• 73°

Another Boss Hogg

By Neil Joiner

Columnist

Boss Hogg was the scheming but lovable political kingpin on The Dukes of Hazzard television series. Bo and Luke Duke repeatedly foiled his poorly conceived and sometimes illegal plans.

Unadilla has its own version of Boss Hogg. But the nickname was given to Clint Shugart with great affection, and with a tip of the hat to his fun-loving nature. He was a longtime Mayor of Unadilla and is one of the most colorful politicians to hail from this part of Georgia.

Mr. Clint turned 89 on May 10th. I went to his home in early April to talk about a men’s Sunday School class that was formed in 1955. Mr. Clint is the only original member still living. Charles Speight and James Ray Irwin went with me on the visit. Mr. Charles is 96 and has taught the class since 1956. James Ray, the youngster in the group at 84, is a longtime class member and a first cousin to Mr. Clint.

We talked about church, then briefly discussed the 65 years he drove a school bus in Dooly County. That’s a state record for Georgia and most likely for all of America. I rode his bus a few times back in the 1960’s. He was as popular with the children as he was with his constituents, always smiling and welcoming us aboard. He didn’t just drive the bus, he hosted a daily social event for his young riders.

The conversation during our visit naturally shifted to politics. Mr. Clint’s countless trips to the state capital were unconventional but highly effective. His political savviness was honed during an era when friendship and camaraderie were the best tools of the trade.

Mr. Clint would gather all kinds of produce from local gardens. He’d head for Atlanta with corn, peas, butterbeans, and watermelons. He once asked Mr. Charles about getting a few pears from a tree in his yard. Mr. Clint didn’t leave enough pears on the tree to make a cobbler.

Joe Frank Harris ran for governor in 1982. A lot of folks didn’t know who he was when Mr. Clint started putting up signs. But we all knew who he was by election day, and Governor Harris knew who Clint Shugart was. Those were eight good years for Unadilla and Dooly County.

James Ray asked me with a big grin, “Do you know where Clint parked when he went to see the governor?” I nodded that I didn’t. “In the Governor’s spot!” he said. “They would move the Governor’s car and motion for Clint to pull in.”

Mr. Clint and his helpers would unload the produce, hams, or whatever they were carrying. When a question was posed about regulations, Mr. Clint told his group of friends to just leave everything on the sidewalk. He said he would let somebody know there might be some abandoned items that needed to be moved. He embraced results over orthodoxy and had a knack for getting things done.

The waiting room to see Governor Harris was always filled with men wearing tailored suits. Mr. Clint wore his coveralls, the same ones he had on when he had picked the pears from Charles Speight’s tree. The Governor would slip out the back door and welcome his good friend into his office.

When the Department of Corrections decided to put a state prison in Dooly County, they spent a full day looking at potential sites. The last one they inspected was near Unadilla and was quickly deemed their top choice. Mr. Clint understood that formalities and decisions are two different things.

“There were times,” said Mr. Clint, “when we couldn’t round up enough produce, and we needed some money to buy a few things.” He said, “Charlie, that’s when I would go see Joe,” referring to Mr. Charles’ late brother. “Joe would always help us out,” he said, speaking with a deep appreciation that’s lasted for decades.

Several times during our visit Mr. Clint laughed and said, “Charlie, we had some good times, didn’t we?” Each time, Mr. Charles affirmed that they did. We walked toward the door to leave and Mr. Charles paused by the chair of his old friend. He shook his hand, held it a moment, and said, “Clint, we had some good times, didn’t we?” We all laughed, knowing it was a question that required no answer.

Unadilla has been blessed to have its own Boss Hogg, a homegrown version that’s much improved over that fellow from Hazzard County. Clint Shugart left town with his trunk full of produce. He came back home with some big loads of bacon for the folks of Unadilla. And he and his many friends had some good times all along the way.