Hancock: Georgia's Wild, Wild West!

 

No, we’re not talking about Hancock County, Texas (there is one) or Hancock County, Kosovo or Hancock County, Rwanda.  We’re talking about Hancock County, Georgia, located in Georgia’s beautiful Oconee River Valley.  Hancock County is located about 30 miles northeast of Milledgeville, Georgia, home of Georgia’s capital before it was moved to the then upstart city of Atlanta.  Hancock County is surrounded by Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair (fed by the Oconee River) and the Ogeechee River.  Sandersville, Georgia, home of Elijah Poole (later changed to Elijah Muhammad after he moved to Detroit) lies 25 miles south of Sparta (the county seat of Hancock County) in Washington County.  Hancock County also lies about equal distance south of Greensboro, Georgia (where Mickey Mantle had a beautiful home on Lake Oconee until he died a few years ago).  About equal distance to the northwest is Putnam County, the dairy capital of Georgia.  Eatonton is the county seat of Putnam County.  Joel Chandler Harris of the “Uncle Remus” fame as well as Alice Walker of the “Color Purple” fame hail from Putnam County. And, of course, just right up the road is Madison, Georgia, chosen by USA Travel as “the best small town in America.”


Hancock County is a county rich in history.  Two governors of Georgia were from Hancock County, Colquitt and Northern.  The county’s newspaper, The Sparta Ismaelite, has been in continuous operation since 1878.  At one time, Hancock County was considered the cultural center of Georgia.  But, of course, that was during the time of large plantations built on a system of slavery.  In the 1960s, nearly half of the county’s African American citizens still had outdoor plumbing.  A “black revolution” took place in Hancock County in the late 1960s.  Black citizens marched in the county for 18 days in a row, and several of the big antebellum homes burned down.  This scared the daylights not only out of the county’s white citizens but also white businesses.  Businesses and industries left the county.  To this day, the overwhelming majority of the county’s citizens who have a job have to leave the county each day to go to work.  Unemployment and welfare rates are very high.  Different governors have tried to talk different industries into moving to Hancock County – but to no avail.  Hancock County has been riddled with its reputation as a racial hotbed.  But, in actuality, the simmering embers of racial unrest has all but died out.  Racial relations (there’s not very many whites left) appear to be on an even keel.  The people in the county, as a whole, are very genial.  However, there’s an atmosphere of “black on black” injustice within the school system.  From time to time, the MACE Team has had to “ride into town” (so to speak) to address matters of teachers not getting their correct pay, teachers being suspended without the system providing a hearing, etc.  The latest such action required that Dr. John Trotter and Attorney Bill Woods go to Hancock County to deal with a couple of matters.  One of the situations dealt with a teacher not being given retroactive pay for certification work completed – as required by the Hancock County Board of Education’s policy.  MACE assisted the teacher in filing a grievance concerning the matter.  The superintendent apparently thinks that the Georgia law does not apply to him.  (The grievance procedure is codified in Georgia law.)  Dr. Trotter, MACE’s Executive Director, recently stated: “We’re going to address this matter in front of the entire board, and I’ve known Coach Monroe for nearly twenty years, and I believe him to be a fair man.  [Note: Mr. Monroe is the highly successful retired basketball coach who is currently chairman of the school board.]  I believe that the situation will be rectified.  If not, we’ll file a Writ of Mandamus in Superior Court and hit the streets of Sparta, if necessary.”  If Hancock County wants to attract different industries and businesses in order for its citizens to be gainfully employed, it first has to demonstrate it is a county of law and order, not anarchy.  If the school system can’t treat its employees justly according to the law, then businesses can’t trust that they will be treated in a fair manner.  The leaders in the Hancock County School System don’t always act like they believe that the laws of Georgia apply to them.  Dr. Trotter recently stated: “Hancock County is not located in Kosovo, North Korea, or Rwanda.  Hancock County is located in Georgia, and Hancock County has to abide by the laws of Georgia.”

August 12, 2003

 

Note: Since this article was written, the superintendent was charged with a 27 count federal indictment.  He was suspended by the school board.  The acting superintendent, Nicholas Antone, is a man whom Dr. Trotter has known for over twenty years.  Dr. Trotter and Attorney Woods attended the school board meeting on September 8, 2003 to address the matter of the teacher’s pay.  It now appears that the teacher will be provided the money that is owed to him.

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