by Randy Reynolds

When I think of veterans (as probably most of us are doing on this 2014 Veterans Day,) the first person who comes to mind is my Uncle Strick.  He was a teenager in Gainesville, Georgia, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  He and his best friend Arthur Stover signed up soon after and were sent to the South Pacific together. 

Strick and Arthur stayed together throughout the war, as promised by the U.S. Army’s ‘Buddy Plan.’  Afterward, they came home to Gainesville and built homes on the same hilltop near Lake Lanier and raised their families there.  Arthur built his house first.  When Strick was building his (the summer that I was 10) he’d let me come with him to hang around and play with Arthur’s son Jewell (Strick’s namesake, as Arthur was the namesake of Strick’s young son.)  Strick and Arthur and my Papa Bonnell (Strick’s father-in-law) would work on the house till dark, then (sometimes) build a little fire in the sunken spot among the rocks where a gold mine shaft had been filled in.  I remember gazing alternately at the fire and the shooting stars above us as  Strick and Arthur reminisced about their great adventure. 

They spoke of fear:  the fear of getting on a train at Gainesville Depot and riding day and night to boot camp in San Antonio.  They spoke of survival: surviving that damn boot camp and then riding another train to San Diego for embarkation to the South Pacific.    

They served with MacArthur’s forces, beginning with a long posting in New Guinea where Strick and Arthur were highly impressed by the native women who wore no clothing on their upper bodies. (Fortunately, they never got close enough to find out that some of those females were cannibals.)  

Both men agreed that the most unexpected thing about combat was airplane parts falling from the sky as U.S. and Japanese fighter pilots engaged above the combat zone. Strick said it seemed like debris would fall for five minutes after a dogfight and the soldiers on the ground had to curl up and make themselves small and pray they didn’t get crushed.

Strick never bragged about what he saw during the war (other than the topless women.)  In fact, his favorite war story was a simple moment of serendipity: he was dog-tired, slogging down a muddy track through the heart of some godforsaken jungle during monsoon season when he and his unit had to get out of the way to let a line of troop trucks pass.  Corporal Strickland and his buddies were shouting unkind things to the lucky guys sitting high and dry in the canvas-covered trucks when suddenly one of those guys yelled out to him.  “Hey, Jewell!”  It was one of his 9 brothers.  They didn’t even know they were in the same hemisphere yet there they were meeting up in the jungle in a war zone.  15 years later, beside me at the campfire on the former gold mine on the hill, he still thought that was amazing.  

When Strick was on his deathbed in 1990, he had another moment of serendipity.  A preacher who stopped by to counsel and console him just happened to have an Army background.  When Strick revealed the name of his South Pacific unit and dates of service, the good reverend got in touch with the Pentagon.  I don’t know why—perhaps he was getting a head start on Strick’s eulogy.  But it turned out that Strick had earned a medal that he didn’t know about and the preacher’s fortuitous inquiry resulted in that medal finally being awarded.

Strick and Arthur were heroes, with or without the medals—everyday guys who put their lives on the line so they could someday come back to create families and live in peace on their hilltop near the lake.


STRICK:   Despite all that fancy equipment he never caught a fish. 



by Randy Reynolds

Allen Jackson Reynolds was not a fun sort of guy. A sink-or-swim tenant farmer and stern disciplinarian, Allen sometimes seemed to work his children harder than his mules.  And he definitely did not—in the midst of the Great Depression—have much reason to laugh.  Except when his grandson came over to pick cotton.

Today, three-quarters of a century later, my father, Eugene Jackson Reynolds, reminisced about being the most useless cotton-picker in his grandpa’s field. 

Eugene Jackson Reynolds, 9/5/2013:

When I was a boy, I would go over to my grandpa’s to pick cotton, but all I ever really did was fiddle around. I’d get a big sack, put it on my head, fool around, chew tobacco.  I’d jump up on the wagon and he’d make me get away. He said the mules didn’t need to pull me, too.  He had a little thing about that.  He worked the mules hard, but didn’t want them to do more than they had to.  He used to get into his big green wagon and drive his mules to Gainesville every Saturday where he'd spend the day on the square talking with other farmers.  But as the mules got older Grandpa didn’t make them do that anymore.  He’d just walk to town, three or four miles through the woods and leave the mules back home to rest.  

Grandpa and me were pretty close, you know. I guess I was sort of his favorite grandson.  I was his monkey, too. (laughs) Me and him had a good time together. I was a little snuff-dipping 3, 4, 5, 6 year old tobacco-chewing, cigar-smoking … they let me do that…whatever they could have fun with.  I was supposed to be helping, but I just cut up. I got on the wagon and he made me get off.  Later, I sat on one of the mules.   He said, “Gene, if you don’t behave I’m gone take your britches off  and throw ‘em up in that tree.So I jumped down and ran from him, you know. I was fiddling around, not paying attention, and I got too close to him and all of a sudden he grabbed me. He pulled my britches off and I didn’t have anything on but a pair of overalls, no underwear or shirt or anything.  And Grandpa threw my overalls up in a tree.  And I was running around naked. I ran and hid.  One of ‘em brought my clothes after a while to me.  Grandpa had a big belly-laugh about that.   He was always kiddin’ me about different things.

