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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: February 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

General Forrest License Plate in Mississippi

By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr., Speaker, Writer, Author and Chairman of the National and Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Confederate History and Heritage Month Committee

Union Gen. William T. Sherman said of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, "After all, I think Forrest as the most remarkable man our 'Civil War' produced on either side.”

It’s been reported that the Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates to mark the 150th anniversary of the "War Between the States" including one honoring Gen. Forrest.

Some are urging Governor Barbour to deny this request because they believe Forrest led the Ku Klux Klan after the War Between the States. General Forrest not only denied being a member but was in fact responsible for getting the KKK disbanded.

Some even falsely blame Forrest for the Fort Pillow Massacre even though a Union investigation cleared him.

Forrest's speech during a meeting of the "Jubilee of Pole Bearers" is a story that should be told. Gen. Forrest was the first white man to be invited by this group which was a forerunner of today's Civil Right's group. A reporter of the Memphis Avalanche newspaper was sent to cover the event that included a Southern barbeque supper.

Miss Lou Lewis, daughter of a Pole Bearer member, was introduced to Forrest and she presented the former general a bouquet of flowers as a token of reconciliation, peace and good will. On July 5, 1875, Nathan Bedford Forrest delivered this speech:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none.


I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don't propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I'll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand." (Prolonged applause.)

End of speech.

Nathan Bedford Forrest again thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. Such a kiss was unheard of in the society of those days, in 1875, but it showed a token of respect and friendship between the general and the black community and did much to promote harmony among the citizens of Memphis.

The State of Mississippi should approve the Forrest plate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Did the seceding states believe they could leave peacefully without provoking a war?

By Brag Bowling

The leadership in most Southern states was guided by the following credo—“hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. In 1860, most Americans were of the opinion that secession was a legal and constitutional doctrine. A country which had to be held together by force of arms was a country which nobody sought because our Founding Fathers created a voluntary Union.

One would have to wonder how many of the original 13 Colonies would have signed on to the Constitution if they were told in 1787 that should they exercise their perceived right to leave that they would be invaded, with the resulting deaths of thousands of citizens, millions of dollars of property stolen or destroyed, and economic chaos which would depress their economies for nearly 100 years. My bet is that there would be no signatures placed on that document.

Of all Southerners, perhaps Jefferson Davis understood the costs of war if it should come. He had been both Secretary of War and a high ranking Senator. He could see the steep odds the South faced both economically and militarily should war come. He sought peace in both his famous Senate Farewell Speech and his 1st Inaugural Address in 1861.

Southern leaders worked hard to pursue a peaceful separation. Conferences were set up for a lawful transfer of assets in areas under Confederate control. Virginia set up a Peace Conference to avoid war. Unfortunately, the Lincoln Administration would not work out an agreement on Ft. Sumter and several other installations. Ft. Sumter would become the flashpoint of the war. South Carolina demanded possession of the fort and offered to pay for it. Viewing themselves as a sovereign entity, they were not interested in another country militarily occupying a fort within their boundary. Through the offices of Secretary of State William Seward, the South relied on his promises that the fort would not be resupplied militarily and that the garrison would be removed. At the same time, President Lincoln covertly assembled a fleet to resupply Ft. Sumter. He was well aware of the crisis in Charleston and proceeded accordingly, thus negating Secretary of Seward’s assurances. He had shrewdly maneuvered the South into fighting and firing the first shot which certainly galvanized Northern public opinion towards war.

Everyone today knows that there was no peaceful secession. A tragic, terrible and costly war occurred. But one thing which today’s historians fail to address is what might have been the result of “peaceful secession”. I have seen a few guesses but here is a theory which you will never see in a textbook today but may have been quite feasible. Both countries would have continued to thrive politically and economically. Slavery would have ended on its own, certainly by the end of the century with advances in technology. Brazil was the last nation in the western hemisphere to end slavery in 1888 and like most nations, ended it peacefully. The North would have been forced through economic competition to drop its high tariff policies. The transition to the centralized, high tax state would certainly have been stalled. Perhaps most interesting, America’s intervention in World War I made it possible for the punishing Versailles Treaty, resentment to which led to the ascendency of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War. This might not have occurred if there were two nations. A reasonable settlement in Europe probably would have occurred. And probably, the commonality of interests between the United States and Confederate states may have led to a reunion.

