City Ink: Compromise paraded after probation talks

Whoever scheduled the get-together to solve the city’s probation issues must not have been Irish. Or, it might have been a plot to eliminate Irish participation because the meeting was scheduled for exactly the same time the St. Patrick’s Day parade was supposed to start.

 

The streets around the Marble Palace and James Brown Arena where the parade floats and bands were assembled were blocked off, and traffic was so bad I didn’t go.

However, Augusta Chronicle Staff Writer Susan McCord reported Chief Magistrate Court Judge Williams D. Jennings and State Court Judge David Watkins compromised with Augusta Commission members Ben Hasan, Marion Williams and others over whether probation officers should be certified law enforcement officers, as called for in the order creating the department. So henceforth, the chief probation officer and supervisory officers will be required to be Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified; the others won’t.

The judges favored POST certification, but the commissioners balked after six of the first eight probation officers who tried failed POST tests and were let go. They ordered Chief State Court Judge Richard Slaby, a strong proponent of POST certification, to stop firing people. But since Slaby doesn’t answer to them and might have let that be known, they called a meeting and notified the judges they intended to change the order. Hence, Friday’s meeting.

Slaby was not there. Maybe he was watching the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

And now one question is, will they rehire the people who were fired because they couldn’t pass the POST test? Another is, do they really want a probation office staffed with people who can’t qualify to become a cop?

The Luck of the Irish: St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of our dearly departed friend Brian Mulherin, grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1995. At the breakfast on the day of the parade, he told the story of how he came to be Irish.

He said he’d been brought to Dr. William Mulherin’s house on Greene Street when he was 3 weeks old by a girl who said she was on her way home from work when she was stopped by a pretty young lady at the corner of Marbury and Telfair streets. The lady asked her whether she knew where Dr. Mulherin lived, gave her a note and a bundle, and asked her to deliver them to the doctor’s home.

In the note, the mother promised to come to Dr. Mulherin’s house the next night to explain everything, but she never showed up.

Brian said he didn’t know what possessed him to tell the story of his delivery at the breakfast.

“I told them the story about being delivered to Dr. Mulherin and how lucky I was because that’s how I became Irish, and how I became parade marshal,” he said. “I said if I had been delivered two doors down, I would have been a Silverstein and would have been working at Silverstein’s Laundry and Dry Cleaners instead of at the parade.”

Bernie Silverstein likes the story, but the truth of the matter is, the Rubensteins, not the Silversteins, lived two doors down.

“But I would have been Jewish,” he said.

One in a Million: Another wonderful contributor to Augusta’s political history and lore died last week. Former Augusta Fire Chief Bill Maddox will be buried today at Westview Cemetery.

Here are some excerpts from a 2003 profile of him:

People think his name is William, but it’s not.

It’s Willie. Willie Lee Maddox.

He was named for his daddy, who was murdered by thugs when Willie was 4 years old.

Willie Lee “Bill” Maddox, Augusta’s fire chief for almost 23 years, grew up in Harrisburg, Augusta’s mill community, with three sisters and a brother in one room of a house on Pearl Avenue. His mother supported them by working at the nearby Sibley Mill.

“We came up real poor,” he said. “Nobody around us had anything. We had even less.”

Although he’s traveled the world, witnessed history in the making and lived in a big house in one of Augusta’s best neighborhoods, Willie Lee Maddox is never far from Pearl Avenue.

He went to work at a laundry near Paine College before his 12th birthday. At 12, he was helping build what is now the National Guard Armory on Milledge Road. During World War II, he “slipped away and joined the Navy” in 1942. He was 14 and had finished the seventh grade.

He was sent to the South Pacific, where he saw combat on a half-dozen Japanese-held islands and participated in the initial landing and occupation of the Tokyo Bay area.

“We stood on the deck of our ship and looked through our glasses and saw the Japanese signing the official surrender,” he said.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, it dropped one on Nagasaki.

Three weeks later, his ship, the USS Waukesha, was sent to Nagasaki.

After being recalled to active duty for the Korean War, he came home and landed a job at the Augusta Fire Department and eventually became chief.

Old Firefighters Talk about Big Fires: And Maddox was no exception. Some of the biggest fires in Augusta’s history occurred while he was chief, including one at the old Armour Company on Telfair Street, where several firefighters almost died when the roof caved in.

The most memorable, he said, was the fire at the old Downtowner on 15th Street during a firefighter convention.

“It was right after we had had a party,” he said. “I got a call. When I got down there, the police said, ‘Chief, we’ve got to do something with this bunch of drunks. I’m telling you, they’re running us crazy.’

“It wasn’t my firemen. It was firemen from out of town. They’d done got loaded, and they was going to be heroes and put out the fire. I finally told him, I said, ‘Listen, just put somebody at the door, and if they try to come in, lock ‘em up. I’ll get ‘em out later.”’

That story reminded him of another firefighter convention in Cartersville, Ga.

“When you have a conference, and you have a fire, all the firemen are going to go to it,” he said. “I don’t care what you do. So all the chiefs were right there, and everybody wanted to be the boss. Anyway, it burnt to the ground.

“You should have heard that Cartersville chief the next day. He said, ‘I had the smartest brains in the state in the fire service. And the damned warehouse burnt to the ground.”’

Who Knew This? Augusta is one of the least happy cities in the country, according to a survey by WalletHub, a personal finance website.

Augusta ranked 148 out of 150 cities for unhappiness. Only two were more unhappy – Cleveland and Detroit.

WalletHub must have interviewed the Gold Cross folks who are unhappy because the city cut their subsidy for serving indigent folks by $700,000 without warning and gave them an ultimatum to take $380,000 or nothing.

Or maybe WalletHub interviewed the folks who use Gold Cross and actually pay their bills, which have doubled.

Or perhaps WalletHub interviewed the people in south Augusta who are paying rain taxes and still have sewage in their yards when it rains.

Or they could have talked to people in downtown Augusta who’ve seen revitalization plan after revitalization plan, and all they’ve seen happen so far are the trees cut down around the James Brown statue.

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