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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mr. Obe Pruitt's public service

Mention the name Mr. Obe Pruitt and many of the people still living will remember this public servant who served as a U. S. Deputy Marshall in Georgia's Northern District for 23 years and for twelve years as mayor of Blairsville. They will remember him and his wife Nettie as lovers of people and of animals, and genuine neighbors and friends to those who needed a helping hand.

Obe Pruitt was not a Union County native. Born in Banks County, Ga., in 1895, he received his early education in schools there, growing up on his father's farm.

When America entered World War I, Obe Pruitt enlisted and after training was sent to France. There he was wounded in battle. Returning to America following the Armistice in November of 1918, he continued to recuperate from his wounds and then farmed for awhile in Banks County.

In August of 1922 he married the love of his life, Nettie S., also reared in Banks County at Homer. The couple did not have children of their own, but every niece, nephew and neighbor child experienced the strong influence of these two stalwart people.

Feeling that law enforcement would be to his liking, Mr. Obe Pruitt was appointed a United States Deputy Marshall and served the Northern District of Georgia, mainly in Union County, for 23 years. One of the requirements of the job was that the deputy live in the area where he was assigned duty. The couple moved from Banks County and bought a house in Blairsville on what is now named Pruitt Circle.

It was at their house where I first met Mr. and Mrs. Pruitt. I was a close friend to their neighbor, Charlene Wimpey, who lived at the corner of Highway 129 and Pruitt Circle.

Sometimes when I visited Charlene at the Wimpey house, we would walk to Mr. Obe and Mrs. Nettie's house close by and look first to see what stray animals Mr. Obe had taken in to tend in the pens in his back yard. These ranged from opossums to wildcats and once even a mountain bear.

We school children also knew Mrs. Nettie as one of the school nurses employed by the health department to go to our schools and give us immunization shots. We had a certain dread of that needle, or the scratch and application of the smallpox vaccine, but Mrs. Nettie, with her kindness and gentle ways made "shots" day far less fearsome. She was a strong Christian lady and taught Sunday School at First Baptist Church, Blairsville, for over 30 years.

When Highway 129 was first built, it curved right by the Obe Pruitt House. Then, when the state decided to widen and straighten the highway, the roadway was rerouted through a mountain that sloped upward from the roadbed in front of the Pruitt house. The rerouting obstructed the view of the road from the Pruitt House. Mr. Obe took the problem to Atlanta, straight to Governor Eugene Talmadge's office. He pled that the obstructing land be smoothed out so the Pruitts could again see the traffic on Highway 129 as it went to and fro in front of their house. The mission was accomplished. Attention was brought to the ability of this Deputy Marshall who had influence enough in state governmental affairs to "move a mountain." Now, driving around Pruitt Circle, one can imagine how the land that was moved blocked a beautiful view across to busy Highway 129.

For 23 years in the job of Deputy U. S. Marshal, Mr. Obe Pruitt was frequently away from home attending to his duties. One of the important tasks of the marshals in the mountains was to arrest and bring to trial those caught making bootleg liquor, or "moonshine." They worked hand in hand with revenue agents. The 18th Constitutional Amendment in 1920 prohibited manufacturing, transportation and sale of intoxicating beverages. Marshals and their deputies take an oath to uphold the US Constitution and the rule of law.

The office goes back to the first president, George Washington, who appointed the first U. S. Marshal on September 24, 1789. The motto of this law enforcement unit is "Justice, Integrity, Service." The marshals and their deputies took on various responsibilities such as upholding the Constitution, offering security for witnesses in a trial, and enforcing civil authority of all three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Obe Pruitt was a highly-respected deputy marshal and stood tall as a purveyor of national law on the local level.

After his retirement from being a deputy U.S. Marshal, he entered local politics and was the mayor of Blairsville for twelve years. Beloved by his constituents, he and the City Council worked diligently to bring some visionary changes to the county seat town. The Blairsville Airport was built during his tenure. A central water system for the city received an affirmative vote and was installed. Many city streets were paved, street lights installed, and the first city fire truck and police car were purchased.

These additions to the growing town are taken for granted now, but Obe Pruitt pioneered in bringing about these needed changes.

Obe Pruitt passed away in 1975 at age 80. His widow, Mrs. Nettie, lived on at their house on Pruitt Circle until infirmity beset her and she had to enter the Union County Nursing Home in 1987. There she soon made new friends and kept her sweet, outgoing spirit. She died on August 16, 1991 at the ripe age of 91. Blairsville and Union County owe a debt of gratitude to these two citizens who worked hard to bring needed changes to the mountain region.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 29, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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