Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The Queens of Georgia Basketball

They were pretty good basketball players. Actually they were more than just good. They were some of the best girls teams ever to play high school basketball in Georgia. One Dexter boy basketball player commented, "they could even beat us sometimes." From 1959 through 1963, George Lindsey led his Dexter Hornettes to four consecutive region championships and two consecutive state championships.

Along the way, the lasses from Dexter accomplished a record winning streak of sixty-eight games. The streak began with the first game of the 1961-2 season and ended in the fifth game of the 1963-4 season with a last second, two point loss to arch rival Dodge County. Dodge County had already stopped another long winning streak of the Dexter girls in 1959. That sixty eight game streak held the record until it was broken in the 1970s by Taylor High School.

In his first season, George Lindsey's girls won their region and lost in the state tournament. The 1960-1 team repeated the feat losing for the second straight year in the state tournament. The first team to win the state title was the 1961-2 team.  That year the Dexter girls went undefeated - thirty wins and no losses. In the state tournament they defeated Stewart County, 69 to 47; Crawford County, 73 to 52; Screven County, 80 to 58 to reach the finals. In the finals, the Hornettes defeated Butler High School by the score of 68 to 52 to win their first state championship.

The members of that team were Jackie Kitchens, Sue Whittle, Janet Register, Rhetta Daniels, Linda Howard, Caroline Russell, Peggy Estes, Dianne McLeod, Bertie Mae Evans, Colleen Butler, Kay E. Lord, Joette Hobbs, Pat Jolly, Judy Bryant, Connie Warren, Yvonne Mullis, Kay Tipton, and Venita Lord.

The next year the Hornettes kept on winning. During that season they beat their perennial nemeses, the Dodge County Girls, in both games. The margin of victory was ten points in both games. That was impressive considering that the Dodge County girls were defending State Class "B" champions. Closer to home, the Hornettes defeated the Lady Cardinals of Dudley three times and the Tigerettes of Laurens High four times. One highlight of the 62-63 season was the homecoming game. Connie Malone was crowned Queen of the Homecoming Court. The girls responded with a 50 to 31 thrashing of the Dublin Irishettes, who weren't that bad of a team. By the way, both teams wore green and white.

The Hornettes went into the 5-C Region tournament undefeated. On their homecourt, the Hornettes demolished the girls from Dudley with a final score of 67 to 34. Five girls posted scores in double figures - an unusual feat, considering that in those days girls played a different style of basketball. Three forwards played offense and three guards played defense.

In the sub-region finals, the Hornettes defeated the Tigerettes from Laurens High. The Tigerettes, coached by the legendary Lester Farr, were pretty fair ball players too. They had lost a close game to Doe Run High School in the 1962 state tournament. The Tigerettes were led by forwards Loren White, Sandra Bedingfield, and Vondell Ballard. Since they finished second in the sub-region, the Tigerettes were seeded in the Region finals. Imagine how powerful the team would have been if the two nearby schools had been consolidated.

The fast and furious action then shifted to Abbeville - the site of the Region 5-C tournament. In the first game, Caroline Russell scored thirty points and Judy Bryant dropped in 18 more to lead the Hornettes to a 54 to 36 victory over the host Abbeville team. When Laurens High won its first game, a rematch with the Hornettes was assured. The Tigerettes managed to hold the Hornettes to fifty two points, losing 52 to 38. Caroline Russell put up twenty-one points, and Yvonne Mullis nearly matched that total with nineteen points.

Both teams were headed to the State Tournament in Columbus. For several years before, the state finals were held in Macon. Going into the tournament, the winning streak stood at sixty. As good as the forwards were, the guards were just as good. Kay Lord, Diane McLeod, Kay Waldrep, and Kay Tipton were unrelenting in their defense - stealing passes and errant dribbles and passing them back down the

In the first game, the Hornettes defeated Norman Park 60 to 40. Caroline Russell turned it up for the finals. She scored twenty nine points, nearly half of the team total. In the second game, Caroline scored thirty to lead the Hornettes over Putnam County, 55 to 43.

Cave Springs High School was the opponent in the semi final game. The guards of Cave Springs held Yvonne Mullis and Judy Bryant in check. Caroline Russell came through with thirty two points and running her tournament total to ninety two points. The Hornettes had one point leads at the end of the first three quarters. In between, Cave Springs surged to three and four point leads. In the last quarter the defense tightened up - allowing only seven points in the final stanza-while forwards scored eleven to win the game 43 to 38.

