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CELEBRATION: Lawn chairs hold lots of people participating in the Prelude to the Fourth on the Historic Courthouse Square in Lawrenceville. The next celebration comes on July 3. Call early to reserve your spot. See more details at Today's Focus below.

Issue 14.25 | June 20, 2014

:: L'ville's Prelude to 4th to be July 3

:: Mystery solved on land grantor

Liked Gardner's ideas

Collins Hill bridge, OTC, Kudzu

Academy expands; student honored

:: Arbor-Nomics Tree Service

:: The Merlin Trilogy

:: Now remembering in absence

:: Nesbit's prints found all over

:: Any reader visited Columbus?


ABOUT US is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.

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Lawrenceville to have Prelude to Fourth celebration on July 3
Special for GwinnettForum
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LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga., June 20, 2014 -- The City of Lawrenceville will host its ninth annual "Prelude" celebration to honor America's Day of Independence on Thursday, July 3, starting at 7:30 p.m. The event will feature the classic Broadway musical, South Pacific, by the award-winning Aurora Theatre, followed by fireworks. The event is free to the public and is held on the Lawrenceville Square by the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse.

Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson says: "We are thrilled to be partnering again with the Aurora Theatre to provide a great evening of family fun for the Lawrenceville community. Celebrating our nation's history with a spectacular fireworks display and also celebrating the local arts with Aurora's Broadway production, provides only a glimpse of what the Lawrenceville community spirit encompasses."

South Pacific, a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic presented by the Aurora Theatre, is well known for its extraordinary score. The songs include Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Ha'i, There Is Nothin' Like A Dame, and I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.

Based on James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book, Tales of the South Pacific, the musical took home the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1950. South Pacific has stockpiled a staggering 17 Tony Awards, ten for the original run and seven for the 2008 revival. It's a perfect choice for this patriotic celebration because its portrayal of Americans stationed in an alien culture in wartime is as relevant today as when it first thrilled audiences in 1949.

Following the performance, a grand fireworks display will light up Gwinnett's County Seat, accompanied by the Aurora Theatre orchestra playing the patriotic anthem Stars and Stripes Forever in a moving tribute on the eve of our country's Independence Day.

Bring the whole family and a picnic dinner to enjoy during the show. Lawn seating begins at 5:30 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. performance. Reserve a table of premium seating for six, for $100 before June 24; afterward, the price will be $125 until July 3.

Facts on Martha Johnson, donor of 140 acres to Gwinnett

Editor and publisher |

JUNE 20, 2014 -- The news item got my attention: Someone had given 140 acres to Gwinnett County, but little more was reported. The land came from the will of Martha J. Johnson of Lithonia; the land is mostly forested, and it includes 2,400 feet of Yellow River frontage.


The land borders a 566 acre tract off Juhan Road where Gwinnett County at one time had considered building a Sewerage Treatment Plant, which local residents blocked. The land also abuts Centerville Park, and connects the two tracts.

The mystery turns out to be quite the story.

Martha Josephine Johnson died on Dec. 15, 2012, at age 96. She and her brother, Benjamin Jr., inherited the land from their father, Benjamin A. Johnson, who acquired it in 1926. The Johnson family was well known in Lithonia, where they operated a general store, called The Trading Center. Next door was their house, a two-story, eight room colonial home with majestic columns and a double porch, all tucked behind magnolia trees on Main Street in Lithonia, a block from the rail tracks.

Johnson home in Lithonia.

Ms. Johnson lived in this house until her death. She never married. She was a botanist, first graduating from Agnes Scott, earning a master's degree from Emory University, and in 1972, obtained her Ph. D. from the University of Georgia. Her dissertation is entitled: "Naturalists and plant explorers in Georgia, until 1850 (with illustrations of some native plants observed)."

Beginning in 1947, she began teaching botany at Georgia State University, which then was known as the Atlanta Division of the University of Georgia. She was an assistant professor of biology, and was last listed in the school directory in 1975-76.

Dr. Paul Kolter, of North Atlanta, now 93, knew Martha Johnson. He was also teaching biology at GSU, having come to what became GSU in 1952. "I knew her mother, father and brother and visited at their Lithonia home many times, which I think was built in 1850. There was this grand entrance through the yard from Main Street. It was a fine house, and you can tell that those people were of independent means. She was tall, slender, well-dressed and gracious, a Southern lady. She traveled throughout the United States and to Europe. Students wanted to be in her classes. She was a good teacher. She was originally a botanist, but got pulled into biology.."

