McDaniell: Born to serve — in war and in the state Legislature
by Geoff Folsom
December 14, 2012 09:38 AM | 2865 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hugh Lee McDaniell
Hugh Lee McDaniell
Hugh Lee McDaniell
Hugh Lee McDaniell

MARIETTA — Hugh Lee McDaniell recalled living from a time with no electricity or indoor plumbing inside his farm home and growing up to become a state legislator and real estate developer. And instead of just reminiscing about it, he saved it in a book.

“He had always wanted to tell his story,” said his daughter, Gail McDaniell Barton, who edited his 2006 “Autobiography of Hugh Lee McDaniell.” “Mostly to his grandchildren to pass on to future generations of how far the civilization and modernization has evolved from the Depression and how hard people worked to bring that about.” McDaniell, 89, died Monday after a battling congestive heart failure for much of the past year, Barton said.

In the straightforward, 87-page autography, McDaniell discusses being born in 1923 at his family’s home on Stilesboro Road “at the foot of Kennesaw Mountain.” He attended McEachern High School near Powder Springs, which required him to walk two miles to catch a school bus. But he ended up dropping out of school to help on the family farm.

“The weevils had gotten to the cotton that year, and there was real hardship,” Barton said. “It always broke his heart.”

Barton said her father told stories about how he would trap rabbits and sell them for 75 cents.

“That was a lot of money back then,” she said.

McDaniell signed up for the Army Air Crops, the forerunner of the Air Force, in October 1941, saying he didn’t want to get drafted into ground forces. He was called up on Dec. 7, 1942, exactly a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in locations like Biloxi, Miss., and Sioux Falls, S.D., before spending time in Black River Falls, Wis., where he met Marian Thompson, who would become his wife of 66 years. Eventually, he served in the China, Burma and India Theater, where he was a radar homing station operator.

He wrote about listening to the infamous radio announcer “Tokyo Rose” in the evenings.

“Although she has been referred to by many as a propagandist, whose comments were made to collapse our (morale), she actually made us feel better,” McDaniell wrote. “Playing the popular American music kept us in touch with America; however, I remember getting so homesick.”

McDaniell left Shanghai in December 1945 and was discharged a month later. In 1947, he finished his high school classes and earned a diploma from McEachern. He married Marian in June 1946 and moved to Wisconsin for a few years, where they owned a dry cleaning business, before coming back to Cobb.

McDaniell obtained a license as a general agent of real estate and insurance and in 1957 developed his fist subdivision, Shawnee Forest, where a four-bedroom ranch house sold for $19,800. In 1960, he partnered with attorneys J. Al Cochran and Earl Bassett, forming the McDaniell Realty Company a year later.

In 1962, McDaniell and his wife bought 210 acres in east Cobb and turned it into Terrell Mill Estates, an upscale subdivision with homes on one- and twoacre lots. In 1966, they made their home there, where they lived for 10 years.

Barton said the area was much different than it is now.

“We said, ‘Daddy, how will anybody find us out here in the boonies?’” she said. “It just grew up like nobody would believe.”

Among his other developments were the Hasty Meadows subdivision off Sandy Plains Road and two Ramada Inns, including one on Franklin Road.

While he was president of the Smyrna branch of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, McDaniell was persuaded by Lockheed Aircraft Corp. officials to challenge state Rep. Joe Mack Wilson, whom McDaniell called the “strongest man in the county.”

“Politics and the political process have always fascinated me, because public service is a way to serve our fellow man,” McDaniell wrote.

After losing to Wilson in 1962, McDaniell, a conservative Democrat, came back and defeated the incumbent in 1964. McDaniell served his first two years while Gov. Carl Sanders was in office, then served for four years while Gov. Lester Maddox held the state’s top position.

“Although he aligned himself with the segregationists of the early 1960’s, I believed that he was genuinely a fair man and was continually misrepresented by Atlanta’s press while serving as governor,” McDaniell wrote of Maddox. “His anti-integration stand as owner of the Pick Rick Restaurant must be considered in the context of the times.”

After Maddox retired from politics, he bought a house McDaniell built in Terrell Mill Estates.

McDaniell’s last four years as in the General Assembly were served while future President Jimmy Carter was governor. While he said Carter’s views were more “liberal and socialized” than his own, McDaniell called Carter an honorable man.

“I admire how Jimmy was known as a God-fearing man and was not ashamed to declare he was a born-again Christian,” McDaniell wrote.

Among McDaniell’s tasks in the Legislature were serving as chairman of the State Parks and Recreation Committee and secretary of the Highway Committee. One of his ideas was an “Outer Loop” of highways that was beyond Interstate 285, circling about 35 miles from the center of Atlanta. But the governor never followed

“Atlanta remains in need of such a plan to relieve its continually growing traffic problem,” McDaniell wrote.

Barton said her father was thinking ahead of many at the time.

“He was a developer and builder,” she said. “He just always had an idea for where things should go.”

As he left office in 1974, McDaniell opened the Cohutta Lodge atop Fort Mountain, which he developed on 320 acres near Chatsworth. For 28 years, he and Marian spent most of their time there while also keeping a home in Cobb. While there, he led development in nearby East Ellijay.

As 2000 approached, McDaniell began selling his real estate assets and bought a home in the Barrett Knoll subdivision.

Longtime Smyrna real estate developer Jack Boone said he knew McDaniell for 50 years. Now 90, Boone called McDaniell a “fine gentleman.”

“He was one of those people you really like to meet and know,” Boone said. “I never heard him say a critical thing about anyone.” Barton also has good memories of her father.

“He was just a fine man, a wonderful father,” she said. “He always looked on the bright side of things.”

Along with his wife and Barton, a Virginia resident, McDaniell is survived by daughters Marsha Crowder and Nancy Hester, both of Cobb County. He had seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are planned for 2 p.m. today at New Salem Baptist Church, 836 New Salem Road Northwest in Kennesaw.

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