John C. Sirmons Fought Graft in Atlanta Police Department

John C. Sirmons, a native of Berrien County, GA , made a lifetime career in education. In 1917 he was teaching at Tech High School in Atlanta.  There, he suffered the indignity of having his car  stolen.

His car was recovered by Atlanta police and in attempting to claim his property, John encountered some difficulty which sparked an investigation into municipal graft.

The February 17, 1917 Atlanta Constitution reported on the incident:

February 23, 1917 Atlanta Constitution reports charges of police graft brought by John C. Sirmons

February 17, 1917 Atlanta Constitution reports charges of police graft brought by John C. Sirmons

Atlanta Constitution
February 17, 1917

Board Will Probe Charges of Graft

Rewards Demanded by Policemen for Recovery of Automobiles, According to Professor J. C. Sirmons.

    A special meeting of the police board will be called to investigate Professor J. C. Sirmons’ charges that policemen charged him a reward of $25 to recover his stolen Ford car.
    This course of action was decided upon by Chairman Andy King after a conference held by Mayor Asa G. Candler, Chief of Police W. M. Mayo and the board chairman, in the mayor’s office Friday afternoon.
    “Of course, Professor Sirmons must make his verbal charges to Mayor Candler against the two policemen in writing,” said Chairman King, “before they can be tried before the police board.
    “Chief Mayo has detailed Captain L. S. Dobbs to investigate Professor Sirmons’ charges tomorrow, and if the captain finds that there is sufficient grounds for a further investigation by the police board, I will call a special meeting immediately, and the matter will be sifted out thoroughly.

Rights of Policemen.
    “Policemen have a right to receive rewards for cars stolen out of the city and recovered in Atlanta, but they have no right to demand rewards for cars stolen in Atlanta, and recovered here.”
    When Mayor Candler received information from Professor Sirmons indicating graft in the police department in connection with the recovery of stolen automobiles, he asserted that Professor Sirmons’ case had the appearance of an “outrageous offense” by the police.
    Professor Sirmons laid the case plainly before Mayor Candler, and later told the newspaper men of his grievance as follows:
    “My car was stolen from in front of the Lyric theater last Saturday night. I notified the city detective department on Sunday.
    “Several unsuccessful efforts were made to get me by telephone on Monday and Tuesday. I was teaching classes and could not answer the phone at Tech High. Early Tuesday afternoon I answered a call at the school and was informed that it was a policeman. The policeman wanted me to offer a reward for the recovery of my car.  Finally, at his insistence, I agreed to give $25 for it.
    “‘Come down to the police station this afternoon and get it,’ he said.
   “I went down, taking a fellow teacher with me.

Wanted $25 Reward.
    “When I asked concerning the car, the station sergeant told me that there was my man over there, point to an officer in knickerbockers.
    “The officer pointed to my car outside.
    “‘What are the charges.'” I asked.
    “‘You said you’d give me $25 reward,’ he said.
    “I said I’d pay the next day, as I did not have the money with me.
    “‘Leave the car here until then.’ answered the policeman.
    “I then gave a check, made payable to Chief Mayo, in compliance with his request.
    “As I came through up town, I didn’t think I ought to be made to pay for my car, so I stopped at my bank, and ordered payment stopped on the check.
    “Later I informed Chief Mayo of my action. I made no explanation of the details to the chief, but laid the matter before Mayor Candler today.”
     Chief Mayo said the officers’ names were Barfield and Fain.
    Mr. Sirmons said he did not remember any of the names of the policemen he talked with.
    “It’s an outrageous offense,” said Mayor Candler, after receiving the facts as laid before him by Professor Sirmons. “I shall insist upon a probe at once.”
     The mayor was given facts in a similar case where an insurance man recently had his car stolen, but refused to pay any reward for the recover of his car. The facts were given by a local newspaper man who stated his friend, the insurance man, did not want his named mentioned, but would present his grievances to the police board.
     The police board has a rule against policemen receiving rewards, but it is always laid aside and special resolutions passed granting rewards to policemen whenever rewards are offered.