Dr. Kolter adds: "Her personality was such that you felt better when you had talked to her, for she had a happy outlook on life. She was self-confident, treated everyone fairly, and was physically attractive, yet her real beauty came from inside her. It bubbled up from inside her."

Daylilies in front of Johnson home.

In the will, Mrs. Johnson not only gave land to Gwinnett County. Joey Nichols, who manages the Johnson Estate, says she gave 324 acres off Klondike Road to DeKalb County for a walking park, and also gave 115 acres on the Alcovy River in Walton County to the Georgia Wildlife Federation. The last two gifts have not been previously reported.

Meanwhile, the Estate is currently refurbishing the former general store so that it will soon become an events facility. The stately Johnson home is envisioned to hold weddings and other social activities, while the next-door store with its high ceilings, mostly-original floors and refurbished original store cabinets, will serve as the party area. Fine art from the Johnson home will adorn the walls.

It's been fun to learn about Martha Johnson and to shed some light on a fabulous gift to the people of Gwinnett County.

Arbor-Nomics Tree Service

The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring to you at no cost to readers. Today's sponsor is Arbor-Nomics Tree Service of Norcross. As a full-service tree expert, Arbor-Nomics offers the full range of tree care, from pruning, diagnostics, fertilizing and tree appraisal, to careful removal of limbs or the entire tree. In business since 1980, the company owner, Barry Smith, has a degree in forestry from the University of Kentucky. Customers continually praise the company efforts, such as "roping off limbs when cutting, to protect plants below." Happy customers continue to return.

Not much change

Editor's Note: Back in 2003, Cartoonist Bill McLemore drew this entanglement of Uncle Sam for GwinnettForum. Sadly, not much has changed in the intervening years. Thanks, Bill, for coming across this cartoon recently. -eeb

Like campaign that Gardner offered, replete with new ideas

Editor, the Forum:

First off, I'm sorry Art Gardner lost the election for the Senate. Hats off to him for running; that took courage to run against all those well known names. (Full disclosure: I voted for you, but I'm not a Republican.)

It is very unsettling to see the group that was running and listening to their rhetoric against the president without having any real good ideas how to "fix" the Affordable Care Act other than to get rid of it totally. At least Mr. Gardner presented an idea which I hope others will hear about making medicine affordable to everyone.

I find it ridiculous that a brand medication is more expensive than the generic counterpart. It makes me very suspicious when you hear advertisements for certain brands, so you can afford your medication. He is so correct that drugs that have been on the market for so long should, in fact, cost less since their patent has expired.

Thank you Mr. Gardner for running, you bring up some valid points about not being covered by the media, which is a shame. If you ever want to come to the other side (Democrat), I'm sure they would welcome you with open arms and listen to your advice and wisdom. I hope you will run again and I hope others will hear your message.

-- Sara Rawlins, Lawrenceville

Rant, rave, send us a letter

An invitation: We encourage readers to submit feedback (or letters to the editor). Send your thoughts to the editor at We will edit for length and clarity. Make sure to include your name and the city where you live. Submission of a comment grants permission for us to reprint. Please keep your comments to 300 words or less. However, we will consider longer articles (no more than 500 words) for featuring in Today's Issue as space allows.

Relief expected this weekend at Collins Hill Road and Georgia 316

Some relief is in store in particular for students of Georgia Gwinnett College seeking access to their campus from Lawrenceville. Weather permitting, the new bridge over Georgia Highway 316 will open Friday night. One lane in each direction of the new Collins Hill Road Bridge over Highway 316 will open for use overnight Friday, June 20. The new Collins Hill Road Bridge features sidewalks and bike lanes in each direction. The new bridge is 361 feet long and 94 feet wide with two lanes in each direction.

Harold Mull, District construction engineer, explains: "We build the road one piece at a time and open each section as it is ready. As we finish a new piece of the interchange, we open it to traffic and then can work in the area traffic was previously using. We are opening one lane of the new bridge in each direction this weekend so motorists can get accustomed to the change outside of the peak travel times."

Crews will begin the transition from the existing Collins Hill Road to the new bridge Friday night, June 20 at 9 p.m. with lane closures and pacing traffic overnight. As the bridge partially opens for use, the new exit ramps from Highway 316 to Collins Hill Road and Georgia Gwinnett College will be opened.

