Morrow turns 60, going strong as commercial center

By Ryan Whelchel

Patricia Golding has a distinction. She is as old as the city she lives in.

She will be celebrating her 60th birthday at about the same time the town of Morrow is doing the same.

Golding came to Morrow in 1954 with her family when she was 6 years old. The family moved from the Stone Mountain area to Morrow because family lived close by.

"There was a lot of nothing in the beginning," she remembers.

A lot of dirt roads and farming and pastures surrounding the area that she remembers have over the years been replaced with a mall, an interstate and lots of houses and businesses.

She and her friends would follow the railroad tracks to Jonesboro to have fun and she remembers that the few people who lived were "kind people."

It was May 1943 that Morrow was incorporated.

In the spring, the wars against Germany and Italy in Europe and the Mediterranean and Japan in the Pacific were going well. An entire German army had been killed or captured deep within the Soviet Union at Stalingrad during the winter. In Africa, once-invincible Axis forces were in full-scale retreat.

Besides the war, people were still talking about the big news two years earlier.

A DC-3 passenger plane carrying the president of Eastern Airlines, Eddie Rickenbacker, crashed into an area around Morrow that was yet to be inhabited. The World War I Ace fighter pilot survived.

Morrow began in humble beginnings as a just a train station back in 1846. The only way you would even know it was there would be if you were traveling by train between Jonesboro and Atlanta.

Morrow received a charter from the Georgia Legislature on March 2, 1943. The city and train station were named after Radford E. Morrow, an owner of a 1,000 acre plantation, as well as the local historical site now called Morrow's Mill.

His house would have been located on the corner of Ga. Highway 54 and Morrow Road, but General Sherman and his troops on their "March to the Sea" burned it down during the Civil War.

The town had 300 residents in 1943, a far cry from the 5,168 who live there now. The approximate number of families in the town is 2,425.

One of those people is Dorothy Brandon, a graduate of the Morrow Citizens Police Academy. A couple of years ago she was named the Citizen's Law Enforcement Officer of the year.

She says the greatest thing about Morrow is "how the police interact with its citizens." She came from California where she describes the police as "rowdy." In Morrow the police are much more, "kind."

City Manager John Lampl says Morrow "has great leadership now, and in the past."

He said "Morrow has become a retail mecca of sorts..."

One interesting fact about the town is that with the mall, businesses and other activities, the daytime population is 10 times larger than the nighttime population.

From the early days up until now Morrow has always had a low crime rate, and an especially low violent crime rate. Even today with the population drastically more significant than it was in the beginnings, the crime rate is still low.

The majority of the crimes are things like car break-ins, vandalism, and other larceny crimes.

Major Charlie Suell of the Morrow Police Department has been with the police department for more than 30 years and over that time has seen lots of changes.

"The best thing about Morrow are the people themselves," he said. "The people of Morrow as very responsive to the local government and police force."

He said he has never had any desire to go to any other city to police.

From the earliest days, all police reports and records were kept on filing cards up until the 1980's when computer use became increasingly the way to go. All reports on the cards became transferred into the computer system and now the town is completely computerized.

Even when the interstate system was built in the 1960s, commercial development was slow to get going in the town.

Most people just passed on through without stopping. The other streets that surrounded Morrow, and the ones that made up the inward workings were mainly dirt or gravel roads, with few paved roads.

It would be hard for a visitor to the town to believe that today. Just drive up Jonesboro Road and turn onto Mt. Zion Road and you encounter the mall and one chain store after another with parking lots loaded down with cars. The flock of people to the recent opening of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in the town attests to the popularity of shopping.

And instead of having only three or four restaurants as in the 1960's and early 1970's, there are now dozens that have sprung up on the streets from every culinary background. Earlier this year an Indian restaurant was established near the mall, further adding to the diversity of foods.

The town is ideally located only 13 miles south of Atlanta as the crow flies. For really precise people, is also 33.57 degrees north of the equator and 84.34 degrees west of the prime meridian. The land area is 4.4 square miles.

Growth started to come in about 1968 when Clayton State College (now Clayton College and State University), was built.

Lampl said it has "really taken off" since its establishment.

Added to focusing attention on the growing town was the construction and opening of the relocated Georgia Archives which will bring people from all over to do research. The $22 million structure boasts 171,000 square feet to house all the important state documents and records. The federal archives site will be located next to it.