Friday, February 18, 2011


By Bob Hurst

It has been an irritation to me for many years that a segment of the population of this country delights in denigrating and disparaging those individuals who fought for four long years for the Cause of Southern independence and self-determination. Often these attacks are meant to portray those Southerners (and their progeny) as nothing more than bumpkins or gap-toothed, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.

Because of this continuing character assassination by that segment of the population, I have long held a strong affinity for those Confederate leaders who were not only gallant warriors but also men of academia.

There are two Confederate generals who especially stand out to me in this regard and they are what this month's article is about.

Since I first read about Daniel Harvey Hill, he has been a special favorite of mine among Confederate generals (who just happen to be one of my favorite groups among Homo Sapiens).

D.H. Hill was a native South Carolinian who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point as a member of the rather remarkable class of 1842. He served in the Mexican War and was twice breveted for bravery but, rather than pursuing a career in the military, he had a desire to become an educator and resigned to pursue this dream. He succeeded admirably.

He served as a professor of mathematics at Washington College in Virginia from 1849 to 1854. This is the college that is now known as Washington & Lee University. (The school was renamed after the immortal Robert E. Lee served as president of the college until his death and was then succeeded by his son, Custis, who served as president for 27 years.)

While a professor at Washington College, D.H. Hill authored a college textbook , ELEMENTS OF ALGEBRA, that was popular throughout the South. It was described as "pointing a finger of ridicule and scorn at any and everything Northern". Despite the sarcasm in the book, Professor Thomas J. Jackson of Virginia Military Institute (this was in the pre-"Stonewall days) had high praise for the book as an excellent algebra text.

D.H. Hill left Washington College in 1854 to take a position at Davidson College in North Carolina as a professor of mathematics. He stayed at Davidson until 1859 when he was selected to be the superintendent of North Carolina Military Institute, a position he held until the outbreak of war in 1861.

Hill left NCMI to join the Confederate Army. He was immediately appointed a colonel because of his intelligence, leadership ability and prior military record. His advancement was fast as he was appointed a brigadier general on July 10, 1861 and then major general on March 26, 1862. He had a distinguished record in the War as his division performed exceptionally at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Second Manassas and Sharpsburg. He was made commander of the Department of North Carolina in 1863 and promoted to lieutenant general on July 11, 1863.

At Chickamauga he commanded a corps and performed outstandingly. He did, however, become an outspoken critic of General Braxton Bragg, a close friend of President Jefferson Davis. Hill was always true to his convictions and this is one of the things I most admire about him. Unfortunately, in this instance it led to his being relieved of his command. Sadly, there is politics in everything. Hill did see action later in the War at the rank of major general and performed gallantly.

After the War ended, he returned to Charlotte and edited and published a popular magazine, THE LAND WE LOVE, from 1866 to 1869. In 1877 he returned to academia when he was selected to be the president of the University of Arkansas. He held this position until 1884.

In 1886 he was made president of Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College and served in this capacity until his death in 1889.

An academic through and through, his family reflected this passion for learning. His wife was the daughter of the first president of Davidson College, one son would become president of North Carolina State University and another son would serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court as chief justice.

Daniel Harvey Hill personified the very best of the Southern gentleman, scholar and warrior.

Another Confederate general who shattered the stereotype of the uneducated Southerner was Alexander Peter Stewart of Tennessee.

A.P. Stewart was another member of the outstanding West Point class of 1842. He left the military, however, in 1845 to take a position as a professor at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He taught mathematics and also natural and experimental philosophy. For the next sixteen years, until 1861, he lectured in these two academic disciplines at Cumberland and at the University of Nashville.

At the onset of the War, he volunteered to fight for the South. His abilities and intelligence were quickly recognized and he was appointed brigadier general on November 8, 1861. Because of his distinguished record in the field, he was promoted to major general from June 2, 1863 and to lieutenant general on June 23, 1864. After his promotion to lieutenant general, he became commander of Polk's corps and held that position until the end.

After the War, he returned to Cumberland and taught for five years before moving to St. Louis to enter the business world. In 1874, however, he was elected by the Board of Trustees to the position of chancellor of the University of Mississippi. His election as chancellor was an indication to the citizens of the state that the rule of the Radical Republicans was coming to an end in Mississippi.

Stewart held the position of chancellor for twelve years before resigning. He recognized what he represented to the people of the state and worked tirelessly as a promoter of the university going on numerous speaking tours touting the school. It was during Stewart's administration that the first female student was admitted to the university and the first female faculty member was hired.

