From small town girl to Army officer to wife and mother
Not too many women inherit their father’s first name, and not too many people alive today can say they were born in a county that no longer exists.
Walter Frances Cowart Reeves was born January 8, 1919 in Union City, Campbell County, Georgia.
The youngest of three children, there was first Elizabeth, then Emily and then Frances. They later enjoyed three half-sisters. Her father grew up in south Georgia, attended business school in Columbus, Ga., and then headed to the Atlanta area where he established a successful mail order barber supply business near Fairburn.
Going to school for Frances meant walking to Union City Grammar School until she was 12. The schools were consolidated in 1931 and she got to ride the school bus to Campbell High School in Fairburn. There were only 11 grades in school at this time. In 1932 Campbell County became absorbed into Fulton County.
Her father believed in all of his children having an education. So in 1935, at the age of 16, she applied to the University of Georgia, where she was readily accepted.
Majoring in economics with a minor in German, she graduated with an AB degree in 1939.
Granted an exchange scholarship at the University of Munich in Germany, she was ready to pack her bags and go.
But, as world events unfolded that year, it became apparent that moving to Germany was not a good idea. So she had to pass up on the scholarship and went instead to visit a sister in New York. While there she learned that a German language graduate assistant had left UGA and she could take his place.
Frances worked hard, taught, coached students in German and graduated with her master’s degree in June, 1940.
“I can still think in German,” she says.
Frances felt she was now ready to go to Washington D. C. and run the country. The best way to do that was enter Civil Service, so off she went. A year later she heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt declare her country was at war. Being in a war changed things and she could see new opportunities for women.
In December, 1942 she joined the WAACS, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which later became simply the Women’s Army Corps. “In Civil Service, there were Army officers always ordering us around,” Frances explains. “I decided to join the Army and become an officer myself.” She was discharged in May, 1946 as a first lieutenant.
Organic farming interested Frances, and she bought some land in Fayette County opposite McCurry Park and proceeded to raise chickens as her main source of income.
At a housewarming here she met a young Fayette Countian, Frank Reeves. And guess what, he just happened to be a poultry farmer. Naturally he was interested in helping this young lady out. They were married in June, 1950.
Frances sold her land in Fayetteville and moved with her chickens to Inman to live with her new husband and mother-in-law, Rachel.
They were content to farm, raise chickens, belong to the Farm Bureau, and raise five successful children.
Why did you raise white leghorn chickens?
They laid more eggs per pound of feed.
Tell us about your children.
There is Walter, who lives in Decatur and who is well known in the AJC for his gardening columns; Robert, who lives in Atlanta; Alan, who lives in Cave Spring; Carol, who lives in Fayetteville; and Nancy, who also lives in Fayetteville. We have eight grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Did you try to steer them in any particular direction?
No, they each went to college and have each done well on their own.
What are some of the community programs you have enjoyed volunteering for?
I have enjoyed being a part of the Fayette County Democratic Party, along with my good friend, the late Joan Neal. We were a part of the Fayette Senior Center Board for over 30 years, and were pleased to see it grow and enter a splendid new building. Girl Scouting, volunteering for United Way, and being a charter member of the Fayette County Historical Society are events I have enjoyed. Along with my husband, we operated the Farm Bureau Insurance from our home for many years.
Though Frank passed away in June of 1999, Frances continues to take part in community affairs and help out whenever asked.