American Football League and the rival National Football League vied for rights for the new stadium. As a potential AFL owner started negotiations with Allen, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle flew down to Atlanta to obtain rights to the stadium. Commissioner Rozelle, Mayor Allen, and Rankin Smith (who became the owner of the Falcons) were able to negotiate a deal that same day. The new Atlanta Stadium, later renamed Atlanta-Futon County Stadium, served as the home of the Braves and Falcons. The stadium also hosted the city’s professional soccer team, the Atlanta Chiefs, and the Beatles played a concert there in August 1965. While not directly responsible for their move, it was under Allen’s mayoral term that the St. Louis Hawks viewed Atlanta as a viable professional sports city and relocated the basketball franchise there in 1968.

Under Ivan Allen’s two terms, Atlanta saw immense commercial and population growth. While other Deep South cities floundered, Allen’s desegregation efforts and Civil Rights advocacy cemented Atlanta’s position as the capital of the New South. With the founding of cultural institutions like the Woodruff Arts Center and the addition of the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, and Hawks, Atlanta was transformed into a modern metropolis.

Mayor Allen died on July 2, 2003 at 92 years old. He was laid to rest at Oakland Cemetery in a family plot next to his wife Louise, who passed in 2008 and his son Beaumont. Beaumont “Beau” Allen was a longtime champion of HOF; he served as HOF board chairman from 2004 to 2005 and was also on the organization’s board of directors and board of advisors for more than 10 years. He is the namesake of Oakland’s Beaumont Allen Greenhouse.

The Allen family lot at Oakland Cemetery.

Oakland Tours in Focus: The Kiser Mausoleum and Oakland’s Funerary Architecture

by Marcy Breffle, Education Coordinator

Classical or Gothic Revival, simple stone house or ornate mini-church – the 50-plus mausoleums that dot Oakland’s landscape can make the cemetery seem more like an outdoor art gallery than a graveyard. These large, above-ground burial chambers hold the remains of hundreds of Atlanta citizens, but are noted for their symbolism and funerary design. One of the most visited mausoleums at Oakland is the Kiser Mausoleum.

Built in 1873, the Kiser Mausoleum was one of the first mausoleums constructed at Oakland. With its rock-faced granite exterior and coursed ashlar masonry, the mausoleum was designed in the Romanesque Revival style. This style is based on the architecture of medieval Europe and is commonly found at Oakland.

Marion Columbus Kiser, the patriarch of the Kiser family, was born in Campbell (now Fulton) County in 1830. He began his career as an apprentice for his older brother Wiley, who owned a dry goods store. After the Civil War, Kiser opened his own wholesale business with his brother John. M.C. and J.F Kiser Company became a successful wholesale shoes and dry good store. Kiser turned his sights to real estate, investing in development around the city. He erected two buildings on Pryor Street, the Kiser Building and the Marion Hotel. The eight-story Kiser Building was constructed in 1890 to house law offices. In 1893 Kiser opened the Marion Hotel at 97 Pryor Street. The hotel was built in the Romanesque style and served guests for 58 years. Both buildings were demolished – the Kiser Building in 1936 and the Marion Hotel in 1951.

Marion Kiser married three times. His first wife Octavia died in 1873 at age 34. He remarried 19-year-old Hessie Scott, who also passed away in her mid-30s. One day, Kiser was visiting Oakland to pay his respects to both former wives when he met Sarah Turner Ivy, a widow who was visiting the grave of her deceased husband, Michael. They began courting and he proposed marriage. Sarah accepted his proposal, with one condition. Sarah made it clear that she would not share the mausoleum with Kiser’s first two wives unless her first husband, Michael, was also there. Kiser agreed and Michael Ivy’s remains were moved. Kiser died in 1893, and he was interred within the mausoleum along with his three wives, Sarah’s first husband, and several other family members.

Other monuments on the family lot honor members of the Kiser family. The monument topped with the angel Gabriel was erected for Marion’s brother John, who died in 1882.

Family monuments outside of the Kiser mausoleum.

Another monument was built in honor of Marion’s beloved son, Eddie, who died at age 18. The monument is covered with symbols: an anchor (hope), tree stump (a life cut short), rock base (a life built on a firm foundation), a cross (Christianity), and ivy (abiding memory).

Detail of epitaph to Eddie Kiser.

