PRESTON HERITAGE ASSET FOR COUNTY

 

          The death of Monroe native and Social Circle resident John Troy Preston, III, on January 1,2017 brought to mind the great impact not only he but his entire family has had in the Monroe area which began with his his early ancestors, Thomas & Mary Harrison Preston. They registered a land grant in Walton County on April 29, 1822 and moved to the area and began a family which is of record since 1830. Since that time, the name Preston has been synonymous with civic, cultural and philanthropic endeavors to the present day.

          Reflecting on Troy’s life and his accomplishments it is not hard to see just where his enthusiasm for life and his work ethics came from. These core values were instilled in him, not only by his parents, John & Eleanor, but by his grandparents, J. Troy and “Miss Leila” Breedlove Preston. And from digging through much information on the family, I learned the Preston’s are related to practically everyone in Monroe, which I think Troy gained a lot of pride in being able to call just about everybody“cousin”!

          In the Tribune article columnist Stephen Milligan wrote about Troy in the January 4th issue, he gave an account of the various roles he played in the health care community in Monroe, serving as the chairman of the Walton Medical Foundation and executive director of the Walton County Health Care Foundation and his concerns for nurturing the health care in Walton County.    

          Being several years older than me and already away from Monroe by the time I graduated high school, I wanted to know about young Troy Preston and what his life was like growing up in Monroe.  Troy’s wife Pat and son Charles were generous in providing a look back at his early life and the paths he took which ultimately led to his becoming the chief executive overseeing healthcare for Monroe and Walton County.

          John Troy Preston, III was born on March 26, 1942 at the old Walton County Hospital located then at Walker Park.  He attended Monroe grammar, junior high and high school through his junior year. During his junior high school years he was a paper boy delivering the Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution along with working for the Walton Tribune writing high school sports articles. Another job he had was working for Mendel’s Grocery on Broad Street. One of his favorite stories was telling how he delivered pallets of sugar to folks outside of town and his firm conviction these pallets of sugar were being used in the making of moonshine.

During WWII when Troy’s father served in the Navy the family lived in New Orleans.  When John was shipped out, Eleanor & Troy lived with her parents in Covington.  At the end of the war they moved back to Monroe and lived on Milledge Avenue in the old house next to the jail. There are stories of young Troy and Barney Howard, whose father was sheriff, playing in the old jail building, running rampant from one floor to another and sometimes being threatened with being locked in a cell if they didn’t behave.  Another childhood friend, Adelaide Hanson who lived with her aunts on Washington Street, learned from Troy how to ride a bike and climb the pecan trees behind the jail.  Leaving Milledge Avenue, the family moved into their new home on Pinecrest Drive where Troy became good friends with Dubby Mosely, John & Mike Eckles, Clifford & Bernard Lowery, Charles Sanders and Sandy & Randy Camp.

Leaving Monroe High School at the end of his junior year, he entered Emory-at-Oxford.  He sang in the Oxford Glee Club along with the late Bill Childers.  To supplement his allowance from his parents, Troy typed term papers and themes for his classmates.  After his two years at Oxford he transferred to the University of Georgia, graduating with a BS in Business Administration, focusing on insurance.  He was a member of the Chi Psi Fraternity and a member of the Insurance Society.

                              After marrying his college sweetheart, Patricia Phillips, they lived for a short time with Troy’s grandfather, Troy Preston, Sr. at his home on Washington Street. Troy & Pat moved to Atlanta when Troy landed a job with the Continental Insurance Company where he was a claims adjuster. During his time in Atlanta he also served with the National Guard.

          In 1968 the couple returned to Monroe where they bought a home and in 1969 Troy purchased an insurance company in Social Circle which he expanded to include real estate sales, appraisals and development. Troy made a daily commute to Social Circle until 1984 when he and Pat found the perfect house for them became residents of that tiny hamlet.

          No one loved a good story or to tell a joke more than Troy Preston.  He had a tremendous sense of humor and often times found himself at the wrong end of a story which only added more humor to the tale being told.  During his lifetime he had several nicknames, “Buddha” called by his fraternity brothers, “T-Roy” by friends and family and the name “Dynamite” given to him by longtime friend, Jimmy Conner.  Jimmy describes how Troy came to hold that particular name: “After we graduated in ’57, Carl Sorrells sons Bill & Phil decided to build a pond at a cabin they had on some farm land out in the country.  We were all out there one afternoon when Troy drove up in his father’s black Chevrolet. The Sorrells boys were getting ready to blast some tree stumps.  One of the brothers told Troy he was parked too close to where the action was about to happen and needed to move the car back so no damage would occur to the car.  Troy decided the car was fine where it was.  When the first explosion hit and the stump flew in the air, it landed with a big “thud” right on the hood of Troy’s father’s car!  Troy was immediately nicknamed “Dynamite”.  Word spread of the incident and he was referred to by that name by those who knew the origin of the moniker. I never did know if Troy had to pay for the repairs to his father’s car.  The last time I saw him I greeted him by “Dynamite” and we still laughed over that incident so many years ago.”

          Troy was the family historian and loved delving into genealogy about the Preston’s, Breedlove’s & Adams branches of the family tree.  He enjoyed nothing more than taking relatives to the Preston landmarks in Good Hope, Ga where the Preston cemetery is located along with taking them to the site of where the ancestral Preston homestead was as he told tales of the various family members.

          In thinking back to what a large family the Preston clan was, I remember discussing with the late Preston Adams how he came to be connected with the Preston family.  “My boy,” he told me, sitting in his office at the National Bank of Monroe, one afternoon, “You and I are related through the Preston family.  Your great grandmother was a Preston who married a Landers, thus producing your grandmother.”  With that proverbial twinkle in his eye, he pulled open his desk drawer and withdrew two pages of genealogy written in his beautiful almost Spenserian script. Handing me these pages he told this would be my “key” in deciphering just how he and I were connected to the Preston’s.  Looking at these almost fifty year old sheets of relatives going almost back to the early beginnings of this city I can trace just where Preston Adams came from along with Troy Preston’s great, great grandparents and when they came to Monroe. 

          Since the Preston family has been instrumental in much of the development of Monroe and Walton County, I thought it would be of merit to give a background glimpse into the family members who were dedicated in helping shape early Monroe and the surrounding area to the town we call home today.

          When Ben F. & Annie Johnston Preston began their family in Monroe in  the mid 1850’s, they had no concept of how far reaching their lineage would stretch or the scope of influence their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would have on the history of Monroe and Walton County. One of their children, Joseph Lee married Lucy Carlton and from that union came children: John Troy, J. Otto, Archibald B., Walter C. and Maude Preston Warren.

          On January 16, 1887, John Troy Preston was born in Monroe and attended the local schools.  After graduating, he left Monroe to work one year in Jefferson. In 1903 he began a 54 year career working for the Monroe Oil & Fertilizer Company, attaining the position of president of the company when he retired in 1957. On December 27th 1908, he married Mary Leila Breedlove, a native of Monroe and this union produced their children: John Troy, Jr., Lucy and William Lee Preston.

          In the early 1920’s Troy Preston was elected to the state house of representatives where he later served in the senate.

          He was also a charter member of the Monroe Kiwanis Club where he served for 44 years.

          During World War II, he was chairman of the local selective service board and served for 20 years as a member of the Monroe Water & Light Commission.  He was a deacon of the Monroe First Baptist Church where he also served as clerk for many years.        

          Troy Preston was a person who had a tremendous personality and never met a stranger.  While farming took up a great portion of his life, he was never too busy to put down a plow or come in from his fields of cotton to help out in some capacity when Monroe needed a special individual to chair a cause or organize a meeting.

          On May 23, 1967, John Troy Preston died at age 80. His funeral service was conducted from the Monroe First Baptist Church with interment following at Rest Haven Cemetery.

          Troy Preston’s brother, Archibald (Archie) Barrett Preston, was another family member whose concern and care of his hometown was evident in the many facets of life which his life touched.

          Born in Monroe on May 14, 1899, Archie Preston attended the local schools and at age 22 married Miss Nimmie Louise Perry whose union produced their children, J. Nimrod, Nancy, Winnifred and Carolyn Ann

          Archie Preston was a familiar name in the business district of Monroe.  His early business career included working for the W. H. Nunnally Company, The Farmer’s Bank and later was associated with the Wright Gin & Trading Company where he was manager and later president of the company.  He was a charter member of the Monroe Rotary Club and was the founder of Monroe’s Chamber of Commerce where he held the position of Executive Secretary.

          Being keenly interested in Monroe’s civic activities, he was very active in the local Boy Scouts group along with being the fund drive chairman of the Walton County Chapter of the American Red Cross.  For 16 years he was chairman of the Walton County Democratic Executive Committee and served for 12 years as a member of the Monroe City Council along with being Mayor pro-tem for four years.  He also served as treasurer of the Monroe First Baptist Church for 20 years also serving on the church board of deacons, serving as chairman for two terms.  At the age of 31 he joined the local chapter of the Masons.

          Archie Preston died suddenly on October 16, 1959 and the Walton Tribune published an editorial which stated: “The hand of A.B. Preston was ever present to back any worthwhile movement or cause, and he was known, loved and respected as one of our finest.”

