Nathan’s Newton

How our new gover­nor sharp­ened his speak­ing skills here

The Covington News - - Front page - By Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­news.com

A 16-year-old boy walked to the podium, dressed in a fine suit and tie. His hair was slicked back, ac­cen­tu­at­ing a long face bro­ken up by horn­rimmed glasses and a thin, con­fi­dent smile. And when he spoke, peo­ple lis­tened.

“He was a per­son that you could say had the abil­ity and the pres­ence of phys­i­cal fea­ture and men­tal­ity to go into govern­ment or what­ever we wanted to ob­tain,” said Thomas D. Brown, for­mer teacher at the Fu­ture Farm­ers of Amer­ica camp in Cov­ing­ton. “His speeches were more ma­tured at his age than a lot of the boys.”

In 1959, a young Nathan Deal won the first place award for pub­lic speak­ing in his district. Then he earned top hon­ors in the state, tri-state and re­gional con­tests. Half a cen­tury later, Deal is still speak­ing and peo­ple con­tinue to lis­ten.

The sub­ject mat­ter may have changed, if only slightly. In 1959, he ar­gued that a bal­anced agri­cul­tural econ­omy, where farm­ers were prop­erly com­pen­sated, was nec­es­sary for a great nation. In 2011, he had a slightly larger fo­cus for his state of the state ad­dress, but eco­nom­ics re­mained at the fore­front of dis­cus­sion.

Though Gov. Deal was raised in San­der­sville, en­tered pol­i­tics in Gainesville and now re­sides in the state capi­tol of At­lanta, Newton County has al­ways been a part of his life.

Deal of­ten vis­ited the county and its FFA camp as a youth with his fa­ther, who was a vo­ca­tional agri­cul­tural teacher. His mother also had ties, be­cause her brother and sis­ter-in-law, Leo and Mary Ses­sion Mal­lard, owned The Cov­ing­ton News and Starrsville Plan­ta­tion in east­ern Newton County.

“They had a farm on the out­skirts of town, where they had horses and other kind of live­stock. Just vis­it­ing there and go­ing out to the farm. (And I) got to ride their horses when I would come. So it was al­ways an en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence to be able to come and visit there,” Deal told The News in a phone con­ver­sa­tion Mon­day.

Though Newton County was still very ru­ral — I20 was be­ing ex­tended to Cov­ing­ton at the time — it was still larger than his

home­town of San­der­sville. At the FFA camp in the south­ern part of the county, Deal learned how to swim and learned agri­cul­tural and life skills along with his fel­low youth.

“I think it in­flu­enced a lot of young peo­ple dur­ing those years; (it was) their op­por­tu­nity to get away. Many of them had never been away from home un­til they came to the camp there in Newton County. They were very ru­ral, young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies didn’t travel, and, quite hon­estly, my fam­ily didn’t travel very much ei­ther. So go­ing to Newton County was a real ex­pe­ri­ence and some­thing that I al­ways looked for­ward to.”

The county still had its ru­ral mo­ments. Leo and Mary were trav­el­ing back from At­lanta one evening and were just pre­par­ing to exit I-20, be­cause the high­way’s dead end was ap­proach­ing, when a pair of mules ap­peared run­ning to­ward their car.

“One of them wound up jump­ing into the front of their car. It was blinded ap­par­ently by their head­lights. They had ac­tu­ally stopped and the mule jumped and landed; his feet came in my aunt’s lap al­most. That’s a pretty good in­di­ca­tion of how Newton County ahs changed,” said Deal, as he laughed.

Af­ter high school, Deal didn’t visit as of­ten, re­turn­ing oc­ca­sion­ally to visit his aunt, un­cle and other cousins. Dur­ing the years, his un­cle and aunt passed away, and Nathan lost his most di­rect fam­ily con­nec­tion.

How­ever, af­ter be­ing elected to the state se­nate in 1980 and be­gin­ning a ca­reer in pol­i­tics, Deal would make con­nec­tions across the state. His pas­sion for agri­cul­ture brought him into fre­quent con­tact with Mort Ewing, a cur­rent county com­mis­sioner who pre­vi­ously served as pres­i­dent of the Ge­or­gia Farm Bureau and vice pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Farm Bureau. They stayed in touch over the years, and Ewing hosted a cou­ple of lo­cal fund- rais­ers for the Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date.

“It was an im­por­tant part of our cam­paign and be­ing part of that out­growth of the metro area, Newton County was an im­por­tant county in the over­all elec­tion plans,” Deal said, not­ing that one fundraiser was held at the FFA camp. “(It) gave me a chance to see how much the camp had changed over the years, the new build­ings that had been added and that sort of thing.”

Now that he’s closer to Newton County than ever be­fore, Deal said he hopes to visit more fre­quently and be­lieves the area is poised for growth.

“I think you’re for­tu­nate to have a very en­er­getic busi­ness com­mu­nity here that is try­ing to do its best to grow job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the city and county. And that is go­ing to be one of the ma­jor fo­cuses of our ad­min­is­tra­tion, job cre­ation, and I think you’re one of those im­por­tant coun­ties where we can see that hap­pen.”

To hear au­dio ex­cerpts from Gov. Deal’s con­ver­sa­tion and view photo slideshows of his time in Newton and on the 2010 cam­paign trail, visit Cov­News.com.

File photo/The Cov­ing­ton News

(Orig­i­nal caption, printed in The Cov­ing­ton News in 1959) FFA PUB­LIC SPEAK­ING CHAM­PI­ONS of three South­ern states, Ge­or­gia, Alabama and Florida, are shown at the FFA Con­ven­tion at Jack­son Lake Mon­day. Nathan Deal (left-front) of San­der­sville, Ga. won the con­test. Run­ner­sup were Charles Beck (cen­ter) of Chiefland, Fla., and Bobby Wig­gins of Opp, Alabama. Young Deal is the nephew of the Leo Mal­lards of Cov­ing­ton.

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