4/18: Dream Keepers’ unveiling; and more on Jim Ellis

GwinnettForum | Number 17.05 | April 18, 2017

Duluth is getting ready to dedicate this “Dream Keepers” memorial to those who were killed in the 9/11 tragedy in New York. For more details, see Today’s Focus below.
TODAY’S FOCUS: The “Dream Keepers of Tomorrow” To Be Unveiled in Duluth on April 29
EEB PERSPECTIVE: Why Jim Ellis Concentrated Dealerships on Peachtree Industrial Blvd.
SPOTLIGHT: Aurora Theatre
FEEDBACK: Californian Remembers First Meeting with Jim Ellis Years Ago
UPCOMING: Snellville Police Plan Drug Take-Back Event on April 29
NOTABLE: Solicitor Dismisses 89 Cases Involving Dismissed Gwinnett Policemen
RECOMMENDED: HotRocks Grill in Peachtree Corners
GEORGIA TIDBIT: Banker Mills B. Lane Had Major Impact on Many Atlanta Activities
TODAY’S QUOTE: There’s a Tragic Flaw In the Constitution of the United States
MYSTERY PHOTO: Banker Mills B. Lane Had Major Impact on Many Atlanta Activities

“The Dream Keepers of Tomorrow” to be unveiled in Duluth on April 29

By Amanda Lieber, Duluth, Ga. | The unveiling and dedication of a Dream Keepers 9/11 Memorial here will take place Saturday, April 29.

The City of Duluth and The Duluth Fine Arts League invite the community to attend the unveiling and dedication ceremony for the event. Among dignitaries expected will be Gov. Nathan Deal and Mayor Nancy Harris.

Part of the ceremony will include the dedication of the “Handprints of Freedom” glass flag, created by nationally acclaimed artist and Duluth resident Kathy Fincher.

The activities will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with a Parade of Children, hosted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; the unveiling ceremony will be at 7 p.m. on the historic downtown Duluth Town Green off Main Street.


Kathy Fincher, one of today’s leading inspirational artists and the most licensed children’s painter in America, in partnership with acclaimed sculptor Martin Dawe of Cherrylion Studios, brings her renowned painting “The Dream Keepers” to a 3-D, life-size bronze and glass perspective as public artwork.

The artwork features eight classically sculpted life-like bronze children writing “God Bless America” on a six foot bronze banner and creating “The Handprints of Freedom” American glass flag. Etched into the glass flag with the title of the artwork are the words: “May God bless our children as ‘Keepers’ of the American Dream.” The piece also includes a small girl shown singing words of inspiration to a small dog.

As the largest patriotic bronze work of children in the world, this project is expected to become a destination public art piece for Gwinnett County.

The artwork is a gift to the community, funded by the generosity of local individuals, businesses, and community organizations. Each donor will have a name etched on the foundation to honor community organizations of their choice with their sponsorship.

In harmony with the example of the children in “The Dream Keepers” artwork, all guests will receive a gift of the American Flag.

Among the other guests include besides the two artists will be Rodney Mims Cook Jr., founder and president of the National Monument Foundation to dedicate the work as a 9/11 memorial; local and state elected officials and dignitaries; Duluth Fine Arts League and other arts community leaders.

Central Georgia Mounted Color Guard and local ROTC will be present, along with the B.B. Harris Elementary School Chorus.

The background story of why the painting is being located in Duluth came after the tragic events of 9/11. Children’s painter and illustrator Kathy Fincher felt a responsibility to offer a message of hope to the youngest victims left behind by the loss of their parents and to American families.

The original “The Dream Keepers” pastel painting made its way to the Oval Office of President George W. Bush and now circles back to Fincher’s hometown of Duluth, in this life-size form. The artist believes that Duluth is a role model city for patriotism and a community that embodies the very spirit and unity portrayed by the children in the artwork who work side by side, using their handprints to put the American Flag back together as “The Dream Keeper of Tomorrow.”


