Sunday, May 29, 2011

A deep south speedtrap so bad, it was national news, and the state govenor had warning signs installed on the town limits, Ludowici Georgia

TWO large roadside billboards just inside the county lines north and south of town used to guard the approach to Ludowici. Placed there by Governor Lester Maddox, they warned approaching motorists of "speed traps" and "clip joints" in large black letters on a white background

The county seat, and location of all three of the county's newspapers. It was also one of the best-known little nowheres in the country. Sitting astride the junction of federal highways 301, 25 and 82, Ludowici commanded the traditional north-south highway to Florida; 1,000,000 motorists drive through town each year. But in 1975 the Interstate 95 diverted traffic around it.

During the '50s it became known as the site of a treacherous stop light that trapped motorists by changing from green to red without warning, after which the travelers were ticketed by a waiting policeman. Since 1960 when the light was replaced, Ludowici's speed traps have bilked motorists of a rumored $100,000 annually. Said Governor Maddox: "The place is lousy, rotten, corrupt, nasty and no good."

Ludowici has nevertheless defied the efforts of three Governors to shut down the speed traps. For years some of the local gas stations also conducted a profitable con game. When an unsuspecting motorist stopped to have his oil checked, the attendant would disable the car by tinkering with the generator or pouring water in the crankcase oil, then suggest that the customer move his crippled vehicle to a nearby garage for repair. Fittingly enough, the repair shop was called "Billy Swindel's."

The man behind the speed trap, and behind everything else in Ludowici, was the county's colorful political boss, Ralph Dawson, a back-country lawyer who ran Long County since 1932, he headed a political machine that never lost an election at the county or city level.

from a Time magazine article in 1970,9171,909123,00.html

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