Tag Archives: Georgia Documentary

The Alday Murders: 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago today, the relative innocence of rural Georgia was shattered by the brutal murders of six members of the Alday family in Seminole County in what has been called the most gruesome mass murder in the state’s history. [It remains the second largest mass murder in Georgia, after the Woolfolk Murders of 1887]. It’s been said that it’s when people who had never done so began locking their doors in Georgia. It had that big of an effect. Though the nationally publicized Manson murders shocked the nation a few years earlier, that was something far away and hardly seemed like something that could happen here.

Ned Alday (7 September 1910-14 May 1973)

19-year-old Carl Isaacs was already a seasoned criminal when he masterminded an escape from the Poplar Hill Correctional Institute in Maryland, enlisting his half-brother and fellow inmate Wayne Coleman. Coleman’s only stipulation was that his friend George Dungee was also brought into the plan. The three prisoners made their escape on the night of 5 May 1973. After stealing a blue Thunderbird in Baltimore and picking up Carl’s brother Billy, the fugitives committed a string of burglaries in Maryland and Pennsylvania to fund their getaway. On 10 May 1973, they stole a pickup truck in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, and were given chase by Richard Wayne Miller, who recognized the truck as one of his neighbor’s. Though it was not known at the time, Miller was murdered by Carl Isaacs and disposed of in the vicinity of Flintstone, Maryland. The group abandoned the pickup truck in favor of Miller’s 1968 Chevy Super Sport and drove south. [Miller’s remains were recovered after the Alday murders].

Aubrey Alday (10 Mary 1915-14 May 1973)

The gas pump at the Ned Alday farm property on River Road is what got the attention of the group as they made their way through Seminole County en route to Florida. They found no one at home and began ransacking the trailer on the property. When Ned and Jerry Alday arrived, after having lunch with Ernestine Alday at the family home a little way down the road, they startled the escapees, who forced them inside and shot them execution style. When Jimmy came by the trailer, he became the next victim of the fugitives. The same fate awaited Ned’s brother Aubrey and son Sugie as they arrived at the farm. Jerry’s wife Mary was taken to a wooded location a few miles from the trailer and raped multiple times before being murdered. Her body was recovered several days later, having been left in a large fire ant bed.

Jerry Nelson Alday (15 March 1939-14 May 1973)

The tight-knit community of Seminole County was horrified and outraged by the crimes and law enforcement vowed to act swiftly and to the fullest extent possible. On 17 May 1973, hundreds of their fellow citizens came to Spring Creek Baptist Church, which Ned had helped build, to pay their final respects to the Alday family.

Mary Estelle Campbell Alday (9 July 1946-14 May 1973)

By 24 May 1973, Carl Isaacs, Billy Isaacs, Wayne Coleman, and George Dungee were all in custody, extradited from West Virginia to Seminole County. They were arraigned at the courthouse in Donalsonville, and each was charged with six counts of murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, and the theft of Mary Alday’s car. Authorities were chilled by the lack of concern or remorse displayed by Carl Isaacs and Wayne Coleman.

Chester Addis Alday (7 May 1943-14 May 1973) [Known as Sugie]

Carl Isaacs, Wayne Coleman, and George Dungee were found guilty and sentenced to death, with Billy Isaacs receiving a plea deal for testimony against the others. He served 20 years and died in Florida in 2009. While court challenges and legal machinations prolonged justice over the years, Carl Isaacs died by lethal injection in 2003 and for the first time in Georgia history, three members of the victims’ families were allowed to witness the execution. Isaacs never showed remorse, even at the end. George Dungee died at Reidsville in 2006 while serving his life sentence. Wayne Coleman, still alive, will die in prison.

Jimmy Cecil Alday (14 October 1947-14 May 1973)

There is never real closure in a case like this. Earlier this year, I made a pilgrimage to the idyllic Spring Creek cemetery to see for myself the cost of this tragedy. Growing up in Southwest Georgia in the 1970s and 1980s, the story of the Alday family was ever present. Each year, on the anniversary of the tragedy, WALB-TV in Albany ran a story about it, focusing on the survivors, while covering all the developments in the case. It always brought great sadness, and fear.

Something positive has come out of the case, in the work of Paige Barber, the granddaughter of Ned Alday and the niece of Jerry Alday, Jimmy Alday, ‘Sugie’ Alday, Mary Alday and the great niece of Aubrey Alday. As a spokesperson for the Alday family she successfully lobbied the passing of the Alday family bill in 2003. The bill makes it mandatory for state officials to contact the families of victims in death penalty cases twice a year. Prior to the passing of the bill, it was difficult for crime victims to gain information about any developments in their cases.  She has spent a lot of time sharing the Alday story to spread awareness for victims of crimes. 