Why Jim Ellis concentrated dealerships on Peachtree Industrial Blvd.

Billie and Jim Ellis are shown in 1982 with Jim Fuller from VW of America, when accepting their Dealer of the Year award.

(Part two of a two part series)

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher | Though Jim Ellis has 13 auto dealerships around Atlanta, many of them are concentrated on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard at I-285. Here’s why.

Jim says: “Once we started getting multiple brands, in those days you had to physically visit each dealership each day to look over the accounting and check the sales. It was far different than today. Now with the Internet, you can examine the books no matter where you are. So we originally grouped the dealerships close together as an advantage. Today it also helps having them close, for we can easily offer common training to the different staffs.”

In 1971 when starting his first dealership, it took a tremendous amount of up-front work to get the business going. “You had to hire about 25 people off the street, then teach the various departments how to run the business, so that you could turn that part of the business over to them and they would know what to do. And some people don’t work out, and you have to find replacements.

“Then as you develop people, you must reward them so that the have the loyalty and your respect. That makes people easy to manage.”

That’s how Jim Ellis has been successful in his dealerships. It was in the 1960s when Neal Chrisman opened a VW dealership in Decatur that Jim got his early training. He worked there for five years, eventually becoming the general manager.

By then “Volkswagen wanted to open two new dealerships in Atlanta. They gave me a commitment in 1968, but I had to find and buy land and erect a building. I went to Mills Lane at the C&S Bank, and he told me: ‘You put everything together, and get what you need and I’ll loan you the rest.’” Together with his wife Billie’s savings from her work at Georgia Tech, they scraped together $35,000 and borrowed the rest.

Edsel Ford with Billie and Jim Ellis at presentation for work with the Atlanta Union Mission.

It took until 1971 for Jim to complete his plans for this VW dealership. With Chrisman as his early partner, Jim secured land and erected a building. VW helped by buying the building Jim built, leasing it back to him, and supplying him with autos. But new cars were limited, so “We scoured all over the Southeast for used cars, for we weren’t allocated many new cars, and stayed alive by selling more used cars than new ones.”

Within five years, Jim had paid off Chrisman and VW, and was on his own. His second dealership was Porsche-Audi, which he opened in 1982. His first in Cobb County was a Mazda franchise in Marietta.

Today Jim’s goal is to keep the business going for the more than 1,050 employees and their dependents. “They put their life in my business, and it’s not right for me to go to Florida and sit on the beach while they work. That’s never been my desire. I want to keep the business going so that our employees can know they have a job here and can make a living. And we want them to be able to have Sunday off for their family.”

While successful in business, Jim Ellis is known to be most generous to his church and to the wider community, setting up a foundation to help others. He has particularly helped raise money and facilities for the Norcross Community Ministry, where a building is named for the Ellis’ late son.

Jim Ellis feels that “a lot of people are part of our success. Now at age 85, you look back and realize that every day for you is a good day.”

And what type of automobile does Jim drive? Now it’s a 2017 GM Acadia.


Aurora Theatre

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you at no cost to readers. Today’s sponsor is Aurora Theatre, home of the best entertainment in northeast Georgia. With over 750 events annually, Aurora Theatre, now in their 21st season, has live entertainment to suit everyone’s taste. Aurora Theatre’s Peach State Federal Credit Union Signature Series is comprised of Broadway’s best plays and musicals alongside exciting works of contemporary theatre. Additionally, Aurora produces concerts, comedy club events, children’s programs, and metro Atlanta’s top haunted attraction, Lawrenceville Ghost Tours. Aurora Theatre is a world-class theatrical facility with two performances venues. It is nestled on the square in historic downtown Lawrenceville, with free attached covered parking and is surrounded by a myriad of restaurants and shops. Now showing: Pais de Bicicleta (A Bicycle Country) from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz comes the story of three Cuban refugees with a lust for freedom, through April 30.


