One hundred years ago, a group of business leaders, all men of course, gathered to form the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce.
W.G. Mealor, the leader of the group, and his cohorts were trying to make things better in the relatively new 20th century.
In 1908, Gainesville was a city near a river, the Chattahoochee, and the railroad. Phone service had arrived, but paved roads were decades away. Georgia Power had built a dam and was to provide electric lights in this horse and buggy town.
In 100 years, the entire world has changed and Gainesville has changed with it. Hall County was a rural place that wouldn't have electricity until the late 1930s and early '40s when Jackson EMC, which was funded through the Rural Electrification Administration, started running lines out into the country.
It was 1909 before a hospital would open. It would be the first one between Atlanta and Greenville, S.C.
Agriculture was the main ingredient of commerce in the tiny town which went only a mile from the square.
Then came textiles. And later a man named Jesse Jewell had new ideas about how we would grow and process chickens. Even Jewell, the visionary, would not recognize Gainesville and Hall County of today.
What we present today is a list. It's not a perfect or complete list. We asked a group of residents to list the names of people who have shaped Gainesville and Hall County over the past 100 years. We asked a second group to take that large list and narrow it down.
There are a few names that were on many lists. People like James A. "Bubba" Dunlap, the attorney who was instrumental in the foundation of the first public hospital and the first public college.
Ray McRae made every voting list. McRae was the chairman of First National Bank, which in its heyday held more than half the money in all of Hall County. McRae is remembered for his role as an economic developer.
While James Mathis Sr. was a banker by trader, his energetic efforts to promote Hall County through the development of Gainesville College is long remembered.
Whether there are more names to be added is yet to be determined, but the names that are here, both on the top 25 and those we list as honorable mention, are people who were community people.
Some have served in state and national positions, but never forgot about their hometown. Others toiled in Gainesville and Hall County daily with an unswerving effort to make it a better place for us all.