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Arts & Literature

Bill Gates Headlines MJCCA Virtual Book Festival



bill gates mjcca
Gates Discusses His Timely New Book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, with NBC’s Kristen Welker. Photo from ticket site.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, at 8:00 pm EST, technologist, business leader, and philanthropist Bill Gates presents his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, as part of the MJCCA’s Book Festival In Your Living Room winter 2021 author lineup. Interviewed by Kristen Welker, co-anchor, “Weekend Today” and NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, the two will discuss his wide-ranging, practical, and accessible plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet’s slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.

Presented by the MJCCA; the National JCC Literary Consortium, which is made up of more than 80 Jewish Community Centers in North America; and two independent bookstores, A Cappella Books in Atlanta and Books and Books in Coral Gables, Florida, where the event will be live-streamed on Zoom. Advanced registration is required. Tickets, which include a hardcover copy of the book shipped to homes, are available here: showclix.com/event/bill-gates-climate-disaster


Wednesday, February 24

Bill Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need

Interviewed by NBC’s Kristen Welker

Thursday, March 4

Walter Isaacson, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

In Conversation with Holly Firfer

Sunday, March 7

Mark Gerson, The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life

In Conversation with Rabbi Brian Glusman

Every registered ticket holder receives a complimentary copy of the book!

Thursday, March 11

Annabelle Gurwitch, You’re Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility

In Conversation with Dave Barry

Sunday, March 21 – NEW DATE!

Lisa Scottoline, Eternal: A Novel

In Conversation with Holly Firfer

Monday, March 22

Tim Shriver, The Time to Unite

In Conversation with Deepak Chopra, MD

Thursday, March 25

Sue Monk Kidd, The Book of Longings: A Novel

In Conversation with Greg Changnon

Wednesday, April 7

Brooke Baldwin, Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power

In Conversation with Holly Firfer

Sunday, April 11 – Special Yom Hashoah Event featuring Rabbi Brian Glusman

Daniel Lee, The SS Officer’s Armchair

Click here for Tickets and registration

Source: MJCCA Press Release

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Arts & Literature

The History of the Peachtree Corners Area and the City that Grew from it



The Nesbits, the Medlocks, and the Neelys were part of the rich history of the Peachtree Corners area, along with other well-known families, native American Indians and European settlers that came here. Author Carole Townsend talks about her new book – The History of an Innovative and Remarkable City.

Rico Figliolini hosts a talk with Townsend about her two-year journey in researching and writing the book that lays out this area’s history from 1770 to 2020. Listen in to hear Carole’s experience writing the book and get a sneak peek of all of the incredible history Carole and her team have dug up.

City Website: https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/home
Carole’s Website: http://caroletownsend.com

“In the overall scheme of history, we’re very new. So to see a family with such a love and reverence and respect for their ancestors. For their history, for a true work ethic, a dedication to family, and a deep love of education. Which to me defines the way the American dream came about for so many here.”

Carole Townsend

Timestamp, where to find it in the talk:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:29] – About Carole and the Book
[00:04:26] – Picking the Right Stories
[00:08:04] – Original Settlers
[00:11:35] – Important Families
[00:15:21] – Book Release
[00:16:15] – Honeycut Inn
[00:20:59] – Neeley Farms
[00:26:12] – About Pinckneyville
[00:28:11] – Paul Duke and Rise of Technology
[00:32:26] – Carole’s Experience with the Book
[00:38:09] – Closing

