Ramblin' Rhodes: If you know these Augusta facts, raise your hand
Most annual Masters Tournament visitors have come to know a lot about this great and historic area in eastern Georgia and western South Carolina. But, in case you’re a newcomer as a visitor or resident, here are some neat things I’ve compiled over the years that you should know:
• It’s pronounced Ah-gus-ta, not Oh-gus-ta.
• The neighboring town in Columbia County is pronounced Mar-ta-nez, not Mar-tee-nez, and it’s definitely Grove (like drove) town and not Groove-town.
• North Augusta is not a part of Augusta. It’s even in a different state.
• It’s not Augusta Commons with an “s.” Just Common. That’s the wide open area in the 800 block between Broad and Reynolds streets.
• Actress Jayne Mansfield rode on Augusta city buses from her apartment near Daniel Village airfield to take music lessons from an Augusta teacher. Her husband, Lt. Paul Mansfield, was stationed at Camp Gordon, later to become Fort Gordon.
• Augusta was the capital of Georgia for 10 years from 1780 to 1790 before the capital was moved to Louisville.
• Ty Cobb, the first player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, began his professional career in 1904 playing for the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League. He was hired by Detroit in 1905 but maintained his home in Augusta until 1932. He married an Augusta woman, and four of their five children were born here. He owned a tire store on Broad Street and built Augusta’s first modern apartment building.
• Country music legend Hank Williams performed at Augusta’s Bell Auditorium less than two months before his death at age 29.
• Broadway star Faith Prince (Tony award for Guys and Dolls), gospel/pop star Amy Grant, golfer Larry Mize (the only Augustan to win the Masters) and famous wrestler Hulk Hogan all were born at the same Augusta hospital: St. Joseph’s, which is now called Trinity.
• Jim Williams, the Savannah antiques dealer in the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil who shot and killed his young gay lover, was not found innocent of murder in a Savannah courtroom as depicted in the movie but rather in a Superior Courtroom in Augusta.
• The James Brown statue in the 800 block of Broad Street is one of three statues in Georgia honoring entertainers. The others are of Otis Redding in Macon and Ray Charles in Albany.
• Ray Charles was never banned from performing in Georgia because of an Augusta incident as was the basis for the movie Ray. He performed in Augusta and Georgia many times before the General Assembly adopted his signature number Georgia On My Mind as the state song.
• The Rev. Billy Graham held his first ecumenical (all faiths) crusade in Bell Auditorium. Baptist preachers, like Graham, at that time usually only held crusades for Baptists or Protestants. Graham opened his crusades up to all faiths.
• Elvis Presley performed twice in Augusta’s Bell Auditorium in 1956. His first time in March had country singers Mother Maybelle Carter and her three daughters (including June Carter) opening for him.
• Pop and country star Brenda Lee was discovered in Bell Auditorium by Grand Ole Opry star Red Foley in February of 1956. The next month her parents treated her to the March concert of Elvis Presley where they met and became lifelong friends.
• The only native Augustan who became governor of Georgia in the 20th century was Carl Sanders who, as a boy, delivered The Augusta Chronicle.
• Orville and Wilbur Wright created a flying school in Augusta.
• Peter Carnes, who launched the first hot-air balloon flight in America in 1784, lived in Augusta and flew hot-air balloons here.
• U.S. President George Washington visited Augusta in 1791, staying three days. No matter what anyone tells you, his dog, Cornwallis, did not die in Augusta. Animal experts at Mount Vernon say he did not even have a dog named Cornwallis. That rumor was started by an April Fool’s joke printed in the Chronicle.
• Washington’s favorite nephew, George Steptoe Washington, is buried in Augusta. His sister-in-law was Dolley Madison, so when his widow remarried, her wedding to a U.S. Supreme Court justice became the first wedding in the White House.
• Gen. William T. Sherman was stationed at the Augusta Arsenal before the Civil War but there is no evidence that he spared Augusta on his March to the Sea because of some girlfriend he had in the city.
• The father of actress Joanne Woodward was a native Augustan. She won an Oscar for portraying an Edgefield, S.C., woman whose multiple-personalities story was told in the movie The Three Faces of Eve, based on a book by two Augusta psychiatrists. The world premiere was held in the Miller Theater on Broad Street. Woodward didn’t attend because she was making a movie with Marlon Brando.
• There may not have been any Girl Scouts in America if not for Ambrose Gordon, who is buried in an Augusta churchyard. His son, William Washington Gordon, became the first Georgian to graduate from West Point. His son, William Washington Gordon II, had a daughter named Juliette who in Savannah, Ga., married William Low. It was after Low’s death that Juliette Gordon Low in 1912 founded what became the Girl Scouts of the USA.