Walter G. Altman

Walter G Altman (1895 -1943)

Walter G. Altman was born 15 May 1895 in Cordele, GA. The 1900 census shows that at age  five he was living with his parents, James & Louisa Altman, and family in a rented home in the vicinity of Bowens Mill, GA.

1900 Census enumeration of Walter G. Altman and family, Bowens Mill, GA.

1900 Census enumeration of Walter G. Altman and family, Bowens Mill, GA.


Prior to 1917, Walter Altman had been living with his parents, James & Leslie Altman, and four of his siblings in Nashville, GA. All together, he had eight brothers and sisters. Walter attended school through the 8th Grade.

The Altmans worked a rented farm in Nashville. Walter and his brother, Wilbur Altman, worked with their father in general farming.

Some time between 1910 and 1917 the Altmans moved to Ray City, GA.  Walter registered for the draft there on June 5, 1917.  At the age of 22 he was still single, still living with his parents. He was medium height, medium build, brown eyes, and dark hair. He was working as a clerk for Nix & Miller Co sawmill operation, one of the historic businesses of Ray City.

In 1918 Walter Greene Altman married Leslie Alma Langford.  She was a daughter of William E. Langford and Mary Virginia Knight, and sister of Luther Etheldred Langford. Like Walter she had an  8th grade education.

Shortly after marrying, Walter went into the ice business.  Later he owned a cafe where Leslie worked as a waitress. By 1920,  Walter G. Altman owned a mortgaged home on Jones Street in Ray City, GA (now 506 Jones Street).


When census taker  Annie Patterson enumerated the household of Walter and Leslie Altman  for the 1920 census, she found the young couple with their newborn son, Walter Jr.  Walter’s parents were living in a home just a few houses down the street, along with Walter’s siblings Wilbur and Eva.  The neighbors were the Wright family, and the grocer Abe Levin and his family.  Other neighbors included merchants of Ray City:  men like Gordon V. Hardie, butcher; and Claud Clements, grocer.

At 24 years of age, Walter was working as a self-employed ice dealer, supplying the homes and businesses of Ray City with ice.   His brother Wilbur was also in the ice business. Ray City built a municipal electric plant in 1922, but dependable home electric service and electric refrigerators would not be available in the town until the 1930s.    In the 1920s, small towns  had ice delivery men, such as Wilbur and Walter, or Ferris Moore, who regularly supplied ice to chill ice boxes in local homes and businesses.

In the census of 1930, Walter Altman was again enumerated at Ray City. That year the enumeration included a count of citizens who owned radio sets.   In all of Ray City, there were only eight radio sets within the city limits, the owners being Walter Altman, James A. Grissett, John D. Luke, Henry Swindle, Marvin Purvis, John Simpkins, Joseph Johnson and Fannie Parks.  The average cost of a radio in 1929 was around $139 dollars. In terms of comparable “affordability” for an average person in today’s dollars (2010 index) this would be like making a $7,600 purchase (relative worth based on nominal GDP per capita index – see

In 1928, Walter G. Altman ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the City Council:

Ray City News, Jan 3, 1929
City Officers Take Seat on January 14

The following city officers were elected in the election held in the early part of December, L. S. Giddens, mayor, J. D. Luke, J. A. Purvis, Y. F. Carter, W. H. E. Terry, councilmen.
J. M. Studstill opposed Giddens for mayor.  W. G. Altman, J. S. Clements and W. W. Woods were on the opposite ticket for councilmen.
The new officers will  be sworn in Monday night –text illegible– L. F.  Giddens over Edmond Griner.

The Altmans moved to Jacksonville, FL some time before 1935.    In that year, they had a home at 1035 East Church Street.  By 1940 they were back in Ray City renting a home for $5 a month. Census records indicate Walter G. Altman was disabled, with no income.  His neighbors included Elzie Kelly, an ex convict who served time on a chain gang, and Joe Burgman, who was farming the place next door.

1940 census enumeration of Walter G. Altman

1940 census enumeration of Walter G. Altman

Walter G. Altman died April 1, 1943.  His grave is at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA along with others of the Altman Family connection.

