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New historical marker honors Georgia Southern predecessor
W GSU HISTORICAL MARKER MAIN
Bulloch County Historical Society program vice president Brent Tharp looks at the latest local historical marker, dedicated Monday at Sweetheart Circle on Georgia Southern University's campus. The marker memorializes the founding of First District A&M School, which was the first incarnation of what is today known as Georgia Southern. - photo by JASON WERMERS/staff

    The latest in a series of historical markers that honor Bulloch County’s past was dedicated Monday on the campus of Georgia Southern University.
    Members of the Bulloch County Historical Society and University President Brooks Keel gathered at Sweetheart Circle, near the college’s main entrance, to christen the group’s eighth marker, this time honoring a tiny agricultural and mechanical school that grew into the state’s third-largest university.
    A new plaque situated among the oaks near the Marvin Pittman Administration Building pays tribute to the First District A&M School, which in 1908 opened its doors with just 42 students, but developed into the nationally recognized doctoral/research institution Georgia Southern University.
    The marker provides information about the First District A&M School and highlights a community effort that landed the school in Bulloch County.
    “This is a marker that we have really looked forward to unveiling because it represents not only the story of the First District A&M School, but the history of commitment that Statesboro and Bulloch County have had to Georgia Southern and its predecessor institutions,” said Joe McGlamery, the president of the Bulloch County Historical Society. “The text on the marker will remind all those who pass by this plaque of that commitment and the long history.”
    Earning rights to locate the new school in Bulloch County was no an easy task, with several suitors submitting proposals to the State of Georgia and a newly appointed First District Board of Trustees in 1906.
    But citizens banded together to make their pitch.
    “Bulloch County won a bidding ward with Tattnall and Emanuel Counties, offering cash, 300 acres of land and utilities worth $125,000,” the marker reads.
    Brent Tharp, the director of the Georgia Southern University Museum and a program vice president with the historical society, said: “The establishment of the school was, from the very beginning, a community effort.”
    The First District A&M School grew to include about 150 students and fielded teams in football and baseball (Aggies) by 1920.
    Soon after, the school was converted into a teachers college named Georgia Normal School (1924-1929), Southern Georgia Teachers College (1929-1939) and Georgia Teachers College (1939-1959).
    The institution expanded its curriculum in 1959, becoming Georgia Southern College, and again in 1990 to become Georgia Southern University. The school now enrolls more than 20,000 students.
    The marker reads: “Having survived skeptics, depression and politics, the University reaches out to the world, bur remains grounded in its community origins.”
    “This (marker) illustrates two things,” Keel said. “It shows the importance of education in this community, and the important relationship between Georgia Southern University and the community of Statesboro and Bulloch County. Bulloch County fought for Georgia Southern in 1906, and it fights with Georgia Southern today as we move forward.”
    Including the First District A&M School marker dedicated Monday, the Bulloch County Historical Society expects to unveil seven new signs this year. Last month, the society unveiled the first of this year’s markers on Gentilly Road, honoring the Savannah & Statesboro Railway.
    The project is funded, in large part, with money from the local Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Foundation.
   
    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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