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. I appreciate
you guys joining me. We have a special guest tonight and we’ll get to her shortly and the subject
matter that we’re going to be talking about. But before that, I just want to introduce our sponsor,
not only an advertiser in Peachtree Corners Magazine, but a supporter of the family of podcasts
that we do. And that’s Hargray Fiber. They’re a company that is big in the Southeast. They’re a
cable company that provides fast internet connection and business solutions. Not only for small
businesses, but for enterprise size businesses. So check them out. They’re not the cable guy.
They are really in their community that they are in. They’re involved with the communities that
they work in. So HargrayFiber.com. Visit them and thank them. So let’s get to our guest. Our
guest here tonight is, let’s bring her on, Carole. Let’s get you up here with me. Hi, how are you?
Carole: [00:01:28] Good. How are you?
Rico: [00:01:29] Good. So Carol is an author, journalist. I’m plugging as I engineer now so bear
with me everyone. But Carole’s an author and journalist, she’s a native of Atlanta, lived 30 years
here in Gwinnett County. And she’s had, she has about six books under her belt and an award
winning book called “Blood in the Soil”, which is about the 78 shooting of Larry Flint and his
attorney in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Check out that book too. But the book that we’re going to be
talking about tonight actually is a different book. Maybe there’s some history there and there’s
some, some stuff going on there as well. But the book itself that we’re going to be talking about
is the history of an innovative and remarkable city. The city of Peachtree Corners. Two years in
the making, reaching back to 1777 and up to 2020 and dealing with a lot of history, a lot of
families. Some places that, some families that people know already. Certainly if not, know of the
families they know of the street names of those families. So tell us Carole a little bit, let’s get
right into it. Let’s, you know, tell us a little bit about, you know, what did it take and how did you
actually come to this part of writing this book two years ago?
Carole: [00:02:40] Oh my goodness. I was honored to have a Judy Putnam, the city’s
communications director come to me. And she was aware of the fact that I was an author and a
longtime journalist in the area. And she had come to me with a passion of hers, which was
preserving the history of the city of Peachtree Corners. And as anybody who is familiar with
Gwinnett County, certainly who grew up in or around Gwinnett County knows, development here
skyrocketed. It just exploded. Really, I want to say in the late seventies, eighties, and has
continued as we all see. And that’s been a wonderful thing for this area. For the business
community and for residents. The downside to that, as we all know, those of us who love history
know. So much is lost to progress. And progress is certainly not a bad thing, but I think, and
Judy is certainly of the opinion that we must know where we came from in order for where we’re
going to matter to mean as much as it can. And so she was passionate about preserving the
rich history of the Peachtree Corners city and the surrounding, the area that surrounded it
before Peachtree Corners was actually formed as a city. So she came to me with this project
and I love research. All of my books involve a great deal of research. So I was thrilled and I of
course jumped at the opportunity. And here we are a few years later. It’s been an amazing
journey and process.Rico: [00:04:26] I’m sure. So many people are involved in a book like this right? I mean you
have dozens of people you have to interview not only the interview process, but then the writing
process, what goes into it? You know what, I mean I’m sure all the research you did could
probably fill several volumes of books. But you had to really fine tune where you were going with
this right? You had to pick the right families that you felt had a good enough story to be able to
carry a book like this a bit right?
Carole: [00:04:52] Right. Exactly. The city itself is, we just had this conversation, nine, ten years
old. And as we had laughed and said a book, a history book with nine or ten years of history is
going to be more of a brochure than it is a book. So we said really the history of any area
reaches far back into its roots. So we said, let’s just go back and take a look as far back as we
can find historical factual data about Western Gwinnett County. Which of course is where
Peachtree Corners sits. So we did. We are back in Creek and Cherokee and habitation and
early settlers. And as is so true when the research really hits that sweet spot. The history is
fascinating. The stories are fascinating.
Rico: [00:05:44] Not only that. I think it also feeds into the stories that would come later, right?
Kids during the fifties and sixties, seventies growing up in this area that would find arrowheads
in certain places and stuff. You know, I mean, yeah. And walk, and even like, for example, the
the old broken bridge that’s no longer there that crossed that Chattahoochee, you know, when
that was built. And then even later when it became Brust and Toking bridge, the kids were still
jumping off that bridge into the river.
Carole: [00:06:12] I mean, this will really I guess date myself, but as a teenager, you know my
friends and I would go and we always went up to Jones bridge. And you did. You know, you
shimmied up and jumped off. Our parents would not have been happy to know that, but that’s
just those kinds of a rite of passage if you grew up in this area.
Rico: [00:06:31] And we were talking a little bit before we started recording about and I know
from friends that, Gwinnett County a long time ago was a place that when you were a kid, I think
