Stephanie Calabrese conducted a series of one-on-one, face-to-face interviews with a diverse mix of 12 residents, from multi-generational natives to newcomers, ranging in age from 30-something to near 90. Residents openly shared stories about their lives in Monroe – their pain and their pride. This hometown, though somewhat resistant to change, has experienced much of it. When asked why one might live in Monroe, you'll hear a common answer. It's the people. Resident voices from these interviews paint context and breathe life into this documentary Exhibit.

Lamar Palmer

was born at home “out in the country” in Good Hope in 1933. He picked cotton, plowed mules, droves tractors on the family cotton farm, and attended school in Youth and Good Hope High School until tenth grade. “I was a farm boy, and loved it.” He rarely attended school in the fall as he was responsible for working the crops with his father. At that time, the school was moving to Monroe and he wasn’t happy about the idea of going to school with the “town folks”, so he and his friend Horace Head, chose to go into the Airforce and ended up in Texas at age 17. He served four years in the military during the Korean War and returned to an airfare base in Panama City, Florida after the war. “I thought I had died and went to heaven.” After his father became injured, he left the military and returned home to take care of his father’s crops with his brother.

In 1964, the captain of the Monroe City Police Department asked Lamar to serve as the seventh police officer on the force because to his military background. He became Captain and they grew the police department “from nothing to one of the best thought-of police departments around here.” Monroe was one of the first small towns in Georgia to have certified police officers before it was mandatory to have them, in part because of George Hearn’s leadership in the National Guard. In 1974, he joined the County Sheriff’s Department and became a Major. He was a classified crime scene expert photographer. Lamar had planned to retire in 1996, but he became interim sheriff following the death of the current sheriff and served in that role until 2000. After that, he served as a county commissioner for twelve years. He spent 50 years in public service.

Roy Nunnally Roberts, Sr.

comes from a long line of Monroe natives. His grandparents, Alethia “Allie” Felker and Roy Nunnally built one of the first homes on Walton Street. His grandfather owned Nunnally Lumber Company and 1800 acres of farm land, and served as Director of Monroe Gin and Fertilizer in Monroe. When Roy was a baby, he moved with his parents, Clara Knox and William Nunnally (an attorney) and two brothers to Atlanta but spent weekends and summers with his family in Monroe, most fondly remembering his time on the family’s Nunnally Farm. While the farm had some cattle, it was originally dedicated to cotton before many cotton farms in the South were wiped out by the boll weevil 1910-1920. He graduated from the University of Kentucky, where he played on the basketball team and met his wife Suzanne before returning to run Nunnally Farm and growing a registered Hereford cattle breeding organization in Monroe, one of the most premier quality Hereford herds in the country. He is among founding members of George Walton Academy, served as a County Commissioner, and currently leads the Walton County Republican Party. He and his wife have four grown children.

Olia Pitts

came to Monroe in 1950 at age 24 for her first teaching job. She grew up on her daddy’s farm and graduated from Bentonville State University in North Carolina. At that time North Carolina was reluctant to hire inexperienced teachers, so she moved to Monroe for her first job at Fellowship School in Good Hope and married a year later. She was one of three teachers to teach black students in grades 1-7. During the time of integration in 1969, she came to work at Monroe Elementary and eventually went on to teach at Carver Middle School where she retired 51 years later. She raised four children (two children and two grandchildren). She’s 89 years old and still sharp as a tack.

Russell Preston

was born in Monroe and spent his first ten years on Crestview Drive before his family moved to Walton Street in 1968. They payed $19,000 for that house. His father was a trial lawyer and served on the State Board of Education so there was no question that Russell and his siblings would attended public schools in Monroe. He was among the first white sixth grade students to begin at Carver Middle School in 1969, the first year of integration. He was taught by Olia Pitts. He remembered her fondly as a teacher and laughed when he shared, “She had a big, long ruler and would wear your hand out.” Russell graduated from Monroe Area High School, went on to graduate from UGA in 1979 and completed his law degree at Cumberland Law School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He returned to Monroe (specifically Walton Street) in 1984 to take over his father’s practice, Preston, Benton and Allgood. After this father passed away, Russell formed Benton and Preston with Gene Benton (now a judge) in 1995. Monroe native Mike Malcom joined their practice several years later, forming Benton, Preston and Malcom. The firm continues to thrive on Court Street next the historic Monroe Courthouse.

Tora Sanders Lucas

grew up in Monroe. Her grandparents moved to Monroe in 1936 in search of a small town outside of Commerce (the location of the original Sanders Furniture store founded in 1913) and in need of a furniture store. They opened the original store in Downtown Monroe in a rented space, and purchased a building downtown to move the store in 1950. Tora’s parents moved to Monroe in the late 60’s in search of a small town to raise a family, so Charles Sanders came to Monroe to work with his father at Sanders Furniture. Tora grew up walking to her grandparent’s home (which later became her parent's home) and worked at the store on Saturdays while she attended Monroe public schools. She went to Davidson College in North Carolina. When Tora finished college, she was ready to be in a much bigger city and moved to Atlanta where she worked. She had no intention of being in the furniture business.

Around 1992, Tora met John Lucas, a new History teacher at George Walton Academy and new resident in Monroe. They married and she commuted to Atlanta for five years until 1997. She decided it was a good time to begin working with her father and renovating Sanders Furniture store, one of the first buildings to experience a major renovation downtown. She infused her creative energy and built up the design side of the business. Two years ago, her father, Charles Sanders retired. They closed Sanders Furniture and sold the building to Peyton Pettus with State Farm. She returned to her career in the medical field and after commuting to a job in Athens, she decided it was time to reinvent herself, start something new downtown, Sanders Consign and Design, and to return to her community. She and John have two daughters.

Betty Hearn

a native of Augusta, came to Monroe by way of marriage in 1958 just before her 20th birthday. She met Monroe native, the late Judge George Hearn, at the University of Georgia, and the couple made their first home in Monroe in the basement of George’s parents’ house. After she graduated from UGA, Betty commuted to Atlanta to work while George attended law school. She worked until they had their first child. After their second child as born, Betty and George moved from the basement to their first home on Hubbord Street, then later into an old home built in 1910 on Highland Avenue. Betty and George are among the twelve founding families to start George Walton Academy in 1969. Betty co-founded the Monroe Art Guild, was an active member of the Junior Service League, and has been an committed to her church and elections (“not campaigns” she specifies) since she first came to Monroe. She raised five children in Monroe. “I’ve been here for so long, I feel like its home.”

Steve Brown

was born in Monroe in 1947. His parents lived in Madison, and moved to Monroe after his father returned from service in World War II. Steve spent his childhood on Glen Iris Drive. His mother worked as a utility seamstress for the Felker Cotton Mill and his father was the local butcher. Before he graduated from Monroe Area High School, he remembers taking dates to the Snack Shack, going to dances at the Nowell Recreation Center on Friday nights (you had to bring your own record) and seeing picture shows at the Troy Theater before it burned in 1967. He commuted to UGA from Monroe where he worked two jobs – sacking groceries at the Big Apple Supermarket on Friday and Saturday nights and working for a contractor during the week. After college, he married his high school sweetheart, Susan; spent time in the National Guard; returned to UGA for his masters degree and eventually took a teaching position and numerous coaching positions in Lilburn until he retired 29 years later. In 2002, Steve and Susan returned to Monroe to live in Susan’s mother’s home in Pollock subdivision. He serves on the board of the Historical Society of Walton County, is a member of the Tree Committee for the city, and a co-founder and Vice Chairman of the Board of the Monroe Museum.

Susan Pelham

grew up in Cairo, Georgia, and never dreamed she’d marry her high school English teacher, Glenn Pelham, three years after her high school graduation, but she did. She majored in painting and minored in Art History at Florida State University. Glen became a State Senator and took the position of Director of Forensics at Emory University, so the newly-married couple moved to Atlanta and had a son. Having both been raised in the small town of Cairo, they sought a similar environment to raise their son. Glen drew a circle around Atlanta to define an acceptable commute distance to his teaching job at Emory and they chose Social Circle with ambitions to renovate historic homes. They renovated three together and moved to Monroe in 1983 after they fell in love with a home built in 1857 on Broad Street. It needed renovations and they were creatively inspired to take it on. Glen grew tired of his commute to Emory and took a judgeship position in Small Claims Court in Monroe, while promoting and helping to establish Susan’s position as a local artist. She attended a Sotheby’s Institute of Art and the couple bought and sold art from England in Monroe and other small towns in Georgia. Susan helped co-found the Monroe Art Guild with Betty Hearn after the downburst in 1993. Glen died in 1987 and Susan began teaching art more frequently and continuing her commission work and artistic pursuits exhibiting her work in Athens, Atlanta and towns surrounding Monroe.

Imogene Johnson

grew up in Hazelhurst down in south Georgia where she attended school until the fourth grade, and worked picking cotton and tobacco. In 1953, she moved to Harmony Community in Social Circle to live with her aunt. In 1955, she married at age 21 and moved to Monroe. She built a home in Monroe on her own and never birthed children of her own, but became a mother to so many. In Monroe, she did domestic work for numerous families, took care of children, and worked in the church nursery for many years at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church beginning in 1968. She remembers, “My first baby I kept was Mrs. Roy Nunnally Roberts’ son, Roy, Jr. He was six months old.” The last babies she kept were my own children, Roy Nunnally the III “Bo” and Mary Elise. Gene retired at age 79 and moved to Park Place Nursing Home because she was good and ready to go. “Only place I want to go to from here, is to heaven.”

Florence Pollock Carrollton

comes from a long line of Monroe natives. Her ancestors built the big white house up on the Hill, once on a plantation in 1832. Flonie grew up on Walton Street, and later moved to the house on the Hill with her family after her grandmother died. Her father, Marshall Pollock, was an attorney and owned large areas of land in Monroe. He sold the land to create “the circle” on Walton Street in 1957 and the land behind the house on the Hill to create Pollock subdivision. Flonie was the first Drum Major of the Monroe Girl’s Corp and among the first class to graduate from Monroe Area High School after 12 years, as previously the school only went through grade 11. Flonie was crowned Monroe Area High School homecoming queen in 1951 and again in 1952. After graduating from UGA, she married Monroe native and UGA football player, Billy Carrollton. They moved to Douglas, GA where Billy found a teaching and coaching position. The couple returned home to Monroe 14 years later to open a floor-covering business together. After Flonie’s mother died, she and Billy and their three children moved back into the house on the Hill for four years before selling the family home to the Williams family, and returning to Walton Street.

Nathan Purvis

grew up in Gwinnett County. While Nathan was attending UGA, his parents, seeking a slower pace of life and space away from the congestion of a growing Gwinnett, found a home in Monroe. The proximity of Nathan’s parents, the location of his first job after college, and the growth of his real estate business, lead him initially to Social Circle and eventually to Monroe after he married. Nathan and his wife Mary knew they wanted a family, felt that George Walton Academy would be a good school, and fell in love with a historic home on Walton Street. He owns a real estate business, rental properties, and serves on the Monroe City Council. He and his wife have three young children (and a couple of chickens in the backyard) here in town.

Coleman Landers

was born in Monroe. He grew up in a neighborhood known as Stand Pipe, a black community off Broad Street and Marable. His grandfather, Bill McCoy, worked in the Felker Cotton Mill and Coleman can trace his roots on his mother’s side back to 1812 along the Walton County line all the way back through the slave era. At age five, he moved with his family to Ash Street and began attending first grade at a school building behind his house around 1955. They moved to the Projects when they were constructed in Monroe, which he always tells people “was a step-up for us because we had indoor pluming and indoor gas heat.” His father was a general laborer and worked at the chicken processing plant in Monroe. His mother was a maid for a couple of families, including George Felker who ran the textile mill. Coleman graduated from Carver High School in 1966 at age 16 and went on to Fort Valley State College where he obtained a degree in education. He received a draft letter two weeks after he graduated at age 20 and enlisted in the Navy in the nuclear power field where he studied engineering. He went on to became the Captain of his first ship in 1950. He served for 30 years and returned to Monroe in 2000 by way of Virginia (from the Navy Think Tank) when he retired. After retirement he was recruited to head up human resources for Walton Fabrics (a place where his grandfather and brothers and sisters had once worked) for two years. He served as the Chairman of the Board for the Chamber of Commerce and on the Board of the Economic Development Authority; helped start the Monroe Boys and Girls Club, and currently serves on the Walton County School Board and Hospital Board. He and his wife have two grown children.