There is a sign on the outskirts of Monticello that lets you know youre in the hometown of country singer Trisha Yearwood. If you miss it, you might be reminded as you head north on Ga. 83, also known as the Trisha Yearwood Highway.
The same is true in Wrightsville, where Herschel Walkers name still is uttered with reverence down at the bank and over a hot lunch at Nanas Kitchen. Johnson County named the high school football stadium after Walker, the University of Georgia running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1982.
Hometown heroes are often recognized in other ways. They might have a park or a library named after them. Here is a tribute to several of Middle Georgias native sons and daughters -- some well-known, others not so well-known.
Hazel Raines was the first woman in Georgia to earn a pilots license and was one of the first female pilots in the Air Force. She grew up in Macon, the youngest of three daughters, and graduated from Wesleyan College in 1936. She began flying after accepting a dare to take lessons at the citys Herbert Smart Airport. After beginning her career as a stunt pilot, she became a commercial pilot with Eastern Airlines and she later served as a lieutenant in WWII and Korea.
Viola Ross Napier
Macons Viola Ross Napier spent $48 of her own money on her political campaign in 1920 when she ran for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly. She accepted no outside contributions. She won her race and became the first woman to be sworn in as a legislator in Georgia. She was also the first woman in Georgia to take the bar exam and the first to argue cases before the states highest courts. A widow with four children, she helped pass legislation regarding schools and childrens issues during her career as a state lawmaker. Her portrait hangs in the rotunda at the state Capitol in Atlanta.
There is an 8-foot statue of Joanna Troutman in the state cemetery in Austin, Texas, the only memorial to a woman among all the military monuments. The statue depicts her holding a needle and thread. Troutman is revered as the Betsy Ross of Texas. When the people of Texas began fighting for their independence from Mexico in 1835, a company of volunteer soldiers from Macon organized to join the fight. On her familys plantation in Crawford County, Troutman designed and stitched a flag for the local soldiers to carry, with the words Liberty or Death. She presented the flag to Hugh McLeod, a lieutenant from Macon, who later died with many other Georgians in the fighting at Goliad. The Lone Star banner was later adopted as the state flag. Troutmans portrait hangs in the Texas state capitol in Austin. When she died in July 1879, she was buried on the familys property at Elmwood in Crawford County, but was reintered at the Texas State Cemetery in 1913.
John Stith Pemberton
John Stith Pemberton was a Confederate soldier and a pharmacist in Columbus. His gift was the invention of Coca-Cola, the most valuable brand in the world. He was born in Knoxville, the county seat of Crawford County. After being wounded in battle, and becoming addicted to morphine, he developed a French wine coca made from the kola nut and damiana. He later produced a non-alcoholic alternative made from carbonated water and the base syrup, which was sold as a fountain drink.
Seven months after graduating from Warner Robins High School in 1979, Bobbie Eakes was the first runner-up in the Miss Teen USA pageant. In 1982, she was crowned Miss Georgia and was a finalist in the Miss America pageant. As an actress, she became known for her role as Macy Alexander Forrester on the CBS soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful and later for playing the part of Krystal Carey on All My Children. She has also had a successful singing career. Bobbie is the youngest of five talented Eakes sisters. Her older sister Sandra also was Miss Georgia, in 1979. Together with sisters Susan, Sharon and Shelly, the Eakes assembled a family record for winning pageants that may never be broken.
Sam Nunn Jr.
Sam Nunn Jr., of Perry, served for 24 years as a U.S. senator (1972-97). He was chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. He was grandnephew of the late Congressman Carl Vinson. He was captain of the Perry High basketball team that won the state championship in 1956, playing for legendary coach Eric Staples, one of the winningest high school coaches in the country.
Ches Goat Man McCartney
Charles Ches McCartney, the legendary Goat Man, was famous for traveling the countryside as a modern-day prophet in a wooden wagon, accompanied by a team of goats. He eventually settled in Jeffersonville, in Twiggs County, where he established the Free Thinking Christian Mission. In the 57 years between 1930 and 1987, he walked more than 100,000 miles through 49 states preaching the Gospel. He was the subject of a book, two documentary films and a song, and is said to have influenced some of writer Flannery OConnors prophetic characters.
Agnes Cochran Bramblett
Agnes Cochran Bramblett, of Forsyth, was Georgias first female poet laureate from 1963-73. She was born in Summerville in 1886 and moved to Forsyth when she married Walter Bramblett in 1908. In 1927, she published her first of six books of poetry (and one novel) and established Georgias first Poetry Day in 1948. For many years, she taught Sunday School at Forsyth United Methodist Church.
Samuel Henry Rumph
Samuel Henry Rumph was born in 1851 in Houston County and is more closely associated with his home in Marshallville in Macon County. But Peach County, which was created from Houston and Macon counties in 1924 (two years after Rumph died) owes a debt of gratitude to the man who invented the Elberta peach. Rumph experimented with the fruit as a young man and was responsible for starting commercial peach production in the state in the 1870s. He was one of the founders of the Georgia Horticultural Society in 1876. He named the famous peach variety after his wife, Clara Elberta Moore Rumph. Not only was the new county named Peach County, but Georgia became known as the Peach State.
George Tweedy Stallings
The 1914 Boston Miracle Braves won 59 of their last 75 games to leap from last place to win the pennant -- and eventually the World Series. They split their time in spring training that year between Macon and Manager George Tweedy Stallings farm in Jones County. Stallings was born in Richmond County near Augusta, but lived on his familys farm in Haddock for more than 30 years. He died in Haddock in May 1929 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Macon. He also served as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and New York Highlanders (later the New York Yankees).