it was during maybe the fifties and sixties. And you thought you had to cross Gwinnett County
and you were like 18 years old, you had your driver’s license. Your parents would say, go
around the County don’t you dare go through that gap.
Carole: [00:06:52] Right? They did. That was a rule in our household and there were seven of
us children. So they weren’t kidding. I was the next to the youngest. So they had it down to a
science by then. But yes, we as kids, you know, growing up around here, you always wanted to
go to Lake Gwinear, for one reason or another. And if you live in DeKalb County, you must go
through Gwinnett County to get to Hall County. And we were required to drive around Gwinnett
because of, you know, it yeah. A lot of the history of the County is not a secret. There were
some wild and wooly things that took place here because Gwinnett was so, it was sparsely
populated. It was country. I think that’s being generous. It was sparsely populated. People
called it the wild, wild West. Let’s put it that way. I don’t know why they called it West because
it’s, there’s nothing West about it, but it’s just kind of the way things were done in GwinnettCounty for a long time. Just bizarre, unusual things happened here. I mean the County is
peppered with really interesting, fascinating events that took place.
Rico: [00:08:04] And isn’t it interesting how we’ve come up to a point where we are a smart city
now on the edge of doing things that other cities are not doing. So it’s grown. So let’s dig deep a
little bit into the history of this area before Peachtree Corners. Obviously Native Americans
inhabited this area as well as other European settlers. But what drew them here? I know the
Chattahoochee river was probably a big draw, but tell us a little bit about what you think and
what you found that drew settlers here, kept natives here.
Carole: [00:08:35] Certainly the river, my goodness. For native Americans this was, the
Chattahoochee river was the lifeblood of the area. So from North Georgia as the river flows
down really to the Southern most part of the state. And then West a little bit that’s, the banks of
the river are where the early, early Native Americans settled. And as the Europeans started
making their way into the new world and then pushing their way South, they brought with them
diseases that wiped out a great number of the Native Americans simply because they just had
not ever been exposed to them. So then we had tiny, tiny gatherings and tribes and groups of
people who migrated along the banks of the Chattahoochee came together South of Gwinnett
County. But I think it was, if my memory serves me correctly, 16 different groups of native
Americans came together. And they formed the Creek nation eventually. And it was largely
Creek that then settled here in the area that we now know is Gwinnett County. There were
Cherokee, but really the Chattahoochee served as a dividing line for the two nations. And so
sometimes there were skirmishes over, a little territoriality and who’s encroaching on whose
territory, but typically the Chattahoochee served as a dividing line between the two nations.
Rico: [00:10:12] And then American, I say American, they became American later, I guess.
European settlers came and they inhabited and became residents of this area. How, you know,
there were families, obviously the, you know, when we look at Holcomb bridge road, we look at
Nesbit ferry, we’d look at Medlock bridge road. These are just not names just pulled out of a hat
or even of recent history. They go back a long ways. What of what families, if you will, were the
earliest settlers to this area?
Carole: [00:10:45] I can tell you the absolute earliest family were the Medlocks. And I can say
that with certainty because Isha Medlock, who was the first recorded Medlock in the area was a
squatter on land that would, the federal government had set aside strictly for Native Americans.
And he just decided that he wanted to settle on some of those lands and he did. So Isha
Medlock was the first, certainly the first Peachtree Corners family. Although the Medlocks, as we
know, goodness, they’re in Atlanta, they’re let’s see up around in Forsyth County and in North of
that even. But in this area, Isha Medlock came 1777. Settled in Western Gwinnett in what is now
Peachtree Corners.
Rico: [00:11:35] Now, and we should let people know that that’s one of the two families that you
highlight in the book.Carole: [00:11:40] Yes, that’s true. So I picked the Medlocks for obvious reasons. They are so,
their name is so well known in the area for very good reasons. And they were the first family to
settle. The other family that I chose, if you want me to, am I jumping ahead to share that? Okay.
The other family is the Nesbit family. And I chose this family, of course there are many important
families that settled the area, but the Nesbit family the Perry Nesbit family struck me as another
group that really needed to be part of the story. Because the patriarch well, and the matriarch of
that family were born into slavery. They were born before, well before the civil war ended in fact,
the grand patriarch, they actually called the gentlemen Perry P. Nesbit. The family refers to him
as grand. He was also born into slavery and was emancipated at age nine. But he became a
prominent landowner in Pinckneyville, Peachtree Corners. And that was highly unusual. I mean,
I think we all know that. You know, from that time period in our history, it was very unusual for
someone who had been born into slavery to become a well-known, a prominent landowner. And
that was done strictly through work ethic and a love of education. And it was a story that had to
be told.
Rico: [00:13:13] And that’s amazing to me. I mean, African American in the South, South of the
Mason Dixon and with the things that went on down here for a long period of time. Now, you
