A story by Stephanie Stuckey
My grandfather was born on May 26, 1909, in Dodge County, Georgia. Like most people living in rural Georgia back in those days, the Stuckeys were a family of farmers who earned a modest living working the land and growing cotton. Nonetheless, the family did manage to scrape together enough to send young Sylvester to the University of Georgia, where he studied law. When the Great Depression finally caught up with him and the price of cotton hit rock bottom in 1931, however, Sylvester dropped out of law school in his third year and went back to Dodge County to help his father on the family farm.
Things were pretty bad when he got back home. So bad, in fact, that there wasn’t enough feed for the mules that often got so weak, my grandfather would have to lift them back up on their feet and get them going again. He knew there had to be something else he could do to help out.
Desperate, he went to a family friend, Mr. Fred E. Bennett, Sr., asking him for a job, telling the respected feed and seed fertilizer dealer he was willing to do anything for work.
“Well,” Mr. Bennett said, “why don’t you ride around the country and buy up some of these pecans these fellas are growing ’round here and I’ll try to market them for you?”
Asking his grandmother (and my great-great-grandmother), Cora Lee Williamson, for a loan, she gave him $35 -- all the money she had. He took the money and started driving his Model A Ford Coupe around the pecan farms outside of Eastman, Georgia, and with the help of John King, a black man who worked on the family farm, W.S. Stuckey officially got into the pecan business, selling $4,500 worth of them that first year. By 1936, he was selling over $150,000 worth of pecans that he bought himself and sold to a processor. The next year he opened his little lean-to shack on Highway 23 in Eastman selling pecans, sugar cane juice, syrup, homemade quilts, and all-you-can-drink-for-five-cents cherry cider. It was then and there that Stuckey’s was born.
Photo Credit: Stuckey's Corp
Stay Tuned for Part 3: He didn't do it alone!