After A.P. Stewart left Ole Miss, he was selected to be a commissioner of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park - a position he held until his death in 1908.

While D.H. Hill and A.P.Stewart represent, to me, the finest examples of the scholar warrior because of their academic careers both before and after the great war of 1861-65, they certainly were not alone among Confederate leaders in also being leaders in the field of higher education.

Other Confederate generals who served as college presidents after the War include Henry Clayton who served as president of the University of Alabama, L.L. Lomax who was president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech), the remarkable Sullivan "Sul" Ross who was president of Texas A&M after serving as governor of the state, Edmund Kirby Smith who was president of the University of Nashville before spending the last 18 years of his life as a professor of mathematics at the University of the South and Stephen D. Lee who was the first president of what is now Mississippi State University.

Another Confederate general, Mark Perrin Lowrey, went a step further and actually founded a college after the War. General Lowrey founded Blue Mountain Female Institute in Mississippi and , in addition to serving as president of the school, also taught courses in history and moral science for many years.

I have, of course, already mentioned Robert E. Lee and his son, George Washington Custis Lee, who each served as president of the institution that now bears the name of Washington and Lee University - one of the finest academic institutions in the country.

There are far too many former Confederates who served as professors after the War to even begin mentioning them. The truth is that there were many truly outstanding individuals in the leadership of the Confederacy. Gentlemen who served not only as scholars and college presidents but also as governors, senators, congressmen, diplomats and business leaders. Many were truly Renaissance Men.

During the next four years, while we celebrate the sesquicentennial of the War, there will be many attempts by the media and others to portray Confederates in a negative and unflattering manner. Don't drink their Kool-Aid. Do some research on your own and I'm sure you will soon realize how truly outstanding these men were. Their Cause was also right and just.


Note: I hope many of you plan to attend the re-enactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. It will be Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6. Activities start at 9AM each day and extend into the evening on Saturday but only until about 3:30 PM Sunday afternoon. It's a great chance to watch the good guys win again and prevent the yanks from taking our capital. My daughter and I will be there selling copies of my two new books - CONFEDERATE JOURNAL, Volume 1, 2005-2007 and CONFEDERATE JOURNAL, Volume 2, 2008-2009. These books are compilations of all CONFEDERATE JOURNAL articles appearing in this magazine from October 2007 through December 2009. Volume 3 will have to wait until I write the articles for this year. I hope many of you will stop by our sutler's tent to say "hello" and, hopefully, buy the books. If you prefer to order online please go to the following sites: (for Volume 1) and (for Volume 2)

Bob Hurst is a Southern Patriot who has a strong interest in the Confederacy and the antebellum architecture of the South. He is Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and is 2nd Lt. Cmdr. of the Florida Division, SCV. He can be contacted at or 850-878-7010.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fauquier Heritage Institute presents Sesquicentennial Seminar, "America's Uncivil War: The War Between the States"

By Gar Schulin

WARRENTON, VA - The 2011 edition of the annual Fauquier Heritage Institute Lectures in American History features distinguished local historians and nationally acclaimed scholars to address a variety of topics of local and national significance pertaining to the momentous 1861-65 War Between the States on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the epic struggle.

On Saturday, 26 March 2011, the Institute will present a special Sesquicentennial seminar program in the series, "America's Uncivil War: The War Between the States," presented with cooperation by the Abbeville Institute for the Study of Southern Culture. The day-long seminar will feature lectures by distinguished Abbeville scholars with a break for lunch, followed by a panel discussion, conviviality, refreshments and book signings. The seminar will held at the John Barton Payne Building, located at 2 Courthouse Square, on Main Street, in Old Town Warrenton, Virginia. Admission is free to the public and the lectures are sponsored by the Fauquier County Public Library.

The day will begin with complimentary refreshments, treats and an Overview at 8:30 AM. The seminar will provide interested students of history with a greater understanding of the essential truths underlying the revolutionary rupture of the federative polity of the Founders that resulted in what, arguably, was the bloodiest war of the nineteenth century.

