Today marks the anniversary of the memorial service of one of Tara’s biggest supporters, the late Gene Talmadge, son of the late Senator Herman Talmadge and his wife, Betty Talmadge. It was Mrs. Betty (with Senator Talmadge’s blessing) who purchased Tara in 1980 and brought it to their farm in Lovejoy, Georgia.
For those who may not know the story, Tara was ordered dismantled on the back lot of the old Selznick Studio by Desi Arnaz (the new owner) so they would have room to build the set for Hogan’s Heroes. Tara was obtained at that time by Mr. Julian Foster of Atlanta who planned on bringing it to Atlanta and making it the center piece of a museum to celebrate Gone with the Wind and its connection to Georgia. After the 1960, “Welcome Home Tara” event at the State Capital in Atlanta, the project lost steam and the Tara façade was stored in a barn in north Georgia. It was there Mrs. Betty saw it in 1979 and from there she loaded it into a trailer after its purchase in 1980. Mrs. Betty brought it to Lovejoy as a temporary stop on its way to a new museum…but that never materialized and thus it sat in the barn (where it resides today) waiting for someone (me) to attempt to put it on display. Those of you who have taken the tour of the Tara façade with me know that you did something that no else has ever done…tour Tara.
When I proposed preserving and presenting Tara on the property of the Lovejoy Plantation, it was Gene Talmadge who gave the final permission. Which was the right thing to do as he was then the patriarch of the Lovejoy Plantation (the Crawford-Talmadge House) thus the caretaker of the Tara façade, as well as the Fitzgerald House (Margaret Mitchells family home and her model for Tara) that was also stored in the barn. It was Gene who gave the final go ahead and it was Gene who invited me into his home many times to sit and talk about the plans and the progress I was having with the project.
Although I have posted it many times, few people know of Genes love of the Tara façade and his hopes that it would someday be displayed in the manner that it deserved. Few people know that the Talmadge Home, known as Lovejoy Plantation, the Crawford-Talmadge House, and (for many) Twelve Oaks has a history of its own, having been a survivor of the Battles of Jonesboro and Lovejoy Station and a witness to Sherman’s march to the sea. Few know the true stories of the Crawford ladies who in January 1865, took down their draperies and made new dresses out of them. And few have had the opportunity to walk thru the downstairs of the Crawford House and view the photos of celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Ted Turner, Jane Fonda and Lady Bird Johnson who visited the plantation more than once.
At Genes Memorial, Ambassador Andrew Young gave the eulogy and spoke of the Talmadge family and Gene in particular as he sought to support the people of Georgia and do his best to create and maintain the economic engines that would help to bring jobs to the area. Dr. Young spoke of Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone with the Wind and Gene Talmadge who became the caretaker of the story by watching over both the Tara façade and the Fitzgerald House that was also saved from a wrecking ball by his mother, Mrs. Betty. You see Dr. Young understood the importance of the story to Georgia’s tourism and thus Georgia’s economy,…for Dr. Young remembered the story of “Daddy” King who was at the premier party for Gone with the Wind in Atlanta along with his choir (they sang) as well as his 9 year old son, (Martin Luther King, Jr.) who was part of a young men’s chorus. When Daddy King was asked why he participated he answered, “Because the Premier will bring millions of people to Atlanta and many will need the services my congregants provide”.
Today, in honor of my friend and a great storyteller, the late Gene Talmadge, I post the photo of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir at the Premier and the Lovejoy Plantation House. And I ask you all to look around and see how many GWTW museums tell the story of Tara’s restoration, or even admit that it still exists,…I would imagine there are few. But that is where you come in to share the story and tell the truth.