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Walter C. Rucker

inventor, blacksmith, and farmer, was born Anderson Augustus Redding in Juliette, Georgia, to Anderson and Jane Darden Redding, former slaves and sharecroppers. Though his parents had been slaves on the plantation of James P. Redding—the son of a Virginia planter who fought alongside George Washington at Yorktown—the young Redding managed to acquire his own plot of land in Juliette and was relatively wealthy by the time he turned forty-five. He created a lucrative set of operations that included a syrup mill, a blacksmith shop, and a series of distilleries. In addition, Redding grew a combination of sugarcane and corn on a sizable landholding. He could often be seen in a buggy pulled by his white stallion, George, in Juliette in the 1910s and 1920s—a rare sight indeed in the midst of the so-called Black Nadir.

Redding married a total of three times but his first ...