HONORABLE L.E. MALLARD, TAX COLLECTOR, FOLKSTON’S SENIOR CITIZEN
By R. Ward Harrison, Editor
November 4, 1949
Honorable Lawrence E. Mallard, present Tax Collector of Charlton County, for more than fifty years an active, energetic worker for the progress and upbuilding of the city and county is without question Folkston’s Senior Citizen. Having been identified with its civic, business and cultural activities for a longer period of time than any other citizen now living in this city.
A native of Bulloch County, Ga. where he was born December 8, 1873, Mr. Mallard arrived in Folkston August 30, 1899 to make his future home here and from that date he has been a loyal, progressive public-spirited citizen.
Folkston was then in its early stages, Mr. Mallard recalls, with a total population of only 167, and just one Negro family. For years the late Bill Douglas and family were the only colored people living in the city limits.
The railroad at that time was known as the Plant System, having been changed a short while before from the original Savannah, Florida and Western. It later became the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the Jesup cut-off was built in 1901. One of the vivid early impressions of Folkston, Mr. Mallard recalls, was the custom of the town people to gather at the railroad depot to see the trains come in. Before the days of the automobile, the Coast Line Railroad operated more than fifty passenger trains daily and all of them stopped here to take on water.
The railroad depot was the principal community gathering center for many years, especially in late afternoons and early evenings. The procession of trains out of Jacksonville from 8:00 till 11:00 P.M. was a sight to see, Mr. Mallard said. At times as many as five or six would be backed up between Folkston and the river. The depot stood just north of Main Street crossing then, he said and was the real center of community assembly. A landmark of those early days was the city water tank that stood in the center of Main Street, just east of the railroad. Paving of the highway caused the removal of both the depot and water tank to their present sites.
When he first came to Charlton County, Mr. Mallard remembers he found the people of the county engaged in a bitter political controversy over the removal of the county seat from Traders Hill to Folkston. One election on the question had already been held and a second vote was pending. The first election had been lost largely through the opposition of the Uptonville district. Present day citizens will be surprised to learn that Uptonville was an active aspirant to have the county seat located there. It was then a thriving sawmill town, with possibly a larger population than Folkston, and advanced the argument that it was more nearly the center of the county.
Mr. Mallard says his first public service was rendered in behalf of removing the county seat to Folkston from Traders Hill, where it was then located. He recalls making a four-day trip down into The Bend section with the late John Lloyd, who had numerous relatives in that part of the county. That trip was largely instrumental in rounding up the necessary votes for Folkston. Uptonville sought to defeat the move by refusing to hold an election, but citizens from Folkston went there and held the election anyway, according to Mr. Mallard. Some Folkston property owners opposed the removal on the grounds of its expense.
The successful removal election was held in 1901 and the original brick courthouse was built here the following year. It was Folkston’s first brick building and its construction was financed without necessity of a bond issue. The late B.G. McDonald, then serving as Ordinary, had levied taxes in anticipation of the expenditure and only a small additional loan was required. The building was thus paid for without taxpayers being aware of any financial burden.
After the courthouse was built, the town began to go forward rapidly, Mr. Mallard said. Soon afterward, Mr. H.J. Davis erected a brick store building, closely followed by Mr. B.F. Scott, and the building of the Old Bank Building. Plank sidewalks were put down in the business section of town, the streets being deep sand beds. The original high school building and the McDonald Hotel were built a few years later and Folkston was well on its way to being a progressive little city.
The Charlton County Herald had been established in 1898 and was an important factor in the early progress of the town, and the removal of the county seat here. When Mr. Mallard first came here the paper was being published by his uncle, the late W.M. Oliff, prominent attorney, and for a time he was connected with its operation. They had no printing plant, the paper being printed in Waycross.
Mr. Mallard came to Charlton County as a young school teacher, having taught several terms in Folkston and other schools in the county. Later he was elected County Superintendent of Education, serving in that capacity for sixteen years, from 1904-1920. He was then elected as Charlton County’s representative in the State Legislature, where he served for four successful terms.
On December 23, 1902, Mr. Mallard was married to Miss Agnes P. Mizell, member of one of the county’s leading pioneer families. They have one adopted daughter, Lollie, now Mrs. K.A. Eaton of Atlanta.
He and Mrs. Mallard have through the years been one of the city’s best loved and most useful couples. For several years during the 1920s Mr. Mallard was engaged in business here as Charlton County’s Ford dealer. C.J. Passieu became associated with him in the business and he later sold his interest in the agency to Mr. Passieu. Mr. Mallard also has been active in the real estate business since he first became a citizen of the community, having contributed greatly to the progress and upbuilding of the town and county in that capacity.
Now serving his third term as Charlton County’s Tax Collector, Mr. Mallard has ever been a public spirited citizen, often placing the common welfare ahead of his own person interests. All through his active years he has been liberal in helping the needy and unfortunate. He was connected with the State Revenue Dept. as a traveling auditor for several years and has almost all his lifetime been devoted to public service.
He has been a loyal and devoted member of Folkston Methodist Church for many years and a liberal supporter of church activities, having served as Superintendent of Sunday School and an officer of the church for a long period. He has served two terms as Mayor of Folkston, several terms on the Board of Aldermen and has been a leading member of the Folkston Masonic Lodge serving as Worshipful Master for sixteen years.
To say that Mr. Mallard has been a “Leading Citizen” of Folkston and Charlton County is not just a tribute or complimentary expression, but is a fact well known and generally acknowledged by all who have known and been associated with him.