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ZipUSA: Augusta, GA
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By Ralph WileyPhotographs by Jonathan Ernst



Augusta, Georgia, home of the well-heeled Masters, is simply down-home to area residents.



Read or print the full article.

Inside Augusta National's green-and-white brick walls, spectators
traverse the course en masse, as if in human ant trails, moving double, triple, quadruple file, over the emerald lushness; roars come in distant waves from far-off holes. The trails also march into the clubhouse area and Founders Circle, up by Butler Cabin, in and out of the golf shop selling memorabilia. The course is dotted by discreet green plastic trash bag stands. The bags are fairly unnoticeable, except for the striking block letters they bear: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.

Make that Mister "Please Please Please" himself, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, the rhythm and blues icon who grew up here and now has a downtown Augusta boulevard named for him. To divine more about Augusta, I head down James Brown Boulevard with Lourdes D'Arcy Neely Coleman. Her father, Clement Neely, a black Korean War veteran, waited tables at the Bon Air Hotel on Walton Way. Wealthy planters from Charleston or Savannah and big-city financiers came here to escape winter up north or yellow fever to the south. They needed dependable service. Thus the Neelys persevered. Lourdes put herself through Augusta College, then law school.

Now Lourdes is home to practice law after a career away from Augusta. She drives in the downtown flats, quietly marveling that the same place could produce the Masters, President Woodrow Wilson, the Godfather of Soul, and the Patch. She points out a modest brick pillbox law office she rents from a white real estate appraiser, Jack Minor, Sr. "Over there is the Jessye B. Norman Amphitheater, by the river…beautiful…and look, it's the new school of fine arts," she says with pride, driving by a modern red brick edifice on 12th Street near Telfair. The school is a public magnet school, one of the best in the state, with an equal number of black and white students.

Score another victory over absurdity, par for today's Augusta.

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It was 1990 before Augusta National Golf Club finally admitted black members. Still, women are not allowed. When does a private organization have a social obligation to go beyond the letter of the law? Speak your mind.


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More than 135 years ago, John S. Davidson, an Augusta citizen, worked hard for fairness and excellence in education. Soon after the Civil War the Georgia legislature passed an education bill mandating equal schools for both blacks and whites. Davidson, who served on the county's first board of education, as the city attorney, and as a state senator, took immediate steps to carry out the new law. Although he was unmarried, and without children, Davidson had a resounding interest in schools. Today he is known in Augusta as the Father of Education.

Davidson "stuck his neck out to organize the first black high school in Augusta," says local historian Ed Cashin. In 1886, in acknowledgment for his role in bringing public schools to Augusta, Augusta named a new elementary school on Telfair Street after Davidson.

In the decades after the Civil War, however, the political leadership in Georgia changed. A few years after Davidson's death in 1894, the Georgia legislature passed a law that said that school districts did not have to provide equal schooling to blacks and whites. The county closed Augusta's black high schools almost immediately. 

In Cumming v. Board of Education, local black citizens sued the county, claiming that if a black school was closed, then a white school also had to be closed. They lost the case, but appealed it to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1899, the Supreme Court handed down an interpretation that reinforced the end of black high schools in Georgia for nearly 40 years. It wasn't until 1937 that the county board of education finally voted to add two years of high school curriculum to one of the black elementary schools in Augusta, even though blacks made up 40 percent of the county's population.

Following the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, John S. Davidson elementary school in Augusta was among those chosen to integrate blacks into the public education system. But the old racism was not gone—at the insistence of local white businessmen, the county changed the school's name to the Telfair School rather than allow black children to attend a school with a white man's name.

In 1981 the John S. Davidson Fine Arts School opened in Augusta, chartered with the stipulation that the school reflect the racial makeup of the community.  The school moved to a ten-million-dollar campus in 1998, down the street from its former location. The student body is equally black and white, and the school is considered the premier fine-arts high school in the state, recognized for excellence in education, as well as in its approach to fair and equal opportunity for its students.
 
—David W. Wooddell

Did You Know?


Related Links
Official Site of the Masters Tournament
www.masters.org/
Learn more about the Masters Tournament, one of golf's most prestigious events.

The Augusta Chronicle
www.augustachronicle.com/
Great local coverage of Augusta and the Masters Tournament.

Historic Augusta Inc.
www.downtownaugusta.com/historicaugusta/index2.html
Augusta is the second oldest city in the state.

National Council of Women's Organizations
www.womensorganizations.org
See why some women are upset at Augusta National Golf Club.

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Bibliography
"America's all-male golfing society," New York Times, November 18, 2002.

Owen, David. The Making of the Masters. Simon and Schuster, 1999.

Sampson, Curt. The Masters: Golf, Money, and Power in Augusta, Georgia. Villard, 1998.

Stanley, Alessandra. "CBS silent in debate on women joining Augusta," New York Times, November 25, 2002.

White, Jack E. "Spare the Tiger: Why should Woods be singled out?" Time (December 16, 2002).

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NGS Resources
Hall, Alice. J., "Georgia, Unlimited," National Geographic (August 1978), 212-45.

Walker, Howell, "The Greener Fields of Georgia," National Geographic (March 1954), 297-330.

Graves, Ralph A., "Marching Through Georgia Sixty Years After," National Geographic (September 1926), 259-311.

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