Lecture 1 will begin at 9:00 AM by Dr. Thomas J. DiLorenzo, "Why the South Should Never Have Formed a Union With New England Yankees." Lecture 2 will begin at 10:45 AM by Dr. John A. Emison, "Did the Constitution Form 'a more perfect Union'?" Following the 12:15 PM Lunch Break, Lecture 3 will begin at 1:00 PM by Dr. Robert M. Peters, "The Rise of the Hobbesian State and the Demise of Subsidiarity." Lecture 4 will begin at 2:45 PM by LTC D. Jonathan White, "Economics of Anti-Secession." A Panel Discussion will round out the afternoon, followed by conviviality, refreshments and book signings by the authors. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis and interested participants are encouraged to arrive early.

The Abbeville Institute is an association of scholars in higher education devoted to a critical study of what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition. The Institute conducts seminars and conferences for college and graduate students, and guides research and publication on all aspects of the Southern tradition. The Institute is not a Southern heritage preservation society, nor is it concerned merely with the history of the region. Its work is more philosophic in nature, namely to explore the metaphysical image of things human and divine to which the Southern tradition bears witness. This includes seeking to understand the value of those features of community that promote an enduring and humane order: the importance of private property, place, piety, humility, manners, classical liberal studies, rhetoric, and the importance of a human scale to political order. Institute scholars and students are interested both in what those values intimate for our own time, and in how they came to be features of the Southern tradition.

To learn more about the mission of the Abbeville Institute, please refer to their web address at:

About our Abbeville scholar guest presenters:

Dr. Thomas J. DiLorenzo is a Professor of Economics in the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola College and is a senior fellow of the Mises Institute. He is the award-winning author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War; Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe; Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution- And What it Means For America Today; and How Capitalism Saved America; among others. He has been interviewed by a wide spectrum of national radio and television programs, and has published numerous essays in prominent national journals, magazines, newspapers and academic forums. Dr. DiLorenzo received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and is a Winner of the Franz Cuhel Memorial Prize for Excellence in Economics Education by Prague University.

Dr. John A. Emison is a sixth generation Tennessean who holds a Ph.D. in resource geography from Oregon State University; a M.S. in physical geography from Memphis State University; and a B.A. in liberal arts from Union University. Dr. Emison worked for more than 15 years in environmental management in Oak Ridge, Tennessee as an environmental scientist and science reporter for the Oak Ridger, and previously served as an editor of a business newspaper in eastern Tennessee. As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Dr. Emison has a keen interest in Southern history and constitutional law. His first acclaimed book, "Lincoln uber alles: Dictatorship Comes to America" is available from Pelican Publishing Company.

Dr. Robert M. Peters is a native of Louisiana, born in Natchitoches Parish and reared in Grant Parish. He received a B.A. in German with a minor in Russian and philosophy from Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana; and earned an M.A. in German from Southern Methodist University. He was granted a Ph.D. in German from the University of Southern California and completed further studies at the University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria (German, history and philosophy); the University of Texas at Arlington (French); the Catholic University of the West in Angers, France (French and French culture); the University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany (German, Danish and European history); College of Eastern Studies, Königstein, Germany (Marxism); the University of Tuebingen, Germany (political science); and Louisiana State University in Shreveport (teacher certification and secondary principal certification); and currently serves as the headmaster of a small private school in Grand Cane, Louisiana.

LTC D. Jonathan White, USA (Ret.) is a native Virginian who retired from the US Army in 2007 after 22 years of service, 18 of which were spent in Special Forces. He has taught at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the British Joint Services Command and Staff College in Oxfordshire, England. Colonel White currently serves as a Professor of Military Science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and also serves as a commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training Corps there. He has published articles pertaining to the War Between the States, and Insurgency in Europe and in the United States. He holds three master's degrees: International Affairs (Troy State University 1993), Defense Studies (King's College London 2007) and History (University of Alabama 2009). His fields of research are military history and nineteenth century American history. He is currently completing a Ph.D. at the University of Alabama. In 2007 he retraced on foot the route of Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign, covering 385 miles in 35 days. He lives in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife Susan.

The Fauquier Heritage Institute was created to promote the study and love of Virginia and American history. To that end, the Institute hosts a yearly series of public lectures that seek to promote knowledge, understanding and appreciation of our local, regional and national history.