The entrance ramps from Collins Hill Road to Georgia Highway 316 will not open as the bridge opens. The entrance ramp from Collins Hill to Highway316 westbound will open by Monday morning's rush hour, June 23. The entrance ramp from Collins Hill to Highway 316 eastbound will open for use by July 20. To access Highway 316 east, motorists will use Collins Hill Rd south to Hurricane Shoals Rd east to Georgia Highway 20 north to Highway 316 east.

The second lane in each direction on the new Collins Hill Road Bridge will open by July 20 with the entrance ramp from Collins Hill Road to Highway316 eastbound.

Once the project is completed, motorists on Collins Hill will access Highway 316 via ramps instead of using the existing intersections. "This project will build one interchange or exit to allow traffic from Highway 316 to access Highway 20 or to access Collins Hill Road using a system of long ramps. The existing signalized intersections at Highway 20 and at Collins Hill Road will be removed as the interchange is finished. It is similar to the system along I-85 from Highway120 down to Pleasant Hill Road. Motorists get off the mainline of I-85 south at Highway 120 and use the parallel roads to access the exit you need," concludes Mull.

This $37.4 million construction project includes 2.23 miles of new roadway and two new bridges over Highway 316. The project completion date is May 31, 2016 and the contractor is GP's Enterprises, Inc. of Auburn.

OTC Comedy Troupe returns to Norcross Lionheart on June 28

The temperature just got a little hotter with the OTC Comedy Troupe Summer Comedy Heat Wave at Lionheart Theatre, to be Saturday, June 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets are just $10 per person. The show uses comedy improvisation and audience suggestions to help the actors create scenes on the spot and allow the audience a chance to be the star of the show. The show will include OTC signature pieces such as Sounds Like a Song, Clips and Phrases and Irish Drinking Song.

Kelley Cody-Grimm, OTC artistic director, says: "We love playing at Lionheart Theatre and look forward to our Summer Comedy Heat Wave which will pack in some new improv games. Lionheart is a fantastic venue and the Norcross audiences are great fun to work with - we've done some of our best shows there."

  • Lionheart Theatre is located at 10 College St., Norcross, GA 30071. To purchase tickets in advance or get more info, go here.

OTC Productions also recently completed a pilot called Death by South which takes southern ghost stories and infuses them with a splash of comedy. The pilot is currently being submitted to the New York Television Festival. The show surrounds a pair of over-zealous ghost hunters, a reluctant medium and an irreverent group of ghosts who have their own agendas. The series is the brain child of Kelley Cody-Grimm, who created and produced the series along with her husband, Max Grimm. The dark comedy was shot entirely in Gwinnett County. The pilot includes many members of the OTC Comedy Troupe including Mike Yow, Becca and Michael Parker as well as local actors Nick Elliott, Jay Croft, Kevin McKinney, Connie Quirk and Karen Smith.

Kudzu Art Zone offering classes for children this summer

Get your kids creating fabulous art this summer!

Kudzu Art Zone is offering classes in basic art and clay for children 5-11 years old. The instructor will be Laura Fleury-Bell, a local artist and art teacher. Visit the website for the details, days and times.

Basic art tuition is $160 per child for the July 7-11 session. The clay tuition, June 16-20 and July 14-18, is $160 per child.(The fee include supplies and a mid-morning snack)

Register for these classes online at For additional information call 770-476-1638 or 404 702-4932. Kudzu Art Zone is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting the visual arts and serving Georgia artists.

County awards contract for expansion of Gwinnett Fire Academy

Gwinnett Commissioners have approved a $9.7 million contract with low bidder Cooper and Co. General Contractors Inc. to build the second phase of an expansion to the Gwinnett County Fire Academy.

Construction will include a two-story, 35,000-square-foot education building and a three-bay storage building for fire apparatus and a training pavilion. The new academic building replaces a smaller, 30-year-old building and will have eight large classrooms plus a conference room, a kitchen, office space and a student resource center.

Work will get underway by fall of this year with completion expected in two years. The project is funded by the voter-approved 2009 SPLOST sales tax.

The first phase of the expansion was recently completed and added a heavy duty driving training pad and a storage building with an observation deck for driving instructors. The existing burn building and high-rise training tower on the site located at 3608 Braselton Road near Dacula will remain.
Fire Chief Casey Snyder says: "These new facilities continue a planned expansion of our Fire Academy to meet our training needs for both entry-level and existing firefighters, paramedics and EMTs."