To learn more about Victorian symbolism and Oakland’s collection of mausoleums, attend the Art and Architecture of Death special topic tour Sunday at 6:30 p.m. This tour does not require reservations and tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Center and Museum Shop.

 

Oakland Resident Spotlight: Major Charles Hubner, Poet Laureate of the South

Charles W. Hubner: Poet Laureate of the South
by Larry Upthegrove

Charles Hubner was born on January 16, 1835 in Baltimore, to Bavarian parents. His mother was a teacher and his father a merchant tailor.  They lived comfortably, with Charles studying literature and music, his two great loves.  In fact, at age 10 Charles wrote his first hymn, a sign of things to come for him.

Hubner’s poetic tribute to Edgar Allan Poe

His route to art school took him past a hospital, where, one day, a plain coffin was being taken to a hearse nearby.  Two gentlemen had their hats off, standing by with respect as the coffin passed.  Charles asked “Please, sir, who are they going to bury?”

The man replied: “My son, that is the body of a great poet, Edgar Allan Poe. You will learn about him some day.”

Charles could have hardly dreamed that 60 years later, he would receive the “Poe Medal” at that very spot for authoring the poem that would pay tribute to Poe on his 100th birthday.

Not all of Charles interests were artistic.  He also loved reading about the West and various wars.  It was a great, exciting time for a young man when the nation was going to war against Mexico.

In addition to his studies, Charles’ life during his teens involved working as a clerk for several different businesses in Pittsburg, as well as Baltimore until he and his mother began traveling to Bavaria to visit her relatives.  They experienced several horrific Atlantic Ocean crossings. When returning to the United States in his late teens, Charles worked menial jobs such as wood cutting, river boating, and more store clerking.

By 1851 at age 16, he found himself in Boonville, Missouri.  Five years later as the disagreements between Kansas and Missouri seemed ready to boil into full-fledged war, seemingly Charles would have to be a part of it.  He joined Missouri forces, drilling and training every night until they seemed ready, but the situations cooled enough that the unit was disbanded.  The next three years Charles spent some time with his father in Iowa, then traveled in Europe again, returning to the United States and locating to New Orleans in 1859, where he spent a couple of years teaching school along the Mississippi River towns.

1861 was an eventful year for Hubner. In Fayetteville, Arkansas, he entered Confederate artillery service, meeting the love of his life, Ida, in that same place.  Their romance was fast forming, but they were determined to not marry until peace prevailed, so the courtship would last four long years.

A young Charles Hubner and his first bride, Ida.

Charles’ battery was in Company H of the first Tennessee Regiment, Bee’s Brigade.  General Elliott Bee was fatally wounded during the first major action of the Civil War at Manassas, Virginia along the creek called Bull Run.  Charles was in the honor guard, firing rifle salute over the grave of General Bee.

Charles spent his year’s enlistment fighting with the artillery and helping high command manage their armies with his acquired clerical skills.  When his time was up, he left Richmond for Chattanooga and joined the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps, where he achieved the rank of Major.  He had charge of the headquarters couriers, detailed to carry military dispatches, and served in this capacity later under Joseph E. Johnston from Chattanooga to Atlanta.  In fact, on July 17, 1864 at 10 p.m., Hubner was charged to deliver a telegram to General Johnston which relieved him of command of the Army of Tennessee, just two days before the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

After the fall of Atlanta, Charles was ordered to run the telegraph office in Selma, Alabama, a huge supply and shipping depot for the South. When the war ended, he was mustered out of service in Selma, where he obtained a position as a clerk in a book store.  He began to write and contribute poems to the Weekly Visitor and the Selma Daily Times. In the meantime, General Johnston was writing his own history of the war.  The two men were well acquainted, and Johnston sought a quiet and secluded desk in the rear of the book store to do his writing.  The two former Confederate officers had numerous conversations regarding the war.

Finally on November 15, 1865, Charles and Ida were married at Woodbine, Tennessee.  For three years the Hubners were very happy. Charles worked for several papers as editor, and their son was born in 1867.  Later Charles contracted malaria and was so sick that doctors told him to go live in Europe to be treated there, so he left his wife and baby and went to his mother’s residence.  By 1869 he recovered and returned to his wife and son, establishing himself in Memphis.  It was there Western Union hired him to take charge of their Atlanta office. On January 1, 1870, the young family arrived in the city that was to adopt them.

