Katherine L. Strobhar and A. Douglass Strobhar Fund
Arthur Douglass Strobhar was born on his maternal grandparents’ plantation near Grahamville, South Carolina, on December 26, 1875, the son of Henry Alexander Strobhar and Susan Henrietta Morcock Strobhar. He was the second child of seven and the only son; his sisters, Anna (“Nan”), Emma, Susan, Cornelia, Marie, and Harrie, affectionately called him “Bubba.”
In 1883, so the children could attend Massie School, the Strobhars moved to Savannah, crossing the Savannah River by raft with all of their belongings. The raft overturned and the family lost everything, including the family silver.
In school, Douglass was a star student and in 1890, at age fourteen, he began work for a fertilizer brokerage firm, Commercial Guano Company. Fortunately, his boss, who would be his mentor for the next fifteen years, recognized the importance of education and paid for Douglass to continue his schooling during his employment.
In his early twenties, Douglass moved from Savannah to work in the Commercial Guano Company’s Memphis and Atlanta offices. In 1905, at 29 years old, he resigned from the firm and returned to Savannah in order to help organize the Southern Fertilizer and Chemical Company.
Douglass became president of Southern Fertilizer in 1916, at age 40, and in 1919, on Hutchinson Island, Georgia, he built what was purported to be the largest and most technologically advanced fertilizer plant in the nation. Through his leadership, Southern Fertilizer and Chemical Company grew so substantially as to become a prominent company in the field, propelling Douglass to be awarded presidency of the National Fertilizer Association, among many other distinguished positions. For almost fifty years, Douglass successfully led Southern Fertilizer, a reign which included significant periods of drought, upheaval, massive deflation, and the Great Depression. Finally, in 1965, at age 89 and with 60 years of Southern Fertilizer under his belt, he sold the company to Southern Nitrogen and retired.
Douglass was a member of the YMCA, Savannah Rotary Club, the Society of Colonial Wars, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Sons of the Revolution, the Oglethorpe Club, and the Savannah Yacht Club. He helped conceptualize, raise funds, and break ground for The Savannah Country Day School as the founding chairman of the board of trustees. He was president for twenty years of the International Seamen’s House of the Savannah Port Society, where Strobhar Chapel is named in his honor. He was a lifelong leader in his church, First Christian Church, Savannah, where he established Strobhar Hall as an annex for Christian education.
Douglass married his high school sweetheart Caroline Ann Carter, “Carrie”, in 1900. She was unable to conceive and died April 9, 1941, of cancer. In September 1942, Douglass married Edna Katherine Long, born March 5, 1902 to Robert Coll Long and Katherine Riggs Long. Douglass and Katherine had one child, Susan Strobhar, born May 13, 1943, after which Douglass, at the age of 67, acquired the nickname “Boy Wonder.”
Douglass suffered a stroke in 1966 that deprived him of speech and impaired his right arm. He worked determinedly to regain its use and ultimately succeeded. He died peacefully at home on April 3, 1969, age 93. Katherine died September 8, 1992, age 90. Douglass and his wives Caroline and Katherine are buried in the Strobhar plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah.
Katherine and Douglass’ grandchildren (Dulany) established the Katherine L. Strobhar and A. Douglass Strobhar Fund at the Georgia Historical Society in 2018, ensuring that their commitment to Georgia history will continue in perpetuity.