Ben J. Tarbutton Fund
Ben J. Tarbutton was born in Sandersville, Georgia, on May 14, 1885. He attended Emory University and graduated in 1905 as a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
After working in his father’s mercantile business, he purchased the Sandersville Railroad in 1916. The Sandersville Railroad was organized in 1893 by a group of prominent local citizens because the town needed another railroad to compete with the Augusta Southern. The Central of Georgia was helpful in getting the new company started because it gave the Central access to Sandersville. The new railroad was only three miles long and ran from Sandersville to Tennille.
In 1916, Ben Tarbutton was asked to take over the operation of the Sandersville Railroad by the organizing group. They were getting older and wanted a young businessman to run the company. The owners agreed to sell him the company at a favorable price if he agreed to operate it for five years. The railroad hauled freight, mail, express, and passengers.
Ben J. Tarbutton was also responsible for the location of the kaolin industry in Sandersville. In 1938, Champion Paper and Fiber Co. decided to develop its kaolin deposits in Washington County. Other companies soon followed.
Ben also served as president and director of the Central of Georgia Railroad from 1951 to 1954.
In addition to his career with the railroad, Ben served as Mayor of Sandersville from 1948 to 1952, as a Georgia state senator from 1947 to 1949, and as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1949 to 1953. He was a member of the Georgia delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1952 and 1956.
He served as a member of the Jekyll Island Authority, as an original trustee of Epworth by the Sea on St. Simons, and served on the on the board of directors of the Citizens & Southern National Bank from 1946 to 1962, the Gulf Life Insurance Company, and the Central of Georgia Railway Company. He was a member of the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Georgia and of the St. Andrew’s Society of Savannah.
In March 1951, the citizens of Washington County paid tribute at a testimonial banquet to Ben Tarbutton for his outstanding contributions of public service to and industrial development of the city of Sandersville and all of Washington County.
Ben married Rosa Moore McMaster of Waynesboro, Georgia, on November 22, 1928, and they had two children, Ben, Jr. and Hugh. Rosa was a graduate of Brenau College and received a master’s degree in History from Columbia University. She and Ben attended Sandersville United Methodist Church, where she served as a Sunday School teacher and as president of the United Methodist Women.
Ben Tarbutton died in Sandersville on September 19, 1962, age 77, and is buried in the Old City Cemetery there. In 2006, his son, Ben J. Tarbutton, Jr., established the Ben J. Tarbutton Fund to honor his father’s memory and his contributions to Georgia history.