Bill Kirby began his career with The Augusta Chronicle 40 years ago and has held just about every job in the newsroom. He and his wife Carla spend their spare time doting on their West Highland terriers, Lil' Bow Wow ("Buddy") and Snoop Dog. He writes several local columns each week, as well as YouTube videos on local history called "Kirby's Augusta." From 1998 until 2001 he was editor and publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Over a 40-year newspaper career he has won more than 100 state, regional and national awards for reporting, editing, column writing, editorial writing, sports writing, business writing, investigative reporting, layout and design.
Posted February 24, 2010 03:48 pm - Updated February 24, 2010 05:09 pm

CSRA and the man who named it

Charles McCollum
Charles McCollum
Charles C. McCollum, the Wrens resident and Jefferson County educator who coined the term "CSRA."

For many, it is an anagram mystery.

For newcomers to Augusta, it has long been a puzzle.

They are the four letters, which for six decades have defined a region -- CSRA.

 Some have thought it had something to do with the CSX Railroad. Others, the Confederate States of America.

But no.

CSRA is the result of a newspaper and radio contest won by a rural educator who lived to be almost 100.

It stands for Central Savannah River Area. It was the regional name suggested 60 years ago by Charles C. McCollum, of Wrens, Ga.

This was back in post-World War II America when the government encouraged regions to give themselves names. It helped deal with the larger area problems that collections of counties might have.

A contest was conceived. Augusta's legendary Chamber of Commerce dynamo Lester Moody was involved and eventfully he presented the check.

According to the June 25, 1950, issue of The Augusta Chronicle, McCollum, a longtime Jefferson County educator, won the $250 prize when his suggestion was chosen from 2,500 entries evaluated by a panel of community leaders from Georgia and South Carolina.

Not only did The Chronicle and its sister paper the Augusta Herald promote the name contest, but so did four local radio stations: WGAC, WBBQ, WRDW and WJBF.

No TV, yet.

In the beginning, "CSRA" was quite popular and many businesses used it as part of their name to promote their communitywide reach. That's why you still see it so often in the phone book.

In recent years its impact has, however, been diminished, maybe because the "alphabet soup" of government agencies is now considered a negative.

 As for defining it, we turn to the CSRA Regional Development Center data:

- The "CSRA" is a 13-county East Georgia region with an economic center being the consolidated government of Augusta-Richmond County.

- These 13 counties are Richmond, Columbia, Burke, Wilkes, Lincoln, Washington, Hancock, Taliaferro, Warren, Glascock, McDuffie, Jenkins and Jefferson.

- Five South Carolina counties are considered part of the CSRA. They are Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick, Allendale and Barnwell counties.

But let's not forget McCollum, or "Professor McCollum," as this newspaper often referred to him.

After winning the contest he wrote a thank-you letter to the selection committee, which included this description of our region -- the CSRA he named and loved:

"This is truly a great section, favored wonderfully by nature, and it is the home of brave, prosperous and happy people. I sincerely believe that as it continues to develop in greatness this name will grow in importance and in the appreciation of all living in this favored area."

He was well known for his school administration work in Jefferson County, as well as his hometown of Wrens where -- in his 90s -- he led a successful campaign for a new library. A Chronicle story in 1973 reported the effort, including his insistence that all donors be recognized on a plaque. This was done and about 300 names are on it.

That old building in Wrens has been replaced by a modern facility on Main Street. It's called the McCollum Public Library.

They kept the plaque "Professor" McCollum wanted to display with all its names.

Some things last, I guess.

Just like the term "CSRA."