In the next five years, the Hubner family grew by two daughters, while Charles became less and less a telegrapher and more and more a contributor and editor of newspapers and periodicals.  They had a happy family and life was wonderful until tragedy struck.

In 1875 Ida developed a fever and a distressing cough that persisted in spite of all the doctors could do.  Four months later on January 29, 1876, Ida Ann Hubner died.  She was buried a few days later in Oakland Cemetery.

Mary Francis Whitney Hubner

Before she died, Ida begged her best friend and neighbor, Mary Frances Whitney, to help Charles look after the three children. In fact, it was the whole Whitney family that helped Charles.  They took care of his children in the daytime, and after work Charles had his dinner and then picked up the already-fed kids and took them home.  Before long, he was taking his evening meal with Mary Frances Whitney as well, and “Miss Frank” became a close friend to both Charles and the children.

The two would talk for hours about literature and music, and they visited Ida’s, grave.  Charles and Mary Frances planted flowers all around the grave together. He needed her, and she loved him; it was inevitable that they would become man and wife. They married on March 15, 1877 and on February 23 of the next year, a son was born. Two years later a daughter was born but died as an infant.

Charles Hubner

During that time Charles’ career skyrocketed. He wrote for major publications and had several books published.  His friends included Sydney Lanier, Joel Chandler Harris, and other men who topped the Southern literary field in those days. Charles’ days and many evenings were occupied with the sort of things he reveled in. His wife loved hearing about those things, and they had many happy times together.

Once a month Mrs. Hubner and her mother, Mrs. Joshua Whitney, loaded their buggy with tools, a lunch basket, and the children, and they’d drive out to Oakland Cemetery to work on the family plots. In about 1881 they planted a small magnolia tree on the Hubner lot, which has grown to impressive size today.  The children played around the mausoleum nearby, admiring the angel who guarded the graves of their Aunt Julia and two little cousins.

The Hubners had a long and fruitful life together. Mary Frances lived until 1927, and she was buried on her family lot at Oakland Cemetery, alongside her mother, father, and others. In 1928 Charlotte’s Poetry Society of the South named the Major “Poet Laureate of the South.”  In early 1929 Charles Hubner died at nearly 94 years old. There were very few Georgians that did not know Major Charles Hubner, either personally or by reputation. The magnolia planted by “Miss Frank” and her mother is a living memorial to the mother and daughter bond.

Hubner lot at Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Remembers World War I: Lt. Y. Lyons Joel

By Marcy Breffle, Education Coordinator

Beginning in April 2017 and through Nov. 11, 2018 – the centennial of the WWI armistice – HOF will recognize the Oakland residents who served in World War I in a new blog series, “Oakland Remembers World War I.”

In the third installment of our blog series, we recognize First Lieutenant Y. Lyons Joel.


The Joel family, clockwise from left: Mother Rachel, Yoel, father Lyons Barnett Joel, and sister Helene. Photo courtesy the Breman Museum.

Yoel Lyons Joel was born in Atlanta on August 20, 1896. He grew up in a house on 14th Street, where he lived with his sister Helene and parents, Lyons and Rachel. The elder Joel co-owned the Bass Dry Goods Company on Mitchell Street. The family attended worship services at the Temple, which moved to a building at Pryor and Richardson Streets (near where Turner Field stands) in 1902. Young Joel attended school in Atlanta and then enrolled at the University of Georgia.

Called into active service in August 1917, Joel trained at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. He was assigned to the 328th Infantry regiment, 82nd Division at Camp Gordon and later promoted to first lieutenant in February 1918. That spring the 82nd Division shipped out to the Western Front. Frank Alexander Holden, one of Joel’s fellow soldiers, recalled the departure in his 1922 memoir, War Memories. Holden writes”

“As we were marching away to board the train for embarkation I saw Mr. and Mrs. L.B. Joel, of Atlanta, Ga., waving a last good-bye to their only boy, Lieutenant Y. Lyons Joel, one of the last lieutenants in my company. It was really a last good-bye, because their brave boy never recovered from a wound received in the Argonne.”

Yoel Lyons Joel in his uniform. Photo courtesy the Breman Museum.

The 82nd Division traveled to Liverpool, England, and then on to France to gain combat experience at the St. Valery-sur-Somme training area. The division relieved the 2nd Division in the Marbache Sector in August, and then joined the St. Mihiel offensive in mid-September. In early October the division prepared to take part in the final Allied offensive of the war. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Argonne Forest, is often considered the bloodiest battle in American history.

