McGehee was a great ambassador for our city

Published 7:52 pm Tuesday, March 11, 2014

He came here from his native Marianna, Florida, home in the early 1980s to take over the operation of the Corman-founded Southland telephone Company. Jeff McGehee left his mark here with outstanding community and business contributions.

Telephone employees regarded him as the “man who looked after our welfare.” In other words, he always sought the best for his employees. He, particularly, initiated a wonderful insurance and retirement program for them. And, in civic affairs he was always at the forefront, keeping Atmore “on top” in the eyes of many.

In the years that followed, he ascended up the ladder of supervision with what had become Frontier Communications. This new responsibility took him away frequently on numerous flights to and from Minnesota. Even then, he found time to chair several local civic groups, particularly Rotary affairs. One of his pet projects was the Rotary Club sponsored Fiddlers’ Convention. The talent of these bands was outstanding and folks came from near and far to enjoy these events. Working with others in organizing these conventions, it was his recognition of this talent that made these conventions so successful.

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He was always so much relaxed here, enjoying time with his wife and children, each time he returned home from hectic air plane flights from Minnesota. A regular at our coffee sessions, he seemed to enjoy meeting with us and “just being one of the guys.”

Following a setback with health problems, he left Atmore and moved to North Carolina where he passed away. But he will always be remembered as a man who made Atmore a much better place to live.

My wife’s cousin Rickey Mason, the son of Autry Lee Mason, sent me some interesting notes taken from the 1976 Historical Edition of The Atmore Advance and The Brewton Standard publications.

Quite a historian, Mason uncovered quips from Canoe, especially names of early prominent families from there. These are some of the names, and you readily recognize many of these names are from families who still reside there. They are Brooks, Hall, Stallworth, Carden, Leatherwood, Miller, Vickery, Stillings, Gates, Middleton, Watson Findley, Moseley, Lowery, Conn, McGill, Conn, McKinley, Stanton, Young, Black, Bristow, Robinson, Pebbles, Farrars, Fountain, Davidson, Troutman, Myrick, Ray, Graham, Mims, Lee, McMurphy, Abrams, Hills, Etheridge, Bryars, Baggett, Foote, Mixons, Wilson, Dunaway, Dawson and McNeil.

Mason has included other stories of interest, mainly from those labeled under “Alabama Ghost Towns.” I will include one of those stories about a nearby “ghostly town” in an upcoming column.

I received some information this week, from a friend in Kentucky who is closely following the building of a multi-acre religious theme park called Ark Encounter. It will depict all that is involved with Noah’s Ark. Controversial as it may be, Ark Encounter founder Ken Ham is taking on the project, which will be built in the “hills of Kentucky.”

I learned it will include a huge ark with related terrain, animals and bible characters. It is hoped the park will draw visitors from the world over. Bond projects in the state of Kentucky have given its OK for financial help and completion is set for the summer of 2016. I am told that I will be receiving updates on this project and I will keep you informed so that you may want to include it in future vacation plans.

Noah has been in the news lately, especially in the makings of a new movie. A 1966 movie, The Bible, directed by John Huston, also starred him as Noah.

I have always found the Genesis account of the ark most interesting. I especially like the verses, “Make a boat from resinous wood, sealing it with tar: and construct decks and stalls throughout the ship. Make it 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Construct a skylight all the way around the ship, eighteen inches below the roof; and make three decks inside the boat-a bottom, middle, and upper deck-and put a door in the side.”

Speaking of religious movies, The Son of God is scoring big with current movie goers. reports, “the movie grossed $10 million in its second week of release bringing its total gross up to $41,494,000, according to the website” That which is literally “killing” liberal movie producers, actors and directors is the fact most Americans have accepted it for its worth. I hope, perhaps, the Creeks will include it in their repertoire of movies to be shown soon.

In a recent online poll conducted by conservative moviemakers, Robert Powell was selected as most “Christ -like” in his portrayal of Christ. He appeared in that role as Christ in the movie Jesus of Nazareth.

By the way, former Atmore resident and movie and TV actor Paul Smith also had a leading role in a 1960 Christmas TV production, playing the role of Joseph. Paul used the name Paul Birch in the movies. I can still see in my mind that stately portrait of him perched on the mantel in the early 1950s in the living room of The Lowery House.

Next week, I will have more news from nostalgic days gone by.

You can email Lowell McGill at