Q&A with Sonny Watson

January 30, 2013 

City of Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Retired businessman and state legislator, community volunteer

QUESTION: You’re a true Warner Robins native.

ANSWER: I was born here in 1937.

QUESTION: That’s before the name was changed, so you’re a Wellston-Warner Robins native?

ANSWER: When I was born I became the 53rd person living in the Wellston area. Technically, I was born at the old Macon hospital, but we lived in Wellston.

QUESTION: Where did you live exactly?

ANSWER: My grandfather lived on Commercial Circle, and my grandmother died when I was 1. We moved in with my grandfather, and I lived on Commercial Circle from the time I was 1 until 1955.

QUESTION: When did your ancestors come here?

ANSWER: 1804. Three brothers had come over in a boat from debtor’s prison, and one landed in South Carolina, one in Jacksonville and I don’t know about the other. Thomas Watson -- I guess he’d be my great, great, great grandfather -- came here in 1804 from South Carolina. He had to get a passport to go through the Creek Nation to get here.

QUESTION: What’s your first memory of the Wellston community?

ANSWER: The community house down on Watson, Watson Boulevard now. It had pews, and churches met there, but it was open for everybody to use. People had family reunions and get-togethers. What I really start remembering is first grade. I started attending in a barracks they were using until they finished building Charles Thomas elementary. Macon State College/Middle Georgia State College has it now.

QUESTION: Your grandfather had a decisive role in Warner Robins history.

ANSWER: He was the first mayor, C.B. “Boss” Watson. People think he was called Boss as sort of a title, but his middle name was Bostick. When he was little he got the nickname Boss from Bostick.

QUESTION: Were you inspired toward public service from him?

ANSWER: I guess my daddy and grandfather were my biggest influences. The first council meetings back in 1943 were in our house, and I got interested in their sitting there voting and making laws. My father was on city council and was a state representative. He was Roy Herman Watson Sr., and I was junior. Neither of us ever went by our first name.

QUESTION: Other recollections of your childhood?

ANSWER: We had a big front yard, and it was the main football and baseball field for all us kids. It wasn’t nice Charleston or centipede grass or anything, but that’s where everybody showed up and played. When the base started, we took in borders and had 10 or 12 boarders for three meals a day. I remember I could always go in the kitchen and find some biscuits and ham or something.

QUESTION: Pets?

ANSWER: I had a pony. It was a big present for a kid. We had a pony and two spitz dogs. The next biggest thing was a Schwinn bicycle and I got kidded about having a brand new bike. There was somebody with an old bike that had a motor stuck on it and I traded my bike for that -- and boy -- I got in trouble. I had to trade it back.

QUESTION: What else did all of you do for fun back then?

ANSWER: Going to the picture show on front street, on First Street (Armed Forces Boulevard). It was a tent with sawdust and benches. I guess we watched Hopalong Cassidy because it was before Roy Rogers. They tore that down and built the Wellston Theater.

Nobody will probably remember this, but Robins Air Force Base had a Quonset hut with a concrete floor and they let us go roller skating in it. They built the fence so the community people could get in. It’s still over there along Ga. 247 before you get to the Museum of Aviation.

QUESTION: How did you get started as a businessman?

ANSWER: My first business was running an Amoco service station on the corner of Watson Boulevard and Briarcliff Road for two years. Then I went to work for the county and was clerk and administrator for 17 years. My next business interest was an insurance agency and then I started a worker’s comp brokerage firm, Embeco. A partner and I developed a couple of subdivisions, one was Quail Run, and I with four other guys founded the International City Bank that’s now CB&T Bank of Middle Georgia.

QUESTION: How about elected office?

ANSWER: I ran for state legislature and served 22 years. I went in in 1976 and got out in 1999. I didn’t offer for re-election then, so thank goodness I never got beat.

QUESTION: You serve the public in other ways now as a volunteer.

QUESTION: I enjoy doing it. I’m chairman of the board of the Middle Georgia Community Action Agency, Inc. that does weatherization, the Head Start program and that kind of thing. I’ve been on the board of CB&T for 25 years and serve as chairman of the board of Houston Healthcare System, Inc.

QUESTION: You recently received the Charlie L. Jones Memorial Award as an outstanding citizen with “sustained and superior service” to the community.

ANSWER: That was a real honor and a surprise. I know a lot of people and talk to a lot of people every day, but I didn’t have a clue that was coming. It’s a very wonderful award. I just enjoy the people here so much, and Warner Robins has been so good to me, I consider it an honor to serve on all these boards and do what I do. I have to say at the hospital and all these other things it’s the people that work every day and give their best that makes it easy to do what I do. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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