On October 14 the 82nd Division advanced its line up the St. Georges-St. Juvin Road north of Sommerance, France. A determined counterattack of heavy artillery, machine gun fire, and gas forced soldiers to take cover in foxholes, and the division suffered many casualties. Joel was called upon to take two H Company platoons forward. While leading his men against German positions in the Argonne, Joel was severely wounded by shrapnel and taken to a base hospital for treatment.

Joel’s parents were notified of his wounds and they immediately requested passports for France from the War Department. Unfortunately their passport request came through too late. Lieutenant Joel died on December 12, 1918. He was buried at the American Cemetery in Nantes, and his body was later brought over and buried at Oakland Cemetery. The Joel family vault is located in Oakland’s Jewish Flat section. 

Joel was posthumously cited for his bravery. His citation reads:

“His personal example of bravery inspired his men to make an effort which resulted in a successful advance, although he lost his life in the performance of this duty. The commanding general takes particular pride in announcing to the command these fine examples of courage and self-sacrifice. Such deeds are evidence of that spirit of heroism which is innate in the highest type of the American soldier and responds unfailingly to the call of duty, wherever or whenever it may come.”  

 

Oakland Resident Spotlight: A Fitting Tribute to Mayor Maynard Jackson

by Valerie Richardson Jackson

Mayor Maynard Jackson’s new monument at Oakland Cemetery

On Friday, June 23, the 14th anniversary of his death, former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson’s permanent memorial was unveiled at Oakland Cemetery. Mayor Jackson’s widow Valerie Jackson unveiled the monument during a private family dedication.

The stunning 14.5-foot, 14 ton monument was almost three years in the making. Its African-sourced honed black granite sits on a platform of grey Georgia granite, reflecting the Jackson family’s Georgia heritage. The sub-foundation beneath the grey granite base is solid concrete with multiple layers of rebar, over three feet deep. Four hand-carved solid bronze discs, one on each facet of the crown molding, represent four important aspects of Jackson’s legacy:

  • The City of Atlanta: Maynard Jackson was second only to Mayor William Hartsfield in his longevity as mayor of Atlanta. After one term as vice-mayor he served three terms as mayor. He was the youngest and first African American mayor of a major southern city.
  • The Scales of Justice: This seal represents Jackson’s commitment to social and economic justice for everyone. Equal opportunity was mandated in all of his administrations. He has been called “The Martin Luther King of Affirmative Action.”
  • The Olympic Rings: The U.S. Olympic Committee considered it an honor to grace Maynard Jackson’s memorial with the Olympic Rings, recognizing his Olympic spirit and his role in bringing the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta.
  • The Atlanta Airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has consistently been the busiest, most-traveled airport in the world. In 2003, following Jackson’s death, the airport’s domestic terminal was renamed Hartsfield-Jackson to commemorate Mayor Jackson’s contributions. He played an integral role not only in the airport’s construction, but its joint venture program that demanded the inclusion of minorities and women in airport contracts. Prior to Jackson’s first administration, fewer than half of 1 percent of municipal contracts went to minorities and women. It grew to 25 percent under Jackson’s leadership. In 2012 the airport’s new international terminal was also named in his honor.

The previous headstone at Mayor Jackson’s grave

The Jackson monument is surrounded by lush ivy that had spontaneously appeared around his original headstone. Historically, ivy has symbolized strength, endurance, and determination. One of Maynard Jackson’s strongest attributes was his determination. Engraved on one side of the monument is the first line of Jackson’s favorite poem, “Will,” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. The poem speaks of a determined soul and it was only through his determination that the new airport was built. Maynard Jackson succeeded in moving I-85 to create the necessary land needed for the new domestic terminal.

“I don’t know about mountains, but he can definitely move highways!” said Valerie Jackson.

Mrs. Jackson designed the monument and her brother, Monte Richardson who is a visual artist and was a WXIA 11 Alive news photographer for over 28 years. Brook Bolton, president and CEO of Roberts-Shields Memorial Company, produced and supervised the monument’s installation.

Mrs. Jackson said the monument was not only a tribute to the man whose honor, courage and vision created a new Atlanta, but also her personal tribute to their love and devotion to each other for over a quarter of a century. Her ultimate goal was to build a fitting tribute to this exceptional man that would stand for centuries to come.