The 20th Century And Beyond In Savannah Pt 2

Dated: August 25 2017

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    Scientist CHARLES H. HERTY established a laboratory on River Street where he discovered uses for cotton seed meal and developed methods for processing pulp paper out of pine. The economy of Savannah was given a considerable boost when UNION BAG AND PAPER COMPANY moved to the area, becoming one of the region’s largest employers. In 1938, Savannah celebrated with a Southern Paper Festival. A later merger resulted in the paper company being renamed Union Camp. In 1999, the Savannah plant earned the distinction of being the largest pulp to container works in the nation, and was sold to International Paper. A famous Savannah tradition ended in 1931, when GEORGE MARTUS, keeper of the light on Elba Island, retired. At that time, he and his sister Florence, known as the “Waving Girl,” because she waved her handkerchief to all passing ships, moved to dry land.

     In 1935, the City of Savannah established ARMSTRONG JUNIOR COLLEGE, which was named for the donor of the original building on Bull at Gaston streets, located just north of Forsyth Park. Mrs. George F. Armstrong responded to the City’s need to house the new institution, and the college soon expanded into five other buildings around the Park and Monterey Square. The college’s first African-American graduate was OTIS JOHNSON, who became mayor of Savannah in 2004. Armstrong now known as ARMSTRONG ATLANTIC STATE UNIVERSITY, is a four year college granting graduate as well as undergraduate degrees and is located on Abercorn Extension. 

    WORLD WAR II, like the first World War, turned Savannah into an important shipbuilding center. SOUTHEASTERN SHIPYARD, downstream from the city, produced over 80 Liberty ships or cargo ships, bringing an additional 15,000 jobs to the city. The Savannah Machine and Foundry Company also built and repaired ships, and won awards for efficiency and safety from the Federal government. Camp Stewart in Hinesville, now known as FORT STEWART, and Hunter Field, now known as HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, attracted a large military population to the area. World War I ace Frank O. Hunter became commander of the Eighth Air Force, the history of which is now celebrated at the MIGHTY EIGHTH AIR FORCEMUSEUM in Pooler. The United States Public Health Service moved into the former Central of Georgia Hospital on Oatland Island to study tropical diseases. The facility became a technical development laboratory for the Center for Disease control shortly after World War II. The property was declared surplus by the Federal government in 1973 and now houses the OATLAND ISLAND EDUCATION CENTER with nature trails and a wide range of native animal and bird species. 

    In 1950, the Federal government purchased Hunter Field from the City and in exchange provided Chatham Field, later called Travis Field, to serve as the new municipal airport. The present terminal to the west of the runway, completed in 1994, replaced a terminal built in 1958 on the east side of the runway. In 1968, the United States Airforce transferred Hunter Field to the Army, and it was renamed Hunter Army Air Field. In the 21st Century, it is home to units of the Third Infantry Division, other non-divisional military units and the Savannah Coast Guard Air Station.

     The postwar period was an important era in the lives of Savannah’s African-American population. In 1947, long before the turbulent 1960s, NINE BLACK OFFICERS were appointed to the Savannah Police Department. This was largely attributed to a voter registration drive launched by the REVEREND RALPH MARK GILBERT who served as pastor of the First African Baptist Church. He was also the president of the Savannah branch of the NAACP which he had revitalized during the World War II years. Reverend Gilbert was also instrumental in implementing the establishment of United Service Organization (U.S.O.) canteens for black military men at Camp Stewart and in Savannah at the West Broad Street YMCA. Gilbert served as president of the Savannah NAACP until his death in 1950. 

    WESTLEY WALLACE LAW, more commonly known as W.W. Law, replaced Gilbert as president of Savannah’s chapter of the NAACP. Law was fired from his job as a letter carrier because of his Civil Rights activities and was later reinstated to his job by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Law and activists like Hosea Williams and Earl Shinholster organized a boycott of white businesses in Savannah, lunch counter sit-ins, a young people’s “wade-in” at the all white Savannah Beach on Tybee Island, voter registration drives and equal employment initiatives. This resulted in the desegregation of public facilities in Savannah in October 1963. This was eight months ahead of Federal desegregation legislation and was a much more peaceful Civil Rights movement than other Southern cities.

     Law then turned to lead another cause that dramatically changed Savannah—the preservation of the city’s historic fabric. He was instrumental in preserving LAUREL GROVE SOUTH CEMETERY, a historically African-American burying ground, and gave tours of the cemetery for the rest of his life. Law initiated the NEGRO HERITAGE TRAIL TOUR, the first motorized tour of Savannah to concentrate on African-American history. He also rescued and moved the King- Tisdell Cottage to its present location on East Huntingdon Street and organized the Beach Institute Historic Neighborhood Association surrounding the post-bellum school for black youth begun in 1867. The BEACH INSTITUTE itself became an African-American cultural center under the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation and now houses the nationally known Ulysses Davis collection of wood carvings as well as changing exhibitions of contemporary African-American art. On the second floor of the facility, a school room has been restored from the period in which the institution served as a primary and secondary school. 

Excerpt is from Barbara C. Fertig's Tour Guide Manual for Savannah

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Jenny Rutherford

Meet Jenny Rutherford Jenny Rutherford Real Estate, LLC. Where did you grow up? I grew up on a farm at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I've lived in several states, including Virgi....

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