What’s good for the community is good for business

By Georgia Humanities Staff

An eighteen-hour day and a six-day workweek was the norm for Fuller E. Callaway. The subject of a new book—Fuller E. Callaway: Portrait of a New South Citizen—written by Buckner F. Melton Jr. and Carol Willcox Melton and copublished by Georgia Humanities, Callaway was a son of Troup County and a self-made man.

He began his career as the proprietor of the Famous and Mammoth Five-and-Ten Cent Store in LaGrange and went on to amass a network of west Georgia textile mills and other businesses. He was universally known, and admired, for the benefits he extended to his mill employees and their families.

As the post–Civil War South transitioned from an agrarian society to one focused on industrial development, entrepreneurship like Callaway’s gave rise to the truism that what’s good for the community is good for business. The climate of creativity and investment in community that characterized Callaway’s New South business model still exists in west Georgia.

Funded by Georgia Humanities grants, the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and the Troup County Historical Society each partnered with other local organizations to invest in community development via heritage tourism. Creating a series of driving tours and a digital app, respectively, the organizations focused on making area historic sites accessible to locals and visitors alike.

Tourism and community pride are inextricably linked for Patricia Goodman, president of the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, and the many volunteers who joined forces to create three driving tours of notable Randolph County locales. Truly by the community for the community, the project drew together a range of volunteer writers and researchers, including Karan Pittman, Andrew College Librarian and Randolph County Historian; Frances Messer, immediate past president of the Randolph County Historical Society; Ann Bynum, retired; Mary Jane Salter, Andrew College Alumni Chair; and the River Valley Regional Commission, which provided maps for the tours.

Goodman and her volunteers are all motivated by a love of history and a desire to share it with others. In a celebration of local pride, according to Goodman, “Hundreds of folks were present, both local and from all over the state” at the grand opening of the Randolph County Welcome Center and debut of a Cuthbert, Georgia, driving tour. A countywide tour is still in the works, but the project is already paying dividends: people from neighboring counties have reached out to Goodman for advice on creating similar tours for their own communities.

For the Troup County Historical Society, too, having a growth-oriented mindset involves acknowledging local history. Reaching new people in a new way was a priority for former director Kaye Lanning Minchew (retired) and the staff—Shannon Johnson, assistant director and archivist of Troup County Archives; Cindy Pendleton, archives office manager; Clark Johnson, Troup County historian, and others—who worked with the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority and the LaGrange Troup County Bureau of Tourism to produce a digital app. With its app, LaGrange: Downtown Walking Tour, the organization takes its collection of historic photographs to the street—literally—leading users through the downtown area, coupling current images with historic photos and brief histories of featured sites, including Callaway’s Hills and Dales Estate.

Encouragement of local pride notwithstanding, everyone agrees: the most exciting part of recognizing and preserving a community’s past is sharing it with others who want to invest in it, too.