Snooks' ties to Brewton-Parker honored in area of new center

By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations

Bartow Snooks' ties to Montgomery County are nearly as lengthy as those of what evolved into Brewton-Parker College nearly 100 years ago.

Although the Brewton-Parker Institute was just two years into offering any collegiate studies when Snooks began the first grade there in 1925, he holds the school near and dear to his heart even though he earned his college degree elsewhere.

Snooks' home area legacy will be carried on with his name attached to the west lounge in college's Student Activities Center after he recently made a $129,000 gift toward the project. The Student Activities Center opened in October 2002 and was dedicated the following April.

"Few have stood more firmly and consistently in support of Brewton-Parker College than Bartow Snooks," said Jay Orr, BPC's vice president for college advancement. "He helped to ensure its success."

"Any success I've had came from people who helped me," said Snooks, a lifelong and generous supporter of his community.

Snooks entered the Brewton-Parker Institute because, he said, at the time no public school was open yet in either Ailey or Mount Vernon. He recalls during his third-grade year the addition of sophomore college-level classes in 1927, thus creating Brewton-Parker Junior College.

"I am one of the few left who went all the way through high school there," Snooks said. "Things change."

To attest, Snooks offered his school days account of one day following Charles Lindbergh's historic transatlantic flight in May 1927 that Lindbergh was flying from Americus to Savannah. "We all got out of school to see the airplane," he said. "We think we saw it."

Snooks recalled the grammar school relocating, to where Montgomery County middle and high schools currently are today south of U.S. Highway 280, during his sixth-grade year.

He returned to the Brewton-Parker campus as a ninth-grader and recalled the college's trademark arch being built from bricks that remained following the Sally Bacon Dining Hall's fire in 1933.

During his senior year, Snooks drove his family's 1935 Ford pickup, with cousin John R. Peterson as a passenger, through the arch, "and I bet there weren't 2 inches to spare," he said.

"Brewton-Parker has always been a great asset to the community," said Snooks, who saw Brewton-Parker drop its secondary curriculum in 1949. "My philosophy of life is that more good fortune will overtake you than you will ever overtake."

Such good fortune followed Snooks after he earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial management from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1940 and returned to Ailey to run the family's Naval store business when his father and senior namesake became very ill.

Bartow Snooks Sr. died in November 1940, and the junior Snooks ran the business until he was drafted into the Army in 1942 for World War II duty, most of which was spent in north Africa and Italy.

In 1947, a year after his return from military service, Snooks and a team of partners began a turpentine distillery in Vidalia, when Georgia led the world in production of crude pine gum turpentine. When that business began declining, Snooks and his shareholders started a building supply business in 1961.

Ironically, that first Choo-Choo Build-It Mart in Vidalia sets next to the same railroad line that lured Snooks to run toward downtown Ailey as a child to watch the passing trains - and led to the name of his expanding business.

The business venture expanded to nine subsidiaries, with seven Choo-Choo home centers plus Wholesale Building Products Company and Bestline Sash and Door Company.

His civic duties include serving as mayor and city councilman of Ailey and Montgomery County commissioner and as chairman of the board of what is now Montgomery Bank and Trust. As a member of the Ailey United Methodist Church, Snooks has served as chairman of the Administrative Board and as an adult Sunday school teacher.

Said Jean Snooks, his wife will celebrate 56 years of marriage on Sept. 30: "Bartow always felt it was his pleasure to give back, and he has given to many colleges."

"I have enjoyed great health," said Snooks, who is recovering from a bout with cancer discovered in 2002. "I remember having one headache, and that was in 1932."

Bartow and Jean Snooks were selected as Brewton-Parker's Alumni of the Year for 1993.

In 1997, Snooks served the college on the presidential search committee that led to the hiring of Dr. David Smith as Brewton-Parker's current president.

"We interviewed six candidates and Dr. Smith was the last one, and he stood out like the bright sun," Snooks said.

Brewton-Parker's president has equal admiration for the Snooks family.

"A short time spent with Bartow and Jean Snooks is like breathing cool mountain air," Smith said. "They are refreshing, full of life and laughter. They make those who know them feel better and they have been supporters, encouragers and friends of Brewton-Parker College for many years. We have always valued the Snooks family, but now we appreciate them even more.


Brewton-Parker College students take a break in the Bartow Snooks Lounge of the Student Activities Center on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon. The lounge, which also serves as a concessions area during events in the center, has been named to honor the donation of Snooks, a longtime Ailey resident and area businessman/civic leader.

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