Dr. Joseph Buford Mahan, Jr.
Joe Mahan: 1921 to 1995
Museum Curator, College Professor, Pioneer Difussionist of North America
Harry Hubbard: I have said enough about Professor Joe Mahan, Ph.D. in two of my books, Tomb Chronicles Part I and Part II. Dr. Joe was my favorite scholar. He supported our efforts tremendously in the face of critical opposition from several factions. He realized what had to be done to go around the BCC Board members controlled by Russell Burrows. He was fed up with Burrows and Prof. Scherz, who ran interference on anyone interested in the "cave." Be all that as it may, Joe Mahan is best described here by the others who knew him and worked with him on different projects. All of these articles are reprinted from the Midwestern Epigraphic Journal, Vol. 9, Number 1, issued in late 1995. The Editor of all these entries is Professor John J. White, III Ph.D. There are several articles about Joe featured here, and I hope that interested participants read them all. Please bear in mind that all Editor's Notes, are those of Dr. White III.
JOSEPH BUFORD MAHAN, JR.
Professor John J. White, III Ph.D.
[Editors note: Dr. Joseph B Mahan, a distinguished historian from Columbus, GA, is winner of the 1995 MES Barry Fell Award. Joe is best known to MES members for his establishment and leadership of ISAC. When he died on September 2, 1995, we all knew that we had lost a true and noble friend. The 1995 winners, Dr. Mahan and Isaac Vail, shared enthusiasm for research of antiquity and a willingness to pursue a better understanding of the truth. In other words, they published and promoted what they believed to be correct and were little effected by those who are biased against open discussion of the myriad possibilities for the interpretation of prehistory. Please celebrate with the MES membership the life and works of this distinguished contributor to our understanding of the past.]
Dr. Mahan died quite suddenly at age 74 on Saturday, September 2, 1995. Observers knew that Joe was struggling a bit physically to get around. Still, we weren't ready for it. In Joe's eyes, his work wasn't done yet, and we all expected that the old bulldog was going to wrestle with fate until he was at least 85 years old. Well, he up and left unexpectedly, and it hurts.
Whether you were friend or foe, you knew you could count on the challenge of Joseph Mahan. And further, and I don't mean to impugn the capabilities of his ISAC associates, many of us counted on Joe to supply leadership and hard work toward progress with some challenging aspects of diffusionsist prehistory and related topics. The MES hopes to take up some of the slack. We can only hope that others will follow suit, but frankly, at this moment, the prospects don't look nearly as good as they did in 1990 or in 1985.
Now my relationship with Joe was professional, and thus I can't tell you very many folksy stories about little visits out behind the barn, just Joe and me. Joe was a consummate Georgia politician with all the affable people skills that is implied. On our first encounter, he barked at me a little to test my mettle as an upstart newcomer. Then he learned that my family has lived in Georgia since 1956, that I went to graduate school at the University of North Carolina (like Joe), that I served to the rank of Army Captain during the Vietnam War, and that I had been an Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia for six years (like Joe). And so Joe knew that I was well experienced with the rules of Georgia social etiquette. Thereafter, it was Dr. Mahan and Dr. White; the dance was quite pleasant and rewarding while it lasted.
One final remark on my comment above that, the unexpected demise of Dr. Mahan hurts. Joe was a great leader, a real doer, and a pretty fair scholar. I don't relish his loss on any plane I'm aware of. When ISAC's Kristi Morrison sent me a copy of the Columbus, GA Ledger-Enquirer's story on Joe's death, I nearly swallowed my gum. The headline read, "Local historian dies at 74." Now I know this expression was well intended. Joe Mahan was loved and admired in Columbus, GA. But for me the headline said something like, "Local bumpkin dies at 74." So in my heart of hearts, let me suggest that a modest but reasonably accurate headline would have read, "Notable Georgia historian dies at 74."
Joseph Buford Mahan, Jr. was born in Rydal, GA on June 11, 1921. Rydal is located in northeast Bartow County on US 411 about 20 miles north of Cartersville. The sacred Etowah Mounds lie about 10 miles west of the Cartersville exit off I-75 in northwest GA. In historical terms, this is Cherokee country. And if you are not familiar with one of the worst blights on the record of our great nation, you need to return to middle school to learn about he civilized Cherokees and the monstrous Trail of Tears.2 I don't think it was any accident that Joe Mahan developed a deep-seated admiration for Native American culture and made comprehension of a poorly understood prehistory a major priority of his life.
