All the ladies agreed that it was Generia Honeycutt “Honey” Bowen, wife of long-time Statesboro Mayor William A. “Bill” Bowen, who was instrumental in forming the Statesboro Beautification Commission in 1973. Mrs. Bowen attended South Georgia Teachers College, met and married Bill Bowen and joined the faculty in physical education at Georgia Southern. She was also instrumental in forming the Statesboro/Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department, the main offices of which bear her name.
“Honey became very interested in the city after marrying Bill,” related Mrs. Jean Smith Mathews, one of the Commission’s founding members and one of four recently recognized by the mayor and city council for their long service and commitment to enhancing the beauty of Statesboro. Mrs. Mathews was joined in being honored by Mrs. Martha Wilma Simmons Coleman, Mrs. Fay Foy Smith, and Mrs. Helen Proctor Morris Watson. All were given emeritus status on the Commission for their many years of service.
The Commission was originally appointed by Mayor Bowen with the purpose of “Coordinating, encouraging and promoting efforts on the part of businesses, civic organizations, garden clubs, and citizens to maintain and enhance the beauty and cleanliness of the City of Statesboro.”
Have you ever admired the blooming dogwood trees along College Boulevard or Park Avenue, standing in a row like young girls dressed in their Sunday finest waiting for the Easter parade? Or have you noticed the beautiful fountain and seasonal plantings at Triangle Park where East Main and Savannah Avenue intersect? These lovely details are what create an ambience for our community, a touch of charm and attractiveness. They are just a few examples of the work of the Statesboro Beautification Commission.
“The Garden Clubs really wanted it,” said Mrs. Coleman. “We sold roses, shrubs and flowers to enhance the neighborhoods. We put the witch up for the Sallie Zetterower (Elementary School) Fall Carnival, and the Christmas Tree up at the court house.”
Of the four honored by city council, three were founding members of the Commission, Mrs. Mathews, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Coleman. “Priss Olliff and Nan Bland were also on the first commission,” said Mrs. Mathews.
The ladies described their busy lives of garden club meetings, bridge club, tennis, golf, raising children, attending to church work, volunteering for charity concerns and serving on the Beautification Commission as young wives and mothers. All felt it was an important initiative for the community.
“We had dogwoods planted on the sidewalks downtown and worked with James Bland to have camellias and azaleas planted at the cemetery,” said Mrs. Mathews.
In addition to encouraging landscaping, the Commission sponsored the replacement of steel drums with attractive refuse receptacles throughout downtown. They sponsored the erection of new street signs, encouraged the standardization of house numbering, and checked regularly on street sweepings and grass cutting in public areas.
Some of the goals of the Beautification Commission in the early 1970s are ongoing and just as relevant today as they were 43 years ago: working toward an attractive, safe and functional bike trail; studying the possibility of removing existing utility poles or at least fewer and more attractive poles with newer type lights; and working toward more mini parks throughout the city.
The Beautification Commission was also proactive in planning and researching improvements for the City of Statesboro. They enlisted and implemented ideas drawn from what other towns were doing successfully and through the help of professionals “toward the end of making changes in design and practices, and additions that will make our city a uniquely attractive place.”
While the Beautification Commission still researches and plans projects, the City of Statesboro’s Superintendent of Streets and Parks, Robert Seamans, manages the budget and oversees and implements the projects.
In addition to the four emeritus members, other members of the Commission currently serving are Virginia Anne Franklin Waters, Henry Clay (Chairman), Perry Ann Dean, Sally Ramsey, and Rick Smith.
“This is an actual commission,” stated Seamans, “the Tree Board and the Beautification Commission fall under the Georgia Municipal Code with ordinances governing their operations.”
Current projects include the new banners on downtown streetlamps, landscaping the Municipal Court building on West Grady Street, renovating the fountain at Triangle Park, and landscaping for Savannah Avenue. Four commemorative benches have also recently been ordered and will be installed in parks within the city, a fitting way to honor the four emeritus members of the Commission.
“We served all these years because we appreciate nature and what grows and what adds beauty wherever it is,” said Mrs. Mathews.