Californian remembers first meeting with Jim Ellis years ago

Editor, the Forum:

Must applaud y’all for lauding Jim Ellis. I first met him when he was the Comptroller for Chris Motors in Decatur, and later did business with him for many years beginning in the VW dealership in Chamblee. Pleasant, honest, and fair are the best words I can offer in description.

Glad to see he is well and still active. The industry needs more Mr. Ellis.

I appreciate you and, cheers!

— Ashley Herndon, Irvine, Calif.

Send us your thoughts: We encourage you to send us your letters and thoughts on issues raised in GwinnettForum. Please limit comments to 300 words. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and length. Send feedback and letters to: elliott@brack.net


Snellville Police plan drug take-back event on April 29

The Snellville Police Department will be participating in the National Drug Take Back event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 29 at the Snellville Police Department, 2315 Wisteria Drive. The event is designed to allow residents a safe way to dispose of prescription drugs that would be dangerous in the hands of children and potentially abused by others.

Officers will set up a drive-thru style drop off so residents can drive up to the designated drop off area to participate in the event. No needles or syringes can be accepted. During these Drug Enforcement Administration sponsored drug take back events Snellville police collect hundreds of pounds of unwanted medication.

Duluth Earth Day has plant sale, garden tips and charity corn hole

Duluth’s eighth annual plant sale celebrates Earth Day, April 22 at the Historic Duluth Train Depot, located on the campus of the Southeastern Railway Museum, 3595 Buford Highway. Plants are sponsored by Woody’s Nursery. In addition, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Freddy’s Famous Custard Ice Cream Sundaes will also be available. It is sponsored by the Duluth Historical Society.

Meet local farmer Larry Hall who will answer your gardening questions and share some success secrets! Horticulturist Candace Morgan will demonstrate potting and caring for houseplants.

Plan Ahead: Community garden boxes available to rent. Sign up for your own community garden plot. A 4’x4’ box is $50 and a larger box 4’ x 8’ is $100 for the entire year.

Duluth will host a Blind Draw Charity Corn Hole Tournament at this year’s Earth Day/Plant sale at 11 a.m. There will be cash prizes and gift cards. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Duluth Historical Society which is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Registration Fee for the Corn Hole Tournament is $20.

Norcross Discovery Garden host plein air artists, lots of activities

Kudzu Art Zone’s top plein air artists will spread out across the Discovery Garden in Norcross for a brush with nature on Earth Day, April 22. Watch them in action and enjoy fun activities throughout the day. Finished art will be available for purchase at a Garden-Styled Happy Hour.

The line-up of activities include:

  • Nature Tales with Norcross Librarians ‪at 9:30 a.m.;
  • Container Garden Workshop with Mary Delia, 10:30 a.m. for a $65 preregister;
  • Face Painting by Kudzu artist from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.;
  • Grab a canvas and join in from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
  • Hourly art demos from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.;
  • Kids recycled art workshop at 1 p.m.;
  • Food Trucks from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and
  • Garden-Styled Happy Hour (bring a beverage or dish to share) at 4:30 p.m.

Doing the Most Good luncheon on May 12 honors Louise Radloff

The Salvation Army of Gwinnett County’s “Doing the Most Good” luncheon will honor Gwinnett County Board of Education member Louise Radloff, who has served on the local board since 1973. She has been a supporter of the programs and services of The Salvation Army throughout Gwinnett County for many years.

This event will be held at The Infinite Energy Center on Friday, May 12, from noon to 1:30 p.m. The keynote speaker is ESPN Analyst and former professional and University of Georgia football player David Pollack.

At the premier spring fundraising event for The Salvation Army of Gwinnett County, the event will promote the many successful programs helping those less fortunate throughout the county. There will also be a Silent Auction featuring items such as concert tickets to James Taylor, Lionel Richie, Ed Sheeran and golf packages from River Club.