Mahan was a member of the generation that defended his country bravely in WW II. Joe was an Army man that got shot up in the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. He received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his combat efforts.
He received a rather good education for his particular generation. He obtained Undergraduate degrees at Reinhart College in Waleska, GA and the University of Georgia in Athens (1946). He obtained an MA from the University of Georgia in 1950 and much later (1970) a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Joe majored in history, anthropology, and archaeology. His Ph.D. dissertation was entitled, "Tsoyaga Waeno, Builders of Temple Mounds." He researched his topic for many years in order to give it the justice it deserved. A portion of his legacy from this effort is the Mahan Collection, some 10,000 items archived at Columbus College. Dr. Mahan developed his archaeology skills at the University of Georgia during the years 1949-50, where he had the opportunity to work with Professor Arthur Kelly, a principal excavator at the Ocmulgee site in Macon, GA. This led quite naturally to a position (1952-58) as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Continuing Education and History at the same institution.
Promotions are quite rare for college teachers who have not completed their Ph.D.. So Joe had to find a spot that would respond to his immense energy and that was the city of Columbus, GA. He accepted the position of Curator of the Columbus Museum, his base of operations for 14 years (1958-72). During this time, he discovered Chief Sam Brown of the Yuchis who was looking for a good listener. The richness of the Yuchi story with its implications of migration during historical times were not lost on Joe. His life-long interest in ancient Georgia and surrounds had suddenly come into focus.
One of his favorite projects was the Confederate Naval Museum in Columbus. He was partly responsible for locating and raising the Confederate gunboat CSS Chattahoochee from the river during the early 1960's. At the April, 1994 ISAC meeting, Joe took time to give Beverly Moseley and myself a guided tour of Columbus, and he was quite proud of the Naval Museum. He had his eye on a diffusionist artifact museum, but regrettably, he didn't have time to put it together.
Joe was above all things a visionary. He had a feeling for projects that the community needed and would support. The Civil Rights Movement had drained Georgia's energy. With Fort Benning on its outskirts, Columbus carried a heavy burden during the Vietnam War, especially when the critics became quite vocal. Joe found a big Georgia history project in 1966 that everyone could support, and he had it going by 1970.
Mahan became the founder of executive director of the Westville Living History Museum (1972-78). Westville is a planned ante-bellum village on the outskirts of Lumpkin, GA, the buildings being brought in from nearby communities. Lumpkin is the county seat of Stewart County 30 miles south of Columbus on US 27. When asked why he chose Lumpkin, Joe told the simple truth, "They were the only folks that said yes!" The Westville/Joe Mahan story is so interesting that we have prepared a separate article on this subject.3
Dr. Mahan's research life took a shot in the arm in 1977 when he and his wife, musicologist Katherine Hines Mahan, won a joint grant from the Institute for Pakistan Studies. He spent six months in Pakistan studying the Indus Valley Culture, a necessary step to confirm his tentative interpretations of the Yuchi cultural traditions. This research was the basis of his book The Secret published in 1982.1
The next chapter is Joe's working life was to become the Historic Preservation Planner for the Lower Chattahoochee Regional Development Center (1982-93). Douglas Purcell, in a moving letter to the Columbus newspaper on Sept. 3, 1995, praised Mahan for his work and for being such an "unconventional" historian. What a wonderful compliment! Think about all the historians you have known or have heard of. How many have had the courage to pursue the truth like Joe, and have the energy to work hard at preservation, research and communication like Joe?
Mahan's public interest in research really accelerated once he obtained final approval on his Ph.D. Dissertation. The Westville project provided Joe with a unique forum for meetings and conferences that promoted the reporting of new ideas on the history of ancient America. These meetings began in 1973 and ended in 1983 under the simple title Westville Conference.
At that point, Joe saw a need for a more serious, formal organization. During the conference held in Columbus in 1983, the Mahan group founded the Institute for the Study of American Cultures, (ISAC), which like Westville was Joe's baby. Their purpose was to form an organization devoted to competent, unbiased research on the ancient history of the America's. They held important conferences, developed a library, published several books, preserved several collections, collected artifacts, and supported controversial discoveries and interpretations of American prehistory.