Mountain View students represents Jackson EMC on Youth Council

Georgia's 109 Washington Youth Tour (WYT) delegates have chosen Lawrenceville's Michael Smith, sponsored by Jackson EMC, as the 2014 state representative to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's (NRECA) Youth Leadership Council (YLC). He is a rising junior at Mountain View High in Gwinnett County.

Smith, pictured at right, was chosen while on the WYT, June 12-19. He'll return to Washington, D.C. in July, along with 43 other state representatives. During the week-long leadership training, they'll will gain a broader understanding of cooperatives, sharpen their speaking skills and enhance their leadership abilities. As Georgia's representative, Smith will also speak at Georgia EMC's Annual Meeting, held in Savannah in November; participate in NRECA's Annual Meeting in Orlando in February, 2015; and speak at the WYT kickoff banquet in June 2015.

The Merlin Trilogy
By Mary Stewart

The legend of King Arthur, and how he came to power, has been the subject of many movies, books, even a Disney film. His story has fascinated readers for generations, and Mary Stewart's interpretation of Arthurian legend focuses on Merlin, known as the enchanter. Ms. Stewart makes the legend and fantasy come to earth, with a realistic telling that goes beyond the rumors of magic and stones, to paint the players as ordinary men and women who step onto history's stage to live extraordinary lives. Merlin is himself a prince, though he chooses to step aside from his birthright to bring Arthur to the throne. I can't help but think that this story of chance, destiny, and divine intervention, is closer to the truth of Merlin and Arthur than we know. Great read! The full title is The Merlin Triology: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment.

-- Karen Burnette Garner, Dacula

An invitation: What Web sites, books or restaurants have you enjoyed? Send us your best recent visit to a restaurant or most recent book you have read along with a short paragraph as to why you liked it, plus what book you plan to read next. --eeb

Nesbitt's prints are found in museums around the country

(Continued from previous edition)

Beginning in 1939 Jackson Lee Nesbitt's work gained widespread recognition. Open Hearth Door, a Sheffield Steel Corporation painting, was chosen to represent Missouri in the American Art Today exhibition at the New York World's Fair. From 1949 until 1951, as fewer commercial commissions came his way, Nesbitt taught etching at the Kansas City Art Institute.

The artist, pictured at right, sought a new livelihood in order to provide for his family, which by this time included three children. He sold his etching press and in 1957 relocated to Atlanta, where for a short period he was a painter and illustrator for the Lockheed Corporation before establishing a company that sold advertising and, for nearly 30 years, stopped creating art.

In 1984 Nesbitt a Connecticut couple have his copper plate of Old Man with a Violin in order to make additional prints and complete the edition. All prints sold within a year, and Nesbitt was thrilled. His work had been "rediscovered."

Nesbitt's work is found in numerous museums and collections around the nation. His work may be found in Georgia at the Columbus Museum in Columbus and at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta. Other institutions housing his prints and paintings include the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; Boston (Mass.) Public Library; Columbus, Ohio Museum of Art; Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; Memphis, Tenn. Brooks Museum of Art; Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.; and Orlando, Fla. Museum of Art.

Nesbitt died of heart failure in Tucker, near Atlanta, on February 20, 2008.

Unusual rock

Where's this unusual rock? Obviously, it's not near areas with lots of trees, such as Atlanta. Surely someone has seen this distinctive formation. But where? Send your answer to, and list your name and hometown.

Tom Merkel of Berkeley Lake got a mystery photo past the readers this week. It is a photograph of the home of John Pemberton in Columbus, Ga. Pemberton lived there from 1855-1860, when he was a practicing pharmacist in Columbus. Mr. Pemberton, you may recall, devised the formula for Coca-Cola, inventing the Real Thing.


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2014, Gwinnett Gwinnett Forum is an online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.


The next GwinnettForum will appear on June 27. There will be no Forum on June 24. Let us take a rest. -- eeb

Now Remembering in His Absence

"When I came back to Dublin I was court-martialed in my absence, and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence."

-- Irish Author and Dramatist Brendan Behan (1923-1964).




