Column: Daughter’s novel focuses on Dad’s mysterious life and demise in a aircraft crash

When she was 5 years old, Artis “AJ” Chester survived a plane crash that killed her father on his White County farm.

That was June 20, 1985. Artis Henderson is now 41 years old and is writing a book about her late father, Lamar Chester.

At the time of the crash, Chester was due to be tried in federal court for drug offenses. He was charged in October 1983. Chester, who said he was a federal agent, always claimed he was innocent. He accused federal investigators and prosecutors of wrongdoing.

Chester was 46 years old when his plane crashed on his farm west of Cleveland. As a former Eastern Airlines pilot, he built his own runway on the property, part of which is now used as a retreat on Long Mountain.

Chester’s daughter now lives in Florida. She has written a book, “Un-Remarried Widow – a Memoir”. Artis Henderson’s husband Miles Henderson was also the victim of a plane crash. He died in 2006 when an Apache helicopter crashed in the US Army in Iraq.

Artis recently visited White County to research her father’s book and life. She told LaVenier Mize Hicks that she didn’t know much about him until she began researching the book. Hicks worked with The Times on the story of Lamar Chester from the start. Reports circulated that he was involved in the drug trade. The secret of the man and the plane crash remains because he was an experienced pilot.

Artis also spent time with CB Hackworth, who while at The Times spent months investigating and writing about the Lamar Chester case.

Gun control isn’t new

One would think that in the past few would speak out in favor of gun control. However, in 1881 a Hall County grand jury reprimanded the state legislature for failing to pass a gun control bill.

In their presentations, the grand jury announced: “We are sorry to hear that the legislature has lost the bill on the taxation of pistol sales. We all know that worthless men, black or white, even boys 12-15 years old, can go into our stores and buy a gun for a dollar and a half. Pistols are bought to be carried, loaded, and hidden to shoot someone.

“Now we are protesting this general trade in deadly weapons for the sake of law and order, and we sincerely hope that our members will do their utmost during the next legislature to pass a law that would impose such a tax on the sale of pistols imposed. “and pistol cartridges within this state, which amounts to a ban on this trade in weapons that are only intended to shoot at people.”

Wiley Quillian was the foreman of this grand jury in October 1881.

Empty pockets

Perhaps these grand jurors were also looking for a way to replenish the shrinking treasury. At the time, Hall County reported only $ 246.20 in its budget.

One reason could have been low property taxes. At that time there were no tax experts. Property owners would “submit” their own estimates of the value of their property.

The same grand jury that tried to tax guns wrote, “We find in some cases where, in our best judgment, the property is far below its real value.”

Real estate valuations are regularly challenged today, not just in Hall County, but across the state and other parts of the country. Some of these protesters probably want the same privilege as landowners of days gone by.

Fancy rails

The recent move of locomotive 209 from the West Academy and Jesse Jewell Parkway intersections to the Midland Greenway brings back memories of the time when the Gainesville Midland steam train chugged its way to Athens and back. The Midland was one of a series of short tracks that followed the introduction of the railroad into the area in the 1870s. These included the Gainesville & Northwestern, which ran to Robertstown, and the Gainesville Jefferson and Southern to Jefferson and Social Circle.

When the trains went into operation after the civil war, entrepreneurs jumped up on a grand scale. Many other lines were chartered but never started. These included the Gainesville, Blairsville, and State Line, which included Confederate General James G. Longstreet; the Kingston, Waleska and Gainesville and the Gainesville Cartersville and Rome. Some tracks were also laid for a railroad between Gainesville and Dahlonega, but never used by a train.

Johnny Vardeman is the retired Times Editor and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; [email protected]. His column appears weekly.