Black history makers in Milledgeville: a look back through the decades


Editor's Note: written and compiled by Latonya Howell

As we take time to recognize the national celebration of Black History month, we also want to take a moment to honor our local trail blazers and legacy holders in the areas of land development, religion, medicine, education, sports and government.

Focusing on one of the earliest establishments of Milledgeville brings light to one of the oldest communities, Hamp Brown Bottom, located south of Franklin Street and East of Warren Street. Hamp Brown Bottom, created in 1912, is named after landlord, farmer and minister, Hamp Brown, Jr. He served as Commissioner for Third Ward schools and established a congregation with former members of Milledgeville’s first African-American church, Flagg Chapel Baptist Church, which was once located in Hamp Brown Bottom.

Flagg Chapel Baptist Church was organized in 1830 by a small group of freedmen, under the leadership of a newly freed slave, Wilkes Flagg, who served as the head pastor of Flagg Chapel from 1845-1878. Wilkes Flagg was born in Virginia in 1802 and was the slave of Dr. Tomlinson Fort who was purchased, along with his mother Sabina, from the Lamar plantation on Little River. 


As a skilled blacksmith, Flagg was allowed to work in the blacksmith shop located in the first block of N. Wayne Street on the west side. He was also taught to read and write. Earning money from his extra work as a blacksmith, he was allowed to purchase the freedom of his wife, Lavinia, their sons and himself around 1830, the time that the second building of Flagg Chapel was built. The original Flagg Chapel was built on Franklin Street in 1973 on property owned by Flagg, and the church stood there until it was destroyed by fire during a renovation. The pastor at that time was Milus Wilburn, who served from 1830-1845.

Rev. Wilkes Flagg established a black school at Flagg Baptist Church. According to Reflections, a newsletter of the Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the educational accomplishments at Flagg Chapel would be brought to the attention of Reverend Hiram Eddy of the American Missionary Society (AMA.) This philanthropic society provided teachers and equipment for schools built by the Freedman's Bureau. By 1868, Milledgeville was selected by the AMA and the Freedmen's Bureau as the site of the Eddy School. The AMA sent five white teachers to instruct 350 African American students until a school building was completed. In 1869, students moved from classes that had been previously held at Flagg Chapel Baptist Church to the Eddy School, the only educational institution for African Americans in Milledgeville.

On November 3, 1878. Rev. Wilkes Flagg died at the age of 78 and was buried on the grounds of his beloved Flagg Chapel Baptist Church. Lavinia Flagg died in 1900 in Milledgeville and is buried beside her husband.

Some 60 years after the establishment of Flagg Chapel, Dr. Benjamin Judson Simmons would enter the scene as Milledgeville’s first African American physician. Born October 16, 1870 in Laurens County, he would practice medicine in Baldwin County from 1897 to 1907.

It is believed that Dr. Simmons walked from Dublin to Tennessee to attend Meharry Medical College (approximately 346 miles, 115 hours, 5 days) where he graduated. His exact graduation year varies from 1892 to 1897. Dr. Benjamin Simmons had a thriving career until he would undergo an operation in 1907 that would further prevent him from practicing medicine. He would pass away on January 7, 1910. Dr. Simmons final resting place is located in Memory Hill Cemetery, Milledgeville, GA.

Although Dr. Simmons would provide medical care to the residents of Baldwin County, Dr. Julian F. Boddie, Sr. would come to be one of the first African American physicians to service Baldwin and surrounding counties. Dr. Julian Boddie, Sr. would establish a traditional legacy of medicine that would extend throughout his family lineage. With the birth of his five children, Elizabeth, Oteele, Julian, Jr., Clyde and Alonzo, Dr. Boddie would create a legacy of healthcare.

Alonzo Mills Boddie born August 18, 1924 also served the community as a physician, while his brother, Julian F. Boddie, Jr. serviced the Milledgeville area as a pharmacist at the Old Capital Drug Store.

We have a continued legacy of devoted caring that has been given to our community because we now have Dr. Patrice Boddie, the granddaughter of Dr. Julian F. Boddie, Sr., daughter of Julian F. Boddie, Jr. and niece of Dr. Alonzo Mills Boddie, continuing the legacy in her own right by providing care to citizens of Baldwin and surrounding areas.

Dr. Patrice Boddie graduated from Spellman College and Meharry Medical School in Nashville,TN. Her grandfather was a general practice physician, but she chose to specialize in internal medicine, making her the only African American internist in Milledgeville, GA.

To encompass total health care, we are brought to the area of dentistry, one of the world’s oldest medical professions. African Americans experience great difficulty in seeking dental care, but thanks to three dental pioneers in the 1800s, a former seamstress and her two sons, Drs. Robert Tanner Freeman, George F. Grant and Ida Gray Nelson Rollins, Baldwin County would be among those that would be able to be graced with another family legacy of medicine.

Born to Nurse, Bennie Bell-Ray Hogan, Janet Hogan Harrison was the first African American female dentists to begin her practice here in 1978 after attending Howard University School of Dentistry.

