Cooper: Meadows: From potato farmer to Douglas County commission chair

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This image of former Douglas County Commission Chairman Arthur Meadows dates to 1986. Meadows oversaw county operations from 1949 to 1960.

Arthur Meadows was born on Sept. 30, 1898 near what was then considered to be a village at Brownsville to John Milton and Jessie Harriet (Arnold) Meadows. When Arthur was five years old his father purchased 80 acres off Maroney Mill and Bearden Roads. Later, another two hundred acres would be purchased.

Back in 1904 most everyone in Douglas County had a patch of land they owned or rented where they grew two types of crops -- one that made them money and other crops that fed the family. The Meadows family, like many in Douglas County, raised cotton as their cash crop. even after John Milton Meadows died leaving Arthur, the eldest of eight children, to keep the family going.

Upon his father's death, Arthur Meadows was the head of the family and did what he could to help raise his seven brothers and sisters. His mother moved to what was then called the John Forsyth property. Today, the family cemetery for the Forsyth family is fenced in and located on the corner of Bankhead Highway and South Burnt Hickory Road across from GreyStone Power.

Life went on with Meadows eventually marrying Ruby King, the daughter of James Napoleon (Poly) and Georgia King. Marriage wasn't the only form of partnership with the King family. In 1924, Meadows partnered with his father-in-law to raise produce to haul to the Atlanta markets including potatoes which seems to have been their most successful item. By 1930, a potato curing house had been erected that would hold two thousand bushels of potatoes. I've done my fair share of helping to gather potatoes on my father's property and can testify that two thousand bushels of spuds is quite a bit as each bushel weighs approximately 50 pounds.

In a short biography Meadows stated the partnership with his father-in-law was a good one with never a cross word, but times were hard as they entered the mid-1920s to 1930s. He said, "You could get labor for 75 cents to one dollar per day, but potatoes were cheap at 50 cents a bushel and tomatoes at 24 to 35 cents a basket." It was back breaking hard work for little income during the Depression.

Meadows held out farming for 31 years, and then he switched careers with the encouragement of his friends who wanted him to run for political office. Meadows ran for the then nine-member Douglas County Board of Commissioners which in 1948 had an extra title to today's board -- the Douglas County Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenue. Meadows won the election, and by the first Tuesday of January 1949, he found himself sitting on the board of commissioners, a position that only paid $100 a year with no expense account.

Yes, you read that right. A year.

Back then the chairman's position was not elected by the people, but by the members of the commission themselves, and on the first Tuesday of January 1950, Arthur Meadows was elevated to the position of chairman. Meadows later wrote he was not expecting that and was unsure if he could handle the position writing, "I felt I could not do the job, but as I prayed about it, God told me to read James 1:5 which said if you lacked wisdom ask God, so with his help I felt I could do the job." The chairmanship had a salary of $500 a year, but still no expense account.

1950 saw the Douglas County commissioners institute the Douglas County Health Department with a building on Spring Street which still stands behind the church that one time was home to the First Baptist Church Douglasville. Martha Peek served as the nurse while Lucille Wright was hired as the first clerk for the center. The county's water system came to be that year utilizing water from the city of Douglasville that traveled down a newly installed pipe along Bankhead Highway to Lithia Springs where 332 homes and businesses were initially connected.

By 1952, the law was changed, whittling the nine-member county commissioners down to three members. Once again Meadows was elected and served as chair along with Hugh Riley and Henry Rawlins. Meadows' salary was $1,800 a year, and this time he also had a car allowance of $600.

Big events during this term included overseeing a renovation of the jail portion of the 1886 combination sheriff's home and jail that stood on Church Street. A workshop was construction for work on county vehicles on Chicago Avenue.

Next week I'll continue with more highlights from Chairman Meadow's tenure as the top man in Douglas County including the unexpected need for a new county courthouse!

Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.

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