The following week the police officers involved in the case were exonerated of all charges,  but John C. Sirmons got his car back and his $25 dollars.  The practice of officers collecting rewards for the return of stolen property was abolished by Atlanta mayor Asa Candler.

Atlanta police practice of charging a "reward" to return stolen property to victims, reported Atlanta Constitution, February 23, 1917.

Action by John C. Sirmons brought an end to Atlanta police practice of charging a “reward” to return stolen property to victims, reported Atlanta Constitution, February 23, 1917.

Atlanta Constitution
February 23, 1917

Reward System To Be Abolished

Mayor Candler Tells Commissioners That It “Will Pervert Police Force” if It Is Continued.

There will be no more rewards for Atlanta policemen for recovery of property stolen from citizens of Atlanta, or any property stolen in Atlanta, and recovered here, if the wishes of the police board, as expressed at the meeting last night, are respected.
    Mayor Asa G. Candler declared that the “reward system would pervert the police force.” He urged that the system of granting rewards be abolished, and the police board, from expressions of the members, would have taken favorable action on his suggestion at once if City Attorney Samuel A. Hewlett had not informed the commissioners that he was at present drawing up a city ordinance, at the request of a councilman, the purpose of which will be to put an end to the practice of rewarding officers who are paid by the city. Attorney Hewlett informed the board that this proposed ordinance would be introduced at the next meeting of council, and further discussion was dropped.
    After hearing numerous witnesses in the cases of Call Officers Barfield and Fain, charged by Professor J. C. Sirmons of the Tech High school, with extorting a $25 reward for the recovery of his stolen Ford machine, the board exonerated the officers on motion of Mayor Candler, which was seconded by Commissioner W. A. Vernory.
    On motion of Commissioner Poole, the action of the board at its former meeting in granting the Sirmons reward to the two call officers was rescinded. This made it obligatory upon the call officers to return Professor Sirmons his check, on which the professor Sirmons his check, on which the professor had stopped payment after issuing it, claiming that he did not think he was obligated to pay a reward for his car.
    “I do not think these two officers are to blame for taking this reward,” said Mayor Candler.  “It is the system. I know the officers are honest men – have known Officer Barfield’s family for many years, and trust him. But a city policeman has no right to expect a reward from a citizen of Atlanta, or for property stolen in this city and recovered here.
    “The reward system will pervert the police force, and I am zealous to see the force a good force. Citizens of Atlanta have said to me that the police force is more anxious to catch the stolen car than the thief who stole it. I have several similar complaints to that of Professor Sirmans, and I do not wish that these officers will be allowed to be put in positions where they will bring discredit upon the police department.”
    Attorney J. A. Branch, of Moore & Branch, represented Fain and Barfield.
    The commissioners present were: Mayor Candler, Chairman Andy King, Commissioners J. Lee Barnes, Poole, B. F. Styron, Maddox, Vernoy, McGee, J. C. Vaughan and Foster.

It appears that after the 1916-1917 academic year at Tech High School, John C. Sirmons had had enough of Atlanta. He sought a chance to return to higher education and an opening at his former institution, Cherokee Junior College, San Saba County, TX provided the opportunity.

Related Posts:

John C. Sirmons, Big Man On Campus

 

 

Eugene C. Phillips at Georgia Southern College

Eugene C. Phillips at Georgia Southern College

In 1966, Eugene C. Phillips, of Ray City, GA, attended Georgia Southern College at Statesboro, GA.  Phillips majored in Business Administration.

Eugene C. Phillips, of Ray City, GA, attended Georgia Southern College.

Eugene C. Phillips, of Ray City, GA, attended Georgia Southern College.

Another Ray City student at Georgia Southern College in 1966 was senior W. Ralph Bradham.  Patsy Partin and Garth L. Webb, Jr., of Nashville, GA, were sophomores. Freshmen Ricky Partin and Carol Rowan were also from Nashville, GA.  Carol Bradham and James Roger Lewis, of Alapaha, GA, were seniors and Carleen Chambless was a freshman. Jimmy Abney, of Enigma, GA was a junior.

