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City set to quietly mark 60th anniversary of Albany Movement
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ALBANY — As she sits on a bench in Sherrod Park, where monoliths in a fountain recount critical elements of the Albany Civil Rights Movement, Realtor Lula B. Davis, who’s worked in that industry for 43 years and knows virtually every square inch of real estate in Albany’s Harlem District, points to buildings across the street.

“Eureka Baptist Church, which is on Lily Pond Road now, was right there,” Davis says. “There was Buck Giles’ supermarket right there, Cochran Studio, Dr. Smith’s drug store, the Southwest Georgian (newspaper) was put together right over there until they built this monument and the paper was moved back across the street.

“Over there was Connie’s Corner; Dr. Gordon’s father had a Standard Oil station on that corner. ... There was Poteet Funeral Home, the city’s first black attorney’s office, Dr. William Anderson’s office ...”

Davis, who met on a recent sunny afternoon with former Albany Civil Rights Institute Director Frank Wilson, city of Albany Downtown Manager Laquerica Gaskins and Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher, was not at the Jackson Street park to reminisce. She was there with the others to promote renovation of the Harlem District and to offer a late-in-the-game reminder that Wednesday is a significant day in Albany’s history: the 60th anniversary of the start of the Albany Movement.

“The plans for the city’s Transportation Center (which is being built at 300 W. Oglethorpe Blvd.) and other plans to renovate the Harlem District are timely announcements,” Wilson said. “November 17 marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Albany Movement. This is a significant part of this city’s history, and these plans coming about will help create a future that will mimic and exceed this district’s past.”

Davis said the city and its residents, particularly those who lived through the turbulent civil rights era, should readily acknowledge the significance of the Harlem district and its part in the Albany Movement, even if there is no formal marking of the occasion.

“At one time, this little area was the only place where blacks could do business in this city,” she said.

Gaskins said the city is indeed considering the importance of the district and the Civil Rights Movement as it works on a redevelopment master plan. The kickoff meeting for the plan, which offered members of the community the opportunity to add their thoughts to the mix, was held Saturday.

“The anniversary of the Albany Movement is very significant to Albany’s history, and development of downtown by the Albany Development Authority, Albany-Dougherty Inner-City Authority and the city certainly includes the Harlem District,” she said. “Tourism will be a big part of our master plan, and this area’s history figures prominently into tourism plans.”

Fletcher, too, said the city government is widening its focus of downtown development as officials look to revitalize the city’s central district.

“I’ve said all along that people tend to just call Pine Avenue ‘downtown,’” the Ward III commissioner said. “But we must include all of downtown, especially with the rich history of the Albany Movement and the Harlem District. Even if you have a messy past, there is a need to be aware of it, to know your history. This city’s roots grew from here.”

But Wilson said he’s been discouraged by African Americans who shield their children from the city’s history.

“From a purely ethnic standpoint, every other ethnic group cherishes their community, their history,” he said. “Look at the Jewish community, for example. It’s not enough for kids to see those footprints on the sidewalk starting at Shiloh Baptist Church, they need to know what those footprints are about.

“I had a lady tell me recently that her children don’t need to know all the hardships (blacks) endured during the civil rights era. I was stunned. If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going.”

The small group all agreed that Wilson’s recommendation that Albany have a black history museum as a companion to the Civil Rights Institute would widen the opportunity for young people to grasp the significance of African Americans in the community outside the Albany Movement.

“Before I left the Civil Rights Museum, we were able to acquire all of (Olympic champion) Alice Coachman’s effects except her gold medal,” Wilson said. “That’s worthy of recognition outside the civil rights struggle. There’s a sorority founder, one of its national presidents, the first black Congressman from Georgia ... all these people who had a significant impact on our region, our state, our nation and even the world ... and our kids know nothing about them.

“I’ve made an attempt in the past to, if not make it a full course, at least make it a requirement that Albany State University students visit the Civil Rights Museum. No student should spend four years in Albany and not know everything there is to know about the civil rights history in this city.”

The question then becomes, how do leaders bring these ideas to fruition.