Proceeds from the luncheon will be used throughout Gwinnett County to provide shelter to the homeless, food for the hungry, hope to disadvantaged children, and compassion to all.
For more information, contact Christina Faine at 404-486-2933.


Solicitor dismisses 89 cases involving dismissed Gwinnett policemen

Gwinnett County Solicitor-General Rosanna Szabo dismissed all cases in which former Gwinnett officers Robert McDonald or Michael Bongiovani was the principal officer or a necessary witness. Sixty-three cases were dismissed in Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court and twenty-six cases were dismissed in Gwinnett County State Court.


On April 12, 2017, Officer McDonald was captured on video kicking a subdued man in the head. Later, another recording surfaced, showing Sgt. Bongiovani punching that same man. The actions of these officers completely undermine their credibility and they cannot be relied upon as witnesses in any pending prosecution, the solicitor’s office said.

The Solicitor’s Office is the prosecuting authority for misdemeanor cases and traffic offenses in Gwinnett County. Its primary mission is to ensure justice for all Gwinnett citizens. In many cases, justice calls for a conscientious and thorough prosecution. Solicitor Szabo says, “however, when police officers betray the public’s trust and confidence, justice demands that all those cases that depend on their credibility be dismissed without delay.”

Owner of flooring business is new director of Gwinnett Village CID

The Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District has a new board member. She is Clara Richardson-Olquin, CIC Floors, a residential and commercial flooring products and installation company, that she founded with her husband, Cesar, 16 years ago. CIC received the Best Residential Business of the Year award in 2016 from the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association.

CID Chairman Shiv Aggarwal, new member Clara Richardson-Olquin and County Commissioner Lynette Howard

CID Executive Director Marsha Anderson Bomar, says: “Ms. Richardson-Olquin offers the unique perspective of a small business owner in our district and that viewpoint will be invaluable to us as we work to support a diverse and thriving business community.”

A lawyer in her native Dominican Republic, Richardson-Olquin immigrated to the United States to earn a master’s degree in music management at Georgia State University. She earned a certification from the University of Florida for Foreign Attorneys as International Legal Adviser and Paralegal. The National Association of Professional Women recognized her as their Woman of the Year in 2016.

Richardson-Olquin is a member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Professional Women, the Atlanta Music Teachers Association, the National Association of Recording Art and Science and is a parishioner at Saint John Newnan Catholic Church where she performs with the Hispanic Choir.


HotRocks Grill in Peachtree Corners

From Cindy Evans, Duluth | My husband and I just ate at the new HotRocks Grill at the intersection of Old Peachtree Road and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. I ordered the lamb platter which was tasty and came with several sides for $10.95. My husband got the Springer Mountain Farms chicken breast and wing with two sides which he liked ($9.45). The grilled salmon 
burger also looked good, maybe next time! Would recommend eating here if you’re in the mood for a Mediterranean meal. Their phone is 770-837-0023.

  • An invitation: what books, restaurants, movies or web sites have you enjoyed recently? Send us your recent selection, along with a short paragraph (100 words) as to why you liked this, plus what you plan to visit or read next. –eeb

Banker Mills B. Lane had major impact on many Atlanta activities

(Continued from previous issue)

During his first term as mayor, Ivan Allen sought to lure major league baseball to Atlanta. A handful of owners expressed interest in relocating their teams to the city, but without a suitable stadium, negotiations reached an impasse. With few other options, Allen turned to his old friend Mills B. Lane, who extended the city a full line of credit to finance construction of a stadium.


In April 1965 the Atlanta Stadium (later Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium) was completed, in less than a year. The Braves agreed to move their franchise from Milwaukee, Wis. the following season, making Atlanta the first southern city to have a major league ball club. As Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher recounts in his book Miracle in Atlanta (1966), Lane’s timely investment enabled the city to accomplish what few others would have dared; it built a stadium with money it did not have, on land it did not own, for a team that it had not yet signed.

While his role in bringing professional sports to Atlanta may have ensured his legacy, Lane’s most enduring contribution to the city was yet to come. In 1971, when the city’s politics were undergoing a period of racial transition, W. L. Calloway, a prominent black Realtor, approached Lane to ask for the banker’s help in forming a biracial organization that would enable Atlanta to maintain amicable race relations during the difficult years ahead. Lane pledged his support before Calloway could even finish his proposal.

Action Forum, as the organization came to be known, made an immediate impact on the city’s politics. Within months of the forum’s creation, the group’s members settled a financing dispute threatening the city’s rail transit plans. Thereafter, the group continued to meet monthly and played an important, albeit informal, role in the city’s politics by defusing racial tensions, opening lines of communication, and providing an extra-governmental framework for resolving municipal disputes.

Lane’s political influence was not confined to Atlanta. When racial unrest threatened to overwhelm Lane’s native Savannah in 1963, he formed a “Committee of 100” to promote a peaceful desegregation process and secure the release of activist Hosea Williams from prison. In 1962 he supported Carl Sanders’s gubernatorial bid, helping the 37-year-old state senator from Augusta defeat former governor and segregationist Marvin Griffin.

Years later, Sanders referred to Lane as “one of the great unsung heroes of our time,” and credited much of his own success to the banker’s influence. “I personally feel like my election as governor and many of the programs I initiated,” Sanders admitted, “were because of the inspiration I received from the advice and counsel of Mills B. Lane.”

During his heyday at C&S, Lane enjoyed a reputation throughout Atlanta for boundless optimism and a relentlessly positive approach to banking and boosterism. As if to prove that good humor was in fact contagious, Lane even required junior officers at the bank to wear ties bearing his trademark expression, “It’s a wonderful world.” However, a series of personal crises toward the end of his life undermined Lane’s pleasant disposition, leaving the banker despondent and bitter in old age.

Lane left C&S in 1973 after suffering two heart attacks and diminishing eyesight. Economic conditions in the city worsened thereafter, and the bank underwent a period of severe financial distress. Richard Kattel, Lane’s handpicked successor, was ousted by federal regulators in 1977, but many observers linked the bank’s travails to decisions made during Lane’s tenure.

Upon retirement, Lane returned to Savannah, where he devoted his time and wealth to a handful of philanthropic concerns, including Savannah’s historic district, Armstrong State University, and the Georgia Council on Economic Education, which he helped found in 1972. Lane died on May 7, 1989.


Another gorgeous photo of a lighthouse asks where it is

We love lighthouse photos, and this one is gorgeous. With these distinguishing features, several readers may quickly spot this Mystery Photo. Send in your thoughts to elliott@brack.net and be sure to include your hometown.

Two people recognized a plaza next to the Westin Hotel at Jekyll Island, Ga. This is in the newly-developed area, and though this is looking at the Atlantic Ocean, you can’t see the ocean in this photo. Two people nailed this identification, but unfortunately, we lost the email on one of them. But Holly Moore of Suwanee sent in: “It’s the new town center shopping district on (my happy place), Jekyll Island.”

GwinnettForum says that if you haven’t been to the island lately, as you near the beach area when you first drive in, it all looks quite different there these days along the seaboard. It’s still a great place to visit, and particularly has gorgeous, beaches, easily-accessible direct from parking lots. What a great idea it was for former Governor M.E. Thompson to buy this for the state of Georgia in 1947 for—-can you believe this?—for $675,000. Even though that may have been a lot of money in 1947, it’s still an amazing bargain for the people of Georgia.”


Developmental Disabilities Benefits Workshop will be April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Five Forks Branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library. It is sponsored by Gwinnett County Public Library, in partnership with All About Developmental Disabilities. If you are the parent or caregiver of a child who is approaching 18 years old and living with an intellectual/developmental disability, this is the perfect time to explore resources that promote greater independence.  This workshop will provide you with hands on instruction for family support services, DD/ID services, Social Security benefits, Medicaid waivers, transition planning, and more. Be sure to bring copies of your child’s IEP, transition plan, psychological evaluations, and medical records. For more information, please visit www.gwinnettpl.org or call 770-978-5154.

