The following is extracted from a letter written by Tillman Richard Foster of Alexandria,
Va., to Dr. Bill Foster of Texas. A copy of the letter was also sent to Helen Ford in Smithville. Richard is the son of John Golden Foster and grandson of William Thomas Foster.
6 Aug 1984
Dear Cousin Bill,
I was born April 10, 1906 in Gulfport, Miss. My father John Golden (Golding) was
location engineer for the Gulf and Ship Island Railway (now Illinois Central) and his
employers furnished him with a Oldsmobile that my mother said took as much time
making it run as running.
My father was the oldest child of William Thomas (acting supt. of education for
Mississippi for several years) and Isabella Elnora Isaacs Foster of Tupelo, Miss.
My grandfather taught school for 53 years. As superintendent, he encouraged
gymnastics and music. Was a good Gardner and favored the planting of Pecan trees on
school property. Although my father wrote my sister-in-law (Janet Ward) in California
about family, he was more interested in distaff (Gibsons) than Foster.
My uncle Wm Evart Gladstone Foster attended Miss. College (Clinton, Miss.) for two
years and his pride (disdain of schoolteacher available funding) led him to Berkley, Calif.
as assistant Postmaster that he traded for the Post Office at Corregidor (Phillipines) where
his contact with the military led him into and final ownership of Auto and Truck
“Exclusive Franchise” for Dodge auto’s and White trucks for Luzon Island.
After 13 years he returned (in 1926) to USA (Southeast and Fla.) but back to
California and Automobile loan business. At 42 years of age he married Margaret (age
28) and she survives him (no children) in California. Uncle Glad spent a year returning
and less than a additional year before returning to California.
A man named Ernest Foster came in for a loan and Bill (his nickname to others outside
his immediate family) naturally asked “Where do you hail from”, and Ernest said “I don’t
know too much about my family as my father died in Oklahoma before I was born but
while in high school in Texas, an uncle (John Byrd Foster) in Meridian Miss. sent me some
money to help out.
Uncle Glad said “Shake hands with your first cousin”. This led to my grandfathers
“Letter to Ernest”, that he wrote on April 25, 1937. A masterpiece if he had only
left out the “Myth” of Stephen Foster. Never the less he knew the South Carolina
connection if he didn’t tie into Spotsylvania County, Virginia (He did make the Spots
connection however in his letter to Janet Ward of Burbank, Calif.)
My Grandfather “Jokingly” said that his greatest accomplishment was retaining the
Superintendency of Schools (in Winona, Miss. my mothers home town) for nine years as a
Baptist with a Methodist school board and that Admiral John McCain was his star pupil.
I actually saw more of my grandfather, when growing up, than my own father. We
lived with him during summer months in Crystal Springs, Miss. before school age, after a
year (in first grade) followed him to Rockmart, Ga. and then to Jefferson, Ga. and then
departed form Ga. to Hepville, Fla. in anticipation of attending Univ. of Fla.
My grandfather attended summer school at Univ. of Florida and moved us to Ocilla (in
south Georgia) where he was Supt. of Schools prior to accepting the Supt. of Schools
position in Washington, Georgia.
After my grandfathers move to Washington, my older brother John departed for two
years at Marion Institute leading to Naval Academy and 1926 graduation.
My father did not graduate from a engineering school (he attended Union College
Jackson, Tn. and Univ. of Miss. Oxford but he had respect for Georgia Tech as he worked
for J. B. McCrary Co. and McCrary was Tech educated.
I wished to go to Mercer University (in Macon) and graduate from Law School there
BUT my father said “get the application blanks and fill them out as you will attend
Georgia Tech” and that was that. I graduated in 1928 in Civil Engineering but am a life
member of A.S.M.E. as I was more engaged in mechanical and to a lesser degree chemical
My brother William entered Tech after 3 years in high school. He transferred to
Emory (and Pre-med) as Tech and Emory have such a reciprocity tolerance but this came
to haunt him when my father wanted him to attend Vanderbilt (in Nashville) and live with
his sister, Myrtle Dozier. He lacked Vandys language requirements for pre-med so he
went across the street to Peabody where he became president of the Student Body and
holds two degrees, although he got in his eighteen months residence at Univ. of Chicago
(in History). He never completed his supposed interest in a P.H.D. He taught for 38 years
in Mich. Western State, Kalamazoo and Detroit public schools and now lives in Ft. Myers Fla.
My grandfather had never owned an automobile but while living below Atlanta in
Fairburn. He loaned some money and had to take the open ford touring car in lieu of
payment on the loan.
In the summer of 1923 he would drive William and me to a 3rd St. location now within
present Ga. Tech Campus, where we were adding 5 rooms (below street level) on a house
that had previously been finished on the 2nd and 3re floors, but was only framed and with
siding below 3rd st. level.
My grandfather was lucky in not getting himself and others killed when he took over
the driving of an auto at somewhat advanced age so after skidding, in the rain, on the
Fairburn/College Park road, we reached North Ave. that was paved with wood blocks and
very slick and slimy when wet. At the Williams St. crossing someone pulled out and we
went into a slide that was more than one rotation and only extracted a little paint from the
other auto. After rocking and ending up right against the curb, my grandfather shoved
against the steering wheel, reared back and addressed a small boy on the apartment stoop:
“Wasn’t that a bully slide”? The small boy Replied “Yeah! Do it again”!! My brother Bill
and I got out of the car and walked the remaining 4 blocks to 3rd St. and that was our last
ride in his car that summer.
Before his demise in 1945 he owned a Chevrolet and Aunt Sarah had someone take it
away. He was told that it had been stolen and every day he would walk from 1433 Main
St. in Murfreesboro to the Sheriff’s office to inquire about any progress in recovering the
After my freshman year at Tech, in the summer of 1924, My spinster aunt Sarah and I
accompanied grandparents to their Native hometown, Smithville, Dekalb Co. Tenn. and
Tupelo, Miss. respectively. My grandfather let me get the car back on the road in No.
Ga., and in a small Ala. town near Gadsden where we had to detour upon a raised side
walk while main roadway was blocked for repair. Otherwise he drove all the way to
Miss./Tenn. and back (for bragging purposes) and my grandmother had to rub him down
every night with Sloans liniment.
At his hometown on Smithvilles 4th of July, two of my Staley 1st cousins (now living
in Huston) won beauty prizes, and others chased the greasy pig, climbed the greasy pole,
had three legged and sack races.
From Murfreesboro to Smithville, we beat 3 out of 5 toll gates at 15 cents each at
about 15 mile intervals. Hold out your hand, and if the attendant loosens the rope (on the
counter weighted log) you pull the 15 cents in hand back and step on the gas. We were so
crowded that I held a cousin in my lap, and when I got out of the car, my legs has gone to
sleep and I fell flat on my face on the ground.
I packed and unpacked the luggage from the open car each night. We spent so much
time in the Wilson dam site at Muscle Shoals, Ala. that we had to turn in at a farm house
at Russelville, Ala. where I was allowed to sleep in the car and avoid packing and
unpacking. I wondered why my grandparents kept the lights on all night, and found out
the next morning that I had not only avoided lugging the luggage, but BED BUGS as well.
Cousin Richard Foster