Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Life and Times of Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins – Part 5

Major Contributions as Georgia’s Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins (1885-1967)25 years Georgia's Superintendent of Schools, 1933-1958

From the hills of Choestoe to the capitol in Atlanta--the journey had been arduous but focused. Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins was sworn in as Georgia’s Superintendent of Schools on January 11, 1933. His tenure in that office extended over a quarter of a century until his retirement ended an auspicious career on January 13, 1958. Following his retirement, he was named Superintendent Emeritus, a position he retired from on July 31, 1963.

His retirement at age 73 highlighted a distinguished career that spanned fifty-six years as an educator, from a one-teacher school at Old Liberty in Union County at a salary of $22.50 per month to the highest educational office in the state.

One of his favorite expressions in his tenure as superintendent was, “We deliver the goods, express charges prepaid.” He had Georgia’s children and teachers at heart, with grass-roots knowledge of how education could work for the best good to the most people. Some of his favorite expressions have often been quoted:

“Georgia has sometimes missed a crop of cotton, but has never missed a crop of children.”

“Education does not cost; it pays.”

“Everybody is somebody.”

“A teacher can only teach two things: What he is and what he knows.”

To encourage those who often sought him out in the state’s highest educational office with what seemed to them mammoth problems, “Doc” Collins would send them away with his characteristic smile and “Attaboy! You can do it!” ringing in their ears.

Speech writers were often concerned that he read their painstaking research, tucked the manuscript into his pocket, and went onto a podium to make a speech, filling it with his own home-spun philosophy that often ended with his favorite comparison of two things of like nature going together “like grits and gravy.” Some of these were: education and the community; teachers and pupils; hope and determination.

His favorite themes were expressed in his speeches:

“We must have equal educational opportunities for all the children of all the people.”

“I had rather pay the bill at the schoolhouse than at the jailhouse.”

He entered his job as state school superintendent the year Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president and Eugene Talmadge was governor of Georgia. As the nation and Georgia were coming out of the Great Depression, could he fulfill his campaign promises? Achievements during his quarter century tenure are proof that he delivered the goods for educational advancement.

From 1933 through 1958, he led Georgia to adopt the Minimum Foundation Program for Education; free textbooks for all public school students; school, public and regional library services; bus transportation; surplus commodities; state teacher salary scheduled increases; school lunch programs; expanded vocational education; establishment of regional technical schools at Clarkesville and Americus; vocational rehabilitation programs; twelfth grade added to high school; curriculum expansion; school terms extended from three months to nine months; Georgia Teacher Retirement System (TRS); state employees’ retirement system; state merit system; high school equivalency program for veterans and other adults (GED test for high school diploma); a $200 million school buildings program; and a state audio-visual library with the largest educational film loan system to schools of any state in the nation.

Georgia’s education budget rose from $6 million allocated in 1933 to over $140 million in 1958. One of his favorite platforms was teacher salary increases. He loved to tell the story about a teacher who went to the bank shortly after the Depression to deposit some money from her meager salary. As she counted out the bills, she would lick her finger and lift the next dollar. The bank clerk asked her if she were not afraid she’d get germs from the bills. “Not on your life,” was her reply. “Not even germs could live on my salary!”

As he pushed for teacher salary increases, he also encouraged teachers to get better training for their jobs and initiated a stricter teacher certification program for Georgia educators. In a Reader’s Digest article in February, 1947, “How Georgia Teachers Got a Raise,” he was lauded for asking for a 50% teacher salary increase for 1948.

One perilous hurdle for Georgia education was desegregation. “Equal but separate” was no longer adequate education. Dr. Collins defied state political leaders in 1954 as he openly opposed the “private school” amendment, stating that it would seriously undermine and eventually destroy Georgia’s public education system.

In higher education, he was one of the founders of West Georgia College (now West Georgia State University) at Carrollton. He served as a trustee of Mercer, Oglethorpe and Bob Jones Universities, each of which conferred upon him, a distinguished alumnus, honorary degrees. He brought the Cave Spring School for the Deaf under the administration of the Georgia Department of Education. He was a member of several professional organizations, and served on the Board of Directors of the National Education Association from 1934 through 1957.

He died March 9, 1967 at age 81. He was interred at Westview Cemetery, Atlanta.

Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins exemplified in his life and service the spirit of individualism, self-discipline, hard work and ambition. These are often characteristics of persons reared in adverse circumstances and determined to achieve. He was mountain-bred and people-oriented. He left a rich legacy from which Georgians are still benefiting today. Indeed he was a noble mountain man, a person of vision, fidelity and attainment.

c2003 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 23, 2003 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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