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Alva C. Smith Collection

Identifier: MC 34

Scope and Contents

Smith saved everything: manuals for new cars and appliances, travel brochures, road maps, house plans, etc. He managed the Southern Coal Company, owned rental property, and had other investments in property. He saved all his real estate records, including all the paperwork required by the Office of Price Administration (OPA) during World War II as well as information about the implementation and operation of the OPA. One of his passions was politics. There are two brief letters from Tom Watson to Smith, circa 1908. He lost a 1918 race for alderman by three votes, he served as assistant secretary for Georgia's 1952 delegation to the Democratic National Convention, and was appointed an honorary colonel on the staffs of Eugene Talmadge, Herman Talmadge, and Earnest Vandiver.

The collection includes secondary material on the following topics: the Columbus Historical Society; First Baptist Church; Columbus ice-machine; covered bridges; Rose Hill Baptist; St. Luke Methodist Church; St. Paul Methodist Church; the movie "The Phenix City Story"; 1929 flood; 42nd Georgia Infantry Regiment; Spencer High School; Henry Lewis Benning; the Columbus Guards; and the Red Jacket cannon. Other major topics illuminated by material include extensive information about Columbus being the site of the last land battle of the Civil War and the effort to convince the War Department to recognize this fact, the Ashburn Case (a copy of General's Meade's report of this affair), Confederate Memorial Day, the Columbus Guards on the Mexican border in 1917, the Columbus Centennial Celebration, the Primus E. King Case (1944). Numerous pamphlets published by or relating to the following can be found here; city agencies, Chamber of Commerce, Fort Benning, Columbus education, the NEHI Corporation, Chattahoochee Valley Exposition, the Federal Writers' Project's local efforts, a history of local federal relief in the 1930s.

The extensive political material includes ballots for nearly every local and state primary and general election as well as every national election from 1919 to 1960. Specific city or county elections include special elections for judge of the city court, 1938; chain store taxation, 1939; county commissioner, 1952; city bond election, 1949, 1950, & 1955 (hospital); county bond election, 1961; annexation vote, 1945; school consolidation election, 1949; special election for members of commissioner, 1949; county school bond election, 1950 & 1958; special election for judge of city court, 1951. Also, material on state and national Democratic and Republican (only 1952 & 1956) conventions. Also continued within the collection are copies of various federal and state laws, the rules & regulations of the state Democratic Party (1950s), and pieces of right wing propaganda from the 1950s.

A very significant primary source within this collection is a typescript copy of the Autobiography of Raphael J. Moses. He prepared this autobiography in the 1890s at the request of family members. Moses was born, reared, and educated in Charleston, S.C. After becoming a lawyer, he migrated to St. Joseph and Apalachicola, Florida, and then to Columbus, where he became involved in a wide variety of businesses. From his estate, Esquilene (now Benning Hills), he shipped some of the first Georgia peaches to the North. During the Civil War he served as commissary officer for James Longstreet's Corps. His observations about Confederate leaders, recorded in this autobiography, are widely quoted. He remained active in politics and economic matters after the war. This well-written autobiography gives a penetrating analysis of Columbus's power structure before and after the war. After becoming involved in a dispute over fees with William H. Young of the Eagle & Phoenix, Moses became a leader of the "outs" political faction and actively fought the influence of Young and his institutions.


  • 1890 - 1955

Biographical / Historical

Born in Columbus on June 9, 1883, Alva C. Smith was educated in the Columbus public schools and at Massey Business College. During his career he was associated with Eagle and Phoenix Mills, Georgia Manufacturing Company, Columbus Automatic Telephone Co., Columbus Barrel Manufacturing Company, J. B. Banks and Sons Wholesale and Retail Coal, and Southern Coal Company, which he managed from 1918 until 1937. Smith also served as a loyal member of the Democratic Party, serving on both the Columbus City Democratic Executive Committee and the State Democratic Executive Committee. Ardently interested in local history, Smith was a founding member of the Columbus Historical Society in 1915. "Clabber" Smith-a businessman, local historian, political aficionado, and avid collector of memorabilia-filled his pantry with historical and political material as well as his own records. After his death on February 3, 1965, his collection was transferred to the Columbus Museum of Arts and Science and then to the Columbus College Archives. A photograph and biography of Alva C. Smith appeared in The Columbus Magazine, September 30, 1943.


25 Linear Feet : 25 cubic foot boxes

Language of Materials


Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Columbus State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

4225 University Ave
Columbus Georgia 31907 United States