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Buddy Sullivan - Coastal Georgia Historian/Lecturer, Researcher, Consultant

BUDDY SULLIVAN is the author of 18 books on coastal Georgia history, specializing in antebellum agriculture and the maritime heritage of the tidewater. He frequently lectures on request on these and other topics including Spanish settlement on the Guale coast, Oglethorpe and the founding of Savannah, Scottish settlement in Georgia, the 19th century timber and shipping industry and the commercial shrimp and oyster fishery. His thematic approach focuses on the ecological and environmental influences of the coast and how three centuries of peoples have adapted their lives and livelihoods to these prevailing conditions locally.

LECTURES and CONSULTATIONS--Buddy Sullivan is available for lectures and slide talks on a variety of specialized coastal Georgia historical topics for your group or organization for reasonable speaking fees and travel costs. He provides a special slide lecture on an overview of Georgia state history, in addition to his popular "Ecology as History: Life, Labor and Landscape on the Georgia Coast." He also provides consultative services related to community history, special projects and events.


     Sapelo, a state-protected barrier island off the Georgia coast, is one of the state’s greatest treasures. Presently owned almost exclusively by the state and managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Sapelo features unique nature charac­teristics that have made it a locus for scientific research and ecological conservation. Beginning in 1949, when then Sapelo owner R. J. Reynolds Jr. founded the Sapelo Island Research Foundation and funded the research of biologist Eugene Odum, UGA’s study of the island’s fragile wetlands helped foster the modern ecology movement.
     With this book, Buddy Sullivan covers the full range of the island’s history, including Native American inhabitants; Spanish missions; the antebellum plantation of the innovative Thomas Spalding; the African American settlement of the island after the Civil War; Sapelo’s two twentieth-century millionaire owners, Howard E. Coffin and R. J. Reynolds Jr., and the development of the University of Georgia Marine Institute; the state of Georgia acquisition; and the transition of Sapelo’s multiple African American communities into one.
Sapelo Island’s history also offers insights into the unique cultural circumstances of the residents of the community of Hog Hammock.
     Sullivan provides in-depth examination of the important correlation between Sapelo’s culturally significant Geechee communities and the succession of private and state owners of the island. The book’s thematic approach is one of “people and place”: how prevailing environmental conditions influenced the way white and black owners used the land over generations, from agriculture in the past to island management in the present.
     Enhanced by a large selection of contemporary color photographs of the island by St. Simons Island-based professional photographer Benjamin Galland, as well as a selection of archival images and maps, Sapelo documents a unique island history.

Bessie M. Lewis was the historian of McIntosh County, Georgia, for over fifty years. As a published author, newspaper editor and educator, she was the first to introduce academic rigor into local research starting in the 1920s. Lewis's primary focus was the early settlement of Darien and the county during the colonial period. Her important research on colonial Fort King George at Darien brought that long-lost outpost into the public awareness for the first time, and ultimately led to it becoming one of the leading state historic interpretive sites in Georgia. For nearly two decades prior to her death in 1983 at the age of 94, Miss Lewis contributed a weekly column to the Darien News, "Low Country Diary," containing anecdotes and stories of local history and culture while also conveying her abiding love of animals, both wild and domestic. In this collection, Miss Lewis's protégé, coastal Georgia historian Buddy Sullivan, has assembled and edited the best of her "Low Country Diary" columns as an interpretation of McIntosh County history through the thoughts and diligent research of Miss Lewis. Sullivan was inspired by the work of Bessie Lewis going back to his early childhood growing up in McIntosh County. In the early 1990s, he succeeded his late mentor as the official local historian with his own published work, the comprehensive "Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater," a volume recently revised and expanded by the author in a new 1,000-page 2016 edition. In the present collection, Sullivan has come full circle in his career as a historian in sharing the popular and entertaining writings of Bessie Lewis with a new generation of readers. Interspersed throughout with the editor's own notes and commentary on the writings of Miss Lewis, "A Low Country Diary" will likely become a valuable addition to the literature of the Georgia coast, and will serve as a useful supplement to "Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater" for those delving into the history of Darien, McIntosh County and the Georgia coastal country.

