“GOODWILL AMBASSADOR” OF
By Nowell Briscoe
By Nowell Briscoe
defines the term “ambassador” as “an authorized representative or
messenger.” So in such terms
a “goodwill ambassador” would be a representative or messenger who promotes
or spreads goodwill to others.
city or town has a person or persons who have the best interests of their city
always in mind, wanting to showcase and promote the best their community can
offer to others.
many years Monroe was fortunate in having such a leader in civic and community
endeavors, one who loved his town so much that he went over and above the call
to let folks outside our hamlet know what a great city it was and even going so
far as to coerce folks and businesses to move here.
man could almost be called a “native” in that he was born and reared in
Jersey, Ga., but once he set foot on Monroe soil, he was bound and determined to
see his city be the best it could during his lifetime and even after he was
gone. The name John Lescar McGarity
still rings with a mighty force in Monroe because of his efforts to ensure our
town was “the place to be.” In
today’s terminology, if there was ever a “mover and shaker” for Monroe, J.
L. McGarity was the one.
in 1879, Jersey was probably a bit smaller than it is now, but when Joseph A.
and Eudora Abercrombie McGarity welcomed their new son on September 2nd,
I wonder if they had any inkling of the influence their son would have during
McGarity attended the Jersey schools and then entered Emory College which was
located at Oxford, Ga. Upon his
graduation in 1900, he returned back to Jersey and worked for the Bank of Jersey
for several years before going into business with his brother, Bob and Josiah
Blasingame opening a general store. The
business was known as Blasingame & McGarity.
L. McGarity found the perfect companion for the road he set for his life when he
married Miss Jamie Caldwell of Knoxville, Tennessee. They were married in
Fountain City, near Knoxville in April 1906 and soon began raising a family
which included daughter Ione, who died when she was four years old, and sons
Lescar Caldwell and Carson McGarity.
1918 the family moved to Monroe and Mr. McGarity operated an automobile agency
selling at various times such cars as the Maxwell, Chalmers, Moon, National and
Thompson of Madison had been selling Ford automobiles in Monroe for some time
and in 1921 Mr. McGarity purchased the business and began The J. L. McGarity
Company, continuing to sell the Ford line of automobiles. The first location for
the business was in the site which formerly housed the Monroe Recreation Parlor.
The company then moved to the location where Murray Motor Company
operated and the third home for the company was back to Broad Street with the
final location on East Spring Street. As traveling and recruiting businesses to
come to Monroe took Mr. McGarity away from the company for long periods of time,
he passed along the business to son Caldwell in the 40’s. Grandson Michael
joined the dealership in 1970 and assumed the presidency in 1985.
When the company was sold to Carey Paul Ford in 2003, it was the second
oldest Ford dealership in Georgia and in the top 50 oldest in the country.
L. McGarity joined the Methodist Church as a child in Jersey which led to an
exemplary life of Christian service. He
joined the Monroe First Methodist Church upon his arrival in Monroe and became
active with the board of stewards, serving many years on the board and in the
role as president. He also served
his church as superintendent of the Sunday school department along with teaching
the men’s Bible Class.
was also a charter member of the Monroe Kiwanis Club, serving as president and
director of the club. Several years
prior to his death he was elected as lieutenant governor of the 7th
was named District Supervisor of the Upper Ocmulgee Soil Conservation District
in 1952 and gave of his time and energies in helping farmers see the need to
preserve the rich assets of soil and water on their property.
1954 Mr. McGarity was named manager and president of the Monroe-Walton County
Chamber of Commerce, a position he held until 1956 a year before his death.
The Monroe Rotary Club named him “Monroe’s Man of the Year” in 1954
in recognition for all of his service to his community.
This announcement was made at the Rotary Ladies Night gathering on
February 10, 1954 which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of
Rotary International. The
presentation of the award was made by club president Jim Wright and cited Mr.
McGarity for being instrumental in securing four new industrial plants for the
was elected president of the Georgia Association of Soil Conservation District
Supervisors in December of 1955.
spent most of his life selling and not in a small way, it is no wonder that
Atlanta Journal reporter Margaret Shannon found
the perfect subject for her column in 1955 which was titled: “He Knows
How to Sell Monroe”. She began her
article in saying, “Mr. J. L. McGarity does not hunt….with a gun that is.
He seems to go after industries with a bird-dog instinct.
He can sense even in which of Atlanta’s several dozen hostelries a
prospective manufacturer may be spending the night.”
She went on to describe how determined Mr. McGarity was when it came to
discussing with potential businesses how wonderful Monroe would be to begin
operations in his town.
Shannon described how Mr. McGarity operates:
“He tells folks that Monroe doesn’t offer special concessions to
attract industries, but it lets out the stops on its natural advantages, such as
what a fine place it is to live. When
one of the prospects mentioned that his wife had to like whatever town was
chosen for his new plant, Mr. McGarity proceeded to get the presidents of the
local women’s clubs, the preachers and other nice folks to write her about the
marvels of Monroe. ‘After all,’
he said, ‘the town has been called “the Cradle of Governor’s” and at
last count had given Georgia four.’”
pointed out how Mr. McGarity had spent his life selling and it was a rather
happy thing that he was able to turn his talents now to benefit the community. In
the span of a year and a half, his efforts saw seven companies locate to Monroe
which employed more than 1200 workers whose combined payrolls exceeded the value
of the Monroe cotton crop from several years prior which helped people realize
Monroe was more than just a cotton town. Her column ended with a quote from the
man himself: “The secret of selling is to love people. I love them.
After talking to them a while, I can find something in them I would like
testament to his love of travel, I recently found in my father’s papers a
handwritten letter to him from Mr. McGarity written in 1951 postmarked July 11
from Skagway, Alaska. He enclosed a gift in his letter, a cotton bloom from one
of the cotton fields he visited on his trip. I am amazed the bloom has survived
in such good fashion after 63 years!
grieved heavily on March 27th 1957 when word spread its best known
and beloved advocates for the city had died.
John Lescar McGarity’s exciting life of “Messenger & Advocate of
Monroe” came to an end after a year of declining health.
attended and impressive funeral services were held at the Monroe First Methodist
Church on March 29th with Rev. Ralph Shea officiating with interment
at his native Jersey Methodist Church cemetery.
1968 son Caldwell established through the Chamber of Commerce an annual award
called the J. L. McGarity Citizenship Award.
It is the oldest and most prestigious award the group gives and is
awarded to one person who most exemplifies the leadership, initiative, drive,
time and love of public service in helping Walton County continue as a
prosperous, growing and welcoming community.
To date 59 citizens have been recognized for their civic endeavors.
owes a large debt of gratitude to J. L. McGarity for the love, appreciation and
vision he saw for his town and the lengths he went in order to ensure Monroe and
Walton County would continue to prosper long after he was gone.
I think the title “Monroe’s Goodwill Ambassador” would have been
appropriate for his tombstone for giving so much of his life to the betterment
of the city he called home.
(Grateful appreciation is
extended to Michael McGarity for providing additional information to the writer
about his grandfather)