Famous People

Joel Chandler Harris

Thanks in part to Walt Disney's "Song of the South," Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus folk tales are among the most recognizable icons in America, and Putnam County prominently displays its pride in this home-town boy.

Harris was born the illegitimate child of Mary Harris in Eatonton on December 9, 1848. A benefactor paid Harris's tuition to Eatonton Academy where he was schooled for a few years. At the age of 14 when his formal education ended, Harris became a printer's devil for The Countryman, a local newspaper owned by Joseph Addison Turner. While working at Turnwold, Turner's plantation, Harris befriended elderly slaves George Terrell and "Old Herbert" who passed on to him the tales of Brer Rabbit and the other critters in the Briar Patch.

At Turnwold, Harris studied to become a journalist, and after the Civil War, he left Putnam County for newspaper jobs in Macon, Savannah and New Orleans. In 1879 he went to work for the Atlanta Constitution, and a year later published the first of the Uncle Remus tales "Uncle Remus, His Songs and Sayings."

Harris died in 1908 in his Atlanta home. In 1946, Walt Disney released a movie to honor Uncle Remus and his tales. The movie, "Song of the South" was released on November 2 and premiered in Atlanta. The Uncle Remus stories have been translated into at least 27 different languages. On December 6, 1947, the United States Post Office issued a three cent commemorative stamp honoring Joel Chandler Harris and in 1963, The Uncle Remus Museum was opened in Eatonton.

Alice Walker

Alice Walker, author of the award-winning novel "The Color Purple," was born in Eatonton on February 9, 1944. She was the eighth and youngest child of poor sharecroppers Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Tallulah Walker. Though temporarily blinded in one eye at the age of eight, Walker went on to be valedictorian and prom queen of Butler-Baker High School. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta for two years before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

Walker is best known as the author of "The Color Purple." In 1983, Walker was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the novel. Walker was the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Steven Spielberg turned the book into a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. A premier of the movie "The Color Purple" was held in Eatonton at the Pex Theater in 1986, and Walker returned home from California. The book has since been turned into a Tony Award winning Broadway show of the same name.

Walker has written collections of short stories, among them "You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down," and other novels, including "The Third Life of Grange Copeland." She has also written collections of poetry and essays.

S. Truett Cathy

S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A chain of restaurants, was born on his family's farm in Eatonton in 1921. His father, a cotton farmer, was forced to move his family to Atlanta when the crop was destroyed by the boll weevil in 1924. After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1945, Cathy and his brother opened a short-order diner in Hapeville, GA. The chain of 1,000 restaurants grew from a diner so small that it was originally known as the "Dwarf Diner." Today this chain is predominately found in the southeast, but rapidly expanding to be enjoyed nationwide.

Zac Brown

The Zac Brown Band is an American country music band based in Atlanta, GA. The lead singer and founder of the group, Zac Brown, was raised in Dalonega, GA where he attended South Forsyth High School. Brown and his father owned a restaurant in the Lake Oconee area of Putnam County called "Zac's Place."

The Zac Brown Band's country debut CD "The Foundation" was released in November 2008 and the first single "Chicken Fried" peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Chart and maintained that position for two weeks and also debuted as the second most downloaded country single on iTunes.

Brown also began work as a philanthropist and humanitarian, donating much of the proceeds from his albums to enable the funding of the non-profit Homegrown Camp, designed as an "all inclusive children's camp that will teach diversity, freedom, teamwork, America, nutritional awareness, liberty and life skills as well as music and art."

Dr. Benjamin Hunt

Dr. Benjamin Hunt was a native New Yorker born in 1847 who moved to Putnam County in 1891 after marrying Louisa Prudden, a poet and member of a prominent Eatonton family. He brought a small herd of registered jersey cows from New York and created Panola Farm, an experimental dairy facility believed to be instrumental in establishing the dairy industry in Putnam County, and he is credited with bringing the dairy industry to Georgia. In 1922, Hunt was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Georgia for his experiments both in the dairy industry and in botany. He is also the father of the infamous "Hunt Grape" that is used in making wine.

Vincent Hancock

Vincent Hancock is an American shooter and Olympic athlete who won the gold medal at Men's skeet at the2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He picked up the hobby of shooting skeet at age 11 and by age 16 Hancock won his first World Championship title in men's skeet and went on to win the prestigious International Shooting Sport Federation's Shooter of the Year award. After high school he joined the army and became a member of the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning. At the age of 19 he competed and won the Gold medal in Men's skeet at the Beijing Summer Games after a shoot-off. He has since won gold at the 2012 olympic games and has qualified for the olympics in 2016.

Hiram A. (Joe) Little

Hiram A. Little was born on March 31, 1919 in Eatonton. He served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II from 1941 to 1945. He was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron at Tuskegee Army Air Field and was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. From 1941 to 1945 he was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron at Tuskegee Army Air Field, where he was a flight officer on the B-25 Bomber.

as a former scout master and one of the founders of the Atlanta Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc, Little is a constant contributor to Aviation Career Enrichment (ACE) camps, conducted by the Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP), the National Coalition of Black Federal Aviation Employees (NCBFAE), the Alliance of Black Telecommunications Employees (ABTE), the Explorer Scout Programs in Georgia and Alabama, and serves on the Board of Directors at the American Museum of Patriotism and the Atlanta Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., where he serves as the Chaplain.

Alonzo Church

Born on April 9, 1793 in Vermont, Church migrated to the South and opened a classical school in Eatonton. After founding and acting as Headmaster of the Eatonton Academy, he taught mathematics at the University of Georgia, between 1819 and 1829, and served as the sixth president for thirty years, resigning in 1859 due to poor health and advancing age. Church served longer than any other president of the University of Georgia.

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