78th annual meeting of Walton EMC is Saturday, June 21, at the Walton County Agricultural Education Center, 1208 Croswell Road, three miles south of Monroe on Georgia Highway 11. Registration begins at 8 a.m., with children's activities, health screenings and exhibits open at 9 a.m., and the business meeting at 10 a.m. The first 1,000 customer-owners to register will receive a LED lantern. Those registering by 10 a.m. are also eligible for door prizes, including a recycled Ford pickup truck. More details.

Family Fun Day, at Duluth Town Green, Saturday, June 21, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Sponsored by Hi-Hope Service Center, the goal is to build awareness for families with members who have developmental challenges. Activities include a wheel parade, inflatables, arts and crafts and live entertainment.

Opening Celebration of Gwinnett Medical Center's first class of family medical resident physicians, Monday, June 23, at 3:15 p.m. at 665 Duluth Highway, Lawrenceville (opposite the main GMC campus.) Come meet the first five residents of the program at the Strickland Family Medical Center, which will offer a range of services from treating newborns to seniors.

(NEW) Luncheon address by Dr. Stanley "Stas" Preczewski, recently named president of Georgia Gwinnett College, Wednesday, June 25 at 11:30 a.m. at the 1818 Club, sponsored by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. The address title is "Educating the Workforce." Register here.

To Feel the Clouds is the current exhibit at the Hudgens Center for the Arts. Nationally-known Georgia photographer John Slemp will exhibit 25 photos of aircraft and the medium they fly in-clouds, The exhibit remains up through June 28. More of his work can be seen at

Free Brown Bag Concerts on the lawn at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville. Bring a lunch and enjoy music and other activities. Dates for the 11 a.m. Brown Bag concerts are on July 11 and August 1, all sponsored by the Gwinnett Parks and Recreation Commission.


8/15: Churchill and battlefronts
8?12: New Duluth manager
8/8: On corporate moves
8/5: Club recognizes bus drivers
8/1: On better candidates

7/29: Good week for Atlanta
7/25: Can GOP keep control?
7/22: Peachtree Corners update
7/18: On election runoffs
7/15: Gwinnett's water use
7/11: Georgia Guidestones
7/8: 40 years in Gwinnett
7/3: Primary runoff endorsements
7/1: About the shining sun

6/27: A busy Congress
6/20: Property mystery solved
6/17: Civil War, tanning, more
6/13: On cleaning your plate
6/10: Fairness cuts several ways
6/6: Obama's carbon emissions plan
6/3: "Community Through Diversity"


8/15: Brill: Helmet sensors
8/12: Light: Cannon heads GTC
8/8: Fenton: Corporate Games
8/5: A. Brack: Summers to be hotter
8/1: Starnes: Enjoy writing

7/29: Lail: House fire, part 2
7/25: Lail: House fire, part 1
7/22: DeWilde: Suwanee's Cinderella
7/18: Zaken: Glance Gwinnett
7/15: Callina: Gift card scam
7/11: Cochran: Closed meetings
7/8: Lang: On health care act
7/3: Miller: Leukemia grants
7/1: Andrews: Sugar Hill's EpiCenter

6/27: Georgia Cup criterium
6/20: Gross: L'ville's 4th
6/17: Gardner: Senate bid
6/13: Adcock: Clinic openings
6/10: Wilson: GGC's top athletics
6/6: Waters: Leadership Gwinnett
6/3: Myers: GA-PMOC graduation


Gwinnett Forum publisher Elliott Brack suggests that Gwinnett County needs a long-range list of continuing objectives for improving the county. Read more.

  • Development of a two-party system for county offices
  • Moving statewide non-partisan judge election runoffs to the General Election
  • Light rail for Gwinnett from Doraville MARTA station to Gwinnett Arena
  • Extension of Gwinnett Place CID area to include Arena and Discovery Mills Mall
  • Banning of tobacco in all Gwinnett parks
  • Making Briscoe Field a commercial airport for jet-age travel
  • More diverse candidates for political offices and appointment to local boards
  • Physical move of former St. Gerard's Catholic Church in Buffalo, N.Y., to Norcross
  • Creative efforts to support the arts in Gwinnett
  • Advancement and expansion of city and Gwinnett historical societies
  • Stronger regulation of late-night establishments with alcoholic licenses
  • Requiring the legislature to meet once every two years.
  • Development of more community gardens.

ABOUT US is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.

:: Contact us today
:: Subscribe for free
Buy the book on Gwinnett's history


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