|Title:||Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 040 James L. Gillis, Jr.|
|Creator||Gillis, James Lester Jr., 1916-|
|Dates||2008 July 25|
|Repository||Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies|
|Abstract||James Lester “Jim L.” Gillis, Jr. is the grandson of Treutlen County founder and state representative Neil Gillis, the son of State Senator and Highway Commissioner Jim L. Gillis, and brother of Hugh Gillis. He discusses his time working as an assistant district forester, running a successful campaign for the Georgia Senate, and serving as first mayor and then county commissioner of Treutlen County. Gillis recalls the history of the naval stores industry in Georgia and the influence of environmentalism and industrialization on Treutlen county and the forestry industry.|
Reflections on Georgia Politics began in the fall of 2006 at Young Harris College, as a lecture and discussion program hosted by Georgia political veteran Bob Short. In late 2007, the Richard B. Russell Library began producing the program as an oral history video series to further illuminate and personalize the tectonic shifts that occurred in Georgia politics in the late twentieth century.
Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 040, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia, 30602-1641.
Resources may be used under the guidelines described by the U.S. Copyright Office in Section 107, Title 17, United States Code (Fair use). Parties interested in production or commercial use of the resources should contact the Russell Library for a fee schedule.
James Lester “Jim L.” Gillis, Jr. was born October 2, 1916, in Locust Grove, Georgia. Gillis is the grandson of Treutlen County founder and state representative Neil Gillis, the son of State Senator and Highway Commissioner Jim L. Gillis, and brother of Hugh Gillis. In 1937, Gillis graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in forestry. He worked as an assistant district forester, while taking night courses in business. In 1938, he ran a successful campaign for the Georgia Senate. He served again from 1945 to 1946, and returned home to become first mayor and then county commissioner of Treutlen County, a post he held for forty years until he retired in 2001. He was active in forestry projects, serving as chairman of the board for the Georgia Forestry Commission, president of the American Turpentine Farmers Association, and a member of the Soil Conservation Service. He was also chairman on the board of the Bank of Soperton, president of the Georgia Bankers Association, and president of the State Association of County Commissioners.
James L. Gillis, Jr. discusses the history of his family's business in naval stores and timber, describing how naval stores were shipped via railroad and down the Savannah and Oconee rivers. He talks about the turpentine industry, including his time as a member of the American Turpentine Farmers Association and how the association helped stabilize the industry.
Gillis discusses the history of naval stores. He describes how his father, Neil Gillis, was the first to produce gum naval stores. He further enumerates the history of timber prices and navel stores through World War II and the entrance of foreign competitors like China. Gillis also recalls aspects of his father's life, from Gillis Sr.'s tenure in the House of Representatives in 1917 to his work developing naval stores in Soperton throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
Gillis describes his childhood in Soperton and how the town has changed throughout his life. He explains how his father and grandfather were instrumental in the creation of Treutlen County in 1917. He later goes on to discuss the immigration, job prospects, community renewal, and industry in the county.
Gillis recalls his education at the University of Georgia, his work as a forester in Baxley, his return to the family business and subsequent run for state Senate in 1938. Regarding his civic efforts, Gillis discusses his work with the Lions Club, the Soil Conservation Service, State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and the Georgia Forestry Commission.
The latter portion of the interview occurs in the Gillis family cemetery, and James L. Gillis, Jr.'s brother Hugh Gillis joins the interview.