Note: If you’re looking for photos of the criminals, gruesome photos, or anything like that, a simple search will lead you in that direction online. I’ve chosen to only share the memorials for the victims, while telling the story with as little emphasis on those aspects as possible.


Miller’s Soul Food, 1955, Dublin

Shenita Hunt with her mother and Miller’s Soul Food matriarch, Nadine Miller Hunt

If you’re a fan of home-style Southern cooking you should put Miller’s Soul Food in Dublin at the top of your list to visit. They’ve been serving up food and a strong sense of community here for several generations, and you can feel the history and the love in every dish. It’s the oldest restaurant in Dublin and one of the community’s most successful Black-owned businesses.

Inside Miller’s Soul Food

Mrs. Nadine Miller Hunt’s mother established the restaurant in 1955 and Nadine has been running the place for over 30 years. When her husband, James L. Hunt (1934-2023), passed away recently, her daughter Shenita Hunt, who has lived in the Miami area for many years, came home to help with the restaurant’s operation. Mrs. Nadine isn’t slowing down and is the very definition of a gracious Southern lady. In 2022, Miller’s Soul Food was the only Georgia restaurant awarded a Backing Historic Small Restaurants grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

I had a fried leg quarter, a baked leg, turnips, and rutabagas. Both the fried and baked chicken were perfect. The photo, made on the fly, doesn’t do the food justice, so you’ll have to see for yourself.

In the pantheon of Southern restaurants, the meat-and-three is king, because everyone is looking for food like their mamma made. In my experience, the search rarely yields acceptable results. But sometimes you come across a place so good that you want to share it with the world. Miller’s Soul Food isn’t just any meat-and-three. Nothing is too salty, nothing too greasy, and nothing too sweet. Perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned. None of this dumped-out-of-a-can buffet stuff here. There are plenty of regular customers who will tell you it’s the best restaurant in Dublin and I believe them.

Miller’s Soul Food, Dublin’s Oldest Resturant

Of course they serve all the staples, like fried chicken, ribs, fried mullet, and sides like turnips and rutabagas. I’m more a mustard and collards fan, but on the advice of a regular customer, I got the turnips and they were cooked to perfection. For the more old-school customers, they serve up oxtails, pig’s feet and other soul food classics. Each meal comes with corn muffins and an old-fashioned hoe cake, also very good.

Longtime customers make a selection. It’s all so good, it’s not easy to choose.

When I first walked in the door, I was warmly welcomed by Shenita Hunt. In addition to being dedicated to the legacy of her family’s business, she’s an accomplished singer, has toured professionally, and is passionate about her work. She was happy to play some of her recordings and she’s very talented [my favorite was her cover of “At Last” by Etta James]. Her work is available for purchase at the restaurant and online. Her family also owned a nightclub, Miller’s Country Club, about ten miles outside town, and she learned many standards of American music from listening to their jukebox and watching the musicians who worked with her parents. That’s where she got the music bug. Her family strongly embraced and encouraged her artistic interests.

Miller’s Soul Food is only open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, so you’ll have to plan. But really, you should pay them a visit.

Dublin Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Million Pine Car Spa, Soperton

I believe this business is closed now; this image is from the archives, circa 2013.

Richard Woods and The Woods of Fannin County

Richard Woods in Baxley, Georgia, 8 December 2022

If I told you that eight children were abandoned by their parents, left to fend for themselves in a ramshackle cabin on the side of a mountain in 1940s Fannin County, you’d probably be skeptical. If I told you that, against all odds, they not only survived but went on to become successful adults, your skepticism might turn to disbelief. But it’s a true story, woven into a heartbreaking short novel by my friend Janisse Ray. Last night, Janisse introduced readers to the real Richard Woods, one of the last surviving members of the family she brought to life in her new book, The Woods of Fannin County. A nice crowd turned out in Janisse’s hometown of Baxley for an engaging discussion about the book. Mr. Woods’s daughters, Kim Woods Miller and Kelly Johnson, along with his wife and grandchildren, were also in attendance. Though Mr. Woods now lives in North Alabama, he stated that he also considered Baxley his hometown, having spent his formative years at the local Baptist Children’s Home. More on that later.