Dr. Harrison is a member of a family legacy due to the fact that her brother, Mr. George Hogan, was Milledgeville’s first African American State Trooper assigned to Post 33 in 1974. The extension would not stop there. The late Dr. Theron Harrison would provide medical care to the residents of Milledgeville as a physician until his death in 2015. The legacy of dentistry would continue on through Dr. Janet Harrison’s daughter Farryn Harrison, who would become an oral surgeon and her daughter Hoganne Harrison Walton would become an established attorney in our area.

With that being said, we also want to recognize Linnes Finney, Jr. Co-founder of Simmons, Linnes, Finney and Winfield LLC, a Florida bar certified civil trial lawyer. He has been named a Florida Super Lawyer, served as President of the St. Lucie County Bar Assoc. and President of the National Bar Association and has an AV-MARTINDALE-HUBBELL rating, which is the highest such rating available to any individual attorney. Why is this important? Finney is a 1975 graduate of the Baldwin County High School in Milledgeville, GA., reminding us of the importance of public education.

So we honor those pioneers in the field of study that have helped to create our past and are currently fostering our future.

We honor those pioneers, such as Sallie Davis, born in Baldwin County circa 1877 to the parentage of an African American woman and a Native Irishman. She completed studies at the Eddy School in Milledgeville and attended Atlanta University graduating with a Normal Degree in 1899.


Her half–century tenure included teaching as well as serving as principal. Baldwin County recognized her by naming the Sallie Ellis Davis School in her honor. In 1990, the Sallie Ellis Davis Foundation was formed by a group of Baldwin Co. citizens, several of whom were students of Ms. Davis. We have many here that have accepted the task to protect and nurture her endeavors, those like Ms. Gloria Wicker, an African American female member of the Board of Education and Ms. Lacretia Coleman, an African American female professor at Georgia College & State University.

We also have those who began the task of fostering young minds. Ms. Julia Cawthon and Beulah Montgomery, pioneers in the area of daycare, who were followed by Ms. Annie Miller, Ms. Doris Watson, Ms. Robin Dixon, Ms. Monique Harper, Sharon Havior, Vickie Milner and Ms. Bonita Jarette to name a few.

This also lighted guidance and fostered nurturing in athleticism. With Ernest Byner, serving as running back for the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. We also cannot forget Javon Bullard, who serves as defensive back for the University of Georgia; both players hailing from Milledgeville.


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With such highlights, we could be remised not to acknowledge our captains at the helm; the patrons in the area of government that work to provide structure for our city. Pioneers such as Apostle Dr. Earnest Franklin, Jr., the first Black Justice of the Peace of the 102 Militia District of Hancock County, serving between the years of 1974-1978.

Dennette Odum Jackson, the first black woman to serve on Milledgeville’s City Council. Ms. Jackson served three terms from 1994-2005. After her death in 2013, the City of Milledgeville dedicated the bridge located at 601 W. Montgomery St. in her honor in 2021 therein after named the Dennette Odum Jackson Memorial Bridge.

Donald B. Hill, one of the first African American City Councilmen for the City of Milledgeville District 3. Councilman Hill is also the founder of the local 100 Black Men of Milledgeville and Oconee organization.

Floyd Griffin, our first African American Mayor for the City of Milledgeville and the first African American State Senator for Georgia State Senate District 25 since Reconstruction.

Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan, our first female African American Mayor for the City of Milledgeville.

We also have established family legacies beginning with those such as Collins P. Lee, who served as Vice-Chairman of the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners and was also a former member of the Milledgeville City Council, where he served as Mayor Pro Tem. Hon. Collins P. Lee passed away in May of 2008, but left a legacy in his daughter, Collinda Lee, who currently serves as Milledgeville City Council Representative for District One.

Last, but not least, we have a family with a clear lineage in government headed by Oscar Davis, Sr. Born Oct 28, 1923 in Putnam County, GA. Mr. Davis was inducted into the United States Army in 1941 and served in the South Pacific during all of World War II. As a citizen of Baldwin County, Mr. Davis became active in the civil rights movement and community affairs; in 1984, Mr. Davis became the first African American man elected to serve on the Baldwin County Commission. Mr. Davis passed away on January 17, 2000, so the baton would then be carried by his wife, Mrs. Geneva Davis

Geneva Davis would go on to serve on the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners for a total of nine years as Commissioner for District One, the seat formerly held by her husband.

When Mrs. Geneva Davis decided that it was time to retire from the position of Commissioner, her daughter, Emily Davis, would take the reins. Emily Davis currently presides as the Chairperson of the Board of Commissioners for Baldwin County representing District One, the district formerly represented by her father and mother respectively.

From the citizens of Milledgeville/Baldwin County, Thanks to all the legacy holders and trail blazers. To all the young up and coming dynamos, know that “just because records are currently held, doesn’t mean that they can’t be broken.”


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