Sponsors sought for video of Susan Atkinson
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
Sponsors are being sought for a video tribute to Susan Cobb Milton Atkinson, a Georgia governor’s wife who lived in Newnan for many years.
Atkinson was named to Georgia Women of Achievement, a tribute to outstanding women from throughout the state’s history, in 1996. Abit Massey has been working with GWOA in an effort to find enough sponsors for the Atkinson video project.
Massey himself has agreed to be one of the five – making his contribution in memory of his mother, who was a graduate of Georgia Normal and Industrial College which was founded following an extensive campaign by Atkinson for a state college for women.
Massey said he also has “a commitment from an individual in Milledgeville.” Anyone interested in helping sponsor the project is encouraged to contact Massey at 770-533-1646 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A video of Susan Cobb Milton Atkinson would be enjoyable, informative and inspiring – and a great record for history,” Massey said.
GWOA now produces videos when new members are selected, but that was not the case in 1996. “We are trying to get videos on all previous honorees and certainly she is deserving of one,” Massey said.
New videos are shown at the GWOA annual meeting each March. Recent videos were produced honoring Moina Michael of Social Circle, who spearheaded the poppy program to help veterans returning from World War I, and Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Cartersville writer and political leader who was the first woman U.S. senator.
A number of Atkinson descendants still live in Coweta County. LouAnne Atkinson Connell attended the 1996 GWOA ceremonies and was enthusiastic about the idea of a video honoring Susan Atkinson.
Connell noted her great- great-grandmother grew up “wanting for nothing as daughter of the governor of Florida.”
When she married William Yates Atkinson, a Newnan attorney who had grown up in Meriwether County, “her life of privilege seemed to be continuing,” Connell said. “She could have ignored the needs of others less fortunate.”
Her husband became speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives and then was elected governor. Susan Atkinson did not rest “in her position as the soon to be first lady of the state,” Connell noted, but dedicated herself to the cause of education for Georgia’s women.
She focused on “the sad plight of Georgia’s young women in the aftermath of the Civil War,” and exerted great effort to see that a college would be founded “where they could be educated to be more self-supportive,” Connell said.
Massey also spoke of Atkinson’s “key role in creation of what is now Georgia State College & University.” In addition, LaGrange resident Rosalyn Sheets, another great-great-granddaughter, cited the founding of the college as one of the reasons she is proud of her ancestor.
During his legislative career, W.Y. Atkinson was among the first to recognize the rights of women in politics. “I am proud to be an Atkinson descendant because of all the things my grandfather did,” Sheets said.
As speaker, he appointed a woman to be postmistress of the House of Representatives.
“Later as governor, he named a woman to be assistant librarian – the first time in the history of the state that a woman held a salaried position in the State Capitol. I cannot help but believe that Susan had something to do with this,” Connell said.
“As happens so often, God’s plan for Susan slowly revealed itself in her life. She was instrumental in furthering the rights and positions of woman in our state and then found herself benefitting from her own mission,” Connell said.
Soon after leaving office, W.Y. Atkinson suffered an attack of appendicitis and died unexpectedly – leaving his wife “with several young children to support,” Connell said. Susan Atkinson “went into the insurance business” in order to support her family, Sheets noted.
Atkinson also became Newnan’s postmaster. “She visited the president of the United States and convinced him to grant her the appointment,” Connell said. “She must have been something else.”
W.Y. and Susan Atkinson are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Newnan.
Her epitaph reads: “Her life was of benefit to the world. She was helpful as a wife, devoted as a mother, and useful as a citizen.”
Massey said Susan Atkinson’s impact “was significant on Newnan and Coweta County” and “on the entire State of Georgia.”