Despite De Valera’s pragmatic focus on appealing to establishment leaders in Atlanta, a more radical perspective on his republican agenda was hinted at in a newspaper report of April 22nd. De Valera’s advance man, Liam Mellows, is said to have called De Valera one of the “most notable figures in the period of world reconstruction.”
Elsewhere in this period, De Valera or his staff would make common cause with international socialists, Indian and Egyptian nationalists, Native American activists and Marcus Garvey’s black nationalist movement. In many places, De Valera’s operation also sought backing from Jewish leaders. For example, Rabbi George Solomon of Congregation Mickve Israel (whose mother was Irish) was among the key supporters of his visit to Savannah.
The striking success of De Valera’s programme in Atlanta was mainly due to the efforts of his skilled advance team, a local branch of The Friends of Irish Freedom and the eminent chair of his reception committee, Frederic J. Paxon, a former chair of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. However, in line with the best Irish tradition, local Irish musicians also contributed patriotically. A company that had presented “The Lass from Limerick Town” the previous week at the Atlanta Theatre, sang at De Valera’s event in Taft Hall. A Mr. William Maurer delivering the solo “Erin Dear My Heart’s for You.”
After the tribulations of Ireland’s War of Independence and Civil War, Eamon De Valera went on to become Ireland’s longest-serving head of government and President.
Shane Stephens is Consul General of Ireland, Atlanta.
A public event to mark the centenary of De Valera’s visit had been arranged at Dahlberg Hall by Georgia State University, Atlanta’s Irish community and the Consulate General of Ireland for April 23rd, with Dublin-based historian Dr. Brian Hanley as the guest speaker. This is now being rescheduled.