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December 9, 2012

Former Valdosta mayor returns for book signing

VALDOSTA — Many Valdostans will remember Gill Autrey as Valdosta’s one-time mayor, but for more than a decade he’s lived in Apalachicola where he’s become a boat captain and now the author of a new book.

On Monday evening, Autrey returns to Valdosta to sign his book, “Gone with the Tides and Other Southern Stories.” He wrote the stories and his wife, Lane, took the book’s photos.

“The stories are all true with a little poetic license here and there, some were written for a monthly paper, The St. George Island Times, no longer in publication,” Autrey says. “Others were written over a period of years. I would call them reflections.”

Autrey has led a life that seems too busy for reflection but one that would give much to reflect upon.

Autrey served in Vietnam where Autrey served as a Marine, flying CH-53 Sikorsky helicopters, rising to the rank of captain.

He has worked in banking, securities, and tomato farming. From 1986-88, Autrey served as Valdosta’s mayor. He was instrumental in saving Moody Air Force Base in the early 1990s, when the base faced possible closure.

Yet, by the late 1990s, he was ready for a dramatic change in his life.

“My days in Valdosta are very special to me, but after some health problems and personal reversals, I decided a different lifestyle might be in order for my long term well being,” Autrey says. “I have been coming to the Apalachicola area since 1973 and always loved the water, so my Mother and I decided to pack up and move down here in August of 1998.”

Sadly, the only times he usually returns to Valdosta is for funerals, “and that's getting way too often, but many of my friends come visit and we play music and fish.”

Arriving in 1998, Autrey worked in real estate. As the market went south, he looked for another way to make a living. Used to living a versatile life, he set his eye upon the sea.

“I've been on the water most of my life and have always wanted to get my captain’s license so it was a natural for me,” Autrey says. “‘Lily’ is a 28-foot Adventure Craft houseboat with a sun deck on top. I do river cruises on the Apalachicola River and into the back waters, a 246,000-acre estuarine preserve that protects the Apalachicola Bay, the most productive estuary in the Northern Hemisphere. I take families, children, pets, etc., and we just go exploring.”

He has been a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain for more than four years. Lily is his 18th boat.

His adventures and his political life prepared him to write a book.

“When I was in public life, I was often asked to speak. I more often told stories rather than making a typical political speech,” Autrey says. “I've been writing some down over the last several years. Some folks are already asking for the next book. I have it in my head and I expect it will be out some time in the next year.”

In terms of life, Gill Autrey believes in living it to the fullest, and offers some advice for those seeking something different or something more.

“First decide what it is they would rather be doing and if it’s their passion they have to figure out how to give up what is now giving them security and weigh everything out,” Autrey says. “It’s not for everyone. I’ve just always thought life was an adventure and I can’t wait to turn the next page. I don’t look back.”


Capt. Gill Autrey will sign his book, “Gone with the Tides and Other Southern Stories,” 5-7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, 527 N. Patterson St. More information: Call (229) 247-2787; or visit

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