CHURCHILL SOCIETY OF GEORGIA
By Gary Garrison
ATLANTA, November 13th – The 136th birthday celebration of Sir Winston was held by the Winston Churchill Society of Georgia Saturday 13 November at the Capital City Club. Attendance was the largest ever in Atlanta for this event.
The guest of honor and featured speaker was Lynne Olson, author of Citizens of London. Lynne highlighted some of the significant points in her book detailing how three Americans, Edward R. Murrow of CBS; John Gilbert Winant, U.S. Ambassador to England; and Averill Harriman, special representative of President Roosevelt played major roles in London during the war. Their efforts, which have been described as “historic” during those dark days when Prime Minister Churchill and the British people stood alone against Hitler and the Nazis.
Murrow’s role was significant through his nightly broadcasts from London in bringing a greater awareness of the reality of exactly what was happening an ocean away. He also at times in his broadcast subtly and not so subtly pushed for America’s involvement. Harriman was appointed by FDR to oversee the lend lease program. He too was a key figure in building relationships between the Brits and the Americans who suddenly flooded their country.
The role of Ambassador Winant was one hardly known to many Churchillians if at all. Winant was significantly effective in several capacities during his years in London in supporting the British. He is a major player who has been ignored or only briefly touched on by most historians. One really needs to read the book to be able to capture the feeling of what a great person he was, and what he did that contributed so much to winning the war.
On a side note Lynne discussed the relatively unknown role of US polo player and Air Corps major Tommy Hitchcock of Aiken, SC in pushing for the development of the P-51 Mustang. The fighter, originally designed for the RAF, gained little support from the Anglophobe Air Corps staff. Had it not been for Hitchcock’s tireless efforts, Allied bombers would have been denied the capability of fighter support into the German heartland.
Gary Christopher brought a most interesting display of WWII and pre WWII Artifacts including a set of original German battle maps for the invasion of France, and also a photo book on the 1936 Olympics produced by none other than Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite cinematic propagandist.
The celebratory dinner opened with the singing of the national anthems of Great Britain and the United States. Music was played while the words of the anthems appeared on a screen. Bill Fisher, Society President, provided a brief report on the status of the Society which was positive. Bill then thanked and recognized Society member Manning Pattillo, who is also a member of the Capital City Club, for making all of the arrangements for the “grand night.” He also introduced three new family members that have joined the Society. A warm welcome was given by all to John and Carol Bitter, Joe and Susanne Delaney, and Dr. Bill and Vickie Scaljon.
Immediately following dinner, Society Vice President Gary Garrison offered the toast to Churchill and what he did for the world today, followed by a toast to the Queen and then the U.S. President.
The guest of honor and speaker for the evening spoke next. The large number of audience questions that followed showed not only the high level of interest, but also in the historical information of what might be described as the behind the scene players who were closely associated with Churchill.
Manning Pattillo closed the event in a Georgia tradition reading Duff Cooper’s tribute to Winston Churchill.
Copies of past issues of Finest Hour were available for the members and their guests as they departed.
The Society will continue to hold its monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Titled “A Pint with Winston”, the members gather over a pint or two and dinner, and discuss various topics in regards to Churchill or related topics.