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Col. Blackburn inspired many at ECHS
0610 echoes
Above is the late Lt. Col. George Morgan Blackburn with the infamous Golden Shoe trophy. - photo by Photo provided

The 10th Annual George Morgan Blackburn Memorial Golf Tournament is scheduled for June 16 at Black Creek Golf Club. The event is held in memory of Lt. Col. George Morgan Blackburn who passed away Dec. 31, 2005.

Col. Blackburn was the youngest of six children born to Mr. and Mrs. Montford Owen Blackburn Sr. Although he was born in Savannah, where his mother moved when she married, his family has roots deep in Effingham history. His mother was Maggie Belle Morgan, who grew up in Clyo, and was a member of Laurel Hill Lutheran Church, and a charter member of Wingard Memorial Lutheran Church.

After his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps, Col. Blackburn and his wife, Joyce, returned to his Effingham County roots, buying a home in Rincon where he lived until his death, and he began a second career as an educator, teaching at the middle school. In 1980, he went back to the University of Georgia to get the training necessary to help the school system implement an advanced placement program at the high school. Upon his return, he taught advanced placement classes including calculus. For many years he was voted as Teacher of the Year. He was named STAR teacher by many students who were awarded STAR student. After his 1995 retirement from the high school classroom, he taught a few night classes at Valdosta State College.

In addition to roots in Effingham County, Col. Blackburn’s family also has long ties to Tybee Island. It was recently uncovered that the first of his family to spend time at Tybee did so in December 1737, when the ship carrying their transport had to wait for ten days for a pilot to guide their ship up the Savannah River, and they continued from there to the settlement at Ebenezer. For generations, the family has been returning to Tybee, as evidenced by photos documenting such visits as far back as six generations. Their tradition of an annual family day at Tybee, begun more than 30 years ago, has now grown into family week, and has had attendees from at least 10 states, plus the countries of Japan and Chile.

During Family Week, some folks bring their clubs and play golf at area courses. They first began doing this at the suggestion of Col. Blackburn, an avid golfer, who invited them to join him for a round or two. He was a member of several golf clubs in the area and had several sets of golf buddies with whom he played four or five times weekly.

So, in 2006, to commemorate his memory and love of golf, the annual outing which occurs during the Blackburn family week at Tybee was named the George Morgan Blackburn Memorial Golf Tournament, and it is played at Black Creek Golf Club, his home course. Participation is open to any member of the family or extended family. It is part of the tradition for the day to begin with a pre-tournament breakfast at Tybee’s famous “breakfast club.”

Beginning in 2009, first, second and third place winners are entrusted with items from the memorabilia of Col. Blackburn which were donated by his daughter, Jerri Ann Blackburn Bailes with the permission of his widow, Joyce Blackburn. These trophies are awarded on a rotating system, and in the words of one participant, “…we play for bragging rights and the coveted “Colonel’s Shoe” trophy — a .0005-carat genuine imitation gold plated shoe that travels with the tournament winner until the following year.”

Col. Blackburn taught at various places, including ECHS, retiring as an educator in 1996. Lt. Col. Blackburn was a decorated Veteran of the Vietnam War having earned his naval aviator wings of gold. He retired from the Marines as a commanding officer of a Marine helicopter training squadron in 1974.

The late Lt. Col. Blackburn was referred to as “Col. Blackburn” in the Effingham County High School. His work with gifted students in advanced placement mathematics has left an indelible mark on many in Effingham County. Some of these students went on to prestigious universities across the nation, have great careers and are fine citizens across the country.

Georgia Tech graduate Marnie Dasher shared with Kristin Everson (Col. Blackburn’s niece) how much he had influenced her life and career choice as a veterinarian. Kristin remarked that she wondered if the Dasher in his roots might be related to Marnie. Although she never told Marnie, Kristin discovered that Marnie’s 4 X great-grandfather and the Col.’s 4 X great-grandfather were siblings, making Marnie and Col. Blackburn sixth cousins. The Salzburger lineage and work ethic are still alive and well through many generations in Effingham County.

Carl Arnsdorff Jr. shared that his son Eric Arnsdorff was inspired by Col. Blackburn. A graduate of Georgia Tech, Eric works in robotics/controls for Siemens in Knoxville, Tenn. The company makes medical equipment including MRI, CAT and PET scanners.

Other former students include Robert and Donald Nelson, who are now local dentists. Many teachers and educators count Col. Blackburn as a mentor. Local pharmacists also remember Blackburn as very important in their college preparation leading to their careers after advanced education classes at ECHS.

As relatives at the golf course will play for the coveted golden shoe this coming week, the real story is the countless lives of students touched or inspired through the efforts of Col. Blackburn, the educator.

This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society with information and photo provided by his niece, Kristin B. Everson. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: