Mak­ing an im­pact

Stamps re­flects on trav­els, New­ton County’s fu­ture

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Jenny Thompson

Ge­orge More­land Stamps has worked to­ward the bet­ter­ment of New­ton County through var­i­ous civic or­ga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ment com­mit­tees since 1986.

Al­though Stamps is a sev­enth gen­er­a­tion Ge­or­gian, he was born in China to South­ern Bap­tist mis­sion­ar­ies.

He met his wife He­len Paty, also the child of mis­sion­ar­ies, at the Shang­hai Amer­i­can School when they were in the eighth grade.

“She broke her leg and she came in with this big cast and that’s the first time I no­ticed her,” Stamps said. “She was by far the best look­ing girl at the school.”

They have been mar­ried 61 years.

In 1941, He­len’s par­ents re­turned to the United States and resided in Ox­ford. Stamps joined the Air Force and flew B-17 Fly­ing Fortresses over Europe in 20 com­bat mis­sions dur­ing World War II.

He said his height de­ter­mined whether he would fly a bomber or a fighter plane in the war since men 5-feet-10-inches or taller had to fly bombers be­cause of the larger cock­pit.

“You had to be strong to fly a B-17 too, be­cause you had to use your own mus­cles be­cause there was no hy­draulic as­sist,” Stamps said.

He later served in the Army and the Air Force Re­serve for 26 years be­fore re­tir­ing as a lieu­tenant colonel.

Af­ter the war, Stamps re­turned to the United States and en­rolled at Wake For­est Univer­sity in North Carolina to study physics. He­len at­tended Duke Univer­sity.

“At the time Wake For­est and Duke were only 23 miles apart — be­fore they moved it to Win­ston-Salem,” Stamps said.

As a ju­nior in col­lege, Stamps and He­len mar­ried the day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing in 1946 in a chapel on the cam­pus of Emory Univer­sity. Shortly af­ter their mar­riage, the cou­ple moved to New York where Stamps at­tended grad­u­ate school at Columbia Univer­sity.

He vividly re­mem­bers their first win­ter in New York, the year of the great 1947 bliz­zard.

“There was still three feet of snow on the ground in March,” Stamps said.

Stamps also at­tended Brook­lyn Polytech­nic Univer­sity and worked as a pro­fes­sor at the New York Mar­itime Col­lege.

In 1951 he be­gan work­ing for Ho­gan Labs on a flatbed scan­ner for new tech­nol­ogy known as a fac­sim­ile ma­chine.

“At that time only pic­tures were sent over the phone for the As­so­ci­ated Press and the United Press In­ter­na­tional,” Stamps said.

One night while din­ing with sev­eral news­pa­per edi­tors at Rock­e­feller Cen­ter, he men­tioned he wanted the ma­chines to work faster so the me­dia could have pic­tures more quickly.

“One man said we only need about 18 pho­tos a day so they don’t need to go faster,” Stamps laughed.

In 1959 the founder of Ho­gan Labs re­tired and sold the com­pany to Cal­i­for­nia-based Te­lau­to­graph. Stamps moved his fam­ily to a beau­ti­ful home on the Pa­cific Coast fac­ing Catalina Is­land.

“Ever since then we’ve been hooked on be­ing able to look out over wa­ter,” Stamps said.

Dur­ing his ten­ure as chief en­gi­neer in Cal­i­for­nia he de­cided to close a fac­tory for a week to fix a me­chan­i­cal prob­lem with a ma­chine the com­pany pro­duced. Be­cause his su­pe­rior thought the ma­chines should have been shipped and re­paired on site, he fired Stamps.

“That was a won­der­ful thing that hap­pened to me be­cause then I was free,” Stamps said.

Stamps then went to work for Mag­navox as pro­gram man­ager dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the first Tele­copier — or fax ma­chine that trans­mit­ted over a reg­u­lar dial tele­phone — in­tro­duced in 1966.

Be­cause Mag­navox did not have much of a niche in of­fice prod­ucts, Stamps fa­cil­i­tated the com­pany’s teaming with Xerox to mar­ket the Xerox-Mag­navox Tele­copier.

In 1972, Mag­navox stopped pro­duc­ing fax ma­chines and sold to 3M Cor­po­ra­tion, but Stamps didn’t like the idea of mov­ing to Min­nesota, so he took a job with Xerox as cor­po­rate man­ager of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.

Then in 1976, ex­ec­u­tive shift­ing lost him his spon­sor at Xerox and he de­cided to start his own con­sult­ing firm.

“I had never had the courage to go into busi­ness for my­self be­fore this,” Stamps said.

Un­til 2000 when Stamps “sort of” re­tired, he headed his own con­sult­ing busi­ness and worked with clien­tele do­mes­ti­cally as well as in Europe and Ja­pan.

In 1986 he and He­len moved to Ox­ford to take care of her el­derly mother and both im­me­di­ately be­gan to serve as ad­min­is­tra­tors of com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Stamps has served as pres­i­dent of the Ki­wa­nis Club of Cov­ing­ton, Friends of the Li­brary and of the New­ton County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety dur­ing the 1996 Olympics in At­lanta.

He chaired the New­ton County Fa­cil­i­ties Board Inc., which held ti­tle to the New­ton County Ju­di­cial Cen­ter and Turner Lake Re­cre­ation Fa­cil­ity un­til loans were paid off from funds gen­er­ated by the county’s sec­ond Spe­cial Pur­pose Lo­cal Op­tion Sales Tax.

Stamps also has served on the New­ton County De­vel­op­ment Reg­u­la­tions Com­mit­tee, Zon­ing Or­di­nance Com­mit­tee and Yel­low River Stake­hold­ers Com­mit­tee.

At the be­gin­ning of the decade he was asked to chair the Im­pact Fee Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for the county.

“I guess I was the only one wear­ing a coat and tie, so they picked me,” Stamps said. “But, I said I won’t be chair, I’ll be a co-chair.”

Af­ter ex­ten­sive re­search, the com­mit­tee sug­gested the adop­tion of im­pact fees and of an ad­di­tional SPLOST.

“At that time no­body was in fa­vor of im­pact fees,” Stamps said. Af­ter many pre­sen­ta­tions given to var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions by Stamps, the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted to adopt im­pact fees.

How­ever, rev­enue was not col­lected for years due to a law­suit brought on by the New­ton County Home Builders As­so­cia- tion whose mem­bers ar­gued the res­i­den­tial fees were too high and the com­mer­cial fees too low.

The is­sue has since been set­tled, but Stamps said ir­repara­ble dam­age has been done to the county’s trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture dur­ing the lit­i­ga­tion due to the time lost to im­prove and widen roads.

He said state and fed­eral funds could have matched lo­cally gen­er­ated rev­enue at the time the board adopted the fees, but in a tight econ­omy there is now less to give.

“We used to be a lit­tle town out in the coun­try,” Stamps said. “We’re now sub­ur­ban At­lanta.”

He said he has per­son­ally ob­served and ex­pe­ri­enced suc­cess­ful and un­suc­cess­ful pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tems in the large cities he has lived in such as New York and Los An­ge­les and vis­ited reg­u­larly such as Lon­don, Paris and Am­s­ter­dam.

“You can’t have a city of five mil­lion or more peo­ple with­out sub­ways or com­muter rail — it just won’t work,” Stamps said.

He said he would like to see sub­way line ex­tended to Stonecrest Mall and rail lines up­graded to dou­ble tracks and barred cross­ings for the amount of and speed of trains needed for com­mutes into and from At­lanta. He said the un­der­tak­ing, al­though out­ra­geously ex­pen­sive, is nec­es­sary to the vi­tal­ity of the metro area.

He said pub­lic trans­porta­tion takes cars off of the roads and out of park­ing lots and build­ing more ex­press­ways only at­tracts more traf­fic.

“At­lanta will choke it­self to death on traf­fic,” Stamps said, “and busi­nesses won’t want to come to At­lanta be­cause of the traf­fic — some al­ready don’t.”

Stamps said liv­ing in New­ton County is won­der­ful be­cause of the many peo­ple who give back to the com­mu­nity and think cre­atively about progress.

“In New­ton County,” Stamps said. “You have all th­ese peo­ple who have vi­sion for the fu­ture.”

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Eyes on the fu­ture: Ge­orge Stamps pauses on the front steps of his Ox­ford home Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Robby Byrd/The Cov­ing­ton News

In­dus­trial award: Mar­shal Ginn of the Cov­ing­ton Tree Board presents Beth Bruette and Ed­die Huck­aby of C.R. Bard with the In­dus­trial Tree Stew­ard­ship Award at the an­nual Ar­bor Day pro­gram on Fri­day.

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