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Bulloch History with Roger Allen

The famous start of U.S. 80

In 1916, the United States Congress considered the state of America’s roads, and found them severely lacking. They, therefore, proceeded to pass the Federal Aid Road Act, in which $75 million was allotted over a five-year period to be given to the states to create a system of paved roadways which connected their cities to each other, and eventually, to their neighboring states. In fact, officials of the Savannah Automobile Club (SAC) had already sponsored a fact-finding tour of the state’s roads in the summer of 1914. Starting in Savannah, the group caravanned across state to Columbus.
As a result of this trip, they created the Dixie Overland Highway Association, whose specific purpose was to urge the creation of paved road from the Atlantic Ocean to the Western border of the state with Alabama. The first meeting of the Association was held in Columbus, on July 17, 1914. Everyone agreed that Georgia’s, and the nations’, roads were horrible.
Congress soon enacted another major piece of legislation, the 1921 Federal Aid Highway Act, which set aside another $75 million per year. This legislation required that at least 7 percent of the monies spent must be used to build roads which would become part of a National Federal Highway system.
A new agency was created, the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR), led by Thomas MacDonald. He stated that in his mind, a system of public roads would serve four needs: agriculture, recreation, commerce, and national defense.   
Georgia and many other southern states proposed an east-west southern route, not surprisingly which they suggested calling the Dixie Overland Highway. Once built, it soon earned the nickname “Broadway to America” and was only passed in popularity by the famous “Route 66.” California’s governor requested that San Diego be the western terminus of the road, and Savannah, quite naturally, became the first eastern terminus, although it was soon extended further eastward to Tybee Island.
In 1927, the states reported that 30 percent of the new Highway 80 was paved with brick, concrete or macadam, and some 60 percent was paved in sand, clay, gravel or topsoil.
U.S. 80 wound up being routed right through the heart of Statesboro. This route was not without some complications, as those in charge of ensuring the federal requirements for the new national roads were met thought that curves on Statesboro’s North and East Main Street were too sharp to build the highway there. Therefore, the city of Statesboro and Bulloch County set to work straightening out the city’s streets themselves. The eastern entrance into Statesboro of U.S. 80 was at Lester’s Branch, and the western entrance of U.S. 80 came into the city at Stricks Place.
January 21, 1932 was the day that Gov. Richard Russell and a coterie of officials drove in 50 cars on the new highway from Savannah into Statesboro, stopping at the National Guard Armory, where he addressed a very large crowd. An estimated 1,000 school children and most of the students from the Georgia teachers College were in attendance for this momentous occasion. Residents of Bulloch County could jump in their cars now and go virtually anywhere.
The Association marketed the new highway as “The Shortest and Only Year-Round Ocean To Ocean Highway”. Many momentous events took place on U.S.80: Dr. Martin Luther King and others marched on U.S.80 on their march from Selma to Montgomery; Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed and shot to death by Federal Marshals just off of U.S.80; and Lee Harvey Oswald was captured in a movie theater on a spur of U.S.80 in Texas after shooting President John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, U.S. 80 came to end in the city of Dallas, as the rest of the western route had been taken over by other highways.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger dodger53@hotmail.com

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