Historic marker unveiled in Hogansville Saturday

Published 5:08 pm Monday, September 16, 2019

The Georgia Historical Society and City of Hogansville dedicated a historic marker Saturday in honor of former postmaster Isaiah Lofton, who lived through an assassination attempt in 1897.

The marker was placed at the intersection of West Main Street and Boozer Street and Saturday’s ceremony included speeches by the descendants of the Lofton family. 

“It represents a time for us to commemorate and uncomfortable but historic event in the history of our city, and it’s appropriate that we do that because if you don’t remember your history, you are doomed to repeat it,” said Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz. 

Lofton, who was Hogansville’s first black postmaster, was shot in the arm on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 1897, in an attempted assassination attempt.  Dr. Tony Lowe, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, first presented Lofton’s story to the Hogansville City Council in November 2017.  According to Lowe’s presentation from that meeting, Lofton had returned to the post office on the evening of Sept. 15, 1897, after a boy came by his house to ask if his family had received a package. On Lofton’s way back home from the post office, three shots were fired at him, and his assailants thought they had killed him.

Instead, he lived, and the shooting was covered in newspapers over the days ahead, with many referring to it as “The Hogansville Affair.” An investigation of the shooting was left up to local authorities, but no one was ever prosecuted.

“I realized that I had a responsibility. I couldn’t just sit on the story itself. I had to investigate and ask myself was there truth to the story? It started my journey in really examining the story. As I looked, the story became larger, larger and larger,” said Lowe at Saturday’s ceremony. “It had much broader meaning beyond Hogansville. It extended to the Capitol of Georgia, it extended into the halls of the governorship of Georgia and it extended to the presidency of the United States. The Hogansville story, our story, was part of the national story.”

As the marker notes, Lofton’s appointment to postmaster was very controversial as many citizens boycotted the post office. It’s believed that the attempted assassination of Lofton — as well as other acts of violence against black officials — may have led to the creation of the National Afro-American Council in 1898, which officially became the NAACP. 

“The story of postmaster Lofton is about his resolve, it’s his resiliency, it’s about his commitment, his belief in America and his willingness to die to exercise his right,” Lowe said. 

“I thank the Lofton family who entrusted me to tell this story.”

David Getachew-Smith and Charlene Johnson Brown, both members of the Lofton family, spoke at Saturday’s ceremony. Getachew-Smith said his grandmother’s father, Benjamin Lofton, was Isaiah’s Lofton’s brother.

“I think this is a very important time,” he said. “We are on hallowed ground here today because of what happened 122 years ago and has continued to affect us even until today.”

Brown said she’s heard the story many times from her mother, who told it to her to remind her she could be anything she wanted to be in life.

“This is the Lofton family history, but this is Georgia history,” Brown said. “This is the history of our struggles, which continue even today, and we will continue to fight.”

Elyse Butler with the Georgia Historical Society said they have erected more than 200 markers around the state and Hogansville’s marker highlights one of the earliest events on the Georgia Civil Rights Trail.