When I was little we lived out there in Springway Community, and there was a guy named Boyd Flynn and he plowed a team of steers.  He called ‘em everything you could think of in the cussin’ category.  And I heard him.  I’d go over to Grandpa’s and he’d say, “You say you saw old Boyd Flynn the other day?”  And I’d say, “Yeah.”  He’d say, “What was he doing?”  I’d say, “He was plowing them old steers.”  He’d say, “What was he telling ‘em?”  And I started telling him.  I’d stand up on a chair and use the literal language, you know. I’d say every cussword  in the book! See, I was calling sinners all the things Boyd Flynn called his steers! Grandmother just couldn’t hardly stand it when Grandpa would have me up on that chair doing that. She would say, “Allen, you ought to be ashamed of yourself..”  And he’d just be belly-laughing.

 We carried on like that.

But Grandpa told me a lot of serious stuff in addition to just playing with me.

People back in those days would sit on the porch. They’d come out of the fields about 5:30 and put the mules up, feed the chickens, gather the eggs, feed the hogs and milk the cow and get the stove wood in for the morning.  In the winter time a couple of armfuls of firewood, and they’d keep that laying on the big front porch, so it was always well stocked with that and pine kindling.

After supper, they’d generally go to bed by nine or nine-thirty, but Grandpa couldn’t sleep. He’d almost always stay up till about midnight, sitting out there on the porch.  They’d pick the cotton and they had the big porch that went all the way across the front and, man, the way they had that porch fixed, they could keep two or three wagonloads of cotton on it.  I’d climb up in there and lay down on the cotton where I could see Grandpa where he was sitting and talk to him.  I wouldn’t be but about twelve feet from him.                 ..................................................................................................
They would all sit on the front porch and we’d talk, in the warmer weather and in the fall of the year. And they had prayer every night. They generally sang a song and read the Bible and then they’d have prayer and everyone would go to bed, but Grandpa couldn’t sleep, so I would get up in the cotton while he sat on the porch with his feet propped up.

 We talked a lot about things that had happened out in that community when he was growing up.  He told me about all kind of stories that he had heard about what followed the Civil War and different things like that, you know.  Grandpa never lived in a house with electricity but he had a big old battery radio and he would listen to Gabriel Heatter and the news out there on the porch.  He kept up with things in the war and he was always worried about Russia and the Communists.  And he’d talk to me about that even though I was just a young kid, you know.  I was talking religion with him when I was 7 or 8 years old, actually even 4 and 5 years old.  He was very serious about religion and talked about it a lot. He had his own kind of religion. He was a Mormon, but he started out his life as a Baptist preacher.   Probably when Gold  (his youngest son) was born he was already a Mormon, but when Daddy was a boy Grandpa was a Baptist preacher. He didn’t pastor a church or anything, but he went to church regular and he would preach some in the church and different things like that. He had a pretty good knowledge of the Bible. He later joined the Mormon church and then he invented, like Daddy did later on, his own religion!  The Allen Reynolds Church of Allen Reynolds. (laughs) 

He was a good guy—he could say some bad words once in a while if things didn’t work out just right, but he wasn’t real bad at things like that.  He didn’t keep no secrets: if he didn’t like something, you knew it. But he was a loving man. A stern disciplinarian but a real good person.  He was one of those kind of guys, you had to swim or die in life and that’s what he did. They had twelve children, he raised ten of them to adulthood and they all turned out to be good people.  They all did well.

Everybody loved him that knew him and everybody respected him. It would have been impossible for him to tell a lie. It just wouldn’t have been in his nature to do that. He was a hard worker, honest as the days are long.  When I was a boy, I was in the graveyard over there one time at Springway and two men were out there talking and they didn’t know I was there and I heard one of ‘em say, “If Allen Reynolds says it, you can count on it.   You can take it to the bank.”  It made me proud to hear them talk like that.

Grandpa got real heavy when he was older.  He developed diabetes and didn’t get it treated for years and years and years and years because, not seeing doctors regularly, he didn’t know what it was till he was in his sixties.  His feet hurt a lot and he used to sit on the porch at night and Kermit  (the son who never moved out on his own,) would wash his feet for him.  I did that a lot of times for him, too.  It was sort of a ritual.  I really loved him. I was with him when he died. I gave him his last bite of food he ever ate on this earth. He was 63 when he died in 1947.







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by Randy Reynolds.............................................................................
Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Jr., was 2 when his mother died, 8 when his family’s way of life ended (in 1865,) and 33 when his baby brother inherited the Reynolds estate and became his landlord. In his 30’s, he was a poor and desperate tenant farmer who came near working and/or beating his children to death, according to his wife, my great-great grandmother Mary Margaret Broom.  At 39, he caught typhoid and went to an early grave, and Mary Margaret said it was a good thing for the children.

Things had started better for the second Sharp Spencer Reynolds.  Being white in Georgia and a Reynolds in Hall County, he was a son of privilege.  In the custom of the 1850’s, Sharp, Jr., as a toddler, likely had his own little slave, designated as his playmate and tasked with taking care of him.  Sharp would have been well-dressed in garments made by slaves and would have worn finely crafted shoes, but most of the year his slave playmate would have worn a one-piece item of clothing constructed like a sack with holes for the head and arms. In winter, the slave youngster would likely have had deer hide shoes as hard as a board, and no shoes at all for the rest of the year.   

