2010-07-21 / Front Page

Area citizens make national news in Colquittt

Helping cost her job
Terry Toole

by Terry Toole

You never know who you will run into when you go to Emerald Lake RV Resort just out of Colquitt.

Friday afternoon, July 23, it looked like Hollywood had come to town.  Reporters and camera men  from WALB-TV and CNN were covering a 24 year reunion of a black lady and a rural farmer who she helped to save his farm.

There are so many stories to tell, but here are a few.

I was called by Don Mathis to come to his Emerald Lake Resort.  He thought I might like to write about WALB-TV and CNN interviewing an area resident. 

There were two!

The first ones I saw were Mr. Roger Spooner, and his wife of 64 years, Eloise.  

Mr. Roger's life is a great story in itself.  He was a farmer for much of his early life and at 88 years old, drives a tractor-trailer five days a week hauling whatever needs hauling.  Ms. Shirley keeps books for him.  He drives from 100-300 miles per trip one way each day.  

"I deliver a good bit to the businesses across the railroad tracks in Colquitt on SR 91," Mr. Spooner stated.

The story of an 88 year-old, and his bride of 64 years still both working is in itself a great human interest story, which our readers enjoy.

 When I looked around the room, I notice a black lady sitting down to dine with the Spooner family.  I thought that she looked familiar.   Then it snapped, that is Ms. Shirley Sherrod, who was the Director of the USDA's Rural Development office for Georgia before she was forced out of her job because of part of what she said at an NAACP meeting that she was speaking at.

After excerpts went on the TV news programs, Ms. Sherrod told this reporter that she was called by the USDA’s deputy undersecretary Cheryl Cook and told that the White House wanted her to resign. "They called me twice…The last time they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and submit my resignation on my Blackberry, and that's what I did."  

Ms. Sherrod was travelling from Atlanta to Athens when she was called to resign.  

Ms. Sherrod stated that she then went back to her office and gathered all of the stuff that belonged to USDA, and turned her cell phone, keys to the office and car over to the secretary.

In an attempt to demonstrate a "zero-tolerance" policy  towards any perceived actions based upon race, the Department of Agriculture and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took  action against Ms. Sherrod before  the facts (upon further investigation) did not support. 

Ms. Sherrod was accused and fired by her department,  USDA, and the White House for accused racial  remarks at the NAACP meeting.

To make a long story a little longer, the reason for the meeting today at Emerald Lake Resort, it was the farm of Mr. Roger Spooner, 24 years ago that Ms. Sherrod helped save.

Mr. Spooner stated that he would have lost his farm if Ms. Sherrod had not helped him in every way possible with lawyers and using the newest changes in law to give him the opportunity to repay some of the debt he had acquired under Chapter 12.

It was also found that Ms. Sherrod was a resident of Baker County, and the daughter of a man killed in Baker County.

She told of how her mother delivered her brother on June 26, 1965, the day of her high school graduation, after her father had been murdered  on March 25, 1965.  

Her mother, Grace Miller,  is a member of the Baker County Board of Education.

Obama told ABC news that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack erred in pushing out Shirley Sherrod over allegations of racism that later proved unsubstantiated, but the real culprit, he told ABC News, was the media.

 Last Thursday morning, Obama spoke by phone with Sherrod and said he hoped she would accept Agriculture's offer of a new position, Gibbs said. He added that Obama thought Sherrod was "very gracious."

Ms Sherrod said in Colquitt Friday afternoon that she hadn't decided whether she would accept the invitation to come back, but she did accept the apologies from the Agriculture Department and Obama.

She stated that it had been 24 years since she was with Mr. and Mrs. Spooner, but that it would not be that long before they met again.  

The Spooners concurred.  

The interview and a story on all of this was aired on WALB -TV and CNN on Friday night, July 23.




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