Mahan became a full-fledged supporter of the alleged Burrows Cave of southern Illinois in 1989 or somewhat earlier. The rancor over this discovery would have defeated most people, but not Joe Mahan. He held conferences, acquired some of the artifacts for study, encouraged translations of the stones by Schaffranke, and nurtured one of its leading researchers. One of his personal contributions is a brief history of the King Juba era of northwest Africa, which helps to define a significant context for the Burrows Cave or Tomb of Alexander culture. The final word on this amazing discovery is still a question, particularly because none of us claims to have been inside the cave to see the alleged burial crypts that are claimed.
The opposition, however, doesn't appear to have a leg to stand on. They resent the circumstances, and they resent Russell Burrows because he's a jerk. The Burrows Cave group of supporters is hardly organized for profit, only Russell Burrows is. Nevertheless, inspired in part by Joe Mahan, we have a common vision of truth about prehistory. If it looks like a duck, it is! When we contemplate the entire collection of Tomb artifacts looted by Russell Burrows as a fraud candidate, the questions of who had the interest, the talent, the skills, the time, the resources, the technology, and the motivation are asked, and we come up with few serious answers. The project would have taken at least 10 world class experts at least 10 years apiece; but Hubbard and Schaffranke did it in two. Perhaps Burrows Cave qualifies as a travesty.
To summarize, I can only restate the expressions of many others. Joseph Mahan was a beloved leader with vision, inspiration, determination, perspicacity, talent, and character. He will be well remembered and respected.
SELECTED HISTORICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY OF JOSEPH BUFORD MAHAN, JR (1921-1995)
Professor John White, III Ph.D.
BOOKS BY DR. JOE MAHAN:
1) A History of Old Cassville 1833-64, University of Georgia, 1950
2) The Secret: America in World History Before Columbus, Columbus GA, 1983
3) Columbus, Georgia's Fall-Line Trading Town, 1986
4) North American Sun Kings: Keepers of the Flame, 1992
ARTICLES BY DR. JOE MAHAN:
1) The Bat Creek Stone, 1971
2) Discovery of Ancient Coins in the United States, 1975
3) Columbus Was Right; They Actually Were Indians! 1977
4) Plumed Serpent at Spiro, 1979
5) There Was a "Great Ireland" 1989
6) Additional Information on Tugalo Stone, 1989
7) The Yuchis, American and Asian, 1992
8) Facts You May Not Know [A History of ISAC and the Westville Conferences], 1993
9) Georgia's Mystery Vessel, 1993
10) Georgia's Lost Indian Gold Mine, 1994
11) Biographical Sketch of Alexander Helios, 1995
12) What do the Temple Mounds Conceal?, 1995
13) An Expostulation [Discussion of Disinformation in the Prehistory Literature], 1995
14) ISAC, The Organization Devoted to Seeking the Truth, 1995
15) Historical Context of Burrows Cave, 1995
TEXT FROM RAY HOLLIFIELD'S TESTIMONY
Who is Joe Mahan anyway -- is he Historian or History Maker?
Webster and I define Historian as an authority on history or a keeper of the facts. But, as we all know, never bother Joe with the facts. There's Joe's way -- the right way, according to Joe -- and then there is everyone else.
Joe would never once let volumes of evidence documenting that Columbus discovered America discourage him from believing international trade to America flourished over 1000 years ago.
Never mind that the world's leading archaeologists and historians think otherwise. Joe knows better. That's why he formed ISAC, better known as, "I'm sure Archaeologists are Crazy."
You know he's really sure they are, and he'll tell them and anyone else that will listen that they are. I'm not saying Joe is stubborn, but others might.
I've got to admit that Hoe will cut people off form time to time. Joe can only listen to a differing opinion for so long before he has to set them straight.
This reminds me of some wisdom he once imparted: "Never invite people you don't like to your party."
Joe has chronicled a lot of early American history through The Secret. Many wish he would have kept those secrets to himself. I'm not saying it was an inaccurate representation of the facts, but it does demonstrate Joe's passion for fantasy. Not that he would ever confuse the two.
He has also written Columbus: The Fall Line Trading Town. Unlike other historians, Joe started recalling Columbus's history around 4000 BC, an era for which I'm sure all of us are very curious and impacts our daily lives.
That book reminds me of another Mahan saying. "If they go to run you out of town, get in the front of the line and act like it's a parade in your honor." After Joe's account of some prominent Columbus families, some members were ready for a parade.
All this is to say that I think Joe is more history maker than historian. I don't mean he's older than dirt, although he probably is. I believe Joe has been a part of history more than he has represented it.
I know about Joe's history because he told me about it. An if you're Joe's friend, you have no choice but to smile and listen, because, as we all know, Joe does like to talk -- tell stories, if you will, and he can tell a lot of stories.
Joe is part of an important American era. Growing up in rural Georgia, Joe held a number of jobs al the way through school. That work is probably what cause Joe to miss classes on Early American History. However, it did afford Joe the opportunity to meet and mingle with some interesting, powerful, and rich people, from governors to corporate executives. After learning all they knew -- with the exception of how to make lots of money--Joe went to war. Not with historians, but with Germany.
Finding no one to argue with him on anything, Joe felt it was better to take a mortar than to reeducated Europe.
Run out of Cartersville, GA, (leading the parade), Joe decided to enlighten Columbus through its museum, quickly tiring of the mundane, he decided to go fishing. Joe fished for Confederated gunboats.
Bored with that, he took up with Indians. Not just any Indian, but Chief Brown, the last emperor of the Yuchi Nation. Joe always wanted to be an Indian, and here was his chance. Evidently, Chief Brown filled Joe's head with all kinds of new and interesting ideas--at least, new for Joe.
Ever the eager student, Joe liked what he heard. Really, he found religion and like all good zealots, he made it his mission to spread the word--the word according to Joe, of course.
You and I know Joe is good with words, and I'm not. It took me two weeks before I understood I had bee insulted when he introduced me as someone completely innocent of social niceties.
Surrounding himself with like-minded people from across the country, Joe needed a place to meet. Since no one else would have them, Joe helped build Westville.
Now, conventional wisdom would suggest a tourist attraction would be near transportation or a substantial population base. Joe wouldn't hear of it. Remember, there's Joe's way or no way. 50, here we sit, as far away fro roads and civilization as is humanly possible.
Over the years since the first meeting at Westville, the select group of historians and others has formed a tight-knit club, and they'll hit you over the head with that club if you don't agree with them.
Joe and his following have managed to initiate people across the country, to their great delight.
Joe once said that one day he would like to write a book and title it, I Was Only Trying to Help. I think that is Joe Mahan, someone who can't help but to help others. I know he helped me for many years.
When I was asked to roast Joe, I accepted with misgivings, because Joe is a sensitive guy, and I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings, although I must admit it is fun poking fun at him.
But, I've got to tell you what I really think--There is but one Joe Mahan, one of the true Southern Gentlemen.
Joe's a man of courage, a war hero who isn't afraid to face overwhelming odds, to battle narrowminders and complacency and to fight for what he believes and do what he feels is right.
How many of us would have the courage to resist so dramatically the prevailing norm of our own profession and that of our nation?
Joe is also a man of vision. Who else would have insisted on locating Westville where it is? Joe could see what many could not. An authentic working village has to be a success, and it is.
Most importantly, Joe is a friend to everyone in this room. His friendship is a very special thing, because you can count on Joe. I'm proud to call Joe my friend, and I'm better for it.
Someone once said, "Success is a journey, not a destination." Joe Mahan is the most successful man I know.........Thank you.
RAWSON HOUSE RHETORIC
"The Day Joe Mahan Died"
Matthew M. Moye
It's 82 degrees before noon at Westville on this Labor Day Weekend. I've just heard the news that Joe Mahan has died.
Since our July 4 rain, there has been barely an inch of wetness, counting all the dew and sweat that has fallen on this parched parcel of earth.
Dr. Mahan was what I call, "Westville's Inspirator." By that, I mean that he inspired us all to work for Westville, but he wasn't above a "conspiracy" to spark a person's interest.
Even in the dreadful heat of this day, my arms now just naturally fold against my body.
Labor Day Weekend is a welcome active day for Westville, because summer visitation lags behind other times of the year. I am glad to see all the people, but the staff doesn't know yet about Joe.
Stewart County once was one of the South's leading economic engines. The decline here has bee steady since about 1854.
Joe's influence on Stewart County's recent economic re-direction really is incalculable. towards reversing the trend of decline, he worked tirelessly to establish tourism as a reasonable new source of income.
I'm standing outside Westville's office, looking out at the Bryan House and the Climax Church. I'm thinking of all I should have asked Joe. People are busily exploring this place around me. The a flash hits me. Everything works. See the people here--looking, touching, hearing, smelling, and learning. They didn't know Joe. Yet, Westville is a living place. Even in this dark hour, it all works.
The Green Grove Church National Register nomination; the Bedingfield Inn; the developmental highway projects; the state parks; the Indian Mounds conservation--all of these resources were in part conceived by Joe. And they work!
Joe put our common heritage in a good and marketable condition. That isn't to say there isn't plenty to be done, but we now have a new industry in the county--jobs for our people.
My mood brightens as I watch folks from Tallahassee, Maryland, Atlanta, Louisiana, Georgia and New York, enjoying Westville on this, the day Joe Mahan died.
JOSEPH BUFORD MAHAN
A Tribute to a Great Impresario
Professor Cyclone Covey, Ph.D., Wake Forest University
[Editors Note: Dr. Cyclone Covey, Professor Emeritus of History at Wake Forest University is a distinguished scholar of Colonial and Ancient History. He has been a staunch supporter of ISAC, and was a recipient of the ISAC Root Cutter Award. Professor Covey joined forces with Dr. Joseph Mahan to work toward making a success of research on the significance of Burrows Cave and the study of its numerous informative artifacts.]
Joe was the great impresario. After bringing off an Indian museum and Westville just before the would be no longer possible, he pioneered annual international multi-field conferences which pooled and mutually corrected dispersed lone labors into significant racheting of the state of knowledge each time. He generated ISAC, a feat too impressive to need detailing, but equally advanced knowledge along lines no one else had the grasp of or perseverance to, which has taken longer to establish as equal claim to immortality.
His Ph.D. dissertation and his book The Secret thrust so far ahead of our comprehension that we have only lately realized their decisive consequence. He kept exceeding himself--in The North American Sun Kings discovered, for instance, the mystery of Emperor Brim's identity and succession (on which so much of the sense of a critical era depends) that no one else had fathomed or ever would have without his hard-bought expertise in Yuchi symbolism coupled with decade's of unflagging diligence.
His basic discoveries have held up remarkably. Testing of extrapolations which leap too far will only carry on his fearless quest. How he came by his dedications and day-in-day-out, year-round drive undiscouraged (if occasionally losing patience) I can only speculate. But he somehow escaped the usual handicaps, such as regard for reputation, fear of convention, or seduction by that most insidious, supercilious, uncharitable, unscientific, callous subverter of risk-taking truth-seeking: Presumption of Fraud.
MY GOOD FRIEND JOE
Some friendships are nurtured through many years with letters, phone calls, mutual interest and trust, although the friends seldom meet face to face. Such was my relationship with Dr. Joe Mahan, meeting usually at annual symposiums all over the country for 22 years, mostly at the conferences he himself sponsored. These were so numerous that I once wrote an article about him titled, "Mr. Symposium."
The first three were held near Lumpkin, GA, at wonderful Westville 1852 Living Village, where he was Executive Director. We first met there in 1973, introduced by Dr. Cyrus Gordon, who had been to see me and recommended me as a speaker. Held in the authentic restored tabernacle, I shall never forget the wooden platform, pulpit and pews, and the slanting dirt floor cover with fragrant wood shavings. Birds flew in and out of the open walls, singing, and the scent of strong coffee wafted in from the huge iron pot and its fire outside.
At one of these meetings, Joe was taking me down the road in his car. Understanding that I was self-educated in the field of diffusionism, he was trying to give me ancient history in a nutshell, but stumbled on the name of an ancient Greek geographer. When I supplied "Strabo," I think it was in that instant that I was admitted to the inner circle of researchers.
On October 20, 1983, ISAC was organized in a Columbus, GA hotel with Dr. Mahan as its President. I was privileged to be a charter member, and later was honored as a Trustee. This prestigious body was always a very influential group, and continues. It was reported that Joe's last words were, "ISAC must go on!"
It was in the summer of 1978 that Joe and his friend Dr. Jim Sullivan decided to visit me for three days in order to see the Oklahoma-Arkansas sites and sights. We went of course to the Heavener Runestone State Park in my home town, to Kerr Museum to see two more Rune stones, and to a seldom seen extant temple mound at Fort Smith, Ark. We visited a fabulous bluff shelter in the Ozark Mountains, later dated by computer star patterns to March 30, 710 AD. We went to a mound being excavated, and to the home of an elderly man who had actually crawled in the tunnels of Spiro Mound before it was destroyed. He showed us marvelous artifacts, and we made a tape of his descriptions of the site. I led them down a narrow-bedded railway in Tusla to see a bilingual inscription on a cliff side. We also visited an ancient grave in Van Buren, Ark. We did not care to open a newspaper or turn on the TV for three days, because we were living in the ancient past.