“It’s not enough to just let people know about these things, we have to get them involved,” Davis said. “We’ve got to get them out here under these trees, make them see the significance of these vital parts of our history.”

There also should be a requirement for participation, adds Wilson.

“Frankly, we’ve got to get people involved who have more than an ounce of give-a-damn,” he said. “We need people who give more than lip service, the people who tell everyone about what’s not being done rather than insisting that it get done.”

That’s the kind of attitude and commitment, all agree, that would have made Wednesday’s 60th anniversary of the Albany Movement a cause for celebration and not just an afterthought.

Massive rainfall totals cut into profits for southwest Georgia cotton, peanut farmers
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LEARY — It’s a rare occasion when southwest Georgia farmers are humming the “Rain rain, go away” tune, but 2021 was an unusual year that saw heavy rainfall during the growing season for the region’s row crops.

The rain-soaked ground delayed applications of fertilizer and pesticides, damaged plant roots and delayed harvests.

As he was wrapping up peanut picking this week, Calhoun County farmer Jimmy Webb estimated the cumulative effect of the prolonged wet weather was a 10 to 15 percent reduction in yield for his 2021 crop.

“I think this is my 38th crop, and I don’t remember it (ever) being this wet,” he said. “Roots can’t absorb any nutrients, can’t even grow if they’re saturated all the time. Too much water is just as bad as not enough water.”

Webb estimated that cotton, which was still being harvested, would suffer a similar hit in yield.

There was one bright spot, however.

“I would say I’ve had the best corn crop I’ve ever had,” Webb said.

From June through September, 49.24 inches of rain were measured at the University of Georgia’s weather station at Spence Field in Moultrie, site of the Sunbelt Ag Exposition. That was double the amount in 2020, and there was measurable rainfall for 65 days during those four months in 2021.

Average rainfall for a year in southwest Georgia is about 50 inches coming over about 100 days. Rainfall varies from location to location, but there is no doubt the region as a whole experienced an unusually wet growing season.

“The good news is commodity prices are good,” Webb said. “We’ve had the best commodity prices we’ve had in a long time. That’s what hurts. If we had made a bigger crop, we would have hit a home run.”

Peanut prices are in the $500 per ton range, better than the usual prices of $400 to $425 per ton, he said.

“That’s going to help,” Webb said.

Despite the weather, it wasn’t a bad year for cotton and peanuts, said Colquitt County agricultural extension agent Jeremy Kichler, with some reporting peanut yields as high as 5,000 pounds per acre.

Still, the lost production will hurt. Kichler said the 10 to 15 percent reduction Webb related could be a good estimate in general.

“That 15 percent, that’s their 15 percent, which is their profit,” he said. “We’ve had so many challenges. It’s been crazy, from a disease-management standpoint. I’ve seen farmers who just couldn’t get in their fields. From a quality standpoint, I think we did really well.”

Those challenges look to extend into 2022, with farmers looking at a landscape with high prices for farm chemicals and fertilizer.

Farmers will need to look at the best mix of crops to maximize profits with an eye toward reducing the costs of those inputs, Kichler said.

“Even though commodity prices are going up, input prices are going up, too,” he said. “With prices like these, we’re going to have to make every input count. Fertilizer is going up. It seems like it’s going up by the day.

“It’s weird times we’re going through right now, from logistics to labor. Every year is different.”

In 2019, direct payments to cotton growers in the state, not counting additional payments received by farmers, totaled $983.6 million, according to the University of Georgia. Crisp County was tops at $59.4 million, with Colquitt, Decatur, Early, Miller, Mitchell and Worth counties also in the top 10.

Direct peanut payments to peanut growers totaled $663 million. Top peanut-producing counties included Crisp, Dooly, Decatur, Miller, Mitchell and Worth.

Chalking it up to art
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ALBANY — Whether it was one of the talented artists showing off their chalk art skills or Albany Museum of Art Executive Director Andy Wulf taking visitors to the “gun show,” the museum’s annual ChalkFest in downtown Albany offered a large crowd plenty for all tastes Saturday.