The slaves his own age may have had a nickname for Sharp, Jr., or may have called him Master or Young Master.  (In some households, slaves were marched through the big house after the birth of a new child in the Master’s family and required to genuflect before the infant in its crib and say the word “Marster” if it was a boy or “Mistuss” if it was a girl, acknowledging their position in relation to the newborn white.) 

It was the Master who named all slaves at birth, and in the Reynolds family, in the 1850’s, there were slave children named Mandi and Thomas, names that Sharp, Sr., had also used for his children. There was also a Mary, the name of Sharp, Sr.’s mother, as well as a much older slave named Will, Sharp’s grandfather’s name.  Family tradition does not reveal whether, as was common, the white masters sired any of these children who shared our family names.

During the Civil War, Sharp, Jr., would have thought slave life was the normal way of things. He may have been aware of slaves rising well before sunup—the bugle blew at 3 a.m. on some farms, 4 a.m. on others.  While it was still dark, slaves would have built a fire in the big house and prepared breakfast for the Reynolds family. If they were lucky the slaves got leftovers, but usually subsisted on the rations issued each Sunday: “coffee” made of parched cornmeal, white (all-fat) bacon and ash-bread. He may have had occasion to witness them standing in the field with their hoes or plows lined up along the rows, ready for the day’s work at the first hint of daylight. The slaves would have worked till dark in the fields and pastures and barns of the Reynolds estate, with only a single break for a meager lunch. The female field hands with new babies would have been given two additional breaks to walk back to the slave quarters to nurse their babies—a walk that could be several miles each way, depending upon where on the farm they were working that day.

The house slaves spent each day attending the personal needs of the mistress of the household and her little ones and doing the work that, a few years later, white farm women would have to do for themselves—nonstop cooking, cleaning house, washing clothes, making cloth and candles and soap, sewing clothes, and doing the myriad things required to keep a family fed and clothed.

The slave-children went to work at about the age of eight.  Before that age, slaves like Mandi and Mary and Thomas were kept, during the day, in a cabin or a fenced lot, watched over by some slave too old to work. Their lunch, a mixture of whatever gruel or slop the Reynolds mistress approved, was poured into a trough in the yard and the slave children ate with their hands if the mixture was solid enough, or—if it was soupy—put their faces in it and ate like pigs, sometimes competing with dogs and stray pigs that they weren’t allowed to hit. Sometimes their food was put on the ground, or in rainy weather, on the clay floor, from which they ate without benefit of bowl or spoon.

When Sharp, Jr., was two years old, his mother, Sharp, Sr.'s second wife, Elizabeth H. Terrell Reynolds apparently died giving birth to a child, Albert, who did not survive. 

Sharp, Jr., was 7 years old when his 63 year old father took a third wife—Mary Ann Hendrix—in 1864. Mary Ann bore one child for Sharp, Sr., a son named Minor Grey Reynolds.  

When Minor Reynolds was 24 (in 1890,) Sharp, Sr., died, leaving him the entire Reynolds estate, 400 acres of which are still owned by a single descendent of Minor today, more than two hundred years after Bartemous claimed it from the Cherokee in the Georgia Lotteries…  and more than 120 years after the death of Sharp, Sr., our family’s last slave owner. 

“And, oh, when that welcome day shall dawn, whose light will reveal a world covered with righteousness, not the least pleasing sight will be the institution of domestic slavery …which, by saving a lower race from the destruction of heathenism, has, under divine management, contributed to refine, exalt, and enrich its superior race!” –Dr. Joseph R. Wilson, Presbyterian Pastor, Jan. 6, 1861

(The argument could be made that Dr. Wilson’s “superior race” still enjoys the prosperity made possible by Bartemous’ and Sharp, Sr.’s, slaves. How different were the opportunities of  Minor's granddaughter compared with those of the granddaughters and grandsons of the slaves who created that inheritance?)

Some slaves, knowing little except the farm, may (?) have remained with the family after they became “freedmen,” and after Minor inherited the land. If so, they would have lived out their lives in conditions not much better than slavery.  That, apparently, was also the fate of Sharp, Jr., who was 33 when his younger brother inherited everything.

After eleven years of Reconstruction, southern whites passed laws (The Black Codes) that once again gave them control over former slaves—laws that let them “own” the labor of Negroes, rather than owning the actual people. These laws allowed former slave-owners like Sharp, Sr., and their offspring like Minor Reynolds, to keep rural blacks under their boot.  In the last quarter of the 19th Century, our former slaves Celia, Dick, Mandi, Mary and Thomas, likely lived in a misery not far different from their slave days.  And Sharp, Jr., the man who had once been their “Young Master,” lived a life not quite as hard as theirs, but inestimably more difficult than the lives of his white forebears.

Sharp, Jr., apparently lived most of his adult life in a house not much better than a slave cabin on land handed down from his granddaddy to his daddy to his youngest brother. Far from being a man of letters, or politics, or business deals, like Bartemous, Sharp, Sr., and Minor, he was a tenant farmer.  Unlike them, he worked his own fields.  His field hands were his three oldest sons, Sharp III, Allen, and Robert, all forced, as slaves had been, to work in the fields from dawn to twilight, starting at the age of 8 or 9.

A few years later, in the early 20th Century, Sharp’s son Allen would start working his own sons (including my grandfather Bonnell) at about the same age that Allen, Sharp, Jr., and the slaves of Sharp, Jr.’s boyhood started—around the age of 8. My Papa Bonnell told me of a time that Allen whipped him mercilessly for working a mule too hard—the actions of a hard and desperate man who had been raised that way himself.   

