Georgia’s Secretary of State, Ben W. Fortson, Jr., gave the principal address for the day’s celebration. He spoke at the Dade football field at 1:30 p.m., rather than at 2 p.m., as scheduled.
Mr. Fortson, a gifted orator and historian, gave a very interesting and informative summary of events from the beginning of America’s independence on and before July 4, 1776, on up to the present time, placing emphasis on the freedom now enjoyed by the people of America as compared to those of any and all other countries.
The speaker was introduced by Elbert Forester, a close, personal friend of the Secretary since the late thirties when both served together in the Georgia General Assembly.
Winners of the float, beard and costume contests were announced at this time, and were reported to The Sentinel as follows:
Floats winning in the historical theme category were the Trenton Church of God, first place for its authentic, old-time “brush arbor” with hymn singers in appropriate dress, and the “Rising Fawn Family of the 1700’s” a “typical” family of the period with cabin, second place.
A trophy winner in the patriotic division was Mount Calvary Baptist Church, Hooker, first place for a float showing the Statue of Liberty and depicting famous Blacks in U. S. history on a bed of cotton blossoms, using the slogan, “We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby.” Second place went to the American Legion, Post 106, for a living memorial portraying the flag raising on Iwo Jima.
Jimmy Reeves won first prize in the beard contest, while Freddie Mahan was awarded second place.
In the women’s costume contest, age 16 and over, winners were Mrs. Ada Hickey, first, and Louise Blevins, second, Girls’ contest under 16, winners were Amy Privett, first and Robin Wooten, second. Martin Blevins won first prize and Beth Tatum won second for children’s costumes, age 12 and under, and men’s costume winners were Dan Blevins, first, and James (Tudler) Stephens.
At 3 p.m., the crowd re-assembled on courthouse square for the dedication of the Bicentennial monument, speeches by candidates for county and state offices, and music by the Adkins Family band. Police blocked off the southwest portion of the square for this event, which was cut short by a downpour of rain.
Sen. E. G. Summers gave the dedicatory address. The Senator’s remarks were themed toward patriotism and the need for all to be mindful of the “freedom we now enjoy” and must preserve.
Only two candidates for office spoke before the rain began, although a number were in attendance, including Congressman Larry P. McDonald, and State Rep. Forest Hays and Wayne Snow. Almost all candidates for local and state political office were on hand for earlier festivities, with a number participating in the parade and also making appearances at The Brock House where their placards formed a ring around a big, red-white- and-blue-striped “hat” on the front lawn.
At the Bicentennial “kick-off” dinner held the night before, the Rev. Herb Wilson, celebration coordinator, announced that the “time capsule” had already been placed underneath the monument.
The evening’s celebration took place at the New Salem Community Center where a square dance provided fun and relaxation.
On Sunday, the tradition Fourth of July Barbecue sponsored by the New Salem Community Improvement Club at Cloudland Canyon State Park, attracted a large crowd in spite of the rainy weather. A highlight of the afternoon was a stirring speech by “Patrick Henry” (Jack Wilderson of Chattanooga) that held a Freedom Celebration, also showing films and serving refreshments.
That evening, young people of New Home Baptist Church held a Freedom Celebration, also showing films and serving refreshments.
The Bicentennial celebration drew to a close Monday at West Brow Community Center with a horseshoe tournament and sale of homemade ice cream, homemade cakes and other “goodies.” Citizens were urged to register to vote at a special booth set up for the occasion.
Also on Monday, the Rev. Herb Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Trenton, told The Sentinel in part, “I just want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the help of so many in so many ways. I believe all will agree that the celebration was a great success, and the variety of activities stirred the hearts of all who attended and participated. May the good Lord richly bless you as we look forward with renewed hope and satisfaction and dependence on His counsel and guiding hand.”
(Used by permission HISTORY OF DADE COUNTY GEORGIA, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, 1981.)