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Fuller E. Callaway: Portrait of a New South Citizen

Buckner F. Melton Jr. and Carol Willcox Melton

Looking Glass Books
8 ½ x 11
308 pages
300 color photos
October 2015

At eight years of age, he owned nothing but a nickel and a few spools of thread. Within a decade he had acquired his own store. By the time he was 30, he was a leading textile man in his town. Another dozen years and he had become a giant in the textile world, a major force in railroads and banking, and a trusted advisor to state and national leaders.

This is the story of Fuller Earle Callaway, a man of inexhaustible energy, relentless drive, and visionary, calculated risk. In the generation following the devastation of the Civil War, Callaway became a personification of the New South. Embracing the revolution in Southern industry, transportation, and trade, he soon came to stand at the forefront of the South’s modernization efforts. Known principally to history as a textile magnate, Callaway in fact was at heart a merchant, an expert in both retail and wholesale, with a gift for advertising as well as for buying and selling. He was also one of the South’s leading authorities on railroads, gaining his experience through battles against the rail monopolies in venues ranging from the boardroom to the Supreme Court. Callaway was in addition a successful banker, spurred on by his need to capitalize his many business concerns in the face of an impoverished Southern economy. Fiercely independent and an opponent of the labor union movement sweeping turn-of-the-century America, Callaway nevertheless was foremost among Progressive industrialists and became a noted advisor to Woodrow Wilson’s administration.

Here, too, is the story of LaGrange, the heart of Troup County, Georgia. Barely a generation removed from the frontier in the year of Callaway’s birth, it became, through the efforts of Callaway and his generation, a showplace of Southern progress and industry.