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End of era at historic Southwest Georgian

We take this moment to thank and honor the Searles Family, publishers and editors of this historic voice of the people for more than 80 years.  Mr. A.C. Searles published and edited this respected and much needed representation of African-American citizens of Albany, Georgia, in 1938, at a time of raw, rank and hardened segregation throughout the South.

The paper started on the heels of the great depression and when Hitler was on the rise in Europe just before the entry of America in World War II.  Jesse Owens, had a few years earlier, won four Gold Medals; the first black federal judge had just been appointed to the bench by President Roosevelt; the Sleeping Car porters had recently signed their first collective bargaining agreement with the Pullman Company; Joe Louis had won the heavyweight championship; the first black woman state legislator had been elected to the State House in Pennsylvania; and, the great Marion Anderson was about to perform at the Lincoln Center.

None of these great firsts were happening south of the Mason Dixon Line.  Equally as momentous to this little farming town in Southwest Georgia, Coach Searles stepped forward and gave his talent, skills and commitment to the least among us.  A giant step at the time.  The population of Dougherty County was less than 30,000.  The City had just reached its 100-year mark as a European settlement.  Chehaw Park had just been constructed as a result of the New Deal; it was just before construction of the Air Corp Base; J.W. Holley, Albany State University’s founder, was still president; and the Harlem commercial and entertainment district was growing in economic significance.

It is against this backdrop that the Albany Southwest Georgian was founded.  The paper really gained its legs during the Albany Civil Rights Movement.  Mr. Searles was ubiquitous, he was everywhere.  He endured threats, shoves, and insulting remarks from authorities.  He stood firm.  Never gave an inch.  He got the picture.  He got the story and he told the story in both pictures and words.  Bush journalism at its best.  His son, the late Commissioner Art Searles who was an extremely consequential figure in his own right in local politics, took the helm in l996.  A friend to so many in so many ways.  A voice and personality that had to be reckoned with.  Art was publisher and editor until 2008 upon his death.  We thank his wife, Giselle, for her hard work in keeping this paper for the last ten years against all odds.  She persevered when so many community and local papers went under.  Thank you, Giselle.  Thank you, Coach, and thank you Art.  We pray we can live up to the legend.

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