Richard Woods, with grandson Chuck Mimbs and granddaughter Kimberlee Bryan

Richard Woods, a kind soft-spoken gentleman with no hint of bitterness about him, recounted his vague memories of the story detailed in the book, vague because he was so young at the time it happened. Almost anyone who has read the book wouldn’t fault him for being bitter. He remembers leaving the house in Morganton where the family was living by mule and wagon. He said he called his mother by her name, “Ruby”*, because she was never a mother in the regular sense of the word. He recounted his disdain for the old cabin and doesn’t remember ever sleeping inside, rather on or under the porch. He remembers stealing corn and having no food but hominy and wild berries and at least one helping of poke sallet. When asked why no one did anything about such a large family of small children being abandoned, he noted that his grandfather and other relatives had political influence in Fannin County. He was sure that the whole community knew the situation, but did nothing to help.

Richard Woods (left foreground, signing a copy of The Woods of Fannin County, with his daughter, Kim Woods Miller, in the background)

Salvation ultimately came from an old moonshiner who lived near the cabin and sought a solution from the local Baptist preacher. As a result of that intervention, the Woods children, except the oldest and the youngest, were taken in by the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home. They stayed briefly at the Hapeville Children’s Home before settling at the Baxley campus.

I was inspired by meeting Mr. Woods and hearing first hand his story, which could only be told by someone with a forgiving heart. He said as he and his siblings got on with their lives and families they kept the past in the past but they never forgot what they went through. He noted that they all dealt with it in different ways and at least one sibling never shared with their spouse their traumatic early experiences. Years after their ordeal, they all got together one Thanksgiving and began to write down what they could remember. Those memories are the basis for The Woods of Fannin County. The book is definitely worth a look. Your emotions will run the gamut from sadness to anger to redemption but you’ll be glad you read the story.

*-Many readers of the book want to know what happened to Ruby. Richard Woods’s daughter, Kim Woods Miller, has tracked down a lot of the family’s genealogy, but as of now, she hasn’t been able to track down when or where Ruby died, her death as much a mystery as her life.

Notice: This is an Amazon Affiliate post and purchases related to the discussed book will generate a small commission.

Vince Dooley, 1932-2022

Vince Dooley at the 2015 Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Ceremony, Athens

News of the death of Vince Dooley came at particularly tough time, as fans were beginning preparations for the big Georgia-Florida game weekend. Coach Dooley was revered for leading the Bulldogs to their legendary National Championship season in 1980 and transforming the program into a powerhouse, and there is plenty of information to be found about that online and in print. But he was much more than a sports personality and this a personal appreciation.

When I met him, by chance, at the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame ceremony in Athens in 2015, he was talking with some of that year’s inductees about their work. His genuine interest in arts and culture came as somewhat of a surprise to me but it was easy to see that this was just a part of who he was. Though he was often the center of attention when on the UGA campus, he came to events like this to celebrate others. He had no air of self-importance about him whatsoever. I was honored to be able to meet and photograph him.

After a tour in the Marines, while coaching at his alma mater, Auburn, Dooley obtained a master’s degree in history. This all happened before he began his storied career at Georgia, in 1964. His interest in history never wavered and in 2011 he was named a Trustee of the Georgia Historical Society, serving as chairman of the board from 2016-2018. In addition to this work, and tireless fundraising for a wide variety of causes, he found the time to be a master gardener.

He will be greatly missed but he leaves an amazing legacy.

Southern Ladies, Warrenton

These nice ladies, who were attending a fundraiser for the Knox Theatre renovation, reminded me of my grandmothers and so many Southern ladies I knew growing up, who had their hair done at the beauty shop every week and were always stylish and well-coiffed when seen in public. There aren’t many like them anymore.

Bulloch House, 1893, Warm Springs

Benjamin Bulloch House. The photos shared here were made in March 2010.

The first Bullochs came to the area of present-day Greenville, Georgia, from Edgecombe County, North Carolina, in the early 1800s and Cyprian Bulloch remained in the area and was a successful businessman . [This branch of Bullochs were not related to Archibald Bulloch, the first governor of Georgia].

The town of Bullochville was established by Cyprian’s sons, Cyprian Jr. and Benjamin Franklin. It was incorporated on December 20, 1893. Benjamin built this home on a prominent hill overlooking the town. He and Cyprian were large landowners and their other interests included a mill, gin, bank, and coffin factory. It is often stated that the town was renamed Warm Springs by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1920s, but my friend Joe Kitchens notes: My distant cousin Dr. Nepali Kitchens left a lucrative practice in Columbus and retired to Bullochville where he was elected mayor. His training was in hydrotherapy and he claimed to have been the influence behind changing the name of the village, which preceded FDR’s first visit.

