Doug Ferguson, the late owner of Doug's Place in Emerson, was remembered Monday in a ceremony designating the Old Alabama Road bypass bridge over Highway 41 as the Doug Ferguson Memorial Bridge.
State Rep. Paul Battles, who helped pass the resolution with Sen. Bill Heath, presented Ferguson's family with the resolution and a small replica of the bridge sign before a full house at Emerson City Hall. A full copy of the resolution can be found at http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/fulltext/hr317.htm.
Battles said the dedication is "what community is all about."
"When someone has been very special -- uniquely special -- to a community, we want to honor them. It was a joy when I heard from a group of you, especially from the city council, that we wanted to do something in honor of Doug," he said.
Ferguson was born in 1946 to the late John Lewis Ferguson and Jessie Lorene Ferguson of Emerson and made the city his home until his death in January 2007.
Doug's Place, which opened in 1994 in the former Moms Groceries store, is a destination for locals and visitors alike.
"I'm so thankful that we've had this opportunity to recognize an individual that really put Emerson on the map," Battles said. "If you think about it, how many people have been in Doug's Place?"
Battles recalled he and Ferguson encountering Lester Maddox in the restaurant. He said Ferguson asked the former governor what he was most proud of, to which Maddox replied being able to play the harmonica.
At Ferguson's inquiry into what his favorite song to play was, Battles said Maddox stood up and began playing "Dixie" on the instrument.
Memories such as those are what Battles said make the eatery and the man who owned it special. "I am so thankful that we can do something in a very small way to remember a big man."
Standing to accept the resolution were Ferguson's family: his wife, Melissa; his mother; and sons, Aaron and Alexander.
Aaron Ferguson expressed the family's gratitude to the crowd following the presentation. "I just want to thank everybody for taking time out of their day to come out here. It means a lot to us; thank y'all."
Melissa Ferguson said her husband wouldn't have said much had he been present Monday, but he would have been proud.
"We're just very, very humbled. It's a great honor for Doug, [we] never expected it," she said. "Those boys really appreciate it cause they loved their daddy, and Doug loved this community, done a lot for it."
Sue Corbin, who helped spearhead the movement to recognize Ferguson, said Doug's contributions were often of the silent type.
"He did so much for people that actually no one knows about. A lot of people came there and ate free," Corbin said. "And Doug would keep cigarettes .. and gum and stuff like that to keep particular people that he didn't feel were safe to walk across the street to the other store, he would keep things like that there for them to purchase so they wouldn't not have to cross the street.
"Since Doug passed away ... it really has been a blessing to see how many people have come forward and said Doug did this for me or Doug fed me or Doug brought me food."
Ferguson and Corbin were childhood acquaintances who reconnected when Corbin moved from Acworth to Cartersville 15 years ago. She said she began the ritual of eating breakfast on Mondays at Doug's Place along with Ferguson and other friends.
Melissa Ferguson said the love for the building led the couple to the restaurant business, but they never imagined it would become the landmark it is today.
"He always loved that ol' place over there. ... He just always thought it would be a good place for a restaurant," she said. "It was probably the wildest thing he ever did -- Doug didn't do things like that. He always thought if you had good food and good service you could make it. We just thought we could just make a living."