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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 66
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

   One of the first people I was told about when I moved to Moultrie was the former mayor, Willie B. Withers.

   Mayor Withers had one of the longest records of continuous service in the capacity of mayor in the entire United States and served Moultrie for more than thirty years.

   Withers was born in Chadbourn, North Carolina in 1903 and came to Moultrie with his family at an early age, graduating from high school here.  He received higher education at Emory University and the University of Georgia, getting his law degree there.  He also took courses at Edinburgh University.

   Mayor Withers, during World War II, spent more than four years on active duty and is a retire Lieutenant Colonel.

   Before going into service, Withers served as a Moultrie city councilman.  He ran for and was elected Moultrie mayor in 1947 and held that post for more than thirty years.

   He was a past president of the Georgia Municipal Association and served as secretary of the Moultrie Kiwanis Club for many years and has been lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis Division.  He served as chairman of the Human Resources Committee of the National League of Cities and was an elder emeritus and longtime Sunday School teacher at the Presbyterian Church in Moultrie.  He was a past president of the Kiwanis Club.

   I’ve seen photos and articles written about Mayor Withers famous “Camellia Portraits.”  Mayor Withers would construct portraits of various celebrities of locally grown camellias…and then present the portrait to the celebrity!

   Does anyone know more than this?  Does anyone have photographs?

   Colquitt County had one of the finest, most respected and beloved fiddlers in South Georgia and the entire South in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the person of “Uncle Alex” Mobley.  Mobley had a statewide reputation with his bow and fiddle – and there was hardly a big dance held in those days at which Alex wasn’t a featured attraction.

   He and his mother, known as “Aunt Rachael,” came to Colquitt County sometime after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.  They lived mostly in the Lee District on the J.C. May, O.C. Croft, Wilbur Henson and C.A. Hiers farms and in the Robinson district on the Sam May and Charlie H. Johnson farms.

   “Uncle Alex” became a legend in Colquitt County, both for his ability to fiddle – along with his wife Mary’s “beat the straws” accompaniment  - and his unusual physical strength.  A big man who wore a size 14 shoe, he was said to cut more oats with a cradle “than anybody around” and once, when Sam May was a boy, “Uncle Alex” saw him about to wrap up in a belt in the J.C. May cotton gin.  The big Alex grabbed the belt and held it until Sam could be untangled and freed.

   Alex was considered one of the foremost rail splitters in the territory.

   He was born in 1844 to Rachel who, with her mother and sister, was brought from Africa when she was 12 years old.  She was sold off the auction block to a family named Mobley in Brooks County.  After the auction, Rachael said she never her mother again and her sister only once.

      Alex, according to people in the area, had two wives – first Mary Turner and then Eliza.  He was still “fiddling away” at the age of 86, but died several years later while staying with a family living on the O.C. Croft farm.

   Did Alex have children?  Are any of them still here today?

   Colquitt County had 225 merchants in 1901.  A representative of Broadstreet commercial agency, after completing a survey of the city and county, said of the 225 mercantile type businesses, 115 of them were in Moultrie.

   He said the business establishments in the county were “prosperous, with good prospects for improved business in 1901 and 1902.”

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