March 1953: Youth promote county through essay contest


"Sell Walker County every day in every way everywhere we go" was a winning sentiment for 16-year-old Christie W. Summers III in March 1953. Summers, a junior at Walker County High School, won the high school division of the "Operation Enthusiasm" essay contest sponsored by the Jasper Junior Chamber of Commerce.

The Mountain Eagle published the essays of Summers and five other contest winners in the March 12, 1953, issue.

"When you go out of town, do you brag on Walker County and talk people into coming here?" Summers asked. "Do you think the state of Texas got its reputation by doing nothing? No, it didn't. Every true Texan is proud of his state and will go out of his way to tell you about its best features...If we in Walker County show as much pride in Walker County we will bring a lot of people to Walker County."

Tourists were good for business, Summers reminded readers. An average tourist in 1953 spent $12.05 per day — $3.75 on lodging, $3.75 on transportation. $2.25 on pleasure, $1.15 on incidentals, and $1.15 on laundry, replacements, etc.

Walker County had plenty to offer visitors, according to Summers. His list of attractions included the dome at First Methodist Church, Clear Creek Falls, Natural Bridge and a number of places to hunt and fish.

Charles Tweedy, winner of the junior high school division, cited a different set of advantages.

"Walker County, with its advantages of natural resources and cheap power, adequate transportation facilities, nearness to raw materials and markets, and ample labor supply has all of the attractions which should appeal to the profit-minded industrialist," wrote Tweedy, 13, an eighth grader at Central Junior High.

Tweedy gave the county's population as 64,000, divided mostly into three major towns: Jasper (8,557), Cordova (3,147) and Carbon Hill (2,187).

The main industries were coal mining and lumber. Tweedy also pointed out that the county was in the center of the cotton belt, which made it an ideal area for the textile industry.

To supply these various industries, the county had an available labor supply of between 3,000 and 4,000 workers, most of whom were highly skilled and about half of whom were between the ages of 25 and 44.

Walker County was connected to the wider world via the Warrior River, five railroads, three bus lines and a class II airport, according to Tweedy.

"What is needed is a hard-hitting campaign to publicize the many advantages that Walker County has in abundance, and industry will soon flow in, bringing prosperity to both the industries and ourselves," Tweedy insisted.

Future presiding Circuit Court Judge James Brotherton won first place in the elementary division. Brotherton listed many of the same attributes as Summers and Tweedy.

"It offers opportunities in farming, in cattle raising, in mining, in dairying and in other industries. It has fine school systems, good parks and recreational facilities. Most of all it has a good future," Brotherton wrote.

Three additional winners were chosen from the county's all-black schools.

Emily Jean Johnson, a senior at Walker County Training School, hit on many of the same points as the three young men. 

Mary Ida Johnson, a 15-year-old Parrish Junior High student, threw two new concepts into the mix — hospitality and freedom.

"Walker County is a good place to live because of its educational advantages. In this county, every boy and girl, both white and colored, may attend school," Johnson wrote. "Recently the county has built a nice Training school for Negroes at Jasper, the county seat of Walker County, and on the west side a housing project is underway now. When completed, homes may be had for families who may want their children to enter the Training school. This is certainly an upward climb for Walker County."

Johnson also boasted that the people of Walker County "are free to worship as you see fit. You are free to hunt, fish and have other forms of recreation so long as you do not interfere with the rights of others. Freedom, good health and employment should mean happiness."

Willie George Ellis, winner of the elementary division, addressed the topic of race relations even more directly.

"Perhaps the greatest reason why Walker County is a good place to live is because of the lack of hatred and prejudice as is found in some counties. The white and colored get along well together. They are courteous, kind and understanding," Ellis wrote.

Neighbors helped neighbors, no matter their color, according to Ellis, a sixth grade student at Aldridge.

"Should disaster strike in any home, white or colored, our good neighbors are always ready and willing to work...We believe in fair play in our courts and in our streets. We believe in the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God."