Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Albert George Swint

b. 28 Jan 1890 in Milner, Lamar County, Georgia, USA
d. 5 Jul 1956 in Orchard Hill, Spalding County, Georgia, USA

My paternal grandfather. He was a merchant, farmer, cotton seed promoter, cotton ginner, US postmaster, railroad agent (Central of Georgia RR), builder of the first grain elevators in the state of Georgia, Georgia State Senator and Representative (Democrat) and political ally of Govs. Eugene and Herman Talmadge. This photo taken about 1950.

Albert married Martha "Mattie" Louise Boyd on 22 Jun 1911 in Griffin, Spalding County, Georgia, USA. They had five children: Herman, Lillian, John, James and George (my father). My Uncle Herman wrote the biography below shortly after my grandfather died in a drowning accident in 1956.

A Biography of
Albert George Swint
by R. Herman Swint
July 1956

He was the son of Millard Fillmore Swint, who was born July 15, 1856, died July 30, 1911, and Mattie Seagraves Swint, born Sept. 23, 1870, died June 24, 1928. He was born at Milner, Georgia, Jan. 28, 1890.

Near the beginning of the century the elder Swint opened a general store at Orchard Hill, Georgia. When my father became old enough, he was left in charge of the store much of the time, as my grandfather, though very energetic, was quite frail. During this period my father completed the course at Sam Bailey Grammar School in Griffin. With the exception of a course in public speaking at the Dale Carnegie Institute in Atlanta in 1948, this was to be his last formal education. But he had an eager and inquiring mind, read widely all his life and was actually one of the best educated men one could find. During his last years he tackled Plato and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and surely one’s mind has to be eager and inquiring for that!

He fell in love with Mattie Boyd, then promptly enlisted in the Navy in the footsteps of brother Roger. His father’s illness called him home from the Navy and he won the consent of his beloved to come to Orchard Hill to make them a home and raise their family. She consented against the advice of her sisters, who are rumored to have advised her that the groom had rather poor prospects, and that life at Orchard Hill would be dull indeed. They were married on June 22, 1911.

In July 1911, Millard Swint died on a Sunday morning. His son always keenly regretted that he did not make his customary Sunday morning visit, because when he got to his father’s bedside, he found him dying. The father struggled desperately to communicate a few last words to him, but in vain. Many were the vexatious problems that were soon to confront him. How he longed for a few words from his father, whose guidance he so cherished and respected, and for whom he felt a deeper love than many sons have the privilege of knowing!

For immediately he must continue with the establishment of his home. His first son was to be born in July 1912. Means must be found to help his widowed mother and her brood of six to earn a living. The only visible tools for the filling of these needs was a country store building containing a small inventory of goods, largely unpaid for, a good name, concentrated energy, and a personality and love for his fellow men that was to win him a host of friends whose number increased in geometric proportion with each passing year. But surely few young men of twenty-one have faced bleaker outlooks!

They established their first home in a small house rented from Mr. W.W. (Uncle Billy) Grubbs, and there the first son, Roger, for the second brother, Herman, from a picture on a calendar, was born.

In 1913 they moved to a house owned by Mr. Dolly Johnson, located on the north side of the community on the unpaved Dixie Highway. This was a simple white frame house, four rooms, with a garden plot and a barn. Among the most vivid memories of those years are the garden which flourished under the ever green thumb of my mother, the cow in the barn, the time the cow hooked my mother painfully and dangerously, frightening us half to death, the faithful and beloved black shepherd dog Buck, who died of black tongue, the elaborate and highly prized harmonica that my father brought home to me one day at noon, the sharing of room and board with the lovable alcoholic blacksmith who my father set up in business, Uncle Jimmy Woods.

Here in 1914 was born the first and only daughter, Lillian, and the second son, John Albert. Here at age five I received one of my most severe chastisings from my mother for letting Lillian turn over a chair and break the prized china cabinet while standing in the chair reaching for the syrup pitcher. Here he proudly brought home the first automobile, a 1913 Ford Roadster.

In 1919 he built a home for his mother and her family on the family farm one half mile east of Orchard Hill, and exchanged the home she was living in for it. His mother’s house was just north of the home he had occupied. Here were born son James Millard in 1921 and son George in 1925. From here were operated the farm, half of the Brown place bought in 1919. Its purchase was financed by a mortgage to Mrs. Bodenheimer. He struggled with the mortgage until 1931 when she agreed to take the farm and surrender the mortgage. From here was operated the venture into commercial dairying and commercial broiler growing. I never made much headway with the girls, and this may have been because of the barnyard odor which my shoes sometimes carried.

These ventures were dictated by the crash that followed World War I. Together he and brother Jewel had sweated through those dizzy days, accumulating handsome paper profits. But the reaction swiftly burst the speculative bubble, leaving them with huge uncollectable accounts and a large stock of inventory which had to be marked down about once a week, and still couldn’t be sold.

In 1917 he acquired the gin. In 1929 he replace the old gin with a modern concrete floored building and new machinery. I know the floor was concrete, because I personally beat up most of the rocks to go into it.

It was about this time that C. C. McClendon of the USDA and E. C. Westbrook of the Georgia Agriculture Extension Service came to Griffin to ask the county agent, Mr. John Harlow, and the home demonstration agent, Mrs. Myrtice Sibley, to recommend a progressive ginner who could co-operate with the newly born one-variety cotton program. John and Mrs. Sibley recommended my father, and for this recommendation he was always grateful to them.

