Big Foot for school board

Now that the election is behind us, we can all count our blessings and think what could have been.


Bob Ingham could have been elected to represent Super District 10 on the Augusta Commission, and we would have had to buy him a pair of suspenders. Marion Williams could have been elected to represent District 2 again, and everybody would have had to buy earplugs. Lori Davis could have been elected mayor, and Butch Palmer wouldn't have anybody's house to videotape.

Oh well, enough of that foolishness. Let's get serious and talk about the write-in votes.

God got quite a few write-ins, as though he's not already in charge. Those voters just threw their votes away, as did dozens who wrote in cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Scooby Doo.

Metro Courier Publisher Barbara Gordon got one write-in vote for the 12th District U.S. House, as did C&C Automotive owner Aaron Clements . George Washington got one vote for Georgia House District 122. WGAC radio talk show host Austin Rhodes got one vote in the Georgia House District 123 race, as did Darth Vader, Daffy Duck and Pooh.

Marion Williams got three votes for mayor, and Big Foot got a vote in the District 7 Board of Education race. Albert Einstein and Moses Todd each got a write-in vote in the Soil and Water commission race. And Jesus Help Us was a write-in for the 23rd District state senate seat.

Jesus, help us.

KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY STACK: Now that the political consequences of taking any controversial actions have decreased with the commission elections, City Administrator Fred Russell is going to go public with some Draconian measures to eliminate the $9.4 million deficit in next year's general-fund budget. He'll present a proposal at Tuesday's meeting he's been talking to each commissioner about privately. Expect to hear about furloughs, layoffs and early retirements, closing community centers and privatizing government functions, such as transit, which I wish him luck in doing. Commissioner Joe Bowles has tried to get the Municipal Golf Course privatized for the past six years. And before him, Don Grantham did, too.

Nobody will go as far as saying, "Read my lips," but most say they won't vote for a property tax increase. Expect Fred to have one waiting in the wings just in case, along with using reserve funds.

IF YOU THINK MAKING NICE TO THESE THUGS WORKS, YOU ARE AN ACCOMPLICE: Losing mayoral candidate Davis said she didn't know how bad crime in Harrisburg really is until she saw a sheriff's office report covering the past six months.

Here's a sample:

- Eight aggravated assaults with a gun

- Eight aggravated assaults

- Nine forced-entry burglaries at night

- 20 forced-entry burglaries in daytime

- 14 cocaine possessions

- 56 criminal trespasses

- Three kidnappings

- 24 car break-ins

- One robbery of a business with gun

- Six robberies on street with gun

- 62 assaults and batteries

"I could not believe the escalation," Davis said. "I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked. And they (city officials) are continuing to do business behind closed doors. What is the reason nobody wanted to talk about it during the campaign?"

She said she'd consider leaving Augusta if she and her husband, Roger, had jobs somewhere else and nobody should criticize her.

"I've done everything I can do and ran for mayor," she said.

HUNTING AND FISHING -- NOT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN GOING AFTER VOTERS: After losing his bid for agriculture commissioner, J.B. Powell said he's just going to hunt and fish for a while and already has some deer stands set up in the woods, where he'll take his sons Jamie and Wilson .

"For over a decade. I've worried about everybody else's problems," he said. "Now I'm going to worry about my own."

And as for a rumor that he'll run for sheriff in 2012, he has no such plans.

THEIR OFFERS WERE SELDOM REFUSED: Last week, I ran out of space before I could tell you about the Southside Mafia and said I would do it this week. So, with some revisions here is part of a story I wrote about the group of political kingmakers in 1998:

The founder of the Southside Mafia was Roy V. Harris , the legendary lawyer and Cracker Party politician, who lived on the Hill, not in south Augusta.

Around 1957, he, Chester Jones , who co-owned several radio stations with Harris, and George Nicholson , an attorney and former state legislator, started meeting every Saturday morning at a sawdust covered, dirt-floor barbecue shack on U.S. Highway 25.

Harris, or Mr. Roy as he was known, was credited with getting Herman Talmadge elected Georgia governor after Talmadge's father, Gene, died before taking office in 1946.

Talmadge had come in third in the race until his supporters discovered 56 additional votes in Telfair County, which put him in first place, said Dr. Edward J. Cashin , the author of The Story of Augusta .

William S. Morris Jr. , the publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Herald , called the feat "the most amazing and cynically executed political coup d'etat in the history of the state," Cashin writes in his book.

The three men who met at Claude Sconyers ' first barbecue place were soon joined by others, then-revenue agent John S. Cook and his young partner Charles Webster , said Webster, who was sheriff of Richmond County from 1984 until 2001.

"Later they was joined in by Bernard Miles and Mike Padgett ," Webster said. "And this was just about every Saturday that went by at Mr. Sconyers' place. And sure enough, politics was talked and a lot of other things. What was happening, what was going on and what was to be. Everything was talked there.

"The head man of that group was Mr. Roy V. Harris for years and years."

When Harris died in the 1980s, Miles and then Padgett took over. They were the kingmakers. With few exceptions, they ruled Richmond County politics for 40 years.

"That's where the bills were made. That's where the candidates were made and unmade," said Augusta State University political scientist Ralph Walker.

Miles and Padgett rose to prominence in state politics. Their candidates were elected to the county commission, the Legislature and school board and were appointed to boards and authorities. And their relatives and friends got jobs with the county.

The Saturday morning gatherings shifted to Miles' office on Harding Road, after which the group would adjourn for lunch at Sconyers' barbecue place.

At some point, they picked up the name Southside Mafia. To them, it was a joke. They even put a sign in the window of Miles' office saying Southside Mafia, said Padgett, called the Godfather by some.

No one seems to know exactly where it came from, but Webster and Ernie Bowman , one of the first black men to be invited to Harding Road, credit late Augusta Chronicle reporter and columnist Margaret Twiggs with making sure the name stuck, even if she didn't originate it.

The politicians and their buddies were proud of being called the Southside Mafia, said former Richmond County State Court Solicitor Robert W. "Bo" Hunter .

"Not in the sense of being involved in criminal activity, but in the sense they were close," he said. "They stuck together."

Hunter was a boy when his father died, and Harris took him under his wing.

He remembers the Saturday-morning meetings this way:

"We'd stop at the liquor store and buy Jim Beam, grapefruit juice and ice. And we'd sit back there, and different people would come in, and let's say there were two people who had a disagreement on the way to handle something. And they'd basically sit there and talk about it and talk about it and then he'd say, 'OK fellows, this is what we're going to do.' And everybody abided by that decision.

"And then Bernard Miles took his place. And Bernard Miles was that way too. They would make decisions, and everyone would abide by those decisions because he was fair, and he played fair."

Miles died in 1995.

(Next week: Harding Road, the only place black candidates could look to for some political crumbs.)

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