know, obviously there may have been pockets where everything was fine, maybe. But overall
the South was not a friendly place, always to African-Americans and certainly to business
owners. Unless you had a pocket of, you know, a town that was African-American, let’s say. Or
a pocket area like that. So you know, I can appreciate the history that goes there because there
was probably a lot of struggles there as well to a degree, right? So again, can you tell us a little
bit more about what you found out about the Nesbit family?
Carole: [00:13:53] Well, I can tell you that it’s very gratifying for me to see in every single family
member with whom I spoke from that family, the deep pride and the continued love for
education. The knowledge of their own family history and the history of the area. That struck
me, you don’t, you really don’t see that that often anymore. In my experience, you don’t. We are
in the overall scheme of things, new. Georgia is new. Gwinnett County is new, in the overall
scheme of history. We’re very new. So to see a family with such a love and reverence and
respect for their ancestors. For their history, for the way a true work ethic, a dedication to family,
and a deep love of education. Which to me defines the way the American dream came about for
so many here. But that’s, it’s held dear by every single family member, whether they’re young
today, or you know I spoke with people in their nineties. They all share that same thing. So I
have a lot of respect for that. And I really enjoyed and felt privileged to share their stories and
experiences in this book.
Rico: [00:15:21] For those that may be joining this live simulcasts or maybe later, as it’s on
demand, we are speaking to Carole Townsend, author and journalist. And author of the new
book that will be coming out, when about? When is that? When is the book coming out?
Carole: [00:15:36] This spring, that’s, I’m comfortable saying this spring. We are, I hope nobody
kills me. We’re probably looking at April release. Those are our hopes. COVID has affected somany things. So we are in the final phase of production of the book, which is of course the
Rico: [00:15:56] So, okay. That’s good. We’re past the proofing part. So that’s always good. And
anyone that knows about proofread knows that proofread is an adventure all by itself.
Grammarly does not work.
Carole: [00:16:14] Not for everything.
Rico: [00:16:15] No. Nope, nope, nope. So the History of Innovative and Remarkable Cities, the
name of the book, will now be coming out this spring, we’ll say. But there’s other things within
the book. We talked about the Medlock family and the Nesbits, you know, obviously you learned
also a lot about the railroad, the agriculture, stagecoach, post office, the militias, the Honeycutt
inn. Can you me? Cause that was like one thing that sort of stuck out. Can you tell us a little bit
why that’s?
Carole: [00:16:40] So when Pinckneyville was first really a gathering of families. So we’re talking
late 17 hundreds. An interesting thing that I learned, I guess I knew this, but it was kind of
solidified for me in this research. So when the settlers trickled South and then they came to
Georgia. And there were many draws. Once they found out about the gold, that was in North
Georgia. That was a big draw. And the Chattahoochee was perfect climate for growing certain
crops, corn front and center. They love, the corn loves the humidity, the red clay soil. So here
are these people come in first trickled in, and then, you know, the populations in these little
centers grew. Well Pinckneyville was a gathering of families and individuals. The first to be built,
typically in these little towns was a saloon. The more things change, the more they stay the
same. But you know, revenue. It was a big revenue generator.
Rico: [00:17:47] The saloons were also hotels maybe?
Carole: [00:17:50] Well, there was a saloon that was adjacent to the Honeycutt inn, and in fact,
some accounts say it was inside the inn. Some say it was adjacent. More accounts that I’ve
read, say that it was actually adjacent to the Honeycutt inn. So you had your saloon then
typically the church. And then in Pinckneyville’s case came the Honeycutt inn, built by of course
the Honeycutt families. So it was hand hewn board, nails that were, nails and wooden pegs that
were hand fashioned. Mr. Honeycutt was a blacksmith by trade. And they tell me, so we know
where oh, the nursery is it Benson?
Rico: [00:18:33] Yes.
Carole: [00:18:34] Okay. Bentley? The nursery. I apologize. I can flip through my working copy
here, but you don’t want to wait for me to do that. Bentley’s nursery, I believe. So there’s a
storage place right next to the nursery. Is that ringing a bell? Public storage or something like
that? So they tell me that still, if you go back on the site where the public storage place is, and
you dig around a little bit, you’re going to find some of these hand fashioned nails and woodenbeams that made up a part of the Honeycutt inn. So the inn was a stagecoach stop. So that is
an indication that Pinckneyville was on the map already way before you know, some accounts
by date, by you know, noting the gathering of people here is second oldest. It wasn’t actually a
city, but it’s been around for a long time. So the Honeycutt inn was a stagecoach stop. One of
the interesting things and I’ll have to stop myself. I don’t want to give all the interesting stuff
away. But so it was built when, you know, this was still very raw and unsettled land as far as the
English European settlers knew. So and being right here at the river, the Cherokee and the
Creek would get into these skirmishes every now and then. You know, you’re on my side, you’re
on your side and some would try to take a little bit of land on one side of the Chattahoochee,
and then there would be retaliation. So in the porch in the front porch of the Honeycutt inn was
built a big trap door so that people could hide. You know, people staying in the inn or the guy
driving the stage coach or whoever needed to take refuge could hide under the inn. Open that
trap door and hide under the porch, just in case one of these skirmishes broke out you know.
And you’re in the line of fire. A long way to go about telling that story.
Rico: [00:20:37] Little details like that though right.
Carole: [00:20:39] Yeah. I’m going to find, I’m embarrassed. I’m going to find this family’s name.
Because I don’t want to, but you can go ahead and ask me another question. The nursery, it’s
the Bentleys.
Rico: [00:20:53] I think it’s the Bentleys. Yeah, that is.
Carole: [00:20:55] I am so sorry. It was one of those senior moments. Forgive me.
Rico: [00:20:59] I think you’re correct. It is the Bentleys. But let’s move on a little bit. We could
go to, we could talk about Neeley farm. Because Frank Neeley was an interesting personality
also, right? Cutting edge agricultural practices. And how he dealt with his farm workers. And of
course there’s the big house. And the clubhouse now at Neeley farm. So tell us a little bit about
Carole: [00:21:20] Right. Well, Neeley himself, I mean my goodness, I’m sure books have been
written about him. He’s certainly memorialized down at Georgia tech. He and his wife, both.
Georgia tech graduated engineer. Goodness gracious his list of accomplishments. He was on
the board of Rich’s department store, the federal reserve. His list of accomplishments is a mile
long. And again, if I looked it up, I could be more specific. But the man was just a powerhouse.
He was, I had the pleasure of speaking with his granddaughter and she said he was just, he
was very intense, but he was so bright. It was almost as though he couldn’t contain it. He
constantly had to be involved in something that was bigger than life. And he certainly was. He
bought land out in what is now Peachtree Corners, is what we know as the subdivision Neeley
farm, to build a getaway. A weekend retreat for his family, because his work in the city of Atlanta
was very intense and very demanding. And so he built this farm, it was a dairy farm. He also
raised pigs on the farm, but they weren’t just any cows and any pigs. They were exceptional
Guernseys and Holstein cows. He worked with the university of Georgia on actually trying tocross breed the two. Because one, and I’m probably going to get this backwards. One of the
cows was known for the high fat content of the milk and the other was known for just the overall
nutritional value of the milk, I believe. But anyway, he was trying to crossbreed those two to see
if he could come up with this super product of the milk. And the pigs, even the pigs were not
normal. They were called Tamworths and they could forage on their own. They could go out
into, because there was a lot of the property was wooded. They could just go on their own, out
into the woods and forage and feed themselves basically. But there was an unusual looking
reddish hair on the pigs. And anyway, so he did just over the top. But he worked with UGA
because he had seen so many farms, especially in Georgia with rutted you know, the Georgia
clay and the rain runoff and the ruts that you see in the dirt. And he didn’t want that. So they had
said you need to do two things. You terrace your fields, which he did, and you get cows to
fertilize the earth, which he also did. So it was a working dairy farm. But it was also. I’m sorry?
Rico: [00:24:04] Up until when actually? Was that up until like, the sixties, I guess, as a working
Carole: [00:24:10] I don’t know that it was as recent as the sixties, I want to say probably fifties,
yeah. And I would have to verify the dates, but probably the fifties. But as was true of so many
of the farms they not only produced what, some say a dairy farm, it wasn’t just milk and it wasn’t
just the pigs. It was, there were gardens that are vegetable gardens and the families, there were
seven families that lived on the farm and worked the farm. Interestingly enough, some of the
Nesbit descendants that are featured in the book worked Neeley’s farm, Frank Neeley’s farm.
And they knew a great deal about what their jobs were. But they would have huge gardens. So
canning, preserving, and eventually freezing became part of their collective knowledge. And, but
that was true of pretty much every farm, you know, that you would find during that time period. It
was, they were self-sufficient.
Rico: [00:25:10] So even Frank Neeley wanted to get away from all the city stress. He decided
that farms stress was okay I guess.
Carole: [00:25:17] He came down here and started some country stress. And in fact, his wife
would fuss at him about that, according to Neeley’s granddaughter Ms. Eve Hoffman. Who so
graciously spent a good deal of time with me. She and her brother Nathan spent a lot of time
with me recollecting their years growing up. Because there Mr. Neeley built their mother, his
daughter, a house, which is known, I think still commonly as the Dean house. That was where
they grew up with their mother. And so their stories were just…
Rico: [00:25:52] Now they’re still living? Are they still living in Neeley farm?
Carole: [00:25:55] Ms. Hoffman is. She does. She doesn’t live in the subdivision. She lives on a
piece of the proper, part of the property that did belong to her grandfather.
Rico: [00:26:07] Right. So lots of history here. We even had a militia post at one point, right?Carole: [00:26:12] Militia post 406. Pinckneyville yes. So all of these things, plus the fact that
there was a post office in Pinckneyville really spoke to the importance of the settlement of
Pinckneyville. Which of course evolved into Peachtree Corners.
Rico: [00:26:29] And interestingly enough. I mean, through Gwinnett County, from the little I
know about the history, a lot of the train stations you know, like across Duluth, Sugarhill maybe,
even at Buford. That the trains would run through those towns and there were train stops, right?
And now, you know, those downtown areas during the, I guess the eighties and nineties, you
know, tried to come back also. Because at one point there were train stops, even in Norcross. I
mean, train runs through it, the train stop itself, the Depot is now a restaurant or it was a
restaurant. But so seeing that Pinckneyville stagecoach stop and all these other things near
where the trains were running through, but they were still a place of traffic, if you will. It’s an
interesting thing that this is where we’re coming out of, right?
Carole: [00:27:20] Right. And in truth, when the railroad came through and it was, it went
through Norcross. People who were business owners in the Pinckneyville area, Western
Gwinnett County, of course all went toward or to Norcross because that was the fastest
transportation. That was the latest and greatest you could get to Atlanta in no time and get back.
So the Western Gwinnett County area was certainly agricultural at first of course. Then
businesses started to open and thrive. And then the railroad came through and then it went
back largely agricultural for a long time. And I will say that was certainly the fifties and sixties. It
was still very rural.
Rico: [00:28:11] And then we come up to, you know. I know because of the magazine, because
of the podcasts I’ve done over the last three years, we’ve talked a lot about Technology Park,
Paul Duke. All that development that came after, technology, a lot of the major companies that
have been here that still continue to grow here. They’re all high-tech companies. But before the
technology and maybe after the farming, what did we see? Was there anything, you know,
between that? Between the farming part and the high tech part of the seventies later, I guess.
Carole: [00:28:44] I want to say once, you know, Western Gwinnett County stayed very rural.
There wasn’t even much infrastructure here in the early sixties. Or I say here, in Peachtree
Corners, in Western Gwinnett County. Even, you know, as recent as the early sixties. Which is
shocking, you know, if you see Gwinnett County today, you can’t imagine a square inch that’s
not fully developed. I think when Paul Duke, this young bright engineer that came out of
Georgia tech saw that when Georgia tech engineers graduated, their bags were already packed
to go elsewhere. They were leaving Georgia, we all knew that for a fact. There was nothing for
them to do here or very little. And he wanted to change that. He and his wife lived in Atlanta. But
he had, he worked for LB Foster for a while in his early career. And part of his job with them was
to acquire properties on which to build their facilities and as a result of those responsibilities, he
ended up in Western Gwinnett County. And he immediately dubbed it God’s country. He thought
it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen. And that’s when he got the idea to build this
cutting edge technology campus, or business campus, with a focus on technology to attract
those engineers. He wanted to build this beautiful campus. He wanted to build, surround it withneighborhoods that would appeal to engineers and jobs of that caliber, I guess. You know, for
lack of a better word. He wanted to build a community that would attract and keep engineers. So
he began amassing the land to do that. And as we all know, I mean, gosh, I’ve lived here
forever. I remember when technology park was developed. And you know when businesses
started moving in we thought, and I remember my parents saying who on earth is going to
locate a business way out there in the sticks. Who’s going to make that drive. And of course,
you know, we see the answer to that. It was hugely successful.
Rico: [00:30:59] It certainly, and it’s evolved, right? And it’s interesting how Georgia tech grads,
if you will, from Georgia tech, UGA, have all helped the development of this whole area. How
technology back then Hayes Modem, companies that people are not familiar with today. Unless
they’re old enough to remember dialing into AOL you know. Or even laser printers. I mean, they
were developed here as well, right? So those are just some of the technology and now we’re
moving into the smart city, right? The cutting edge, innovative city of tomorrow, hopefully one
day. Because things do change, right? We’re an urban area. We’re not that far. Maybe we were
not too long ago. And I think part of, I think when the Olympics came in 96, that even
accelerated part of what was developing here, right? Cause it drove a lot of technology, a lot of
business growth. I remember coming here in 95. If you were a sales person back then you didn’t
need to know how to sell. You needed to get through the door to be able to sell. Anyone could
sell. It was amazing. You know, of course there was the shakeout later, you know, and stuff in
2008 later and things. But you know, we continued to grow, right? So this history is still unfolding
in front of us. Do you have any takeaways? Any favorite parts of the book that you want to share
with us?
Carole: [00:32:26] I will say that talking with members of both of the families that are spotlighted
in the book was, that was an experience. It’s a once in a lifetime thing to hear history being
really narrated for you. I mean, the people with whom I spoke, I spoke with a 101 year old
gentlemen, a member of the Nesbitt family who worked on Frank Neeley’s farm. Sharp as a
tack, wonderful memory. Told me some stories that just, I don’t know, just listening to him tell the
stories puts you there. You know a hundred years ago and you can smell the dirt and you can,
you could see the pride he took in his work. That to me is really where, you know, your
research is, you’re not talking at people anymore. You are there in it. And it’s my sincere hope
that readers feel the same way when they read some of those accounts that we share in the
book. It’s just you know, waiting even five years. And this is, I really am getting around to
answering your question. My takeaway from this book is the fact that Peachtree Corners is
undisputedly the crown jewel of Gwinnett County. I mean, with what’s going on there now, the
vision. And everything it took to take technology park, which was state-of-the-art in the late
sixties and seventies, and really it had become kind of a dinosaur. You know, when Peachtree
Corners became a city, city leaders were presented with that really more as a problem than a
solution for the city. The American dream today is not what it was in the late sixties and
seventies. Millennials, you know, the workforce now, they don’t want the big house and the two
cars in the driveway and the 2.2 kids, and they don’t want that. They want smaller, more efficient
housing. They want walkability, they want and the careers are different. I mean, Paul Duke, I’m
not sure as visionary as he was. I’m not sure even he could have understood where technologywas going to go by this time. So technology park has been re-imagined. And, you know, we’ve
got the Curiosity Lab, which is just, it’s an example for the world, not just for the nation, but for
the world. So you’ve got this city that puts so much stock in progress and technology and being
cutting edge paying homage to its history. Because the people in the city who made the decision
to move forward with this book knew that if we didn’t get all this on paper, so to speak, it would
be gone. And the stories that the people shared with me for this book would be nothing but
myths and urban legends and lost. Just lost with the last breath of some of these family
members. So I have such respect. This was not an easy project. But it’s something that is so
worthwhile and now we’ve got it documented. And you know, maybe in another fifty to a
hundred years, somebody will be brave enough to come along and add to it. And I’m sure that
Peachtree Corners will have amazing things to add to it. So I just, innovative and remarkable
certainly describes the city, but for them to reach back into their past and give it this much effort
I think is truly remarkable.
Rico: [00:35:59] I agree and things are still unfolding. COVID-19 has really continued to change
the way the city has to adapt even further, right? Because of people staying home, because of a
year of pandemic. How does traffic change, dwellings, how people live and stuff. So ever
evolving, history needs to be put down on paper though, or on a recorded device or on digital
device, right? To be able to keep that history archived. So I’m glad that the city did this, that you
were able to do this. I know it’s a two year struggle of getting this and being able to put
everything down in a book. It’s not easy. So I respect your abilities to be able to get it done.
Carole: [00:36:47] Thank you. It was certainly a team effort.
Rico: [00:36:49] I’m sure.
Carole: [00:36:50] And I will say too, we see so many city history books popping up here and
there. This book is truly organic. We didn’t run down to the state archives and, you know, pull all
the pictures we could from Western Gwinnett County and put captions and call it a book. We
went to the families and these are family photos. Some are 10 types that we’ve got in this book.
When I dunno, are we out of time? I have a cute story to share. So there’s a lady named Jane
Garner who was a member of the Medlock family. And she, my goodness, she was 94 when she
and I first started talking for the purposes of writing this book. And she shared with me hundreds
of family photos as the Nesbit’s did. But she had pulled out a few 10 types. And there were two,
I think that we were actually able to use in the book and some were really good photos. But she
and her siblings had some of the 10 types were photos of infant babies. She and her siblings
had drawn glasses and mustaches on the babies. Just like all kids do with some family photos
and you get in trouble for it. But I thought, you know, the more things change again, the more
they stay the same. I just, I thought it was so funny that they had done that.
Rico: [00:38:09] Yeah, kids are kids. No matter what. I’m sure if they had the Sharpies back then
really done a job. So, listen this has been a great conversation though. I can’t wait to see the
book. I’m going to be getting my copy. Hopefully it’s sometime this spring when it comes out. I
know it’s at the printers. So we’ve been together here with Carole Townsend, author, journalistthe person that tackled along with a team of people, but she’s the point person on this, the book,
the History of an Innovative and Remarkable City. The history going from 1777 to 2020. The two
year struggle of putting that history on paper and I’m sure you have even recordings of
interviews I bet. Which would be interesting to hear even. But yeah, so it’s been a good
interview. I appreciate you spending the time with me doing this and thank you. And everyone
else, that’s listening to this, go to the city website. But you’ll know that the book will be out
because we’re going to let you know. Plus Peachtree Corners Magazine with the April-May
edition I believe, we’re going to have an excerpt from the book. So look for that. And we’ll have
more information about when that book’s available and pre-sales. If you want to be able to
purchase a copy of it as well. So, but thank you, Carole. I appreciate you being with us.
Carole: [00:39:36] Thank you, this was fun. Thank you. I’m so excited to be able to talk about it.
Rico: [00:39:42] Yeah. So am I, I mean, this was great. Love it. Thank you, Carole Goodnight

