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Some time before the Cash Concert, the Messenger ran an “I Like Johnny Cash” writing contest. Contestants were separated into three age groups, each with a $100 top prize. That was quite a reward, worth about $555 today. Winners also got to have their name, face, and brief biographical information featured in the newspaper.

The adult winner was Shirley Cordell, who said Cash was her “recipe for success.” In 1970 Ms. Cordell worked for Walker County ASCS, or Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, a division of the USDA now merged with Farm Service Agency. Cordell was still there four years later when she was recognized for her “outstanding job performance.” As far as we know, Shirley and her husband Wayne still live in the community on Burnt Mill Road.

Karen Sue Norris won the teen category by saying she loved Cash for his honesty and concern, with the song “What Is Truth” showing his belief in her generation. Norris was from Alexandria Virginia, in Rock Spring for the summer to stay with family. We couldn’t track down any additional information about Ms. Norris or her relatives, the Divvers family, in Rock Spring.

Child category was won by North LaFayette Elementary 5th-grader Neal Butler. Butler won saying Cash “sings good and he looks clean and I know he is nice and gentle, kind, and anything else you can think of.” Six years later Butler was part of an LHS golf team that won the AA Boys State Golf Championship. There’s currently no record of a Neal Butler living in LaFayette, but there are individuals with that name around the right age in Rome, Roswell, and Marietta. His parents, Lawson and Joan, still live in the city.

Non-winning entries filled several pages of the Messenger’s special Johnny Cash section, which was sold in with the regular paper and presented to the show’s performers. Most, like this one, were mixed in with stock articles about Cash and his entourage.

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2 comments so far

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  1. If you’re reading this comment without checking out all six pages of the blog post, go read them. This is the first article in LU’s two year history that was long enough to require multiple pages. I hope that makes it easier to read. If the format or navigation give you any trouble please let us know.

    Now, to clarify and explain a few things about the article…

    We had originally hoped to get this done LAST year on the concert’s 40th anniversary, but due to other pressing issues and some research problems it wasn’t possible in 2010. We did get something up last year ( http://www.cityoflafayettega.com/2010/08/the-man-in-black/) but not the article originally planned. This year’s piece wasn’t done on August 13th either, but close enough to post. Apologies for not having it finished on time, this site is a bit of a side job for some of us and other things have to take priority.

    Most of the research problems we had were due to a total lack of cooperation at the Walker County Messenger office. A now-former employee of the WCM assured us that their archives were available by request, with over 100 years of old papers in a filing cabinet easily accessible in their office. But when we sent a researcher to their office another employee there was anything but helpful. Our poor volunteer was given a runaround, treated hatefully, and told that the papers we wanted were “in the old building” and inaccessible.

    The researcher finally resorted to using the LaFayette library where employees were both friendly and helpful. They found a folder of printouts from microfiche archives of the Messenger and got copies of those to scan. Those scanned copied printouts are the black and white images used in this article. Unfortunately they were originally archived in a format that doesn’t retain gray tones, which is why the photos look so terrible. If you have any better versions of the images used please let us know and we’ll gladly replace them. Also feel free to add information (or corrections) about the events and people mentioned.

    Color newspaper images (and some facts) included came from last January’s Messenger article about the city’s stadium renovation plans – http://www.catwalkchatt.com/view/full_story/11045408/article-Renovation-plans-for-old-LaFayette-High-stadium-has-people-remembering-Cash-benefit-from-1970? . Those inaccessible archives apparently became accessible again when it was for their own purposes (which is fair, it’s their own stuff) – but that article wouldn’t have surfaced either, without our original article last June reminding people that the football field still exists and has been neglected.

    Thanks to researcher VS for all the hard work in tracking down the archived documents and putting up with harassment from people who should have better manners.

    — LU

  2. I am really glad that you guys decided to make this post this year, it was VERY well written and explained a lot about a piece of La Fayette history I have been very interested in for some time, but could never find much information about myself. I sincerely hope that the city does take steps towards fixing up this stadium, and it saddens me that it took them this long to see the fact that this stadium could be so useful. I booked concerts through the Recreation Center in the building right above the field and every time I would walk outside and look at the field and wish that I could have the concerts out there and set up some other events that aren’t centered around just one group of people. If they begin to take volunteers to help do the work though, I will most definitely sign up, and get as many people I know to do so also. We need to work together to better this community if we are to make any progress. Thank you LU, and keep doing what you’re doing!