Georgia Southern Reflector, 1966 year book.

Georgia Southern Reflector, 1966 year book.

Tales from the Swamp: Snakes and Skeeters of Berrien County

The editors of Berrien County’s early newspapers were always up for a story that brought attention to their district.

The tall tale was an art form which seemed to required an outrageous allegation and an unimpeachable, civic-minded witness.

One community supporter was William K. Roberts, merchant of Nashville, GA. W. K. “Bill” Roberts was a son of Bryan J. Roberts, pioneer and Indian fighter of old Lowndes county.

Another unabashed promoter of Alapaha, GA was Dr. James A. Fogle:  veteran, physician, innkeeper, Mason, and Justice of the Peace.  Dr. Fogle was a public figure of Berrien County, well known to the citizens of Ray’s Mill. In 1884, he challenged Hardeman Giddens for bragging rights to the fastest horse in Berrien County.

Later that same year, the names of Dr. James A. Fogle and William K. Roberts, among others, were invoked to assure readers of the veracity of a summer tale of Berrien County swamps, snakes and mosquitoes.

June 12, 1884 Leavenworth Weekly Times Attending physician Dr. J. A. Fogle reports "mosquitoe cure" for snake bite in Berrien swamp.

June 12, 1884 Leavenworth Weekly Times. Attending physician Dr. J. A. Fogle, of Alapaha, GA reports “mosquito cure” for snake bite in Berrien swamp.

Leavenworth Weekly Times
June 12, 1884

The Story of a Rattler and a Prominent Citizen of Georgia.

Berrien (Ga.), News.

On last Friday, the 28th ult., Messers. R. Q. Houston, B.R. Johnson, George McMillan, and W. K. Roberts went on a deer hunt in the Alapaha river swamp, about three miles from town. After taking their respective “stands,” Mr. Houston went below about three miles to “drive” up the swamp. When he was near the Brunswick and Western railway bridge which crosses the Alapaha three miles east of this place, on his return, an immense rattlesnake sprang from the bush and buried its fangs in the calf of his leg. He at once called for help, and fortunately Mr. J. P. Loyd, section master, who was having some work done near, heard and responded to his call. By the time Mr. Loyd reached him Mr. Houston’s leg below the knee was swollen to twice its natural size and he was suffering great pain. Mr. L. bound a ligature around the leg above the knee, and then boarded his hand car to come to Alapaha for a physician. Dr. Fogle was soon found and hastened to the scene of suffering. When they reached Mr. Houston’s side, wonderful to relate he was found sweetly sleeping and the swelling was almost gone from his leg. Around him were lying dead nearly a half bushel of mosquitoes, who had drawn the poison from him. The gentlemen, in great surprise, aroused Mr. Houston, who, barring a little weakness from the loss of blood was as well as he ever was. This is a wonderful story, and some may be inclined, just as we were, to doubt it at first, be we are personally acquainted with all the parties mentioned, except Mr. Houston, and we do not believe they would vouch for a story not true in every particular. The snake was killed by the section hands and measured five feet and four inches in length, and had nineteen rattles and a button.

 

 

Ann Grissett Joined Amana Refrigeration

Ann Martha Grissett

Ann Martha Grissett, grew up in Ray City, GA, a daughter of Jimmy Grissett, Sr. and Lillie Crum Grissett.  She was the sister of Jimmy Grissett, Jr. Ann attended the Ray City School, finishing high school in Valdosta. She started college at the Georgia State Womens College, Valdosta, GA. She graduated from UGA in 1950. In 1954, she took a position with Amana Refrigeration, Inc.

1954-ann-martha-grissett

June 10, 1954. Ann Grissett takes position with Amana Refrigeration, Inc., Atlanta, GA.