Fast forward to 1990: Judy Foster and Charles & Sylvia Garrett purchased and renovated the Bulloch House and converted into a popular restaurant serving Southern favorites, done right.

As someone who never likes fried green tomatoes, I can attest that I actually loved theirs! And of course, they excelled in fried chicken.

Peter and Sandy Lampert purchased the business in 2011.

Sadly, the Bulloch House was struck by lightning and completely lost to an ensuing fire on 10 June 2015. Luckily, for fans of the restaurant, the Lamperts relocated to an historic commercial space in downtown Warm Springs and were up and running by December 2015.

The history shared here comes from their website. If you plan on visiting Warm Springs, you just have to try it. I think you’ll like it.

Watching the Stories at Maebob’s, Irwinton

When I stopped at Maebob’s Diner in 2017 [the date of this photograph], it was the first time I’d eaten there since my college days, and the food was just as good as it was in the early 1990s. I’m not sure how long the place has been open, but I’m saying it’s at least 30 years. There is nothing pretentious about the place and nothing fancy, but the homestyle Southern food does all the talking. It’s really the only gathering place in tiny Irwinton and much of Wilkinson County passes through here at one time or another. The day I was there, a soap opera was playing on the television, and one of the servers and a couple of the customers were paying attention when they could. It made me think of my grandmothers referring to soap operas as “the stories”. They watched them religiously and you knew not to call them while they were on, which, depending on the shows they watched, was anytime between 12:30 and 4PM.

Lonnie Holley Mural Dedication, Lumpkin

Ezekiel and Lonnie Holley

On 24 July 2021 I was honored to attend the dedication of a mural designed by nationally renowned artist Lonnie Holley and painted by his son Ezekiel, on the side of the Singer Hardware building on the square in Lumpkin. Mr. Holley’s work is often classified as Outsider Art, though The New York Times called him “the Insider’s Outsider”.

The work actually comprises two individual works of art. The image on the left is “Born into Color”, and the image at right is “Black in the Midst of the Red, White, and Blue”.

According to his website, Lonnie Holley began working by the time he was five years old. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1950, and lived in a whiskey house, the state fairgrounds, and several foster homes. Holley notes that his early life was chaotic and he never got to experience a real childhood. Perhaps this explains why the artist has such an infectious good spirit today.

Also from Mr. Holley’s website: Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events. His work is now in collections of major museums throughout the country, on permanent display in the United Nations, and been displayed in the White House Rose Garden. In January of 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist-in-residence with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s studio.

A nice crowd turned out for the dedication and braved excessive heat for the opportunity to meet Mr. Holley.

This young man kicked off the ceremony with a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem.

Annie Moye, who organized the event and helped secure the mural, speaks at the dedication.

Mike McFalls, an Associate Professor of Art at Columbus State University and Director of Pasaquan, gave context about Mr. Holley’s place in the art world and a brief overview of his life and career.

Mr. Holley was quick to join the improvisational street dance and shared some good moves with the crowd.

Spontaneity was the order of the day.

Carlonie Holley putting the finishing touches on her chalk art

Mr. Holley also took time to visit with anyone who was so inclined and personally answered many questions from those in attendance.

He also gave a demonstration of his process to local 4-H members.

I want to personally thank Annie Moye for inviting me to document the event.

The hand of the artist

I owe a special thanks to Lonnie, Ezekiel, and the entire Holley family for allowing me to photograph them. They were really nice folks and I’m honored to have had the opportunity.

Hunting on St. Simons, 1925

In the early 20th century, St. Simons Island was a popular destination for hunters from all over the country. Much like Sapelo Island today, it was scarcely developed and was home to numerous Geechee-Gullah people. The island was still a wild place in the winter of 1925 when this series of real photo postcards documenting a hunting trip were made. The first image shows a local African-American guide navigating a skiff through one of the numerous tidal creeks that characterize the island landscape. I don’t recognize the location, but the boat docked at the far right of the image may have the name “Frederica”.

I’m surprised that hunters were interested in raccoons, but the sender of these cards, Mr. Walter Friedlander of Roselle, New Jersey, made special mention of their abundance when writing home to his wife.

This is one of the thousands of Raccoons on this island. May be millions…”

I was unable to reproduce the other cards in this series, but a buck and several hogs were among the other game taken on the trip.