In turn, Joe took us to the Yuchi Indian square ground near Sapulpa, where an aura of sacredness still hung, from the Green Corn Ceremonies held the day before. In a later year, I met Joe there for the annual ceremonies, and was privileged to sit by his side for a magical day, while he explained the chants and dances of the Yuchi's and we shared their fasting and feasting.
On another trip to the Oklahoma panhandle with a group, Joe knelt with me by the Cimarron River a agreed that I had found a birth record on stone. He climbed into the Anubis Caves with me, and was the proper voice to appeal to the landowner for their preservation.
Joe was always there at the other end of the telephone, ready to listen, consider, and advise if asked. It was always a pleasure to share with him my latest discovery and hear him chuckle. He was always kind and considerate, leaving one conference to take me to his own dentist when I broke a tooth, and assisting me to cancel credit cards when I lost my wallet.
He had a great sense of humor. When he saw a photograph of himself which I had taken after he gained some weight, he said, "I will never eat anything but tomatoes again!"
His influence on me has been great, and I miss him sharply, both as the publisher of my book IN PLAIN SIGHT, and as a dear friend. My sympathy is with his widow, Dr. Katherine Mahan, who is also my good friend.
IN MEMORY OF DR. JOSEPH B MAHAN (1921-1995)
Ethel G. Stewart
[Editor's note: Ethel Steward is one of the more distinguished scholars to join and lend support to the success of Joe Mahan's ISAC project. Dr. Mahan became her publisher and colleague. They shared the common insight that the culture of Native Americans had been enriched by the migration of Asian peoples during historical times, i.e., long after the legendary ice age land-bridge call Beringia had sunk back into the icy cold Bering Sea. Ms. Stewart is the author of the highly significant work the Dene and Na-Dene Indian Migration 1233 AD: Escape from Genghis Khan to America. She earned a Master of Arts Degree in Anthropology from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and was the recipient of the ISAC Root Cutter Award in 1993.]
Learning of the death of Dr. Joseph B. Mahan - Founder and President of the Institute for the Study of American Cultures, was for me and many others a most unexpected and saddening shock.
Once a devoted member of the Establishment and their unthinking idea of the isolation of the American continents for 10,000 years before 1492 AD, Dr. Mahan had the wisdom and courtesy to seek Chief Samuel W. Brown's acquaintance and listen to his account of the tribal tradition of Yuchi origins. He recognized in Chief Brown's story connections with Asian cultures, and with his increasing knowledge of Yuchi culture, he visited Pakistan, to study the history of the Yueh-che dynasty that ruled Northwest India in the first centuries of the Christian era. After his return to Columbus, GA, he had the courage to publish his conclusions in The Secret, which emphasizes the importance of American Indian names.
In view of recent archaeological discoveries and evidence of the destruction of records by invading armies, Dr. Mahan has made a significant contribution to the recovery of lost historical knowledge. Not often will a scholar risk status and financial gain by choosing to oppose the Establishment in order to support the truth. It is my perception that Dr. Joseph B. Mahan will be remembered in world history for many years to come.
Appropriately, Dr. Mahan's accomplishments remind me of a quotation from Dryden:
"Truth is the foundation of all knowledge, and the cement of all societies."
REMEMBERING DR. JOSEPH B MAHAN
Irmgard Keeler Howard
Although I had heard of Dr. Mahan for more than ten years, (as my father, the late Dr. Clyde Keeler, had often spoken of him), it was not until my father's final physically challenged five years that I got to know Joe Mahan personally. I found him to be intelligent, ambitious, and kind.
When my father (who lived in Milledgeville, GA) was no longer able to attend meetings of the ISAC in Columbus, Joe would tell him about them by phone call or personal visit, in addition to making sure that he had a copy of the latest Publications. When Joe arranged for my father to receive one of ISAC's 1990 Root Cutter Awards, he also arranged for a telephone link to my father's sickroom, so that my father could hear the presentation and could respond. A few days later, Joe came to Milledgeville to present the medallion himself. He took pictures of my father wearing the Medallion. My father, extremely weak physically, was emotionally elated by the honor and Joe's kind attentions.