The Atlanta Constitution
June 10, 1954

Miss Ann Grissett of Atlanta has been named Southern Territory home enconomist by Amana Refrigeration, Inc., it was announced by the firm Wednesday. A native of Ray City, Ga., she graduated from the University of Georgia in 1950 with a degree in home economics. She was formerly employed as a junior executive at Davidson’s. In her new capacity Miss Grissett will stage freezer and frozen food demonstrations for consumers, help train retail salesmen and call on Southern dealers.

Related Posts:

Harry Elmore DeVane, D-Day, Ferry over the Rhine and the USS FDR

Harry Elmore DeVane (1922-1946)

Harry Devane and the D-Day Invasion

Harry E. DeVane was a son of Caulie Augustus DeVane and Alma L Albritton, born January 9, 1922.  He was a grandson of Matthew Hodge Albritton.

Harry E. DeVane attended the Ray City School, and graduated with the RCHS class of 1938 along with classmates Harold Comer, J. I. Clements, and Billy McDonald.

During WWII, Harry E. DeVane joined the U.S. Navy.  He attended Naval Reserve Midshipmen school and was promoted to Ensign July 28, 1943.  He was classed as DV-G,  a deck officer, volunteer naval reserve.  By February, 1944, DeVane appeared on the Navy Muster Rolls  of USS LST 291, a Tank Landing Ship, with the rank of Ensign and assigned as a Boat Officer.

Landing Ship, Tank (LST) is the naval designation for vessels created during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto an unimproved shore. About 1,000 LSTs were laid down in the United States during World War II for use by the Allies.

LST 291 enroute to Plymouth, England, with tank landing craft LCT 615 on her deck.

LST 291 enroute to Plymouth, England, with tank landing craft LCT 615 on her deck. Harry E. DeVane, of Ray City, GA served as an Ensign on LST 291 .

LST 291

THE LANDING SHIP Tank 291 was built by the American Bridge Company at Ambridge, Pennsylvania. It was completed late in 1943 and floated via the inland route to New Orleans, Louisiana in charge of a civilian ferry crew. At New Orleans it was placed in commission at 1200 on 22 December 1943. LTJG A. G. McNair of Yonkers, N. Y. became her first Commanding Officer.

After commissioning a busy period of fitting out the ship for war commenced, and was finally completed on 29 January 1944. The ship had its shakedown cruise off the cost of Florida near Panama City, returning to New Orleans on 14 February 1944. In the meantime the ship’s Captain was spot promoted to full lieutenant. At New Orleans supplies were taken aboard, and the LCT (Landing Craft Tank) 614 was loaded on her main deck. The ship then sailed for New York city and received aboard three (3) Army Officers, thirty (30) Army troops and sixty (60) hospital corpsmen as passengers for the trip across the Atlantic.

On 8 March 1944 the ship sailed for Boston, Massachusetts and suffered its first real difficulty. It ran aground in the East River, New York. The Captain had the conn, and the Pilot took over and got the ship free. Arriving at Boston on 9 March 1944, the next day a diver was sent down to inspect the ship ‘ s hull, especially ballast tank B-409-W. The ship then proceeded to dry- dock in Boston and had the hull damage repaired.

Receiving orders to sail to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the ship got underway on 18 March and arrived at Halifax 20 March 1944. At Halifax a seize of scarlet fever attacked members of the crew, and the ship was delayed until 17 April from sailing to Milford Haven, ‘ Wales.  She finally did sail and after an uneventful voyage, anchored off Milford Haven on 1 May 1944. On 2 May the 291 sailed for Plymouth, England where she launched LCT 614 on 4 May 1944. On 23 May the 291 towed US Rhine Ferry No. 17 to Portland, England.

On 5 June 1944 the 291 got underway and participated in the big landing off Normandy. The ship had been waiting and was ready in all respects when the big day arrived. The many succeeding days were spent crossing back and forth between England and France carrying troops and equipment so necessary to sustain the beachhead. Under Orders from Commander Western Task Force the 291 hit Omaha Beach on D-Day. From D-Day (6 June 1944) until exactly one year later, the 291 completed forty-nine (49) trips across the English Channel carrying to France 6,887 troops and 2,422 vehicles. On return trips, the ship carried 1,630 prisoners of war, 1,392 troops, and 11 vehicles back to England. During this period the 291 took care of 900 personnel casualties.