Additional program and Guest Lecturer details for upcoming seminars will be posted via the Fauquier County Library web site. The Fauquier Heritage Institute welcomes and encourages all volunteers to aid our special events programs and lecture series in a variety of capacities. Contact Program Chair Mr. Gar Schulin at:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Large Turnout Expected In Montgomery, Alabama For Confederate Inauguration

The re-enactment of the inauguration of President Jefferson Davis on Saturday, February 19th, is expected to attract a large number of visitors to Montgomery, Alabama according to Thomas Strain, Commander of the Army of Tennessee of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The historically accurate re-enactment will take place at the Alabama State Capitol beginning with a parade at 11 AM on Saturday, February 19. The parade will include units from throughout the Confederate States, as well as many other states which were not members the Confederate States of America. This is the first nationally sponsored event in the observance of the five year Sesquicentennial.

"The Inaugural Ceremony will begin at 12 noon", according to Commander Strain. "The SCV and re-enactors have been working for months preparing a precise replication of the events of 1861. The event is expected to attract history buffs from throughout the world: especially those interested in the War Between the States, mistakenly know as the Civil War. Media outlets in the U.S. and Europe have arranged to cover the event" Strain said.

"Accommodations have been by the SCV Public Relations Committee for arranging interviews with those serving in key roles in the proceedings" according to Chuck Rand, SCV Adjutant-in-Chief.

"There is free parking in the vicinity of the event" according to an announcement by Commander-in-Chief, Michael Givens. "Included will be a number of Confederate infantry and artillery units participating in the parade and in the proceedings at the capitol", said Paul Grambling, re-enactor coordinator.

Commander Strain added: "We have worked diligently with experts to have every detail as historically accurate as possible. We are heartened by the tremendous response we have had from those who have volunteered to participate. We are overwhelmed by the number of people who have indicated a desire to attend."

Black History Month’s Forgotten Story

By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr., Speaker, Writer, author of book “When American Stood for God, Family and Country and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans

The following true story should be part of Black History Month tributes in February.

In 1989, a magazine article caught my eye which I had to read from beginning to end. This was not an ordinary story but about a black child, a Confederate President's First Lady and the Southern Presidential Family. The story was written by Gulfport, Mississippi freelance writer Mrs. Peggy Robbin's and is entitled, "Jim Limber Davis."

While Black History Month mostly focuses on black adults in history, this story is about a black child. This is a summary, in my own words, of Mrs. Robbin's splendid story.

On the morning of February 15, 1864, Mrs. Varina Davis, wife of Southern President Jefferson Davis, had concluded her errands and was driving her carriage down the streets of Richmond, Virginia on her way home. She heard screams from a distance and quickly went to the scene to see what was happening.

Varina saw a young black child being abused by an older man. She demanded that he stop striking the child and when this failed she shocked the man by forcibly taking the child away. She took the child to her carriage and with her to the Confederate White House.

Arriving home Mrs. Davis and maid 'Ellen' gave the young boy a bath, attended to his cuts and bruises and feed him. The only thing he would tell them is that his name was Jim Limber. He was happy to be rescued and was given some clothes of the Davis' son Joe who was the same size and age.

The Davis family were visited the following evening by a friend of Varina's, noted Southern Diarist-Mary Boykin Chesnut, who saw Jim Limber and wrote later that she had seen the boy and that he was eager to show me his cuts and bruises. She also said, "the child is an orphan rescued yesterday from a brutal Negro Guardian." and "there are things in life that are too sickening, and such cruelty is one of them."

There were some children who addressed Jim as Jim Limber Davis for fun. This was fine with him because he felt he was indeed a member of the family. The Davis letters to friends are indication of his acceptance and they said he was a member of their gang of children.

The Christmas of 1864, would be memorable for the Davis family and probably the best Christmas Jim Limber would ever have. A Christmas tree was set up in Saint Paul's Church, decorated and gifts placed beneath it. On Christmas evening orphans were brought to the church and were delighted with the presents they got. Jim was happy that he helped decorate the tree.

Mrs. Robbin's wrote, in her story, that Mrs. Jefferson Davis was a very good story teller who was able to make sounds of different animals in the stories about the critters. Jim was always eager to help.

The end of the War Between the States was coming and Richmond was being evacuated. Varina and the children left ahead of Jefferson Davis. The president and his staff left just hours before the occupation of Union troops.

Varina and the children were by the side of Jefferson Davis at his capture near Irwinville, Georgia and again the family was separated. Jefferson Davis was taken to Virginia to spend two years in prison.

Mrs. Davis and her children were taken to Macon, Georgia and later to Port Royal outside of Savannah. At Port Royal their Union escort, Captain Charles T. Hudson, made good at his earlier threats to take Jim Limber away.

