Leaders among leaders

Panoply of influential Augustans helped shape the past decade

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Sometimes the best way to figure out where you are -- and how you got there -- is to look back.

That's the spirit of The Chronicle's list, published Friday, of 10 local leaders who helped shape the past decade.

Looking at the list, you can see why Augusta is where it is -- which is on the upswing, a great place to live, work and raise a family, and a city that's better situated than most to take off when the national economy hits the runway.

Coming up with the list was an invigorating process, and we hope the results are both fun and inspire thought and debate about -- and appreciation for -- the movers and shakers who've helped make Augusta what it is. After an exhaustive process of nominations from reporters, newsroom editors and news sources, and several rounds of spirited give and take, The Chronicle's top newsroom editors pared a list that had started at about 100 down to 10.

The final 10 included the political, leaders such as Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham, Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross and the late and beloved Congressman Charlie Norwood; the controversial, such as imprisoned former state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker; the beneficent, such as philanthropists Boone Knox and Clay Boardman; the influential, such as former Medical College of Georgia President Dan Rahn and Chronicle publisher and Morris Communications Chairman William S. Morris III; and the simply courageous -- game changers such as former Superior Court Judge Duncan Wheale and former mayoral candidate and radio talk show host Helen Blocker-Adams.

Your favorite editorial department was a mere observer to the selection process -- otherwise, we would have maintained that Mayor Deke Copenhaver belonged on the list for having radically changed this city's political and racial climate for the better, and we hope forever, in the past five years.

Still, he's properly on the newspaper's companion list of the "10 to Watch" in the coming decade, published Saturday.

Many of the 10 most impactful Augustans of the past decade have left tangible evidence of their achievements -- or, like Rep. Norwood, helped strengthen and preserve what was already here: Among his many other accomplishments, Rep. Norwood helped the Augusta area recognize and broadcast the many benefits Fort Gordon brings to the country's national defense network, an invaluable lesson at a time when bases were being closed and consolidated.

Others' contributions may be less obvious or more intangible, but no less profound. Judge Wheale, for example, led an effort -- at great personal risk -- to reform the way cases were handled in the Augusta Judicial Circuit. The Georgia Supreme Court ultimately agreed with him that the old system -- which saw cases endlessly backlogged and crime victims suffering needless, repeated and heartbreaking delays -- was out of step with state court rules.

Meanwhile, incredibly, Blocker-Adams changed things by not getting elected: Her unlikely run for mayor in 2005 saw her miss the runoff by a slim 2 percentage points to eventual winner Deke Copenhaver. Rather than go away -- or sharpen her political ambitions for another run against him -- Blocker-Adams endured the foulest criticism from some quarters to cross racial lines in support of Copenhaver. If Copenhaver changed things here -- see above -- Blocker-Adams was an invaluable comrade in that fight.

Today, those in the know in Augusta merely have to say "Helen," and everyone knows who they're talking about.

As for Boone Knox -- well, he is, as Dickens wrote, "as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world."

And, Dickens might add, "may that be truly said of us, and all of us!"

Every city needs people like these.

Comments (11) Add comment
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Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 01/02/11 - 04:24 am
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I agree with you 100% most of

I agree with you 100% most of these people are the reason Augusta is the way it is today. Yep, the blame is on them.

Brad

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/02/11 - 09:21 am
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The biggest game changer in

The biggest game changer in the last decade is a fictional poster who is a conglomerate of those local people who held local politicians, officials and the media in check right here in these very comments using screennames that are almost incongruous with their serious points. Any article or editorial would be dissected by the posters until a "truth" was eventually found. Politicians were often forced to act because of comments made.

The Chronicle followed our thoughts with later stories and editorials. Austin Rhodes often based his show on what commenters said here. Geez, do I remember a few monumental shows attacking...uh...some poster.

USA Today recognizes the major transformation internet technology has brought to American society in their article "2010 The Year We Stopped Talking to One Another."