Harry E. DeVane made the voyage to England with LST 291 to participate in D-Day .   In Beachhead Normandy, Tom Carter tells the story of LCT 615 and its piggyback ride on LST 291 to participate in the Invasion at Normandy. On D-Day LST 291 did its job of landing tanks, trucks and troops at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944.    George Jones, who served with DeVane on LST 291, gives an account  at World War II: Stories in Their Own Words  of the horrorible scene they experienced on D-Day, and Paul Handwerk, who was a lieutenant on LST 291 gave a 1994 newspaper interview about LST 291 and D- Day.

Cover of Beachhead Normandy, by Tom Carter

Cover of Beachhead Normandy, by Tom Carter

Among other Ray City men participating in the D-Day invasion was Hubert Felton Comer, who was serving on the destroyer USS Rich.  Comer was killed on June 8, 1944 when his ship struck a mine and sank.  LST 291 fared better in the Normandy Invasion.  After landing its cargo, LST 291 then acted as a hospital ship with an operating room, and  ferried hundreds of casualties back to England. In D-Day Survivor, Harold Baumgarten describes his evacuation from Omaha Beach to LST 291 where he was treated for five wounds received in the Normandy Invasion.

Cover of D-Day Survivor, an autobiography by Harold Baumgarten.

Cover of D-Day Survivor, an autobiography by Harold Baumgarten.

Harry DeVane and the Ferry Over the Rhine

After D-Day Harry DeVane continued to serve with the Navy in Europe.

      In an unusual assignment hundreds of miles inland, U.S. Navy sailors [including Harry E. DeVane]  and their landing craft helped Army forces breach Germany’s last major line of defense.
      In March 1945, villagers in northern France, Belgium, and Germany were treated to the peculiar sight of large boats seemingly floating across late-winter fields. It was not an optical illusion. Columns of 70-foot trailers hauled by brawny two-ton trucks were transporting U.S. Navy landing craft down narrow roads and through small farming villages, demolishing the occasional house or cutting down scores of trees when the fit was too tight.
     These craft were 36-foot LCVPs (landing craft, vehicle, personnel) or 50-foot LCMs (landing craft, mechanized)—boats that had brought U.S. troops ashore at Normandy. Now, far from the ocean or English Channel, they were on their way to the Rhine River, the physical and symbolic barrier to the German heartland—broad, swift, and hemmed in by high bluffs for much of its rush from alpine headwaters to the North Sea.
      The U.S. Navy’s involvement in breaching this mighty obstruction demonstrated the adaptability of U.S. forces, the possibilities of interservice cooperation, and foresight in putting these large and specialized craft in the right places far from the sea, at the right time, to facilitate the final thrust that brought victory over Germany.   – V.P. O’Hara, Naval History Magazine

Devane participated in the Navy’s operation to ferry troops and equipment across the Rhine River. The LCVP or Higgins boat was used extensively in amphibious landings.  The LCMs were capable of ferrying tanks and other heavy equipment.  The boats had to be transported over land on trucks to reach the Rhine.

An LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized) negotiates a sharp turn on its way to the Rhine. Once at the riverbank, one or  two cranes would be required to get the 50-foot craft into the water.

An LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized) negotiates a sharp turn on its way to the Rhine. Once at the riverbank, one or two cranes would be required to get the 50-foot craft into the water.

Between March 7, 1945 and and March 29, 1945, the Navy transported more than 26,000 troops and 4,000 vehicles across the Rhine. On March 11 the Navy ferried 8000 men across the river one mile south of Remagen. The navy boats operated under fire from artillery and aircraft, and patrolled against saboteurs. On March 12, 1945 the LCVPs assisted in the construction of a pontoon bridge to span the river.

