‘The Right Kind of Neighbors’ – Race and the Origins of Avondale EstatesRoundup
tags: racism, Atlanta, Nathan Bedford Forrest, urban history, Gutzon Borglum
Kathryn Wilson is an Associate Professor of History at Georgia State University, where her research and teaching focus on public history, race, and the urban landscape. She has lived in Avondale Estates for 11 years and is married to Lionel Laratte, the city’s first Black commissioner.
Avondale Estates, GA — Local history has it that self-professed “capitalist and human benefactor” George F. Willis discovered the land that would become Avondale Estates in 1923, traveling along Covington Highway from the tony neighborhood of Druid Hills to Stone Mountain, where he attended meetings as a member of the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Association.
The next year he purchased 950 acres in the community of Ingleside, GA, just east of Decatur, with the aim of creating a model planned community, “an ideally perfect social and political life.” Combining the “best of city and country” Avondale Estates married its pastoral setting with progressive urban planning to create an idyllic Anglo-inspired enclave with racism and white supremacy at the foundation.
Willis was a master huckster who turned to real estate later in his career after amassing a fortune hawking dubious patent medicines through his company International Proprietaries, Inc. specifically a concoction called Tanlac, a “splendid effective stomachic tonic” of wine, herbal bitters, a laxative, and glycerin, amounting to 17% alcohol.
As a Stone Mountain Association member and officer, Willis was in the company of many prominent Atlantans of the time (bankers, lawyers, educators, newspaper editors, executives, and politicians, including Atlanta Mayor J.N. Ragsdale) as well as governors of Southern states and prominent Klan members such as Nathan Bedford Forrest II (grandson of the Klan founder) and Samuel Venable.