Willingham Hall dedicated to the memory of KSU founder
Somewhere in the annals of music history‚ there is a recording called "The Ballad of I−75." While not a Grammy winning tune or even a Top 40 hit for that matter‚ the significance of that song still reverberates through Cobb County today.
(Aug 26, 2002) — Somewhere in the annals of music history‚ there is a recording called "The Ballad
of I−75." While not a Grammy winning tune or even a Top 40 hit for that matter‚ the
significance of that song still reverberates through Cobb County today.
Recently‚ Gov. Roy Barnes‚ University System of Georgia Chancellor Thomas Meredith‚ Regent Michael Coles‚ state Sen. Steve Thompson‚ Cobb Judicial Circuit Senior Judge Robert E. Flournoy Jr. and other dignitaries were on campus for the dedication of Willingham Hall‚ named for the man who commissioned the writing and recording of "The Ballad of I−75."
The song came about after a long‚ hard−fought battle over the route the new interstate would take through Cobb County. One group wanted the highway constructed five miles west of Marietta‚ Judge Flournoy said‚ while another group‚ which included Willingham‚ wanted an eastern route that paralleled Highway 41.
"I−75 runs from Michigan all the way down through Tampa‚ Fla. to the Gulf of Mexico‚" Flournoy reminisced during the dedication ceremony. "The whole highway was built except for one section; that one section was Cobb County."
In the end‚ Willingham’s group prevailed — obviously — and Willingham pulled out all the stops when it came time to cut the ribbon on the highway through Cobb County in 1978.
"Willingham raised $15‚000 for the event‚" Flournoy said. "It was vintage Willingham: a big to do in every way."
Another testament to Willingham’s political might was the location of Kennesaw State University in Cobb County. Willingham was a member of the original "College Committee" that founded Kennesaw Junior College.
"Kennesaw has become one of the premier institutions not only in our region and our state‚" Gov. Barnes said‚ "but in the nation. It has nothing but a bright future‚ and we should remember those that helped bring this about."
Barnes‚ who once practiced law with Willingham‚ said his mentor’s "handy work" can be seen throughout Cobb County. He was the driving force behind the founding of the Cobb County−Marietta Water and Sewer Authority and the Acworth Lake Authority. He helped to relocate Southern Polytechnic State University from Chamblee to Marietta‚ along with securing funding to widen I−75 through Cobb County.
"Harold always loved this county‚ and he always made sure it got its fair share‚" Barnes said. "Harold taught me a lot. He taught me that politics is a combat sport; he also taught me that politics was the way the will of the folks and the betterment of the community was delivered."
Formerly the Public and International Affairs Building‚ Willingham Hall is located adjacent to the Legacy Gazebo. KSU President Betty L. Siegel said it was only fitting that Willingham Hall is located in the Legacy part of campus.
"Harold Willingham was one of the great builders of Cobb County‚" Siegel said. "And like Atlas holding up the world‚ he held up the community and lifted it higher."
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.