Graves of Walter G. Altman and Leslie A. Altman, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Graves of Walter G. Altman and Leslie A. Altman, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA


Ray City was boyhood home of Morris Levin

Morris Levin

Morris Levin, 1931. Image detail courtesy of

Morris Levin, 1931.  Morris Levin grew up in Ray City, GA and was later instrumental in bringing industry to the Nashville, GA area. Image detail courtesy of

Morris Levin was born August 21, 1915,  in New Hanover County, North Carolina.  He was a  son of Nettie Simon and Abe Levin. As a child he came with his parents  to Ray City, GA where his father went into the grocery business for several years.  The 1920 census shows the family lived in a house on Jones Street, and that Abe Levin was a business owner and employer.  Abe Levin showed his support for the community with an advertisement in the 1929 debut of the Ray City News newspaper.

As a teenager, Morris Levin worked on the Ray City farm 0f Effie Guthrie Knight.  He assisted June Guthrie, Effie’s brother, with the farm labor.    June was responsible for the day to day operation of the farm from a young age, and was a farmer all of his life.  Later, the Levins moved to Nashville, GA and operated stores there for many years.    Whenever the Guthries shopped at the Levin store in Nashville, Morris always treated them with such cordiality and respect.  Many Ray City people, folks like Arrin and Verde Futch, continued to shop with the Levins at their Nashville stores.

Morris and Beverly Levin. Image courtesy of

Morris and Beverly Levin. Image courtesy of

Among the Levin’s good friends in Nashville, was Maude Sizemore.  Maude worked as a practical nurse, and was raising two boys on her own.  The Levins, through their community connections, were able to help Maude with good job opportunities.  One job was providing care for the children of Abraham Simon (A.S.) Harris,  a prominent merchant and owner of the largest department store in Ocilla, A.S. Harris Department Store.


Morris Levin,  photographed at Ivy Inn,  Berrien County, GA by A. W. “Wink” Rogers. Image courtesy of

Morris Levin, 1965.  Photographed at Ivy Inn, Berrien County, GA by A. W. “Wink” Rogers. Image courtesy of

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1929 Merchants Support Ray City News

Many Ray City, GA residents felt that a home town newspaper was an essential element in the growth of the town. When the Ray City News began printing the local news, the local businessmen and merchants placed a full page advertisement showing their support.

The Ray City News, Ray City, Georgia


    The undersigned merchants and business men of Ray City herewith announces the establishment of The Ray City News in the town of Ray City;
    And believing that a paper here means a great deal to the commercial life and development of our town, we are taking this method of be-speaking, for the paper, the support of the public and in asking that you subscribe to and read the Ray City News:

Citzens Bank of Ray City
M. G. Melton
C. O. Terry
Swindle & Clements
W.H.E. Terry
J. H.P. Johnson
J. L. Moore
Dr. G. H. Folsom
Charlie Shaw
Norton Service Station
A. Levin
L. F. Giddens
H. W. Woodard
J. A. Purvis
Studstill and Clements
G. M. Purvis    General Merchandise
Ray City Motor Co
Ray City Ice and Cold Storage Co.

Abe Levin Starts Family Business At Ray City, GA

Leon Levin at Grand Opening of Levin’s Foodland, Nashville, GA circa 1962.

Abe Levin was a Jewish immigrant who entered the retail merchandise business in Ray City, GA in the 1920s.  Abe was born in Russia in 1891.  His parents were Austrian Jews, but sometime before he was born they moved to Russia.  In 1903, when Abe was about 12 years old, he came to America where he became a naturalized citizen. He married a Russian Jewish woman, Nettie Simon,  who had also immigrated to America in 1903.  The 1920 census shows that the mother tongue of Abe and Nettie Levin was “Jewish”.

The Levins were living in Maryland when their first son , Leon I. Levin, was born about 1914.  By September 1915 when their second son, Morris, was born they were living in North Carolina, and a third son, Charles, was born there in December 1917.

Some time before 1920 the family moved to Georgia and settled in Ray City, where Abe opened his own store.  The 1920 census shows that he was the owner and an employer.  The family lived in a house on Jones Street  where the neighbors were other merchants of Ray City:  men like Gordon V. Hardie, butcher; Claud Clements, grocer;  and Walter Aultman, ice dealer.

By 1930 the Levins had moved to Nashville, Ga. where the family was long engaged in retail trade.

A. Levin’s store on the south side of the courthouse square, Nashville, GA in April 1965. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Society

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