Sharp, Jr.’s wife, Mary Margaret Broom told my great-grandmother Chesty Collins Reynolds that it was a good thing Sharp, Jr., died when he did, at age 39, because she had feared that his sons could not survive the work and the lashes he laid upon them.

In my time on this earth, I’ve heard our family’s ex-slaves mentioned in conversation exactly once, and the comment was, “They treated those old slaves like family.”  …not much of a mitigating factor for a post-Civil War family that treated their family like slaves.
"Everybody, in the south, wants the privilege of whipping somebody else."~Frederick Douglass


by Randy Reynolds

Bartemous Reynolds (my great-grandfather, 5 generations back) helped wrest a civilization from the forest that covered the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in what is now Hall County, Georgia. He lay claim to 1,000 acres of Cherokee land, much of which still belongs to a single descendant today. He was elected Justice of the Peace.  And he pastored the Baptist Churches that exist today as Mud Creek Baptist Church on Mud Creek Road, Cornelia, Georgia, and Timber Ridge Baptist Church, Timber Ridge Road, Lula, Georgia.

Bartemous Reynolds grew corn, sugar cane and cotton and raised hogs, sheep and cattle on his 1,000 acre north Georgia farm.

And he, quite possibly, did it all without personally wielding an axe or a butcher’s blade or tilling the red clay soil with a yoke of oxen or building a fence or barn or feeding animals or shucking corn or picking cotton.  He never personally had to draw his own water from the well or build his own fire, unless he, for some reason, particularly wanted to, because he was not one of those yeoman farmers who owned or rented one or two slaves and worked in the fields beside them.  He ran a substantial enterprise that was extremely labor-intensive.

His wife, Mary Mildred Taylor Reynolds, was the granddaughter of Zachary Taylor of Patrick County, Virginia, and first cousin to the Zachary Taylor who was elected President of the United States a few days before her 72nd birthday in 1848—(the last American President who still owned slaves while in office.)  Mary Mildred bore ten children, but did not have to rock them through the night when they were fretful, nor mind them during the day, nor suckle them if she chose not to, nor wash anybody’s clothes, nor cook any meals, nor weave, nor sew, nor start a fire in the fireplace in the morning.

They had slaves to do all that.

Nobody knows for sure how the Reverend/Justice Bartemous Reynolds and his wife and children treated their particular slaves, but there’s no reason to believe they had a system any different from their neighbors.  And we do have firsthand accounts of how slavery functioned in neighboring Athens and Atlanta, thanks to the oral histories of former slaves and their children gathered by the Federal Writers’ Project of the 1930’s:

(Former slave) Martha Harrison remembered her master as a man so frightened by his imminent death that he offered her thousands of dollars to pray for his salvation.  "But he couldnt'a got out of hell,"  she declared, "the way he beat my mammy."




by Randy Reynolds

I was surprised to learn that Bartemous Reynolds, my great-grandfather (5 generations back,) was both a Baptist preacher and a slaveholder.  Wondering if that was unusual, I did some research and learned that, at a time when only 1 out of 11 white southern men owned slaves, fully 40 percent of Baptist ministers in South Carolina were slaveholders.  (James Oakes, THE RULING RACE) ...

Bartemous was born in Patrick County, Virginia, and lived in Pickens County, South Carolina, during his young adulthood, before moving (with his slaves) to the area that is now Hall County, Georgia. He was a farmer, not a “planter,” but it was a big farm—1,000 acres—and like all prosperous farms of any size in the south, it ran on slave labor.  How many slaves, I don’t know.  

At the time of Bartemous’ death at the age of 85, he had only 280 acres left, and barely enough slaves to run an old man’s household.  His remaining slaves were listed by the Hall County appraisers who evaluated the estate on the 28th of November, 1854, six days after his death.  They were:


Dick, Dan, Selia, Will and the four children, like their forebears, probably went to church with their white master and preacher, (who at various times pastored Timber Will Baptist Church and Mud Creek Baptist Church.)  Although no manuscripts of Bartemous’ sermons remain, he probably sounded like other “men of God” before the Civil War:  

 “… the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.” –Rev. Richard Furman, President of South Carolina Convention of Baptists, 1823; namesake of Furman University

 “...Jesus Christ recognized this institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties... I affirm then, first (and no man denies) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command; and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction…”Rev. Thomas Stringfellow, 1856, Culpepper, VA

The servant is, like the child, to know that the authority under which he has been placed is from above, and that the master rules him as the agent of heaven.”. –Dr. Joseph R. Wilson, Presbyterian Pastor, Jan. 6, 1861

"It was established by decree of Almighty God ... it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation ... Slavery existed then in the earliest ages, and among the chosen people of God; and in Revelation we are told that it shall exist till the end of time shall come. You find it in the Old and New Testaments—in the prophecies, psalms, and the epistles of Paul; you find it recognized, sanctioned everywhere." –Sen. Jefferson Davis, a devout Episcopalian, 1860

“…. it is necessary for ministers of the gospel … to teach slavery from the pulpit, as it was taught by the holy men of old, who spake as moved by the holy Spirit …. Both Christianity and Slavery are from heaven; both are blessings to humanity; both are to be perpetuated to the end of time …. Because Slavery is right; and because the condition of the slaves affords them all those privileges which would prove substantial blessings to them; and, too, because their Maker has decreed their bondage, and has given them, as a race, capacities and aspirations suited alone to this condition of life ….”–Rev. Ebenezer W. Warren, First Baptist Church of Macon, Georgia, Jan. 27, 1861

“…hear the express words of the Holy Ghost in the Levitical law… 'Both thy bondmen and thy bondwomen which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever.' No law can be plainer. No instruction of truth could more convince the christian that he is standing upon the surest and safest ground… while upholding a system of domestic servitude." –Dr. Joseph R. Wilson, Presbyterian Pastor, Jan. 6, 1861...................................................