As the Union soldiers came to forcibly take young Jim, he put up a great struggle and tried to hold onto his family as they to him. Jim and his family cried uncontrollably as the child was taken. His family would never again see him or know what happened to him. The Davis' tried in later years to locate Jim but were unsuccessful.

The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia is home to a portrait of Jim Limber Davis in the Eleanor S. Brookenbrough Library. I thank Mrs. Peggy Robbin's who wrote the Jim Limber Davis story in 1989 and the Southern Partisan Magazine for publishing her story in the second quarter Issue-Volume IX of 1989.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

February 17th marks 60th Anniversary of “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” premiere

By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.: Speaker, Writer, Author of book “When America Stood for God, Family and Country”—looking to republish and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans

When was the last time a movie made you laugh, cry or just feel good?

In 1951, the “Golden-Age of Hollywood,” great family movies were at an all-time peak with such classics as: David and Bathsheba, the Day the Earth Stood Still and I’d Climb the Highest Mountain.

Cleveland, Georgia is home of the Old Stovall Covered Bridge that bridges Chickamauga Creek. This 1890s structure appeared in the movie “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain.”
I’d Climb the Highest Mountain is an wonderful American-classic that was made during the 1950s when families spent quality time at the movies where a coke was a nickel, real hot bettered popcorn a quarter and for a mere quarter you might see a double-feature film, cartoon and newsreel. Parents did not worry about the sexual, bad language or graphic scenes of the early films.

All About Eve starring Bette Davis won the Academy Award for best picture in 1950 and there was great excitement in the North Georgia Mountains. That was also the year that the movie “I’d Climb the highest Mountain” was filmed in Georgia’s red clay hills. The 1910 novel that became a movie was written by Georgia’s own Corra Harris and was entitled ‘A Circuit Rider’s Wife.’ It was a story of a young Methodist preacher and his bride as they moved to the Georgia hills to pastor a local church. Much of the movie was shot around Helen and Cleveland in what is called the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Corra Harris died in 1935, Hollywood screenwriter Lamar Trotti, an Atlanta, Georgia native, wrote the screenplay of her book. Trotti earned his fame far from Georgia, but had kept his love of his home and its history. After World War II, Henry King, a successful director, worked with Trotti to produce the movie for Twentieth Century-Fox. King had made the religious films “David and Bathsheba” and “Song of Bernadette.” He was born in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Susan Hayward played the role of Mary Elizabeth, the preacher’s wife and narrates the story. Reverend William Thompson is played by William Lundigan. Both give fine performances about a country preacher, his wife and the Christian life of a small town in the rural South. Their faith is tested by a deadly flu epidemic, a child drowning at the church picnic and the miscarriage of their child. The faithful strength of this couple brings the people closer to one another. Mary even talks a tight fisted old man out of money and buys Christmas presents for the poor children.

The supporting cast includes: Rory Calhoun and Gene Lockhart, father of actress June Lockhart. Alexander Knox, of the movie “Wilson,” played a non-believer who was touched in the end by the goodness of the preacher and his wife. Even though Knox lost a child, he now sees his children just as happy as other children and tells Reverend Thompson that he and his family would look to the future with an open mind.

There is an emotional scene where Minister Thompson asks all married couples to hold hands and repeat their marriage vows. This is a scene worth repeating—many times! The movies climax is classic Hollywood. Thompson, as a circuit-riding minister is transferred to another church. He and Mary bid their congregation farewell. Susan Hayward became very fond of the mountain people, many of whom played extras.

An early 1900s automobile was needed for the movie. The producers found Otis Mason in South Carolina with a 1912 vintage Overland in running condition. However, he was the only one who knew how to drive it. Mr. Mason appears in the movie as the driver and just had one line “Yes Ma’am.” What would you give for just one line in a movie? Especially a line that husbands use all the time!

The movie ends with the ‘Lords Prayer’ sung slowly and reverently. The original music by Sol Kaplan and music direction by Lionel Newman is wonderful. This beautiful Technicolor classic is about the dirt roads, farmlands, old buildings and Georgia Mountain folks. Edward Cronjager received praise for the films Technicolor cinematography.

I’d Climb the Highest Mountain premiered on February 17, 1951, at Atlanta Georgia’s Paramount Theater. Susan Hayward was honored by the Georgia State Senate with a resolution declaring her an “adopted daughter of Georgia.” Hayward, born in New York, married a Georgian and they made Carrollton, Georgia their home.
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