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Georgia author dishes dirt on historical figures
Author speaks pic
John McKay, left, signs copies of his book for Renetta Dorman, center, and Doug Powell. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

Everyone knows a jerk, even if they don't want to single out who it is. But one native Georgia author is calling out the nefarious folks in the state's history.

John McKay, a retired EMT, teacher and historian, hosted a signing of his book "Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Georgia History" on Oct. 29 at the Dawson County library.

McKay, who is also a recently ordained minister, said he was hesitant to write another book in his "Jerks" series, which include other locations around the country.

"I was asked to write this book," McKay said. "I've written several books for this press before and they asked if I would be interested in writing this one."

Some of the figures are historically well known, such as the first chapter's Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

Some were well known, but not for what landed them in McKay's book, such as Methodist founder John Wesley. Others may not be as well known, such as one wealthy west Georgia land owner who claimed to not be all that bad, due to "only having killed four men" in his words.

"I tried to pick figures you didn't hear about all the time," McKay said. "It was challenging. I've never been threatened before, and that happened on this one."

One figure in his book was the leader of a band of thieves. A bored, rich young man who went on a robbing and killing spree in the 1920s in Atlanta, served on the most brutal of chain gangs, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and later became a key player in a celebrated "Great" prison escape in Nazi Germany.

"I got in trouble with my publisher because I kept wanting to say they may not have been so bad," he said. "They wanted them to be all bad. I couldn't do that."

McKay's other works include "Brave Men in Desperate Times: The Lives of Civil War Soldiers," "It Happened in Atlanta," "Civil War Sites in the Southern States," and "Insiders' Guide to Atlanta."