State Involvement

State Involvement

1950s


The State of Georgia had an interest in acquiring Stone Mountain as early as 1941. The majority of the land on, and around the Mountain, however, was privately owned. Descendants of the Venable family owned the majority of the land, though some had sold their portions. The fact that ownership of the land was fragmented made its purchase all the more difficult for the State of Georgia. Nor were the owners of the property looking to sell the land. For some, such as Mrs. Roper, the Venable heir, the land had deep sentimental value. The owners of the property had a strong commitment to the completion of the Memorial. To ensure the completion of the Confederate Monument and to acquire Stone Mountain for the State of Georgia, the State Park Authority was established by the Georgia State Legislature. The Park Authority was limited in its capabilities however, and was actually designed to assure the maintenance of the Memorial and adjacent facilities after the land was purchased.

The same year the State Authority was established, 1941, Governor Eugene Talmadge created a commission to oversee the completion of the project. The commission was to act as an agent of the Governor. The Governor of Georgia has an unusually high degree of control over expenditures, thus Talmadge's appointment of a committee to conduct cost analysis reports was especially important in facilitating the purchase of the mountain by the State. Whereas the State Authority was to assist in the completion of the Memorial and take full responsibility for other tasks in connection therewith, the commission of the Governor set forth with only one directive: to complete the project. To this end, the commission created tentative plans for a large park. A park designed around, but not limited to, the Confederate Memorial. The commission planned to acquire labor through the WPA. The WPA, as well as private contributors, were expected also to contribute financially to the project. The commission selected Julian Harris, of Atlanta, to complete the carving. Unfortunately, World War II interrupted the process and the commission was never reactivated. Their plans, such as creating a park at the base of the Mountain were modified and incorporated into many of the designs of the Hancock Era.

Governor Herman Talmadge followed the advice of the State Legislature and reactivated the Park Authority in 1952. Due to the Korean War and pressing economic issues within the State of Georgia, Talmadge was not in a "mountain buying mood" at the time and it would take another three years and a new Governor, to bring State interest in Stone Mountain back into the public eye. Following his inauguration, Governor Marvin Griffin set forth to acquire the mountain. A series of private ownership disputes over the mountain curtailed Griffin's efforts, however. In January, 1958, Griffin reaffirmed his commitment to owning the Confederate Memorial in his State of the State address. He is quoted as saying:
"I am convinced that the purchase of Stone Mountain and adjacent properties by the state, and completion of the Confederate Memorial by a competent authority will be of everlasting benefit to the present generation and all future citizens of this state, and the entire southland."

In September of that year, the State of Georgia purchased the mountain property for $1,125,000. State Legislators were confident that the revenue generated from gasoline taxes alone would pay for the monument in a series of years. The fact that the Memorial would attract out-of-state visitors made the purchase even more of a bargain. Yet it is easy to discern from the statements of those involved with the purchase, that the motivations of all involved, though shrouded in a veil of Southern Pride, were economic. The economic aspect was transferred over to the Park Authority in 1958. The Park Authority was granted the power to not only oversee the completion of the Confederate Memorial, but also to have dominion over the parks, recreation facilities and utilities which surrounded the Monument. In addition to continuing to honor these responsibilities, the State Park Authority has expanded and diversified in accordance with the needs of a rapidly changing park. Not only does the Park Authority assure the proper stewardship of the Confederate Memorial and facilities within the park, but it also participates in self liquidating projects designed to generate revenue. As the Park Authority cannot make a profit, as an agency of the State, the excess funds are channeled into the Park or into employee salaries in the form of bonuses.

Under the watchful eye of the Park Authority, the Hancock Era was ushered in.



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