Darrell Huckaby: Georgia's historic moments -- then and now

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

This past Sunday the eyes of the world were on Augusta as a good ol' boy named Bubba -- a former Georgia Bulldog who never had a single golf lesson in his life -- pulled off an improbable hook shot off the pine straw and through a narrow tunnel of trees and people, to win a playoff and earn the right to wear the most coveted garment in the world of sports. When he exclaimed "Go Dawgs!" during the green jacket ceremony people were barking from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light. He also evoked the name of Jesus during his interview -- fitting for an event that concluded on Easter Sunday evening.

Even those people who began the week pulling for a resurgence by the recently deposed King of Golf, Eldrin Woods, were generally pleased by the way the final round unfolded -- and most of those who found themselves pulling for Phil Mickelson as the day began became Bubba followers before it ended.

April 8, 2012, will go down in history as one of the greatest in the storied sports history of our fair state.

But when you wake up tomorrow morning you might want to take a look at your calendar -- or on the masthead of your newspaper. The date will read April 12 -- which back in 1945 was a pretty big day in our state's history, too. On that date in history the eyes of the world were focused on Georgia, too -- but not on the city on the eastern edge of the fall line.

There was no Masters in 1945. For the third consecutive year the event had been cancelled, in deference to World War II. No, on April 12, 1945, you would need to look about 200 miles to the west and south -- to the small little hamlet of Warm Springs -- to learn what all the fuss was about.

The Germans were all but defeated. Adolph Hitler would die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound before the month ended. In the Pacific, we and our allies were locked in a death struggle on Okinawa that would cost over 100,000 lives before it was settled in June -- and back here at home our Commander-in-Chief, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was having his portrait painted at his vacation home when he complained of a "terrific headache."

He was surrounded by an entourage of friends, family members and staff who all reported that the president had been quite animated most of the morning and in a quite congenial mood when an apparent cerebral hemorrhage began at 1:15 p.m. Ten minutes later he was gone, although it would be a couple of hours before he was pronounced dead.

The nation was shocked to learn of FDR's death. Although his health had been deteriorating rapidly since returning from the Yalta Conference a few weeks earlier, his condition had been kept secret from the public. He was only 63 at the time of his passing, but seemed much older. He had been president for 12 years at the time of his death -- longer by four years than anyone in history -- and was five weeks into his fourth term when he died.

Roosevelt's legacy continues to be debated to this very day. To some he was a savior. Even though it was the U.S.'s entry into World War II and not the New Deal that ended the Great Depression, Roosevelt did give hope and inspiration to many. He provided them jobs when they had had none -- even though it was government-sponsored "make work" which did little or nothing to revive the economy. He turned the lights on in the rural South with his Rural Electrification and the TVA and through his radio broadcasts -- his "fireside chats" -- he convinced many Americans that he really did "feel their pain" decades before Bill Clinton coined the phrase.

To hear others talk you would think that Roosevelt was akin to Lucifer himself. They blame him for laying the groundwork for the modern welfare state and dependence on government entitlement. They claim that he was power-hungry and no friend of the Constitution. They point to his scheme to try and circumvent the system of checks and balances by packing the Supreme Court with his on appointees. They castigate him for eschewing the precedent established by George Washington that presidents should step down after two terms by running for -- and winning -- a third and fourth term.

But on the day he died the nation universally mourned the man who told us that the only thing we had to fear was "fear itself." The famous picture of Graham Jackson playing "Going Home" on the accordion, with tears streaming down his face, epitomizes the emotions most Americans felt in that day.

So we have a tale of two Georgia springs -- one joyful, one sad. One a passing footnote, one of historical significance. Each worth mentioning in their own right.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.