This one-variety cotton program proved to be a life-saver for a cotton growing industry that was then in deep trouble. Other communities demanded seed of the improved variety that was kept pure by this plan. Soon the planting cottonseed business was more important than all the other activities put together. During this time he also got into the cotton buying business, and this proved to be very profitable.

In 1940, his good friend Quimby Melton, who was his most generous and enthusiastic booster throughout his career, urged him to run for representative in the State General Assembly. He defeated the late Wiley Milam, and served a second term unopposed. In 1949 he ran for the State Senate, to represent the twenty-sixth State Senatorial District, Spalding, Fayette, and Clayton counties, and was elected. He greatly enjoyed these terms in the Assembly, and formed many deep attachments to men from all over the state, but he especially cherished his friendships established then with Dave Arnold and Frank Johnson.

One of the most enjoyed episodes in his political career was his trip to Chicago with the late Arthur Maddox as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1948.

He served on the Board of the National Ginners Association from the time it was organized until his death. He was President of the Association in 1947. He served on the Board of the National Ginners Association from 1949 until 1954, and served as President for the year 1953. He was a member of the National Cotton Council as a delegate member in 1947, 1948, and 1955.

He grew up in the Orchard Hill Methodist Church, which was built about the year he was born, 1890. Two local churches flourished, the Methodist and the Baptist, until around 1930. Those years became very lean ones for the churches, as well as for the community and nation, and they drifted into a union agreement. The cost of maintaining two buildings could no longer be borne, so we Methodists abandoned our home and dismantled it. By helping maintain the other church we thought we were acquiring some equity in the property, morally at least, but that was not to be the case. By 1946 the Baptists felt strong enough to do without us and we realized the union agreement was gone by the boards and we were no longer welcome. About a year after the split, my father moved his membership to the First Methodist Church at Griffin, and my mother, always a staunch Baptist, moved to the First Baptist.

The church soon demanded his leadership. He was elected President of the Men’s Bible Class in 1953 and 1954. In these years he also served on the Board of Stewards and as Chairman of the Finance Committee. It was during this time that the campaign to finance the building program was begun.

Beginning in 1930 he served two terms on the County Board of Education. His interest in the educational system of the county remained active, and he was a leader in the move to consolidate the city and county systems which culminated in success in 1953. It was during his term on the Board that the little red schoolhouses disappeared from the local communities and buses started carrying the students to central, modern schools.

He served on the Board of the Griffin-Spalding County Chamber of Commerce from 1946 until his death. He was on the original Board of the State Chamber of Commerce the year it was founded, and played an important part in organizing it. He was awarded a silver gavel inscribed, “For Outstanding Service – Agricultural Committee - Georgia State Chamber of Commerce – 1952 – ’53.” The Georgia Crop Improvement Association presented him a plaque inscribed, “To A. G. Swint Crop Improvement Association as its President – 1946”. He served on the Board of this Association until his death.

It was partly due to his optimism and drive that the Griffin-Spalding County Hospital was built. He was on the original Hospital Authority, and served on it four years.

The Griffin Rotary Club elected him to become a member in 1946, and elected him Director in 1953 and 1956. He was an Elk and a member of his hometown Masonic Lodge, Claremont, until it ceased to exist, when he transferred to Meridian sun Lodge at Griffin.

The story of the grain elevator he built is perhaps best told briefly in the words on the plaque mounted by the Georgia Historical Commission across the road from the elevator at the suggestion of Quimby Melton, Jr. It reads:

“The first grain elevator in the State of Georgia was completed in Orchard Hill in 1946 by the Swint Seed and Grain Company. The original unit has a capacity of 106,000 bushels and was filled to capacity with the 1946 crop. Since it was the first enterprise of its kind, it drew grain from as far as two hundred miles away. A second unit with a capacity of 130,000 bushels was completed in 1954 and a drier and feed mill added then. The grain elevators are a testament to the courage, leadership, and vision of the late State Senator Albert G. Swint, 1890-1956, under whose leadership they were built. He served in both houses of the General Assembly, was past president of the Georgia and National Ginners Association and was an active civic leader, particularly in the fields of religion, agriculture, education, and health”.

At the beginning of the year 1956 or perhaps earlier, he remarked several times that his life work was complete. He proceeded methodically to relinquish his civic and religious posts. He revised his will. He retired from the company which he had built and made me President. He told my mother that he didn’t know of anything he could do that would make him more ready to meet his Maker than he had done. During his last days and weeks, his presence was like a benediction.

I close this feeble effort to preserve the memory of one of God’s noblemen with a quotation from a letter of acknowledgement I wrote to Keenan White. Keenan’s letter and mine are attached, also the text of Frank Crawley’s words at the funeral, and J. W. Segars’ eloquent prayer.

“Dear Keenan: Among all the expressions of sympathy, your letter expressed most beautifully the feelings that my father had the God-given gift of inspiring in his friends.

As you say, he left us much to remember and be proud of. He lived a wonderful life. During his last months he seemed consciously to be rounding it out and completing it. since he was taken and my mother miraculously saved, I feel sure that God in His fine and useful work for him to do over there, and that he is even now radiating his own particular love and goodwill in Heaven.”

Yours Sincerely,