"Remember to pay it backwards and live forwards," Bulloch County Historical Society founding member Dr. Del Presley told fellow members and guests at the society's 40th annual meeting.
For its anniversary, the group that spotlights local history — erecting markers, publishing books and hosting talks by researchers — turned the focus to its own organizational history. More than 140 people attended the banquet Monday evening at The Hall by 40 East. The Georgia Historical Society presented an award to its Bulloch County affiliate for "The Ole Scarecrow Statesboro Medicine Show," a locally created puppet show that pays history forward to Bulloch County's third-graders.
Presley's meta-history of historically minded activity in Bulloch County began with the efforts of individuals before the society's founding in 1973. Eugene Fletcher's columns of local history tidbits were published in the Bulloch Herald in the 1950s. Maude Brannen Edge wrote columns for the Bulloch Times, from which a selection was published as "Out of the Past," a 2011 book edited by Presley and the late Marvin Goss.
Brothers Leodel and G.C. Coleman Jr. edited "Statesboro: A Century of Progress, 1866-1966, also published by the Bulloch Herald company, precursor to The Statesboro Herald.
Other influential figures identified from this period included Jack Averitt, Frank Saunders, Charlton Moseley, David Ward, Fred Brogdon, Hinton Booth and George Rogers. Many were Georgia Southern College professors before it became a university.
Following a suggestion by Mayor Thurman Lanier in 1972, then-Statesboro City Attorney George M. Johnston led discussions to apply for a state charter for the Bulloch County Historical Society. It was chartered in 1973 with Shields Kenan as its first president. Establishing a museum was one of its first goals, but the society abandoned this effort after the first decade in favor of other types of programming.
Presidents after Kenan were Denver Hollingsworth, who championed the Mill Creek Festival; Alma Hopper, first female president, who led a reorganization of the society in 1981-82, and Dr. Kemp Mabry, who also served as the group's long-term executive vice-president and whose wife, Evelyn Darley Mabry, was long its secretary.
Presley credited Kemp Mabry, who died in 2007 at age 81, with bringing a focus on quality publications. The Bulloch County Historical Society created 52 publications during his tenure.
"He was Mr. Historical Society in Statesboro," Presley said of his longtime friend, Mabry.
Rod Nebel led a lengthy but successful effort to achieve nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax status, Presley noted.
Recent presidents of the society have included Dr. Billy Bice, Dot Roebuck, Rodney Harville and Jan Anderson. Joe McGlamery, also president of The Statesboro Herald, is now starting his third year as Bulloch County Historical Society president.
Others Presley identified as influential in the society's growth included Dr. Dan Good, the now-retired geography professor who served as vice president and program chairman; Dorothy Brannen, author of "Life in Old Bulloch: The Story of a Wiregrass County" and Smith Callaway Banks, the regional art collector and genealogist who worked with Presley on two publications.
Presley called his reflections on the Historical Society's past "Lest Their Names Be Forgotten."
"There were a lot of names shown on the slides up here tonight," McGlamery commented afterward. "One name we shall not forget is that of Del Presley."
Presley, like most of those involved in the Historical Society's work, is not an academic historian. He was long a professor of English and a cross-country coach at Georgia Southern University, but became an author and playwright on historical topics.
Among his works are "The Southern Century," a book-length history of Georgia Southern published for its 2006 centennial, and "A Place to Call Home," a play he presented as a gift to the community in 2003 for Statesboro's bicentennial.
The Georgia Historical Society honored the Bulloch County Historical Society for a current effort that brings local history to a new generation. GHS Membership and Outreach Associate Elyse Butler presented a Roger K. Warlick Local History Achievement Award to the Bulloch group for "The Ole Scarecrow Statesboro Medicine Show," the puppet show scripted and designed by Scott Foxx and staged at the Emma Kelly Theater the past two years for all Bulloch County students in third grade.
Foxx and Kathy Bradley, author of a 64-page coloring book that accompanies it, received the award on behalf of the society.
The show fits Georgia's history standards for the grade level, said Bulloch County Historical Society Project Coordinator Virginia Anne Franklin Waters.
"It has become a part of Bulloch County's third-grade curriculum, which is a feat within itself," she said.
"The Ole Scarecrow" is slated for a third season, and a new puppet show, reaching back to prehistory and targeted to fifth-graders, is in development.
In her annual report, Waters noted that the Historical Society's mission has three prongs: preservation, interpretation and education, and publication.
Another of the society's projects is the placement of bronze-toned, cast-aluminum markers as historic sites. So far, more than 15 markers have been placed, rolling alphabetically from Akins Mill Pond through Nevils Station to "United States vs. Darby Lumber Co."
Funding for these comes from the Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Foundation.
"For the last four years or so there has been a partnership between us and the Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Foundation, which has allowed the society to do so many things that funding simply didn't exist to do in the early days," McGlamery said. "We do a lot of things that we hope are educational and are aiding and preserving the history of this place."
He credited Presley with the idea behind for this partnership.
"Del had a vision for what this society could be," McGlamery said.
A silent auction that preceded the banquet reportedly raised about $3,000. Organizer Connie Sanders said one goal of the auction was to make the banquet self-supporting.
The society also elected its officers for 2014-15 on a nominating committee report, with McGlamery president, Dr. Brent Tharp vice president, Sylvia Harville secretary and James Deal treasurer.
For more information on the society and its work, visit http://bullochhistory.com.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.