On one of Joe's visits to my father, I heard my father say to him, "Now, when I'm gone, will you please come immediately and get my plasters for your museum?" Joe said that he would. (The "plasters" were plaster casts from latex impressions of various petroglyphs which Dr. Keeler had examined over the years and for which he had constructed a large wooden frame bolted to an entire wall of his study. The heaviest plaster was a single casting of an Oklahoma cave wall -- one which he had made for Gloria Farley. My father recognized the value of this work and very much wanted it preserved.)
When my father died, on April 22, 1994, I called Dr. Mahan. I knew that he was in the midst of a special ISAC conference premiering Gloria Farley's book, In Plain Sight. It was Joe who told me that Dr. Barry Fell had died just the day before my father. But despite the pressures and problems of that conference, Joe drove from Columbus to Milledgeville for my father's funeral on April 25. He told me that he would come later for the plasters when he could get some people to help him move them.
And Joe did return for the plaster in the last week of June. However, he brought no helpers and was intending to do all the lifting himself. So, Joe and I had the opportunity to work together very closely that day, carefully detaching plasters from the frame and easing them into a station wagon padded with a foam mattress from my father's hospital-style bed. Joe removed his jacket and shirt, as we both became very hot in the Georgian sunshine. But when Joe began to sweat heavily, I expressed concern about his health; he said he was fine and would definitely get someone to help him move the plasters out of the car once he got back to Columbus. (I wonder if he really did.)
When I learned of Joe's death in September, I was saddened. Such a gentleman -- intelligent, ambitious, and kind -- is a rare gem. And the memory of the sparkle can never quite replace the sparkle of the gem itself.
[Editor's note: The Joe Mahan described by Dr. Howard sounds like the Joe Mahan I met on four occasions. There was no time for deep affection to set in, and the story of a few minor political skirmishes teaches only the lesson of forbearance. At the ISAC Conference in April of 1994, Beverly Moseley and myself were treated to a tour of the Columbus Naval and Art Museums by the seemingly tireless Joe Mahan. It was our observation then that Joe labored mightily to get around and that failure of his health was imminent. Joe, in essence worked himself to death attempting to overcome the shortcomings of the community support he required to see more of his dreams come true. Columbus, GA, responded well to Joe; the man was simply driven by ambitious dreams. Joe was a hard working, inspired leader. He will be long remembered for his efforts, while his critics shall remain virtually contributionless.]
JOE MAHAN HAD A MUSEUM IN HIS VISION
Dr. Beverly Moseley, Jr.
In the spring of 1994, I received a call from Joe. I was surprised and pleased he would ask to come to Grove City, Ohio to discuss the possibility of constructing a museum on Epigraphy in Columbus, GA. We had published in our 1985 MES Journal a concept for a museum of ancient inscriptions and history of writing.
We had a major connection at that time, via Burrows Cave, but it was primarily an unresolved political alliance. Trust and cooperation are not exactly the common denominators of archaeology. We shared a rather positive view that anything as big as Burrows Cave was worth seeing through to the bitter end. The idea that any group had the talent, backing, and interest to pull off a monumental fraud never entered our minds. The opposition has had 14 years to support their claims! There isn't any doubt that Joe Mahan was a man of great vision.
Joe finally arrived at the Columbus airport, and we went straight to my home. What a feeling of exhilaration Joe brought into my dining room, a feeling that lasted long into the wee hours of the night. He was a man of such eloquence, speaking with experience on my professional subject, museum design. That was an evening I will never forget.
Joe's concern for the public, and a need to communicate clearly to a general audience, were reflected throughout our discussions. He emphasized the fact that educator, designer, and curator working as a team would give a museum strength, and could provide an exemplary model for other institutions. The perspective of each discipline would be somewhat different, but a good working relationship would auger well for the quality of work accomplished. The team as a whole would be sensitive to the need to orient the visitor/student to the broad themes of epigraphic exhibition. Joe was aware of the difficulties all museums face in attempting to bring objects to life, i.e., to produce the cultural context for exhibited collections. His observations included comments about proposed techniques to achieve some of the objectives, and suggestions for alternative routes were sometimes made. His core approach was on very firm ground.
The best way I know to sum up a man's worth is to let his work speak for itself. In the epigraphic community, we are all aware of Joe's research on American Indians. Few among us are aware of his major contributions to the history of Georgia, his beloved home. If I could single out one of his many achievements to advance the understanding of mankind, I would choose.......wonderful Westville Village.
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