Augusta community activist says he's slowing down

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There was a time in the Augusta area when Woody Merry appeared in as many media reports as any local political leader.

Community activist Woody Merry has been busy tending a garden and playing with his grandchildren since he left the public eye.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Community activist Woody Merry has been busy tending a garden and playing with his grandchildren since he left the public eye.

The community activist spoke up, yelled when he thought it necessary, formed nonprofit groups to try to engage other residents in taking ownership of their government, and sued the city when he perceived waste, fraud and abuse.

For his efforts, Merry was cheered by some and jeered by others.

“I really do miss it, but it was time,” he said of the activist days. It was an 11-year quest, he said, “and it was not easy.”

The businessman and Augusta native has always had pet causes – an annual horse show to raise money to help children, and helping to raise more than $1 million to lure Con­ti­nental Airlines to Augusta, for example.

It was his other causes that propelled Mer­ry into the center of city government controversies. He led an early challenge to plans to relocate Hyde Park residents, questioned the purchase of land for the judicial center and criticized a plan to build a drag strip in south Augusta across from where a commissioner’s son planned to set up a snack shop.

Merry also joined legal challenges, suing the city over commissioners’ use of abstentions to prevent votes on controversial issues. That case went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court.

He also joined the Association for Fair Government and the lawsuits against the city over its purchasing practices – which remains a controversy – and the public’s access to open records.

It was hard to stand up alone, Merry said. He was alone when he faced a much larger man, Bill Fennoy, and confronted the Coliseum Authority board member about his absenteeism. There was pushing, and Merry landed on the floor and received a couple of kicks from Fennoy, witnesses said.

A resolution worked out by the State Court solicitor resolved the incident without a trial but required Merry to write a letter of apology and behave himself at public meetings.

“Everybody talks about someone needing to do something,” Merry said. “I was the butt of a lot a cruel jokes and a lot of editorials that were not fair.

“I did not do this but for one reason: to help the community.”

Merry considered his public stands a risk to his business and personal finances, especially after a Fed­eral Commu­ni­cations Com­mission investigator appeared on his doorstep one morning.

The investigator pored over every securities transaction Merry made, starting in 1975, Merry said. The investigation resulted
from an anonymous tip, “and he didn’t find a thing,” he said.

Merry said he loves his work as a retirement planning specialist too much to retire himself. He has limited the number of clients he sees, though.

He and his wife travel a lot now and spend time at their beach house.

Merry was thrilled to receive an invitation to join the Office of Strategic Services Society, a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the deeds and spirit of the Office of Strategic Ser­vices, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agen­cy, which was formed to gather information during World War II.

Merry continues to volunteer during the Masters Tour­na­ment, and he has a new project that includes coordinating efforts to renovate a home for an elderly blind woman whose current home is unfit.

She worked with mentally challenged adults for 37 years and deserves better, Merry said.

He is still interested in the workings of the city government but said the soapbox days are over.

ABOUT THE SERIES

Have you ever wanted to know what became of a person or issue that once dominated the local news?

The Augusta Chronicle provides answers to readers’ requests in its regular series, “What ever happened to…?”

Today, we catch up with Woody Merry, a businessman and controversial community activist in Augusta.

Requests can be e-mailed to mike.wynn@augustachronicle.com; mailed to The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928, Attn: Mike Wynn; or placed in the online comment section at augustachronicle.com.

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allhans
23998
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allhans 12/04/11 - 05:38 pm
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0
Come back Woody. I miss you.

Come back Woody. I miss you.

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 12/04/11 - 06:05 pm
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I agree.

I agree.

southern2
6624
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southern2 12/04/11 - 06:28 pm
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Merry for Mayor!

Merry for Mayor!