Dougherty County sport shooting venue gets facelift
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ALBANY — A 56-year-old southwest Georgia sport shooting facility is getting a face-lift and a lot of TLC after receiving a grant from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Volunteers with the member-owned Flint Skeet, Trap and Sporting Clays Course off Lily Pond Road in southwest Dougherty County are working up to six or seven days a week to improve the venerable 78-acre course that was built by the Johnson family in 1965. A group of sport shooting enthusiasts asked the owners eight years ago if they would sell the Bird in Hand course to the group that wanted to preserve and improve the course for generations of sporting enthusiasts, many of which use the facility as a home course for shooting competitions.

“When we bought the course, we really knew nothing about preparing it for competition,” Russ Alexander said. “We just started clearing land and adding to the course. We were getting groups from the GISA, 4-H, church groups, local businesses, and just mom and dads come out, and when we heard DNR had a grant program, we thought our facility was one the department would support.

“My wife, Lorraine, wrote up the grant, and we sent it off to DNR. Of course, (Albany businessman and former Dougherty County Commission chairman) Jeff Sinyard is on the state DNR board, so we asked him if he’d support our efforts. We think his influence went a long way in us getting the grant, plus, the grant covered 75% of what we needed ($60,000) to update machines that had been here since 1965, so Jeff donated another 15% of the cost. We wouldn’t be out here talking right now if it weren’t for him.”

Sinyard said DNR officials agreed that the Dougherty County venue offered viable outdoor activities for young people in the region.

“We started the Fall Feather Hunt here in 1989, so we’re now going into our 33rd year,” Sinyard said. “It’s had a large impact on business in the state. I’m an avid hunter, and my boys are, and we’ve seen a lot of schools in the area starting shooting teams, since about eight years ago.

“As for the DNR, the board saw this facility as an opportunity to get young people who maybe don’t play football or baseball or soccer or basketball involved in shooting, which is a team and individual sport. It provides a perfect opportunity for young people who like to shoot and hunt to be involved in an activity that makes them a more rounded person. The DNR’s — and my personal — involvement is about getting young people involved in outdoor sports.”

On a recent Saturday, high school-age shooters from Deerfield-Windsor School, Southland Academy, Terrell Academy, Westwood School and Tiftarea Academy took part in a competition that allowed the Flint Skeet, Trap and Sporting Clays Course staff to unveil new skeet and sporting clay machines installed that week utilizing funds from the DNR grant.

“We just got this finished yesterday,” Alexander said while giving a visitor a tour on an off-road vehicle donated by Power Sports Plus. “We’re giving it a test run today. It’s reassuring because some of the machines that were in use were the same machines that were here in 1965 when the course opened.

“We’re really a mom-and-pop organization of people who like to shoot.”

One member at the local course is Carl Hudson, a former state champion who at 81 still is involved in managing the course and teaching shooters.

“There is a need for a facility like this, so it’s a great thing that you’re helping let folks know we’re out here,” Hudson said. “This is the home course for schools and groups all over the region, and I’m happy to be a part of helping shooters who use the course.”

Retired mechanic Lex Dorminey is another club member/volunteer who puts in work at the course four or five days a week. His work helps keep the trap, skeet and sporting clay machines operating and ready when a shooter says, “Pull,” and waits for an orange disc to go whizzing forth from one of 12 stations that are changed frequently so that shooters don’t get locked in on the course of the targets.

Terrell Academy junior Bailey McMath and her brother, freshman Andrew McMath, were among the high school shooters taking part in the recent GISA competition.

“Our grandparent was a world champion, so we’d better be good at this,” Bailey McMath said. “We’ve been shooting since we were old enough to hold a gun.”

The Flint Skeet, Trap and Sporting Clays Course is open to the public Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m. (“Or whenever it gets too dark to shoot,” Alexander said), Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays from 2-6 p.m. Volunteers are always welcome to work on the facilities on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Memberships are available, and members receive discounts when they shoot at the course. For information about the course, contact Tibbie Watson at