I wonder if Bartemous’religious calling made him a better master?  Frederick Douglass testified in his NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF A SLAVE that a good dose of religion made some masters worse:  
“In August, 1832, my master attended a Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbot county, and there experienced religion. I indulged a faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves, and that, if he did not do this, it would, at any rate, make him more kind and humane. I was disappointed in both these respects… for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion than before. Prior to his conversion, he relied upon his own depravity to shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. He made the greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among his brethren, and was soon made a class-leader and exhorter. His activity in revivals was great, and he proved himself an instrument in the hands of the church in converting many souls. His house was the preachers' home. They used to take great pleasure in coming there to put up; for while he starved us, he stuffed them. We have had three or four preachers there at a time.” Frederick Douglass, 1845

“I have said my master found religious sanction for his cruelty. As an example, I will state one of many facts going to prove the charge. I have seen him tie up a lame young woman, and whip her with a heavy cow skin upon her naked shoulders, causing the warm red blood to drip; and, in justification of the bloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture--"He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." Master would keep this lacerated young, woman tied up in this horrid situation four or five hours at a time. I have known him to tie her up early in the morning, and whip her before breakfast; leave her, go to his store, return at dinner, and whip her again, cutting her in the places already made raw with his cruel lash.” Frederick Douglass, 1845

 "I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cow skin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.” Frederick Douglass, 1845

 “While I lived with my master in St. Michael's, there was a white young man, a Mr. Wilson, who proposed to keep a Sabbath school for the instruction of such slaves as might be disposed to learn to read the New Testament. We met but three times, when Mr. West and Mr. Fairbanks, both class-leaders, with many others, came upon us with sticks and other missiles, drove us off, and forbade us to meet again. Thus ended our little Sabbath school in the pious town of St. Michael's.” Frederick Douglass, 1845

 “We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls!” Frederick Douglass, 1845

“The slave auctioneer's bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other--devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.” Frederick Douglass, 1845

 “…tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect”—Titus 2:9

 “…a very different-looking class of people are springing up at the south, and are now held in slavery, from those originally brought to this country from Africa; and if their increase will do no other good, it will do away the force of the argument, that God cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right. If the lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved, it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural; for thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence to white fathers, and those fathers most frequently their own masters.” Frederick Douglass, 1845

Southern preachers, likely including Bartemous Reynolds, were militant in support of slavery.  Just as, today, they are militant about other issues—issues that have far less Biblical support than did the issue of slavery.

 (Some of the many scriptures that support slavery:

  Colossians 3:22-25, Colossians 4:9, Deuteronomy 24:7, Ephesians 6:5, Exodus 12:44, Exodus 21:1-7, Exodus 21:7-11, Exodus 21:20-32, Exodus 22:2-3, Ezekiel 27:12,13, First Kings 2:39, First Kings 11:26-35, First Peter 2:18, First Peter 2:21-25, First Samuel 25:10, First Timothy 6:1-5, Gen.9:20-25, Genesis 9:25-27, Genesis 17:12,13, Genesis 37:27,28, 36, Genesis 41:1-45, Leviticus 22:11, Leviticus 25:40-46, Luke 12:46-47, Philemon 1:10, Numbers 31:28-40, Revelation 18:13, Second Samuel 8:2, and Titus 2:9-10,15.)


by Randy Reynolds

Fifteen-year-old Violet Appling married seventeen-year-old Gene Reynolds, a smart young man with no particular prospects or ambition, except for his recollection that, at eight years of age, traipsing along to someplace or other behind his mother, he had heard a strange voice calling his name and telling him to “go preach.” He looked around and no one was there.  And the voice said it again, “Gene, go preach.”   Marrying into the Appling family, Gene suddenly saw how he would fulfill that calling:  his father-in-law would be his mentor!

H.R. Appling was not a formally-educated man but who could tell?  Certainly not his mid-20th Century congregations in little churches and tents throughout Northeast Georgia, people to whom education didn’t (as the saying went) make no never-mind. What mattered to them was inspiration—was he preaching under the “anointing” of God?

Oh, yes!  He was under the anointing all right! It was evident from the way his Bible knowledge, his powerful personal narratives, and his awful prophecies made people burst out crying, shouting, speaking in unknown tongues,  dancing in the aisles, running across bench tops, falling prostrate at the altar.  At the height of a sermon his florid face throbbed like a bright red beacon and his booming voice seemed to make the very rafters (or tent poles) tremble.  