March, 1945, A U.S. Navy landing craft with dropping depth charges on the Rhine River to detonate possible mines and discourage saboteur attacks on pontoon bridges.  Naval personnel involved in the Rhine crossings were required to wear Army uniforms.

March, 1945, A U.S. Navy landing craft with dropping depth charges on the Rhine River to detonate possible mines and discourage saboteur attacks on pontoon bridges. Naval personnel involved in the Rhine crossings were required to wear Army uniforms.

On the 14th of March more LCVPs ferried 2,200 troops of the 1st Division across the river in three hours; 900 more men and eight jeeps were ferried across on March 16, 1945. On the 22nd the LCVPs acted on their own initiative to ferry infantry men of Patton’s Third Army across the river at Oppenheim, carrying more than 4000 troops and 250 vehicles across the Rhine while under enemy fire.

U.S. 79th Division soldiers atop an armored vehicle ride across the Rhine in an LCM on March 24, 1945.  National Archives

U.S. 79th Division soldiers atop an armored vehicle ride across the Rhine in an LCM on March 24, 1945. National Archives

On March 24, while under attack from German antiaircraft guns, the LCVPs ferried the 87th Division across the River at Boppard at the rate of 400 men per hour.

U.S. Third Army infantrymen are ferried across the Rhine in a Navy LCVP near Boppard, Germany, on March 25, 1945.

U.S. Third Army infantrymen are ferried across the Rhine in a Navy LCVP near Boppard, Germany, on March 25, 1945.

And in 48 hours beginning on March 26, LCVPs carried 6,000 men, 1,200 vehicles and heavy cannon of the 89th Division across at Oberwesel. From March 26 to March 29 LCVPs and LCMs ferried 10,000 men and 1,100 vehicles across the river at Mainz while under fire from German artillery.

Harry E. DeVane would later be decorated for the part he played in transporting U.S. forces across the Rhine.

Harry DeVane and the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt

After the surrender of Germany and Victory in Europe, Harry Elmore DeVane was promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was constructed at New York Naval Shipyard. Sponsor Mrs. John H. Towers, wife of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, christened the ship Coral Sea at the 29 April 1945 launching. On 8 May 1945, President Harry S. Truman approved the Secretary of the Navy’s recommendation to rename the ship Franklin D. Roosevelt in honor of the late president.

Roosevelt was commissioned on Navy Day, 27 October 1945, at the New York Naval Shipyard. Captain Apollo Soucek was the ship’s first commanding officer. During her shakedown cruise, Roosevelt called at Rio de Janeiro from February 1 to February 11, 1946 to represent the United States at the inauguration of Brazilian president Eurico Gaspar Dutra, who came aboard for a short cruise.

During her shakedown cruise USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1–11 February 1946. Image: http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/42.htm

Lieutenant Harry Elmore DeVane was serving on  USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) during her shakedown cruise when she visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1–11 February 1946. Image: http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/42.htm

Aircraft Carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, off the coast of Rio de  Janerio, February 1-11, 1946. Image: During her shakedown cruise USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1–11 February 1946. Image: http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/42.htm

Aircraft Carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, off the coast of Rio de Janerio, February 1-11, 1946.  Image: http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/42.htm

While serving on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, on February 7, 1946, Harry E. DeVane was killed in a shipboard accident. The Atlanta Constitution reported his death.

Harry Elmore DeVane killed

Harry Elmore DeVane killed February 7, 1946

Atlanta Constitution
February 17, 1946

RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 17. – Lt. Harry Elmore Devane, of Ray City, Ga., was killed instantly Feb. 7 when he was struck by the propeller of an airplane on the new carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt.
        The Navy Department said the ship was on maneuvers off Rio de Janeiro when the accident occurred. Devane was recently decorated for wartime duty transporting men and materials across the Rhine river in Germany.
        He was the son of Mrs. Caule Devane, of Ray City.

Grave of Harry Elmore DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of Harry Elmore DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA