A week or so back, my coffee club members were gathered around the table talking about the folks in our respective towns who were called “legends and when it came my turn to recall those from my hometown, I was flooded with memories of quite a few who, from my perspective, could be included in that category.

          Club member Jesse from Macon uttered a statement I found so true I wanted to include it in my column about some of Monroe’s legends.  Jesse’s comment was: “Just because these folks are all dead doesn’t mean they should be forgotten for the contributions they made.”  How true….how very true.

          With that sentiment in mind, I decided my August column would reflect some Monroe citizens I considered to have attained “legendary status”.  Two folks came to mind instantly; Anita Butts Sams and Travis Ellison, each of whom dedicated their lives and talents to make Monroe a better place and at the same time just the mention of their names brings instant recognition to those who are still around when these folks were alive.

          Even though she has been gone since 1993, the mention of Anita Butts Sams continues to bring instant recognition to many of Monroe’s history connoisseur’s as being the author of the definitive book on Monroe and Walton County history, “Wayfarers in Walton”, which was published in 1967 and is still in print today.

          No one else knew and loved Monroe and Walton County as much as Anita Sams.  She was the daughter of the late Joel W. and Elizabeth Launius Butts and was born on May 22, 1913.  After completing her studies in the local schools, Anita completed her requirements for a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in 1936.  She landed a job with the Rawson-Morrill Advertising Agency in Atlanta and on October 20, 1938 married Robert S. Sams.  The couple returned to Monroe in 1941 and Anita began a life of great literary and historical proportions.

          Among the contributions she made to the Walton County area, her legacy centers primarily on that of county historian. Her long-time research efforts culminated in the publication of “Wayfarers in Walton” in 1967, which gives readers an in depth history of the county.  Anita also edited the Civil War letters of Governor Henry McDaniel, given to her by her good friend, Mrs. Henry McDaniel Tichenor.  The book was published in 1977 under the title, “With Unabated Trust”.

          Besides her interest in her county’s history, Anita Sams was a founder and former president of the Monroe Junior Service League, a member of the Monroe-Walton County Public Library’s Board of Directors, a former secretary and member of the As You Like It Study Club along with being one of the founders, trustee and president of the Historical Society of Walton County.

          Never liking being too far away from her typewriter, Anita was a long time employee of the Walton Tribune as a book reviewer, a historical writer and organizer of the church news section of the paper, “Walton Ways”.

          With her death on July 6, 1993, Tribune columnist Wayne Shields said of his long- time friend and fellow writer, “She was quite a woman and she will be greatly missed.”


          Monroe has been fortunate in having much of its history recorded by camera with prints showing its growth, development and social interactions through the years.  The late E. M. Carnes with his old tripod camera, captured much of Monroe’s early history on film which has been lovingly kept and maintained by Larry Witcher. But the man many still remember and appreciate with great affection and who was called, “Mr. Photography”, by his friend Wayne Shields, was the city’s own camera bug, Travis Ellison.

          I well remember Travis buzzing around town like a bumblebee on steroids as he flew from one appointment to another, that ever present cigarette always hanging precariously from his lip.  No matter what part of town you might be in, or what the occasion, it was not unusual to look up and find Travis and his camera hovering, waiting to get just the perfect setting for a variety of shots. There were few folks in Monroe who didn’t know Travis by either sight or name.  It was probably for many the camera that gave him away.

          After being away for a short while and returning back to his home turf, Tribune columnist Wayne Shields, in his usual candid manner, wrote a small tribute to his old chum upon his return in September of 1978.  Who better to give a warm welcome back than Maestro Shields?  The following quotes from the article clearly indicate the warmth and affection Mr. Shields had for his friend:

          “Travis Ellison is back in town.  You newcomers will perhaps ask, “Who?”  Well, he is a photographer who left here a few years ago only to return to his home territory.  If you don’t know Travis, we hereby prepare you for a character out of fiction.

          This cigarette dangling, baldish man with a slight stoop (received from bending over a camera for hours) will quickly tell you he is the best. “I’m the old pro, huh, Wayne?  How can you beat that shot?”

           I remember one time I asked for information to help a Corps member construct a pin hole camera (no lens) for her project in science. Travis simply said, ‘make this cardboard box, see….4x6 inches, tape it up, bring it to me.  I’ll put the film plate in the thing, let her take it to school and when she shoots her picture, pull this piece of tape over the pin hole off for 21 seconds.  Bring it back to me and I’ll develop it during her class’

          I couldn’t believe it.  The fool picture was as clear as one shot with a Yashika or for sure, a box camera of the old school.

          Travis has had many accomplishments: Air Force top flight position overseas, his technical camera assignments for various branches of government, his quality sports pictures, etc. Fast, accurate and good are the words for ‘Mister Photography’.

          But I warn you, Travis Ellison is a character with cameras slung over his shoulder.

          If you can’t find Ellison, try the golf course at some club.  His cameras are with him, hid in the bushes while he plays a few holes with some friends.  Heat up the coffee….Ellison is back in town.”

          Travis did what he did for two reasons: he loved what he did and felt his talent was a way of preserving our local history.  I have a few photos Travis did for me which have survived quite nicely over time, still looking as crisp and pristine as the day he snapped them.  Believe it or not, Travis had a soft spot in his heart and on occasion when photos were taken and the customer could not pay for them, well ol’ Travis, that cigarette looking about to drop from his lips, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, don’t worry about it, if you ever have some extra bucks you can pay me then.”  That tells you all you need to know about my buddy and Monroe legend Travis Ellison.