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Del Presley speaks about 'The New Deal' in Bulloch
092109 HISTORICAL SOCIETY 01 web
Former Georgia Southern University professor Del Presley gives a history lesson during his presentation of "The New Deal Comes to Bulloch County" Monday to the Bulloch County Historical Society at R.J.'s Seafood and Steaks. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    If Bulloch County could overcome the Great Depression and show marked progress under Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, then maybe there is hope that things will improve following the current recession.
    Bulloch County Historical Society members enjoyed a presentation Monday by member Dr. Del Presley about FDR's New Deal and how it helped Statesboro and Bulloch County recover from the poverty and despair of the Great Depression.
    Presley, who moved to Statesboro 40 years ago, said " This is a wonderful place to be  a part of. It's not an ordinary place, it's an extraordinary place."
    He shared a great deal of information about how the Great Depression shattered life in Bulloch County. Unemployment rose from four percent in 1929 to 25 percent in 1933.
    It seemed Nature was out to wreak havoc in Bulloch as well. In 1929 —what may have been the worst year ever for the county — Bulloch suffered a deadly tornado and a massive flood.
    In 1930, Trapnell-Mikell, the town's largest mercantile, went bankrupt, Presley said. Then, S&S Railroad suspended passenger trains into the city.
     In 1931, Sea Island Bank failed and didn't reopen until 1933. In 1933, the merged banks of First National bank and the Bank of Statesboro  - the last bank in town - folded.
    In 1932, more than half of Bulloch County property owners were default in their taxes, he said. That was also the same year that saw many failures, foreclosures and farmers forced into poverty.
    Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and began working on a plan to save the nation, Presley said. He had the help of Frances Perkins, the first female Secretary of Labor, who helped form the laws and programs  we know today - outlawing child labor, the 40-hour work week, minimum wages, worker's compensation, unemployment compensation, and the Social Security system.
    But much like today, there was some opposition to the new ideas, the New Deal. Presley shared slides of newspaper clippings showing dissatisfaction and fear; complaints of socialism ran rampant and people felt the New Deal interfered with free enterprise.
    Presley shared several political cartoons depicting the fears and worries of those living in the early 1930's. He spoke about committees formed to help those in need and to help boos the economy: the Associated Charities, Bulloch County Relief Committee and Bulloch County Farm Committee.
    He spoke about the Civilian Conservation Corps, which drew 55 local men to join and try to help make things better.
    Presley spoke about Byron Dyer, a Bulloch County Extension Agent from 1934 to 1958. Some in the crowd remembered Dyer and his work to better Bulloch County. Dyer helped introduce and implement several New Deal programs, supported 4-H and various local agricultural clubs, and did a great deal to help farmers, he said.
    The news clippings Presley began sharing then seemed more positive; in 1935, headlines shouted that there were no vacant stores in Bulloch County. There were no bank deposits made in 1932, but in 1938 there were deposits totaling $1.25 million.
    Farmers were growing less cotton, but making more money through  the cotton allotment program. More corn, soybeans, tobacco and peanuts were being grown.
    "The New Deal actually worked in Bulloch County, didn't it?" Presley asked.
    He showed lists of projects funded by government aid - schools built, remodeled, repaired; roads paved ditches and drainage built; bridges and culverts installed, and sidewalks.
    Government aid through New Deal programs helped build Bulloch Memorial Hospital, fund a library in downtown Statesboro ( in the upper level on Sea Island Bank) and a part-time library on Blitch Street, as well as the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport, he said.
    Works Project Administration grants also helped build Sanford Hall, Rosenwald library, Lewis Hall and the Marvin Pittman Laboratory School at what was Georgia Teacher's College, now Georgia Southern University, he said.
    In closing, Presley quoted Bulloch Countian Walter McDougald, calling Statesboro " Where nature smiles and progress has the right of way.
    "There is, in this community, a great sense of good will," he said.
     Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414.  

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