By Ed Brock
On a night in 1952 or 1953, Orestus Adamson was standing at a watermelon stand in Forest Park with two men when he first heard about the movement to form a chamber of commerce in Clayton County.
"(Former County Commissioner B.C.) Haynie brought it up that we needed a chamber of commerce and a water system," Adamson said. "I thought it would be difficult to get either one."
But a short time later about 50 people met in the old county courthouse in Jonesboro for a meeting to form the chamber that will today celebrate 50 years of operation in a ceremony at Stately Oaks in Jonesboro. Adamson, 78, was 28 years old at the time the chamber formed and had already owned a general store in Ellenwood for about five years before he joined the newly formed organization.
He attended meetings while his wife Charlotte minded the store, and he's a member even now. The year before last he received the chamber's lifetime achievement award, and the chamber has been a benefit to him in many other ways as well.
"I've owned several different businesses over the years and I feel like the chamber has brought the businesses here," Adamson said.
The festivities for today's event will be from 3 to 7 p.m. and at 5 p.m. a program honoring past chamber chairmen will begin. There will also be a "birthday cake" cutting at the same time, and throughout the ceremony there will be beer and wine, samples from six different local restaurants and a live disc jockey.
At least 250 people are expected to come to the event that is free for chamber members who RSVPed by Sept. 1. Members who did not RSVP can still pay $10 at the door and non-members pay $15.
While the chamber celebrates its past, current chamber President and CEO Shane Moody said it's moving ahead as well.
"I think the future is very bright for this Chamber and for this county," Moody said.
Moody cited the chamber's "Clayton 20/20: Tomorrow's Vision for Today," initiative and the programs that it has spawned, including a manufacturers and distributors group.
"We're helping manufacturers with the things they face on a daily basis," Moody said. "Things like OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration), ?lean' manufacturing and work force development."
The chamber also prints publications to assist in job searches and has formed University Affairs and K-12 Affairs committees to encourage a relationship between the business community and the school system. And Moody wants to continue to promote the positive effects of having Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport in Clayton County.
"Over the past 50 years the chamber's done an outstanding job in moving the business community forward on a lot of important issues," said Harold Bevis, vice president of public affairs with Delta Air Lines. "They're very important and we need to keep them healthy and keep them there for another 50 years."
And the chamber is attracting new members like David Allman, owner of the computer service company Allman Works. Allman started his business setting up computer networks and computer security for small businesses in 1995 but made it his full-time career in July. He joined the chamber in August to increase his business contacts.
"Also, it really helps, especially when you're starting your own business, to have people around you who are in the same boat," Allman said.
On the committee of six who helped put the event together are Katy Crane, Cathy Gander, Bruce and Vicki Gant, Scott Freese, Robert Kennedy and Lisa Holley.
"The committee was so good there was nothing really difficult in putting this together," said chamber Director of Events and Committees Kimberly Barber.
Barber also praised the sponsors of the event, because the event is free for those who registered in time.
The best part of putting things together was assembling the old photographs of chamber events, Barber said.
"I enjoyed being able to do that, looking over the past 50 years," Barber said.