New Revised Edition of Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater Now Available
Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater: A New Revised Edition represents a complete recasting of a book issued under the same title by the author in 1990, and reprinted five times since. Author Buddy Sullivan has incorporated into a single narrative all of the material in the original version of Early Days in addition to considerable new information based on more recent research.
     The new edition of Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater, at 1,000 pages, is thoroughly documented with 90 pages of source notes and an expanded 50-page index, which is more comprehensive than the original with sub-entries for major topics. The book also includes a selection of 150 archival maps and photographs to provide the geographical, topographical and visual context necessary for an understanding of the economic, cultural and social dynamics of the Georgia coast. The new edition of Early Days is issued in an 8 x 10 perfect-bound format.  
     The new Early Days has been reformatted to reflect improved chapter sequence and content arrangement to provide a smoother, more continuous narrative flow than the original edition of the book. In essence, this reorganized edition represents a completely new book that will be of improved utility to researchers, students, and the general reader. Early Days  is a comprehensive history of Sapelo Island, Darien and McIntosh County, Georgia, and a general overview of the history of coastal Georgia, including Glynn, Liberty and Bryan counties, Savannah and St. Simons and St. Catherines islands. It covers the full scope of local history: early settlement by Guale Indians, Spanish missionaries and English colonists; the prosperous rice and cotton economy of the region during the antebellum plantation era—built on the labors of enslaved people; Civil War events, including the controversial burning of Darien; the timber industry, and associated international shipping activity that made Darien the leading center for the export of pine lumber in the world for forty years; the emerging commercial oyster and shrimping fisheries; and the impact of millionaires, scientists and resident African Americans on the 20th century history of Sapelo Island. Significantly, the revised edition of Early Days tells in detail the story of the area’s African American community and the developing Geechee settlements of Sapelo, Harris Neck and Darien in the years from the end of the Civil War to the 20th century.
The author’s thematic approach to Early Days is that of establishing the important connection between the ecology of the area with its history. This recurring theme will be apparent throughout the book, particularly in the analysis of just how people utilized the environmental circumstances so unique to their region and adapted them to virtually every aspect of their lives and livelihood for 300 years. Early Days is thus essentially a story of land use and landscape: soils, tides, salt marshes, river hydrology, weather, and how these conditions impacted the agricultural, commercial and social development of the region. Of equal significance is the use people have made of the local tidal waterways and fresh-water river systems, another thematic approach by the author that gives the new edition of Early Days a distinctly maritime flavor.
     The book is now available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.

Buddy Sullivan's new monograph, The First Conservationists? Northern Money and Lowcountry Georgia has recently been published and is now available to those interested in coastal history at Amazon.com. An abridged version of this essay was presented at the recent coastal history symposium in Savannah.  The paper analyzes the acquisition of the Georgia sea islands by wealthy Northerners after the Civil War and how succeeding generations of these families sought to preserve their properties until they eventually came under protected status in the 1960s and 1970s. Sullivan's A Georgia Tidewater Companion: Essays, Papers, and Some Personal Observations on 30 Years of Research in Coastal Georgia History" remains available from Amazon.com for $24.95 per copy. The 500-page illustrated softcover book is an extension of the author's earlier works on coastal history. An Introduction discusses his coastal  Georgia roots and legacy, family history, and research methodology. 


Buddy Sullivan, author of the popular "Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater", "From Beautiful Zion to Red Bird Creek", "Georgia: A State History" and 13 other books on coastal Georgia history, provides in a single collection an assortment of essays, papers and short studies on various aspects of his research over the last quarter century. These documented studies have appeared in print in other places, whether issued as single publications, or as the introductions to some of the author's other books on coastal history. An introductory essay relates Sullivan's coastal roots, his path to becoming a coastal historian, his research methodology and how some of his books evolved from idea to publication. The following papers are primarily associated with maritime, agricultural and economic history, and how the people of coastal Georgia have used, and adapted to, the local ecosystem and the environmental factors associated therewith, in the pursuit of their lives and livelihoods.

All of my books, including the volumes shown above, are available on Amazon.com or they may be obtained locally at the Sapelo Island Visitors Center at the mainland ferry dock, the Lower Altamaha Historical Society (see their website to order online) and the Ashantilly Center. Certain volumes, including Sapelo, the Georgia Tidewater Companion, and Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater, are available at the Coastal Georgia Historical Society (St. Simons), G.J. Ford Books (St. Simons), The Book Lady (Savannah) and Shaver Books (Savannah).

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