Valdosta Daily Times


July 14, 2013

WEIRD Valdosta

A few of the stranger stories from the region’s past


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Vachel: I need a little love — a cheerful word. “Oh, I’m very sorry” is all I’ve heard.

All: Oh, we’re so very sorry, what can we say? We’re awfully careful with our love, because it might get away.

Vachel (speaking): But that’s how love grows. You’re supposed to give it away!

All (speaking): Not in Valdosta, G.-A.!

Vachel: Is anybody home?

Coincidentally, Tierney and Robinette are friends of VSU Theatre’s Randy and Jacque Wheeler and were commissioned to write a youth musical for the opening season of Peach State Summer Theatre. Robinette and Tierney found a far more welcoming greeting than Vachel Lindsay did from Valdosta when attending the opening night of their youth play in Valdosta. A Robinette play and one of his adaptations are included in the coming Gingerbread Players of Theatre Guild Valdosta season.

Valdosta’s Lizard King

The late rocker Jim Morrison of the band The Doors, who is often referred to as “the Lizard King,” has some connection with Valdosta, though no one seems exactly certain what it might be.

Some legends have placed Morrison in Valdosta, for a very brief time during his youth. Legend claims he wrote poetry in Sunset Hill Cemetery, but there is no known evidence to support these claims.

The Morrison biography “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” by Danny Sugerman and Jerry Hopkins, lists Valdosta as a locale for the authors’ research, though Valdosta is not mentioned in the book’s text. Occasional attempts to interview the authors have been fruitless through the years.

Valdosta vs. ‘God’

In the early 1900s, the black evangelist who became famous in the later 20th century as Father Divine preached throughout Georgia and set up a ministry in Valdosta in late 1913, according to past information released by the Lowndes County Historical Society. During this period, Father Divine claimed to be God.

He gained a strong following among women, teaching “celibacy and the rejection of gender categorizations, which was liberating doctrine for Southern black women." The men, however, “were not amused.”

At the urging of followers’ husbands and area preachers, Valdosta arrested “God” in February 1914 on charges of lunacy. That, by the way, is how the arrest report reads that “God” was arrested.

“God’s” influence extended outside of just the black community. He also found followers in Valdosta’s white community. “One white follower, J. R. Moseley, arranged for J. B. Copeland, a respected Valdosta lawyer, to represent him pro bono." "God” was “found mentally sound in spite of ‘maniacal’ beliefs.”

Nonetheless, outraged husbands ran him out of Valdosta.

From there, “God” moved to New York where he started a new mission with many of the same tenets. He eventually took the name of the Rev. Major Jealous Divine. He grew a massive following through the years, attained a great amount of wealth, and much influence. He passed away at the estimated age of 85 in 1965.

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