September 22, 2009

Bandy Center to be clearinghouse for area history

By Rachel Brown

Dalton State College’s newly opened Bandy Heritage Center will preserve not just Dalton’s history but also the history of all of Northwest Georgia, officials said.

College officials on Tuesday introduced the heritage center’s new director, Kentucky native John Fowler, and assistant director, Rome native Heather Howell, during a ceremony to celebrate the creation of the history preservation program. Both come from the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University.

Lifelong Dalton resident Jack Bandy said he endowed the center with $2 million for staff and materials.

“We want to make something that would be real and would be large enough and important enough,” Bandy said.

What he means is that it would be important enough to preserve an area as rich in history as Dalton. The center’s primary tasks will be preserving — and sharing with the public — the American Indian heritage, textile industry beginnings and Civil War history of Whitfield and several other northwest Georgia counties.

“This will be a place I am very hopeful the state will look to (for industry, Civil War and native American history),” Fowler said. “This history needs to be preserved and protected.”

The center doesn’t have a facility yet, but Fowler and Howell have offices in the Derrell C. Roberts Library on campus and an area to store their materials and time to conduct historical research. One day, they hope to have a museum where members of the public can learn about local history, and they plan to create a curriculum for area school children.

They are coordinating with historical societies and preservation groups in Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties.

Judy Alderman, president of the Prater’s Mill Foundation, said board members recently voted to put their artifacts inside the Bandy center as soon as officials have a place to store and display them. They include cassette recordings of oral histories from local veterans as well as hand-tufted and chenille bedspreads.

“Some are in a climate-controlled mini warehouse, which is really not the proper care,” Alderman said. “They need to be shared with the public.”

A planning committee has worked on opening the Bandy Center program for 18 months.

Bandy said his mother, Dicksie Bradley Bandy, planted an interest in history deep inside him. She passed away 20 years ago, he said, but was instrumental in preserving the Chief Vann House in Murray County and getting the state to accept ownership of it. Bandy made his living as one of the founders of Coronet Industries, which changed hands several times before finally landing with Beaulieu.

Howell is also teaching American history classes at the college, and Fowler is slated to begin teaching more specialized classes this summer.

College president John Schwenn said the historical preservation program wouldn’t be possible without Bandy’s generosity.