The King of Cotton
If he could, Izzie Bashinski would have built the Emerald City of Dublin out of cotton. But, everyone knows you can't make a brick out of the fluffy fibers or boards out of the slender stalks. So, Izzie helped build Dublin and Laurens County into one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas of the state in the first two decades out of the 20th Century. He did it the best way that he knew how. He sold his cotton and the cotton of others to buyers locally, around the state, and around the world. Money meant jobs, which meant more people, which meant even more money. This is the story of Izzie Bashinski, the King of Cotton.
Isadore "Izzie" Bashinski was born on September 6, 1875 to Louis Bashinski, a Prussian native, and his bride, Sarah Long. Izzie graduated from Mercer University, where he roomed with Carl Vinson, a future and long-term and powerful Georgia congressman. He moved to Dublin in 1906 to capitalize on the rapid growth in the markets in Dublin. First, Izzie formed the Yellow Pine Lumber Company and then helped to found the Dublin Navigation Company to aid in the transport of timber into Dublin along the Oconee River. By the end of that year, Izzie married Miss Helen McCall, of Buena Vista, Georgia.
On one of their vacations to Europe, the Bashinskis found and fell in love with the architecture of Italian homes. Upon their return, the couple hired Charles E. Choate, a well-known and prolific Sandersville architect, to design their dream home. The front of their Bellevue Avenue home is one of the most ornate homes along Dublin's grandest avenue. The inside of the home was equally as grand as the exterior. In the rear of the home, the Bashinskis designed a sunken garden area, complete with a water fountain and Lombardi Poplar trees, which thrive in northern Italy. The home was the scene of many grand parties, including a dinner in 1908 to host Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown, on whose staff Bashinski served. The Bashinskis loved to take European vacations. They once scheduled a trip back to America. At the last moment, they changed their minds. Their reservations were aboard the HMS Titanic.
But more than anything else, Izzie Bashinski was a cotton man. Along with his brother Sam, Izzie established a cotton brokerage company on lower Franklin Street in the headquarters of the former Georgia Warehouse and Cotton Compress Company. In 1909, along with J.R. Powel, Bashinski established and served as president of the Dixie Cotton Company, the largest of its kind in the South, with 25 offices around the state.
Izzie Bashinski believed that the key to success and its corresponding wealth was to diversify. So, in the fall of 1909, Izzie began to plan a new venture, the Consolidated Phosphate Company. He envisioned a warehouse 100x400 and three stories high. He incorporated the company and hired Dublin's master builder, John A. Kelley, to erect the enormous structure. Construction began a century ago on the new facility, to which two floors were added in hopes of storing 30,000 tons of the valuable fertilizer.
Izzie Bashinski was a man of vision. He knew that in order to increase economic development of the rapidly growing nucleus of East Central Georgia, it was important, once and for all, to establish a permanent Chamber of Commerce. In the early spring of 1911, Bashinski was selected to serve on the city's first Chamber, which was formally incorporated in 1912.
Bashinski's other business interests included the Dublin Transfer Company, the Dublin Peanut Company, the Citizens Loan and Guaranty Company, the Oconee Guano Company, and the 12th District Fair Association, a for profit company designed to develop and manage one of the city's biggest tourist and economic events.
Due in large part to his efforts to promote the city, including a 12-year term on the Board of Education, Bashinski was elected to the Dublin City Council. When Dublin's young and popular mayor, Peter S. Twitty, Jr., resigned to enter the service in World War I, Izzie Bashkinski was chosen as the city's acting mayor. Bashinski magnanimously volunteered to donate his mayoral salary to the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A. for the duration of the war. In May 1918, he was elected Mayor, but by only a mere two votes over J.E. Burch. Izzie Bashinski volunteered to help the effort to end the war, which was raging in his ancestral homeland, by agreeing to head the Liberty Bond Loan Committee.
In appreciation for his services to the country during World War I, the U.S. government issued a certificate to Bashinski, which in part praised his patriotic services to promote the sale of securities to finance the war. Izzie Bashkinski, who owned his own export company, was often called upon by state organizations and the Federal government to lend advice on better methods of cotton production and marketing. After the war, Izzie traveled to Paris, where he met with U.S. Senator Wm. J. Harris, of Georgia, and European officials to improve cotton production in the old country. Bashinski made numerous return trips and kept urging his government to finance the cotton industry in the South, which had been mortally wounded by the boll weevil before pumping money into the cotton fields of Europe.
Izzie was a skilled telegrapher. He had a teletype machine installed in his home which was connected to Atlanta and New York. Izzie could interpret Morse code messages and at the same time carry on conversations with his family.
Helen Bashinski was a teacher, a lover of history, and was fascinated with genealogy. In 1932, Mrs. Bashinski was elected to head the Georgia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Their children were Horace, a naval officer, Izzie Jr., a highly decorated pilot of "the Flying Tigers" in the Indo-China Theater of World War II, and Helen, a highly successful chemist with the State of Georgia.
In his spare time, Izzie Bashinski loved to play with his children in the back yard of his magnificent home. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, a Mason, a Knight of Pythias and a Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks.
In 1932 in the darkest days of the Great Depression, the Bashinskis lost the home they loved so much. Dr. E.B. Claxton acquired the home where his daughter Irene lives today. The Bashinskis moved to a more modest home on Ramsey Street.
Although Bashinski hated politics, only serving when impressed to do so, he honored his wife's request to help her cousin, Eugene Talmadge, in his campaigns for governor. It was Izzie's job to fire up the crowd when the Governor was in town. Izzie paid farmers five and ten dollars to sit up in the trees around the courthouse and yell "Give them Hell, Gene!"
In 1934, a short while after he was named as Secretary of the Georgia Board of Regents, Izzie suffered a heart attack while on a trip to Douglas, Georgia. Izzie and his wife Helen were entombed in Northview Cemetery in the mausoleum, which he helped to erect. Izzie, although small in stature, was a man who commanded the respect of all. Reserved and cordial, Bashinski was a great listener and conversationalist with a compelling personality. It was men like Izzie Bashinski who built our city into one of the best in the state through unfaltering dedication to working with others to reach a common goal, a goal obtained by cotton, Georgia's "white gold."