Rep. Scott Hilton will address the Peachtree Corners Business Association on April 20 at Ippolito’s in Peachtree Corners. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $25 for drinks and appetizers. For registration visit membership@peachtreecornersba.com.

Lilburn Relay for Life Rally, Friday, April 21 at 5 until 9 p.m. at Lilburn City Park. Come to enjoy the fun-filled evening of games, food and fun. Entertainment will be provided. Have a team or be a sponsor. Sponsored by the Lilburn Woman’s Club. A survivors lap around the park will be at 6 p.m. For more details, email bdsnookybell@gmail.com.

Free paper shredding at Coolray Field from 9 a.m. until noon April 22 at Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves,  in Lawrenceville. This event will feature on-site paper shredding with a limit of five copier boxes per vehicle. This event is sponsored by Gwinnett County’s Solid Waste Management Division and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful to promote sustainability while bringing awareness and encouraging residents to appreciate Mother Earth.

Free recycling in Lilburn is coming soon.  Each year the City of Lilburn asks a variety of recycling vendors to offer their services at one great event — the Great American Cleanup. This year’s event will be Saturday, April 22, from 8 a.m. until noon in the Greenway parking lot across from Lilburn City Park. This is an opportunity to clean out your garage, filing cabinet, etc.

Community Clean-up in Peachtree Corners will be April 22. Join with the United Peachtree Corners Community Association and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful in making the city more attractive. Volunteers will work in small teams alongside city officials to clean up various litter and illegal signs around various roads in the city of Peachtree Corners. All supplies including bright safety vests, gloves, bags, large grippers and water will be provided. Adults and children 12 years old and older (accompanied by an adult) are invited and encouraged to participate. For more information or to organize your subdivisions group, please contact Matt Lombardi at mattlombardiupcca@yahoo.com

Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, 21st edition, is in Dahlonega April 22-23. Admission is free to all Saturday and Sunday events. Complete information about the Bear festival, including schedules of activities, names of performers and artists, a listing of sponsors, and other information can be found at www.bearonthesquare.org.

DISCUSSION on April 23 at 3 p.m. at the Norcross Cultural and Community Center on Georgia  and Gwinnett politics and the recent election. Join Gwinnett County Public Library for coffee, questions, and a discussion on the changing face of Georgia and Gwinnett.  Professor of political science at Georgia State University, Dr. Robert M. Howard, will be leading this seminar. He is the executive director of the Southern Political Science Association and co-author of the latest edition of Politics in Georgia. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit www.gwinnettpl.org or call 770-978-5154.

(NEW) Author Visit: Gwinnett County Public Library will host John Sandford on Monday, May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center in Norcross.  This event is free and open to the public.  Books will be available for purchase and signing courtesy of Eagle Eye Book Shop. John Sandford is the pseudonym of John Roswell Camp.  Camp won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism and was one of four finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980.  As John Sandford, Camp is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and will discuss his new novel Golden Prey.  Golden Prey is the 27th book in the Prey series of thrillers featuring Lucas Davenport. For more information, visit www.gwinnettpl.org or call 770-978-5154.


HANDYMAN SERVICES: Whatever your home maintenance problem is, Isaias Rodriguez can help. An experienced painter, he is dependable in installing or repairing siding, gutters, ceramic tile, plumbing, garage doors, or any other problem around your home. He’ll even fix your bike! He is originally from Mexico and has been in Georgia since 1996. He is legally allowed to work in the United States and is insured. Give him a call at his home in Norcross at 404-569-8825 or email him at rodriguez_isais@yahoo.com. Visit his Facebook page at Neza construction and home repair to see some of his past work.


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