September 2nd, 1941: A young man, only 21, was shot and killed. 80 years later, the young man's memory will be remembered. This Thursday, September 2nd, 2021, will forever be known as Lloyd Seay Day in Dawsonville, Georgia.
But who was Lloyd Seay and why are we honoring him?
Lloyd Seay was born in Dawsonville, on December 14th, 1919, about a month prior to the beginning of Prohibition.
Seay grew up poor. When he became tall enough to reach the pedals of a car, he quickly learned he could have fun behind the wheel and was a natural at it. Seay started hauling Moonshine, a tricky and skillful job that would take about an hour of work driving down Highway 9 from just north of Dawsonville to Atlanta. Moonshine 'Trippers' like Seay, could net more money in one night of hauling than many could in a week from farming or factory work.
Seay was unique. He was fearless, but planned out every curve. He accelerated in the turns at night (sometimes driving without headlights on) with his hands placed at the five and seven position on the steering wheel, to ease his car around; much different from the normal ten-and-two position.
One of the most famous Seay stories is when Seay was pulled over just outside of Atlanta, heading back home to Dawsonville. The traffic fine was $10, and Seay handed two ten dollar bills to the officer, explaining that he was "paying in advance" because next time he comes through, he won't have time to stop.
But Seay was also a pioneering stock car racer.
He was the victor in what we know as the first organized stock car race in the state of Georgia in 1938 at Lakewood Speedway. Stock car racing had already been happening at Daytona Beach for a few years, but the craze of showroom street car racing hadn't made it to Georgia yet. On November 11th, 1938, Seay drove a 1934 Ford Roadster, owned by his cousin and fellow Dawsonville native, Raymond Parks, to victory; with a broken arm nonetheless.
The racing bug was set. Dawsonville cousins Raymond Parks, Roy Hall, along with Seay would become stock car racing's first 'team' in 1939, with mechanical wizard, Red Vogt wrenching on all the cars. For the next three seasons, this quartet would be the ones to best at any dirt track across the south and east coast. The Parks team was the equivalent of Hendrick Motorsports or a Roger Penske of today. The cars had the best horsepower, best drivers and the cars always looked their best. Sometimes, the cars were even transported to the track by flatbed truck!
In 1939 and 40', it was mostly the 'Roy Hall' show, with Hall taking more of the victories, even being declared 'Champion' in 39'. In 1941, it was Lloyd Seay's time to shine.
As the summer of 41', was ending, Seay was on a streak as hot as the summer sun itself. He started his 5th race at Daytona Beach on August 24th. He had never won on the sandy and tricky track, but it definitely wasn't due to lack of trying. He was in contention for two prior races at Daytona that year, and each race would flip his car, still to finish in the top 5 or 10. On the August 24th race, he started 15th, and would find himself in the lead by the end of the first lap, and never relinquished it. He finally won at Daytona.
One week later, at High Point NC, he would win yet again, driving his 'Silver Bullet' racecar and winning against guys like his cousin, Roy Hall, and future founder of Nascar, Bill France, who that day was actually a teammate to Seay.
The next day was September 1st, Labor Day. The annual Labor Day Classic was held at the Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta. Due to racing in NC the day before, Seay arrived late to Atlanta and had to start at the rear of the field, but that certainly didn't bother him.
Seay was notoriously known for his No. 7 race car, with cousin, Hall, driving No. 14. Raymond Parks' third car was usually No. 21. However on September 1, 1941, many of Seay's peers poked and prodded him that the reason he was so successful as of late was because of his 'Lucky 7' number. So Seay gave the ultimate "I'll show you" and took some paint, crossed out the seven and painted 13 over it.
He would go on to win the race and be declared 1941 National Stock Car Champion, but less than a day later, he would lose his life.
Following the biggest win of his career, Seay would load his helmet, coveralls and winnings into his brand new 1941 Ford convertible, say his goodbye's to his fans and friends, and take Highway 9 North, back home to Dawsonville.
He stayed the night with his brother, Jim, who lived just across the Dawson/Lumpkin line. The next morning, another cousin, Woodrow Anderson, came arguing that Seay charged a couple bags of sugar to his store account. Anderson made the moonshine in the hills, and Seay would deliver it to the city. Anderson told the Seay brothers that an Aunt in town could figure out who owed what to who. But they never made it there.
Along the way, the Anderson car stopped to get water for the radiator. An argument broke out and both Seay's were shot. Jim in the neck, but lived, and Lloyd in the chest, and would succumb.
Seay had not yet reached his full potential in life or on the track. Seay's cousin, Raymond Parks, lost his best racer, a family member and a friend. He paid for the intricate six-foot-tall marble headstone that sits in the Dawsonville Cemetery. Engraved is the trophy he won the day before he died, one he would never get to fully enjoy.
As well as a picture of Lloyd's face placed behind porcelain, in the driver's window of an engraved race car, forever looking towards town. It is one of the most visited gravesites in the county.
Racing fans and historians from all over the country have come to pay their respects to Stock Car Racing's first superstar. Nascar founder, Bill France, said later in life, that Seay was undoubtedly the best stock car racer he'd ever seen. Seay was the fearless country boy who could wheel a car and was both respected and feared on track and adored by fans.
And with Lloyd Seay Day, it's a piece of a puzzle needed to help preserve his name and legacy for generations of fans to come.