After scaring the bejeesus out of saints, backsliders and sinners alike, and while some still cried in terror and others writhed in other-worldly paroxysms, H.R. would jerk his fancy mother-of-pearl inlaid accordion from its case and play it like he preached—violently—while, with a beautiful voice, he’d sing some song of redemption from the hymnal, or a song he wrote himself the night before.   H.R. Appling was a STAR!  H.R. Appling had charisma.  And H.R. Appling had a protégé.

As a teenaged husband who (sometimes) lived with his inlaws, Gene—who began calling himself E.J., using just initials, like his father-in-law—would preach practice-sermons in the empty church next door to the Appling residence. And  E.J. was there at the parsonage on Sunday nights after church when his father-in-law, emotionally drained and physically exhausted after two services that day, would pick up the phone and make two calls:  one to the hot dog stand in Gainesville to order a gallon of Kool-Aid and ten hot dogs, and one to the Taxicab company to have them go pick up his order.  A Sunday night meal became a family tradition that E.J. continued throughout his own long ministry, though with a better menu.

When H.R. was on the road, headed home after preaching and singing at some other pastor’s church in Northeast Georgia, it was his habit to stop at a gas station and buy something to replenish his strength.  Some filling stations were general stores where he could get crackers, cheese, buttermilk and a pound of bologna and eat it all while leaning against his car. (He would develop diabetes and begin having heart attacks in his mid-fifties.) Sometimes, all he could find were crackers and Co-Cola and he’d make do with that. 

On a night in 1950, driving home with his son-in-law after a revival meeting, H.R. Appling eased his new Buick into a filling station in the town of Royston, Georgia, situated in the place the Cherokee had once called Ah-Yeh-Li A-Lo-Hee, “center of the world.”  Some kind of commotion was going on over at the gas pump where police cars surrounded an even bigger new Buick than H.R.’s and a little crowd of lookers had gathered, but H.R. and E.J. were only concerned with food, so they went on into the station. The night attendant, who had already talked to uniformed officers, saw these two guys come in with their shined shoes, Sunday suits, bow ties and stylish hats and decided they must be detectives from the police department.  All the preacher and his young protégé wanted was something to eat, but the man started talking up a storm about what he had seen, so as they waited to pay for their crackers and Cokes, they listened politely until he had told the whole brief bloody story.

This place that the Cherokee called “center of the world” had that night become the end of the world for a man who had pulled his big fine car with New Jersey plates up to the pumps for gas, with his wife beside him and his two children in the back seat. He was a well-dressed man. His appearance, as well as his car, bespoke success. He was also, unfortunately, a black man in Royston, Georgia, after sundown.

There were, at this time (and for 20 more years) towns throughout the South and some as far north as Indiana, where signs said, “N*gger don’t let the sun set on your head in this town.”  Cumming, Georgia, near where H.R. had grown up, was one.  Two convicted murderers were hanged before a crowd of 10,000 in Cumming in 1912. A third murderer was taken from a nearby jail and lynched. There ensued a terror campaign against all blacks in Forsyth County in which their churches were burned by nightriders, vigilantes threatened death to any white who dared hire a black, and black property owners were given an ultimatum to leave the county or else. Some sold their property and left. Others were forced out and their property confiscated and turned over to whites. This racial cleansing  spilled over into neighboring counties of Fulton, Hall, and Dawson (which had no blacks remaining by the 1920 census.)

When E.J. was a little boy in the 1930’s, a man selling watermelons would stop his truck on a street in the mill village in Gainesville and say, “Wanna buy a watermelon from Forsyth County where there ain’t no n*ggers?”   H.R. would tell his grandchildren (including me) about the vicious racism of Forsyth Countians where the sign warning blacks to be out of Cumming by nightfall remained until the early 1970’s.

Royston (located in Hart County, a few counties east of Forsyth) was much the same. Writing this (in 2013) I don’t know whether they had the sundown sign or not.  But they had the reputation.  This was the town Ty Cobb grew up in.  Although “Cobb” the movie about his life, made him seem like a racial monster, he was not an aberration. ........................................................................................................
Cobb beat up a black groundskeeper at the baseball stadium in Detroit because the man attempted to shake his hand. When the man’s wife complained, Cobb choked her and had to be pulled off her by other ballplayers.  When Cobb stepped in some freshly-poured cement a black worker complained and Cobb assaulted him and got arrested.

Royston’s Ty Cobb, in addition to being a great baseball player—the first inductee of the Hall of Fame—was a successful businessman.  He made millions investing in Coca Cola. He developed communities (today, we’d call them subdivisions) in Augusta. He was, for decades, on the board of directors of a bank in Lavonia.  He built (and donated) a string of hospitals in Northeast Georgia. So… he was a bank director, real estate developer, investor and philanthropist who intimidated and beat up blacks in public?  Not a problem if you lived in the America of that time. Especially not a problem if you were from Royston.

Card collectors value the baseball cards of Ty Cobb, but, for decades, one of the most popular cards in Royston was the postcard on sale at the drug store featuring a black man, Lent Shaw who was lynched in Royston in 1936. The postcard shows his body surrounded by the good Christian men who lynched him and shot his carcass 50 times.

Fast-forward to 1950:  It was after sundown. The man in the fancy car at the filling station was black. So the white man visiting the station didn’t see that he had much choice.  He did what he had to do: took a gun out of his pocket, walked over to the car and in the presence of the driver’s wife and children, shot him dead.  

