Athens Memories

Director Emeritus Hester's Athens Memories Details Personal Histories

Dr. Al Hester, director emeritus of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, has edited and published a book of interviews conducted in the late 1930s with Athens-area residents from many segments of the population. The residents tell their personal histories and provide a unique perspective on history of the area from the late 1800s to the 1930s.

Athens is the home to the University of Georgia. The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The interviews were conducted as part of the Federal Writers' Project, which compensated otherwise unemployed professional writers during the Great Depression. One goal was to produce material about the history and enduring contributions of American citizens.

Dr. Hester found this archive through online sources of the Library of Congress and shaped the material into a volume that he published as part of the Bicentennial celebration of Athens-Clarke County. Dr. Hester published the book through The Green Berry Press, which he founded after he retired from the University of Georgia.

Subjects in the book include the Epps family and the story of aviation pioneer Ben Epps, who built the first airplane in Georgia in 1907, just four years after the Wright brothers' first flight in North Carolina. Interviews also detail the life of a African-American preacher, who tells family stories from the time of slavery, and experiences of a practical nurse, who tells about nursing and the struggle to feed her family during the Depression. The book also tells about a typical day for customers and staff in a downtown Athens department store and the crusade of the first African-American woman grammar school principal to get safe drinking water for her students and personnel.

Dr. Hester was director of the Cox Center from its founding in 1985 until his retirement in 1997.