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 12/04/11 - 07:03 pm
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Though I didn't agree with
Unpublished

Though I didn't agree with his tactics sometimes I still applauded his efforts to at least make changes. We can all learn something from Woody and we should be all be ashamed we don't take more of a stance against the cabal that runs Augusta.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
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Crime Reports and Rewards TV 12/04/11 - 11:57 pm
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Woody Merry, takes a lickin

Woody Merry, takes a lickin and keeps on kicken for U.S.. We love you Woody:o) Happy Holidays from all the Crime Stoppers worldwide.
flipa'
Call me day or night next time you feel like carrying another canoe up the steepest hill in town...again -smile-

PS wonder if everyone knows Woody can call almost every mover and shaker in this town by their first name? Here's one for you Woody, my new tracking dog answers to "Watson". Bet anybody if Woody reads this or even just hears about it and & i see him a year from now he'll probably ask "How's Watson???" Ha ah ahh He's a brilliant
endangered specie... As the ladies and gentlemen from this era bow out America picks up speed down the slippery slope.

avidreader
3377
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avidreader 12/05/11 - 06:27 am
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0
I always respected Mr. Merry.

I always respected Mr. Merry. His drive and determination inspired me to become involved in some edgy controversies in our community.

cityman
-6
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cityman 12/05/11 - 07:21 am
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Woody, Are you on Face Book?
Unpublished

Woody, Are you on Face Book?

Riverman1
86792
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Riverman1 12/05/11 - 07:28 am
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One of the most incongruent

One of the most incongruent things I ever saw was driving home past WGAC when the black protestors were marching one hot day, Woody, was passing sodas out of the back of a pick-up truck to them. Never figured that out, but someone said that was just gadfly Woody having to be near the action whatever it was.

I also found it interesting when he started the group to shadow each Commissioner and give them advice. Heh. Marion Williams said nobody was going to follow him around. That concept didn't last too long. Good luck, Woody.

allhans
23998
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allhans 12/05/11 - 09:55 am
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0
Knowing Woody he was giving a

Knowing Woody he was giving a thirsty man a drink.

augusta citizen
9685
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augusta citizen 12/05/11 - 10:12 am
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I miss reading about him.

I miss reading about him. Whether you agreed with everything he did or not, there was never a doubt that he cared and had a big heart.

eb97
835
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eb97 12/05/11 - 11:20 am
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I sure hope we have some

I sure hope we have some young professionals willing to take over where Woody has left off. We need them for the city's future and for it's growth. We need to get rid of the "Good Old Boy" system in Augusta and elect some young folks that know how to think outside the box while fixing the box.

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 12/05/11 - 12:22 pm
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RM1, I think this is more

RM1,

I think this is more what he had in mind;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_Cabinet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_government

Opposition folks usually,

Brad

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 12/05/11 - 05:34 pm
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0
Mr. Merry's heart is in the

Mr. Merry's heart is in the right place most of the time; but he found out the hard way that you can't fight city hall.

:-)

One thing I disagree with him on is the abstention thing for commissioners. Abstaining is a legitimate parliamentary tool. Jerry Brigham recently abstained to prevent a 5-5 tie, with Copenhave certain to vote to spend the money. By abstaining, Jerry saved us taxpayers a bundle.

Riverman1
86792
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Riverman1 12/05/11 - 06:19 pm
0
0
Brad, yep, I remember his

Brad, yep, I remember his idea of the shadow government, but it was doomed from the start if he thought those guys would have gone along with it. Still, he was enough of an out of the box guy that I generally liked him...and still do.

valleygirl1986
0
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valleygirl1986 12/05/11 - 08:18 pm
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I agree with the fact that

I agree with the fact that Mr. Merry has a big heart. It is evident in his latest project to help the lady with a suitable place to live. I have heard through the grapevine that BDOL Architects have also come on board to help the cause. If anyone knows how to get in touch with Mr. Merry, please let me know because I would like to help as well. I am willing to do some work as well as donate a couple of items. Thank you Mr. Merry for all you do to try to make our community a better place and thank you BDOL for getting on board. I hope many people will take the opportunity to help.

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