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Arts & Literature

Paul Duke Stem HS student advances to Regional Piano Audition



Peyton Harvey will advance to the Regional Piano Audition after receiving an Outstanding Performer Recognition for 9th Grade in the recent Virtual Piano Local Audition held last week and organized by Gwinnett County Music Teacher Association (GCMTA). If he receives an Outstanding Performer Designation again in the Regional Audition, he will then proceed to the State Audition. The Regional and State Audition are organized by Georgia Music Teacher Association (GMTA). Congrats, Peyton!

Audition Video link here.

Piano Sonata No.8, Op.13, “Pathetique” by Ludwig van Beethoven. Liebestraum No.3 by Franz Liszt

Source: Paul Duke Stem HS

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Arts & Literature

Women’s History Month at Gwinnett Libraries



Upcoming Virtual Author and Speaker Programs

Each month the Gwinnett County Public Library brings bestselling and award-winning authors from a variety of genres to the library, offering readers exclusive opportunities to meet and engage with their favorite writers. All author events listed below are live & virtual.

A Women’s History Month Program for Children

Live Book Talk/Storytime with Children’s Author Deborah Hopkinson

Saturday, March 6 at 11:00 am

Deborah Hopkinson- Photo courtesy of Gwinnett County Public Library site.

The book is Thanks to Frances Perkins-Fighter for Workers based on the life of a real-life woman hero. Frances Perkins witnessed the Triangle Waist Factory fire in 1911, she was forever changed.   Frances decided to work to bring about new laws and became the first female Secretary of Labor in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration and she created our Social Security program  

  To rsvp email events@gwinnettpl.org  

In celebration of Women’s History Month

Author Carolyn Curry in conversation with President of Accent Creative Group, Pam Ledbetter.

Thursday, March 11
7 – 8 p.m.

Carolyn Curry. Photo courtesy of Gwinnett County Public Library site.

Carolyn Curry is the founder of Women Alone Together and she is the award-winning author of the biography Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas 1824 – 1907.

Ella grew up in one of the wealthiest families in Georgia and attended Wesleyan, the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women. She kept a diary before, during, and after the Civil War.  Post-war she documents facing her bankruptcy, the death of four children, and the turmoil of reconstruction. She survives and thrives and was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Suffrage Movement.

Registration is required to access this event. Once registered, you will receive a link to access this event. 

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