Lorena Pace Pruitt was the first female mayor of Smyrna. She brought roads and water to the city during the 1940s.
Photo: City of Smyrna
Photo: City of Smyrna

Smyrna’s first female mayor gave city water, paved roads 70 years ago

Next time you’re in Smyrna driving on a paved road or taking a shower, thank Lorena Pace Pruitt.

Pruitt became Smyrna’s first female mayor in the 1940s, when such a thing was a novelty.

According to a 1994 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Pruitt’s life, reporters from across the country wrote about the working mayor-mother of one.

But she was much more than a sideshow.

What’s a jonquil and why is Smyrna obsessed?

In her two-term tenure, Pruitt ordered some of Smyrna’s first paved roads and talked Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield into letting the small city connect an eight-inch water line to the big city’s running-water system.

“They charmed Mayor Hartsfield into running a water pipe across the Chattahoochee to Smyrna, and Smyrna had the water it needed to grow,” Pruitt’s son Rex told the Constitution in 1981.

Folks work on a B-29 fuselage during World War II at the Bell Bomber Plant (now the Lockheed Martin facility) in Marietta. (1940s AJC file photo)

Before then, he said, they’d been using artesian wells.

“At times, we couldn’t get enough water to take a bath,” he Rex told the AJC in 1994. He was 74 at the time and living in Augusta.

During World War II, that water system ended up supplying the Bell Bomber Plan, where Pruitt managed cafeterias that served as many as 1,200 workers two meals a day.

“During her administration,” Rex said in 1981, “the first paving of streets were done. There had been only one paved street, running north and south in Atlanta.”

How did Smyrna (and other Cobb cities) get their names?

She was born in Smyrna on June 30, 1895, according to the 2010 book “Historic Smyrna,” into a known family. Her father represented Cobb County in the Georgia legislature and her grandfather had been a mayor earlier that century.

She became director of Georgia’s State Training school for Girls and, the book said, she was superintendent of the Confederate Soldiers Home in Atlanta.

The book says Pruitt won her mayoral election after the May 5, 1945, resignation of J.Y. Wooten.

What is Cobb County named for? (It has nothing to do with salad)

The city’s annual budget under Pruitt was about $25,000 and her salary was $25 per month, according to the book. Smyrna had less than 2,000 residents at the time.

Since then, the Jonquil City has blossomed into a city of more than 55,000 people.

By 1981, she was living with Rex in Augusta. The book said she died there on Dec. 22, 1982, at age 86.

When she was elected mayor, it’d be 20 years before the Boston Braves became the Atlanta Braves, who now play at SunTrust Park a few miles away from the city’s first paved road.

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Fans leaving SunTrust Park after the Atlanta Braves defeated the San Diego Padres (5-2) on opening day.

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