          Archie Preston’s son, Joseph Nimrod Preston, was born on September 26, 1923 in Monroe, attending the schools.  He was a graduate of the University of Georgia and an army veteran of World War II. He received the Purple Heart and Silver Star. Nimrod served Monroe as mayor from 1956 to 1959. He was a director of the Georgia Municipal Association, served on the board of the Walton County Hospital Authority, the Monroe Board of Education, was chairman of the Walton County Board of Tax Equalizers and served on the Juvenile Court Review Panel.  He was a charter member of the Monroe Golf and Country Club. His death occurred on April 17, 1996.

          Troy Preston’s son, John T. Preston, Jr., was born in Monroe on June 24, 1910.  He graduated from the local schools and served in the Navy during World War II.  He was a member of the VFW, American Legion, Kiwanis Club and a founding member of the Monroe Golf and Country Club.  Many Monroe residents will remember John and being the long-time assistant postmaster for the Monroe Post Office and was always available with his ever-present smile to assist his customers with their mailing needs or in solving a delivery problem.

          John married Miss Eleanor Piper of Covington and they became the proud parents of son John Troy Preston, III.  Eleanor was a beloved school teacher who taught English in Monroe both junior high and high school levels for many years.

          Eleanor Preston died on September 26, 1980 and husband John died on January 23, 1991.

          William Lee Preston, youngest son of J. Troy Preston, Sr., was born in Monroe on August 11, 1922. He was a 1939 graduate of Monroe High School and enrolled in Mercer University where he graduated in 1943 with a degree in Economics and a minor in journalism.  World War II interrupted his college studies and he served in the 65th Infantry Division of the Third Army commanded by General George Patton.  He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant and was involved in combat duty in Germany, France & Belgium. At the close of the war, he returned home to Monroe to enter law school at the University of Georgia.

          Upon his graduation from law school in June of 1948, he began his distinguished career in law working with Colonel Orrin Roberts.  In 1949 he went into solo practice and married Gloria Power.  He joined the law firm of A. M. Kelly in 1951 until 1961 at which time he began his own law firm which he retired from in 1992. During his legal career he served as city and county attorney and served as counsel for the Walton County Board of Education and the Walton County Hospital Authority.

          Bill Preston served on the State Board of Education from 1964 to 1971.    He was a former Deacon of the First Baptist Church and a charter member of the Monroe Golf and Country Club.  He was a member and former president of the Monroe Kiwanis Club and was a board member of the Walton Foundation along with serving board of directors of the National Bank of Walton County from 1961 to 1994. His death occurred on April 19, 1995.

          Gloria Power Preston Cox was born on August 19, 1927, the youngest child of Floy Garrett and Hubert Francis Power.  She was a 1948 graduate of the Crawford W. Long School of Nursing. She began a private duty practice in Monroe and married W. L. (Bill) Preston in 1949.  After her marriage she became involved with raising a family while doing light nursing on the side.  In 1978 she re-certified her nursing license and joined the faculty of Athens Technical School being in charge of the clinical practice of nurse trainees until her retirement in 1988.  Many Monroe residents can still remember Gloria walking up and down Broad Street in her nurse’s uniform with her cape blowing in the wind.  No one had a sweeter disposition or had more compassion for her patients than Gloria.  Friends and family never questioned her medical integrity and she was always called upon for advice or care, never declining a call when help was needed.      

          Gloria Preston Cox died on March 26, 2011.

          On July 30, 1945, Archie Preston developed what he called a “Business Philosophy” which he shared with all the Preston family who were in business in Monroe.  After 66 years, the thoughts and ideas expressed in this philosophy are just as true today as they were when Archie Preston composed them.  It is perhaps because of these principles many of the Preston family were as successful and well respected in Monroe and Walton County.

          Some of the wisdom and advice Archie passed along are as follows:

          “Sooner or later, a man, if he is wise, discovers that business life is a mixture of dull days and bad, victory and defeat, give and take.”

          “A man learns it does not pay to be a sensitive soul…..He should let some things go over his head like water off a duck’s back.”

          “He who loses his temper usually loses.”

          “He who carries a chip on his shoulder finds it easy to get into a fight.”

          “A person learns the quickest way to become unpopular is to carry tales and gossip about others.”

          “Folks learn it does not matter so much who gets the credit so long as the business shows a profit.”

          “Businessmen learn that buck-passing always turns out to be a boomerang and it never pays.

          “A man is smart to learn the art of getting along.”

          Monroe owes a solid debt of gratitude to the Preston family for their generations-long dedication to Monroe and Walton County in their unselfish and altruistic endeavors to make their town and county one to be proud of.