E.J. Reynolds, (2013):  There was no reason to do that at all.  The black guy pulled in there and this white guy just walked over and killed him.

When we got there, they had already moved the guy that had got shot and we didn’t know what was going on. It was a little freaky that the attendant thought we were police and he kept talking.

They later had the trial and the white guy went free.  Preacher Appling and me attended the trial. They let the guy go because he said there had been a robbery in the area a few nights before and he thought this might be the guy that did it.

(*Me:  This was 63 years before George Zimmerman peddled a similar story and got away with it!)

E.J. Reynolds, continued:  I went to the court two or three times there in Royston.  Little place over there, they didn’t have professional ball or anything, all they had was good revivals and trials. I just happened to go to a few of those, you know.

Another trial we attended was where a man and his son-in-law, these were white men, had a problem and the son-in-law was running from his father-in-law who shot him in the back with a shotgun and killed him and the father-in-law went free. He was white, you see.  And another trial I saw was where a black man shot somebody during a fight, in self defense, and they found him guilty and gave him the electric chair.

In those little old country towns like that they had some strange things that happened like that some times. You know, a lot of prejudice involved there. 

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop...............
"Strange Fruit" is a poem written in 1937 
by LEWIS ALLAN, pen name of a white, 
Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx 
as a protest against a 1930 lynching photo 
he had seen on a postcard. (Real name Abel 
Meeropol.) It became a hit song for 
Billie Holiday and others. 

History is what we choose to remember.   Elliot Jaspin

Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America   By Elliot Jaspin


Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism    By James W. Loewen


The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921   By Tim Madigan


by Randy Reynolds

A young boy, let’s call him Cuz, joined a gym at an impressionable age. Perhaps he was exposed to people there who thought and acted as he does now and either he learned to be like them or this was always in him and they just helped bring it out.  A non-athletic youngster, he somehow thrived in the gym and was able to build himself up physically into a hard man whose strength qualified him for a blue-collar job that the average person couldn’t do. He got this job young and kept it his whole working life, associating during those decades only with good old boys like himself: minimally-educated residents of a rural enclave that felt itself superior to, yet fearful of, the changing world beyond the county line.  I’ve often wondered:  did he become like them or was he like this from the start?

He married into a preacher’s family and was undoubtedly exposed to the siege mentality and persecution complex of the fundamentalist Christians of that time and place.  What that did to his values, I don’t know.

His next wife was from a wealthier family, some previous generation of which had pulled itself up by its own bootstraps, a southernism for “they inherited land.”   These people hated the government that gave them annual checks just for having farmland, the government that guaranteed them artificially high prices for the food they raised on their farm, the government that paid them for their losses when bad weather or bad luck happened to strike.  They despised the government but took the checks.  They hated socialism but were beneficiaries of its purest form in America—the Farm Bill.  They also despised their landless neighbors, fearful that the rabble, the rabble’s government, the rabble’s liberals, or inferior races would dispossess them of _____ . (Fill in the blank with any one of their numerous viral fears.)

Cuz seemed like a normal kid. When I lived near his family, I adopted the role of big brother and took him fishing often (about once a week in 1976.)  We went target shooting, played touch football in the vacant lot, competed with each other on that marvelous, miraculous, awe-inspiring electronic game Pong, went to Atlanta Braves games a time or two.  It was at his family's house at noon, January 20, 1977, that I watched Jimmy Carter sworn in as President, a moment that, for some reason, felt like the highlight of my life.

I don’t know whether his mom and dad voted for Carter for President.  I know they didn’t particularly like him as a governor after he said the time for racial discrimination is over, and then went and hung Martin Luther King, Jr.’s portrait in the state capitol.  Their racial views were not virulent, as their son’s turned out to be.  His mom’s racism was genteel, a Paula Deen self-righteousness.  She said of the only black person she worked with in the ‘70’s, “Why, she’s as clean as any white person.  I’d as soon eat at her table as a lot of white people I know.”

Cuz’s dad didn't obsess over race, even when the air around him was thick with resentment over civil rights and hatred of LBJ. At a Sunday dinner at my grandparents' home when a half dozen men and two of the more outspoken ladies of his family were praising soon-to-be governor Lester Maddox for passing out axe-handles to white patrons of his restaurant so they could attack blacks who tried to enter, Cuz’s dad did not join in.  The only racial remark I can remember him making came as we watched the Supremes performing on TV. Never taking his eyes off the screen, he said, “Them little n*gger girls sure can sing.”

Years after moving away, I came back to town for a visit. Sitting under a persimmon tree with family, friends and neighbors while children played nearby in the vacant lot, Cuz—all grown up now—packed tobacco in his cheek and told us of his adventure in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (which is where the Braves played at the time.) 

“I went down to the men’s room and this n*gger came in and I knocked the sh*t out of him.  Pow! Right in the face. I got everything into that punch.  I mean I got him good.”    He said it in a reverent voice, as if experiencing the thrill all over again. 

“Why’d you hit him?”  I asked.

Cuz  looked at me like I was crazy.  “Because he was a n*gger!  I hate f*cking n*ggers.”

“Did he say anything?”

Cuz's eyes sparkled and he smiled, remembering. “He didn’t have time. I hit him in the mouth as soon as I saw him.”

“Did he do anything to you?”

“No, but I did something to him.  He bled like a stuck pig.”

Cuz’s dad spoke up.  “Tell him the rest.”

