1886-1961: Baseball player; born in Narrows, Ga. During his 24-year career as an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics (1905-28), he compiled a lifetime batting average of .367, the highest in major league history. He batted .400 or higher in a season three times, and 12 times he led the American League in batting average, a major league record. He possessed exceptional speed and stole 892 bases in his career, the major league record until Lou Brock surpassed it in 1977. His 4,191 lifetime hits was the major league record until Pete Rose surpassed it in 1985. A ferocious competitor, Cobb's intense manner provoked controversy on and off the field. He managed the Tigers for six years (1921-26), but never finished higher than second place. Having made shrewd investments while a player, including the purchase of Coca-Cola stock, he lived comfortably throughout his retirement. Nicknamed "The Georgia Peach," he was the first player elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1936.
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Martin Luther King, Jr
1929-68: Baptist minister, civil rights leader; born in Atlanta, Ga. Grandson and son of Baptist ministers (in 1935 his father changed both their names to Martin to honor the German Protestant), young Martin graduated from Morehouse College (Ga.) (1948) and Crozer Theological Seminary (1951) and then took a Ph.D. from Boston University (1955), where he also met his future (1957) wife, Coretta Scott, with whom he had four children. Ordained a minister in 1947 at his father's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., in 1953. Relatively untested when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in a bus in December 1955, he led the boycott of Montgomery's segregated busses for over a year (eventually resulting in the Supreme Court decision outlawing discrimination in public transportation). In 1957 he was chosen president of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and he began to broaden his active role in the civil rights struggle while advocating his nonviolent approach to achieving results; he would base his approach on the ideas of Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi as well on Christian teachings. He moved to Atlanta in 1959 to become copastor of his father's church and in the ensuing years gave much of his energies to organizing protest demonstrations and marches in such cities as Birmingham, Ala. (1963); St. Augustine, Fla. (1964); and Selma, Ala. (1965). During these years he was arrested and jailed by Southern officials on several occasions, he was stoned and physically attacked, and his house was bombed; he was also placed under secret surveillance by the FBI due to the strong prejudices of its director, J. Edgar Hoover, who wanted to discredit King as both a leftist and a womanizer. King's finest hour came on August 28, 1963, when he led the great march in Washington, D.C., that culminated with his famous "I have a dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. At the height of his influence, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and he used his new-found powers to attack discrimination in the U.S. North. Meanwhile, as the Vietnam War began to consume the country, he also broadened his criticisms of American society because he saw the impact of the war on the country's resources and energies. In the spring of 1968 he went to Memphis, Tenn., to show support for the striking city workers and he was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of his motel there. (James Earl Ray would plead guilty to the murder, although he would later insist that he was innocent--a claim eventually backed by King's family.) With his oratorical style that drew directly on the force of the Bible, with his serene confidence derived from his non-violent philosophy, he had advocated a program of moderation and inclusion, and although later generations would question some of his message, few could deny that he had been the guiding light for 15 of the most crucial years in America's civil rights struggle.
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James E. Carter
1924- Present: Thirty-ninth U.S. president; born in Plains, Ga. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (1946) and served in the navy until 1953; part of that time he worked under Admiral Hyman Rickover on the naval nuclear reactor project. Carter left the navy to take over the family's peanut business, which he built up. He served two terms as a Democrat in the Georgia legislature (1963-67). After serving as a liberal governor of Georgia (1970-74), he began campaigning for the presidency and won the Democratic nomination of 1976, narrowly beating Gerald Ford in the election. In contrast to recent administrations, he had promised an open and progressive government responsive to the public; despite a Democratic Congress, however, his presidency was notable more for good intentions than achievements. He did effect the Panama Treaty and the historic Camp David agreements between Israel and Egypt (1979), but his initial popularity waned during 1979-80 as a result of mounting economic difficulties and the seizure of U.S. hostages in Iran. He lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. Back in private life he was active in national and international social concerns, taking a hands-on approach to everything from building homes for poor Americans to mediating between hostile parties (as in Haiti).
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Juliette Gordon Low
1860-1927: Founder of the Girl Scouts; born in Chicago, Ill. From a prominent Savannah, Ga., family, she was educated at private schools and traveled widely. Inspired by the Girl Guides of England, she established the Girl Scouts of America in 1912. Her charm, conviction, and hard work ensured the Girl Scouts' early success.
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1917-67: Writer, born in Columbus, GA. She studied at Columbia and New York universities. She married and divorced Reeves McCullers twice (1937-41, 1945-8). From the age of 29, paralysis of one side confined her to a wheelchair. Her work reflects the sadness of lonely people, and her first book, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), about a deaf mute, distinguished her immediately as a novelist of note. She wrote the best and the bulk of her work in a six-year burst through World War 2, including the novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1951), which was dramatized by Edward Albee.
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