A familiar statue

Samuel Spencer was killed at the age of 59. The accident that took his life happened in the predawn hours of Thanksgiving Day in 1906. Spencer and some of his friends were in Spencer’s private rail car headed for a hunting trip in Virginia. While Spencer and his fellow passengers were asleep, his railcar became uncoupled and coasted to a stop, alone on the railroad tracks. At that time, there was no way for the train that was on the tracks behind Spencer’s train to know that there was a stranded car immediately ahead. The trailing locomotive slammed into Spencer’s crippled car at full speed, crushing the car and killing all inside but one.

Spencer happened to be in a position to own a private railcar because he was the president of the Southern Railway Corporation….and not just any president. Samuel Spencer was much beloved by his employees because he had been responsible for the unprecedented growth that Southern experienced in the late 1800s.

At the time of his death over 30,000 Southern employees donated their own money to commission a statue of their leader. None of those 30,000 employees could have ever imagined that the statue they paid for would end up being what is perhaps the City of Atlanta’s most treasured work of public art. And that is why it is this week’s Stories of Atlanta.

Lance Russell is an Atlanta-based filmmaker and media communicator who, for over three decades, has been entrusted by clients to tell their stories. A seasoned producer with an innate ability to cut to the heart of the matter, Lance’s instincts are tailor-made for today’s “media bite” culture. Brief, poignant and always entertaining, Lance’s current passion is bringing Atlanta’s colorful and inspiring past to life with his “rest of the story” style video series, Stories of Atlanta. “History’s best communicators,” says Lance, “have always been storytellers. It’s in our DNA. ‘Once upon a time’ is how we got to where we are now.”

5 replies
  1. Greg says:

    Spencer was a protégé of J.P. Morgan and by cobbling together several small (sometimes bankrupt) railroads in the Southern US, was able to establish the Southern Railway in 1894. Spencer became quite well liked as President of the Southern, and Spencer, N.C. and the adjacent large rail service yard were named in his honor.. He was indeed killed in a tragic train collision early on a Thanksgiving morning at Lawyer’s Va. (near Lynchburg), but the year was 1906. Earlier in his life he had served in the Confederate Army (Calvary), and for years the statue honoring him had stood in front of Atlanta’s iconic old Terminal Station until it’s demise in 1970.Report

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  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to tout the statue of the Confederate veteran Spencer while at the same time promoting Emory University’s witch hunt for anything and everything related to the Confederacy?Report

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    • Greg says:

      There is yet another statue of a Confederate veteran (a Lt. Colonel) standing prominently in Atlanta…..many visitors to its site even make sure to have their photo taken standing next to this statue. (121 Baker Street) Not sure how long it will remain standing, however, once the Dudley-do-Rights at Emory, etc. get wind of it.Report

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      • brainstar8 says:

        People are short-sighted about this issue. It’s all about politics. Democrats continue to make the same mistakes that brought them to where they are today: Republicans in control of Congress and the Oval. Their party is gutted. Yet they continue down a path of handwringing, protests and grand pronouncements about causes that most voters don’t care about. This monuments thing is but one of them.
        People who are frightened or offended by monuments should not look at them. They should, however, vote every chance they get – especially in 2018.

        On the other side of the coin, people who call themselves white supremacists should steer clear of protests about black causes. The First Amendment is on their side. Don’t visit the MLK Center if it offends you. It doesn’t make sense to spend your valuable time potentially causing problems for yourself and others.Report

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