Their opponents in the finals were the Deer from Doe Run High School. Yes, that was their name. The Deer were led by Mary Fincher, the coach's daughter, who scored an amazing forty points in the other semi-final game. Russell was held to seven points in the first half, but came back strong with sixteen in the second. Diane Fountain came into the game and hit two long distance field goals to keep the girls in the game. At the end of regulation play, the score was knotted at 40 to 40. Kay Lord, Diane McLeod, and Kay Waldrep tightened up on the defense and allowed only two points by the Deer, both by Fincher. The forwards, Caroline Russell, Yvonne Mullis, Judy Bryant, and Diane Fountain scored four points to take a two point win. The Hornettes had won two consecutive state titles, a record for the 18 year old classification. The Hornettes kept on winning. Coach Lindsey retired to enter private business. All six Dexter starters were among the best in their class. Bryant, Mullis, Waldrep, and Fountain returned, but missed the chance for a third championship when they lost to the Red Bud of Calhoun in March of 1964. They were simply the best, the Queens of Georgia Basketball.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


The Lady of the Camellias

Lila Moore Keen loved the flowers of her native Georgia. With an unequaled talent for painting flowers, Mrs. Keen became nationally renowned for her paintings of camellias, magnolias, and other flowers of the South. Mrs. Keen, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Moore of Winder, Georgia, began her artistic career at the age of twelve. One day she sneaked off a secret place with her sister's paints and began to teach herself to paint. She attended Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Wayman Adams of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, gave the "budding artist" - pun intended - her formal training. Lila Moore married James L. Keen, Jr., son of James L. Keen, Sr., the founding president of Farmers and Merchants Bank. The couple moved to Laurens County after their marriage. Their last home was located at the southwest corner of North Calhoun Street and Highland Avenue. Their children, James L., III, and Jane were born here and graduated from high school here. Camellia Journal Magazine described Lila Moore Keen as "a missionary for truth and beauty."

One of Mrs. Keen's crowning moments was her management of the South Georgia division of American Art Week in 1944, for which she won statewide acclaim. After the chairman fell ill at the last minute, Mrs. Keen took over management of the entire state's celebration. Mrs. Keen organized exhibits all over the southern part of the state. She convinced four civic clubs of Dublin to each donate an art book to the library. Locally, Noble H. Marshall, Jr. and Mrs. Milo Smith were the county and city chairmen. Mrs. John Waldrep was co-chairman and Mrs. W.M. Harrison was publicity chairman. Misses Mildred Bishop, Virginia Joiner, Ida O'Neal, and Pearl Cofer were chairwomen of the city schools. Mrs. Tom Burts, Mrs. Sam Swinson, Mrs. Fred Brown, and Mrs. Roy Orr were committee members. Mrs. Orr put together a scrapbook of the activities of the art week. That book is now in the Dublin-Laurens Museum. The scrapbook contains paintings of magnolias and cherry blossoms done by Mrs. Keen.

During the celebration, art works were exhibited at the Women's Club House on North Drive. That building still stands and is located in front of the entrance to Dublin Junior High School on North Calhoun Street. The featured artist was Frances Jordan. Miss Jordan, a native of Wrightsville, was the first woman ever to graduate from Wesleyan Conservatory in Macon with a degree in sculpture. She was the first student at the college to have her work put on permanent display. Art works were also displayed in several downtown stores.

School children contributed their best works to the exhibits. The Savannah Art Club sent a large group of paintings by South Georgia artists for display at the Women's Center. Miss Frances Stewart, head of the University of Georgia Art Department, spoke at the chapel program at the High School. The women of the Parnassus Club served as hostesses throughout the week.

For her efforts, Lila Moore Keen was presented a blue ribbon for honorable mention by Art Digest Magazine. Mrs. Keen was one of only four to receive the distinct honor.

Mrs. Keen dedicated her life to preserving the beauty of southerns flower on her canvases. Her talent won her critical acclaim by art critics and the public all over the world. Her attention to detail was especially keen (pun intended.) The least deviation from the true color or detail of the flower was rejected and thrown away. Her standards of quality led to perfect prints of her works. One publisher misidentified a similar variety of camellia. Many readers wrote in to correct the publisher's error and to vindicate the perfect depiction of the camellia.

Mrs. Keen was personally fond of the magnolias of the South. She toured many gardens in order to select the perfect example of the fragrant beauty. Her portraits were often life-sized, captured at the moment of perfection. Mrs. Keen also captured the beauty of other southern flowers; the Narcissus, the Daffodil, the Violet, the Hyacinth, and the Periwinkle.

Lila Moore Keen was a member of the American Artists Professional League and was associated with a number of famous artists. She served as National Director of the 13th Annual Celebration of American Art Work.

Lila Moore Keen was honored nationwide for her paintings. Her works were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., every other year. She was honored by the American Camellia Society. Keen's flowers adorned the covers of national flower publications. In addition to her floral portraits, Lila Moore Keen's landscapes and portraits were displayed in major cities of our country. Some of the children, who had their portraits done, didn't like them because Mrs. Keen left their freckles on their faces. Lila Moore Keen's originals are highly sought after by art lovers - some commanding prices above one thousand dollars. The prints of her camellias and magnolias are favorites among collectors and lovers of flowers everywhere.

Lila Moore Keen died in 1963. Her legacy lives on the walls of the Dublin-Laurens Museum. Her son, James L. Keen, III, gave a collection of eighty of her works to the museum several years ago. Other examples of her works have been donated by others. The museum displays a large portion of these paintings on a regular basis. Two of the camellia prints are available for sale at the museum. My words do no justice the works of Lila Moore Keen. They are an invitation to come by the museum and enjoy the beauty and splendor of the portraits of the most beautiful flowers of the South by Lila Moore Keen, "The Lady of the Camellias."