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 01/02/11 - 10:50 am
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Wow.. a list of politicians,
Unpublished

Wow.. a list of politicians, millionaires, judges..... just because they crown themselves leaders don't mean they ARE leaders. They are the ones that try and control what the rest of us believe.

Jane18
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Jane18 01/02/11 - 11:07 am
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I don't always agree with

I don't always agree with Ranger, but, this time you are 100% correct! Clay Boardman and his brother wouldn't be anything or have anything, if not for their Dad.

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 01/02/11 - 12:24 pm
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What is the basis of your

What is the basis of your comment, Jane18. Do you know Clay and Bray or are you pouring on the sour grapes as I suspect you are? True, they inherited a lot of money but so did their dad and grandfather. I have known the Boardman family for 60 years. The whole family has given to the community in many ways. You do not know what you are talking about.Your comment is based on jealousy , nothing more.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 01/02/11 - 01:02 pm
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scoobydoisback, Not so much

scoobydoisback,

Not so much really. I know they have done lots for the community but they have also made a lot of money off of our community.

I am happy with all thier success and I wish them more, but they always seem to be in the middle of everyting that is promoted by this paper.

They always seem to be part of the group making choices for us, I guess that is where you end up when you have millions of dollars and able to maintain it.

I do think they have done a lot for our city but they also have enjoyed a fair number of gimmies at tax payer expense. So if there is balance they lean on the side of selfless servers who seem to always land on the side of profit.

Brad

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 01/02/11 - 01:51 pm
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Brad, your assessment of the

Brad, your assessment of the Boardmans may or may not be accurate. I can't refute what you say as I do not know whether they have made money off the taxpayers or not. I do know that the Boardman family has contributed a lot to our community over four generations. I have known them all. Red(Clay and Bray's father) and I graduated from ARC one year apart so my knowledge of their history is first hand. Each generation has taken what they inherited and enhanced its value thru hard work and at the same time been good citizens. My hat is off to them.

Jane18
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Jane18 01/02/11 - 05:37 pm
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As a matter of fact scooby, I

As a matter of fact scooby, I do know them. All I said was that without their Dad, they would not be who they are and have what they have. In this day and the economy as it is, anyone fortunate to have had grandparents and parents to pass something along to them are very fortunate, very fortunate indeed. As to your comment saying I was jealous, you are SO wrong! There is not one person on this earth I am jealous of, in fact, I am happy for anyone that can better themselves in every way.

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 01/02/11 - 05:53 pm
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June18, I accept your

June18, I accept your explanation. If you had expressed yourself in this way in your first comment I would not have responded. Have a good day.

Many Arrows
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Many Arrows 01/02/11 - 08:51 pm
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Interesting time. Total

Interesting time.

Total upheaval has left most of these 'leaders' swimming naked.

Time will tell who the dinosaurs were, who was the survivor's lunch.

The story of everyone's lifetime is unfolding and the Chronicle is lifting toasts to what once was.

Folks are going to pay for this stuff in cash-strapped times?

Holy moly.

Many Arrows
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Many Arrows 01/02/11 - 08:56 pm
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RM is right. For the first

RM is right.

For the first half of this decade the old forums were a really good place for debate.

A LOT of times, posters would 'scoop' Drudge even!

That seems to be gone now, but the real value was in bringing into local discussion what the AC missed on its own. Many times topics were fully vetted DAYS before they were written about.

Since the AC wants to go to a pay model it is going to have to BRING VALUE to folks with crucial information, not swoon over folks that the times blew past.

reader54
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reader54 01/16/11 - 11:54 am
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There is nothing wrong or

There is nothing wrong or shameful about making money in the community in which your family has lived for generations. Isn't that what all businessmen do? There's no shame in inheriting wealth; it's what you do with it that matters most. These folks are smart, hardworking and dignified. It would be so tempting to inherit a large sum and just relax and play all around the world. Instead, they have chosen to stay committed to "home" and invest locally. BTW, are there any amongst us w/o flaws? May Mr. Knox's soul find Peace.

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