Cuz looked sheepish.  “Somebody got Security.  They held me for the cops.  Arrested for hitting a n*gger.  You believe that?”

Cuz’s dad said, “I had to go all the way to Atlanta and bail him out of jail.”

I’ve seen old Cuz only three times in the ensuing 35 years.  He’s a fine-looking man getting getting close to retirement age now but still strong as an ox. He’s well-to-do, a pillar of the community; his old mama’s pride and joy. He has a beautiful family, but worries about their future, especially if they ever leave their rural roots, because the world "out there" (beyond the county line) is crazier-than-ever, what with Black Panthers stealing the Presidency for a Muslim born in Kenya who refuses to nuke the countries that deserve it,  black children living in the White House, death panels, Obamacare, welfare queens down to the Super 1 wearing pajamas while buying four buggies full of food at a time on food stamps, the  global warming conspiracy, the government wanting to take away his guns and his holy institution of marriage (which he has enjoyed as a serial marrier) and the Supreme Court taking away his  right to pray at ballgames and in classrooms, even though he doesn't pray at home.

Cuz thinks the world's gone crazy (everywhere except where he lives) and he just can’t get over it.



by Randy Reynolds

1939. Gainesville, Georgia. “Barnell” Reynolds and his 9 year old son Gene walked to town to pick up something at Cousin Butch Reynolds’ outdoor market—a row of fenced-off tables, booths and sheds that Butch rented to farmers and storekeepers. People from the nearby mill village went there to buy fresh produce, straight from the red clay fields around Gainesville, flour recently ground at one of Hall County’s water mills and pork or beef from Butch’s butcher shop. Not everything was home grown: snuff, coffee and Coca Cola were sold there, too.

Butch Reynolds’ outdoor market was a wondrous place to a 9-year-old, but what was behind the market was even better.  Butch, who may have owned more property (and had more money) than anyone in Gainesville had his own little zoo.  Whether he had bought it or gotten it through foreclosure on a loan-gone-bad, young Gene didn’t know.  All that mattered to him was that a trip to Butch’s market meant he could get a Coke and a bag of peanuts and go out back and see a bear, a couple of wildcats, a coyote and some monkeys.

The salt on the peanuts made the soda fizz, so Gene drank the fizz and bubbles first, then the Coke and, when all 6 ounces were gone, held his head back and shook the bottle and tapped it to get the rest of the peanuts.  Concentrating on getting peanuts out of the Coke bottle, he turned the corner near the bear cage and realized something was wrong.

The 9-year-old Gene is now 82-year-old Gene and yesterday (7/20/2013) he told me what happened that day in 1939: 

I just froze up against the side of the wall.  There were two white guys, I’d say twenty years old or older, and one of these grown white guys had a Coca Cola bottle in his hand. And they had this little black boy down on his knees.  He was about the same age as me.  He had gone back there to look at the monkeys evidently. They were making him lick their shoes. And one of them said to the other one, ‘Don’t hit him in the head. Hit a nigger in the head, that won’t hurt him. Hit him in the heel. That’s where his brain is. Hit him in the heel, it’ll kill him.’ 

The little guy’s eyes was all…

You know I just froze up against the side of the wall.

They were kidding him, you see, is what I think.  I don’t believe they meant to kill him. But they had him scared to death.  And I was afraid to say anything.  And I just eased on out of there and went back around there where Daddy was. And I didn’t ever say nothing about it, you know.  I don’t think they ever hurt the little boy, but it really bothered me.  He was about my age, 9 or 10.  And he wasn’t bothering anything. He just went back there to look at the monkeys. 

That was a cruel thing people sometimes did to little guys like that, you know.  Black children.  It was really terrible.  They didn’t kill him.  They just had him scared, you know.  I saw a number of things like that along through the years.

Gene Reynolds, the white boy, still vividly remembers what happened that day behind Butch Reynolds’ market in Gainesville.  That nameless black boy would be about 82 today (the same age as Gene.)  I wonder if he still thinks about it, too?

"I think it's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away." ~Barack Obama  7/19/2013



by Randy Reynolds

My dad and mom, when I was young,
Expanded their family
Till they wound up
With six of us
Four daughters, my brother and me.

The pay of a preacher was way too meager
With so many mouths to feed. 
Then I turned fifteen
And Violet and Gene
Had an epiphany:

My daddy said, “Ran, they need a new man
To work at the A & P.”
I said, “Who me?
“Bagging groceries?
“Where all my friends will see?”

“Son, a boy your age, gettin’ minimum wage,
“Is an opportunity.”
“No, Daddy, please!
“Not the A & P!
“Daddy, don’t do this to me!”

He quoted, “Whatsoever thy hand
findeth to do, do it with thy might.”
Was before A & P’s.
But scripture I couldn’t fight.

Then, driving to Covington A & P
He had a revelation:
Recalling that somewhere recently
Someone had said WARB
Needed someone to clean the station.

In the studio of the Rick Webb Show
Mr. Rick had no time for me.
“Don’t need a janitor,”
Said the manager.
“Need a third class licensee.”

He gave me a book and a ferocious look
And said, “The FCC
“Will give you this test.
“So be my guest.
“If you pass, get back to me.”

I studied the book and passed the damned test
Mr. Rick was surprised at me!
But he said, “Okay
“You’re now a deejay.”
         And I was saved from the A & P!