Lott Paulk was a farmer, county commissioner, and community philanthropist. He was never one to mince words, but he was a fair and generous man. As he began farming in the early 1900s, he actually farmed with mules, not tractors, so to say he was a hard worker is an understatement. He and his wife, Rachel, were also devout church-goers, always showing up at Mount Union Primitive Baptist Church in their Sunday best.
Many young farmers got their start thanks to loans from Lott. Rather than purchasing farm land himself and amassing his own empire, he wanted to see more young men succeed at farming. The story is told that he once went to an auction with one such young man, setting a limit at what he would pay per acre. When the auctioneer blew right past that limit, but the young man kept on bidding, Lott yelled out, “You’re on your own now!”
Another time, a man in a suit came to the farm to see Lott about borrowing money. Lott and his farm “hands” were working in a peanut field at the time. The man wanted to be secretive and speak in private, but Lott told one of his hands to give the man a hoe. If the man wanted the money, he could hoe a round with Lott and talk while they worked!
Lott is credited with getting a nine-mile dirt road named Satilla Road paved, which is, of course, now home to Paulk Vineyards. He also loaned Irwin County Hospital $10,000 in 1953 to purchase its very first x-ray machine, as well as financing projects in Irwin and Coffee Counties.
In a time of extreme racial tensions, Lott donated land to St. John’s Church, a predominantly African American church, so they could build a sanctuary in which to worship. When asked by some white men why he would give them land so close to his home when he owned so much other land, he replied that he enjoyed hearing them sing and worship. And, since it was his land, he could do with it what he very well pleased, including telling those men to get off his land that they were standing on! Lott’s just reputation earned him respect with the black community. According to a local leader, “During the height of the civil rights era, we all knew that if things got too rough in town, we could go to Lott Paulk’s farm for safety, and he would protect us!”
Lott was a big man with a big heart. He left behind a great legacy for the Paulk family to continue. He used God’s blessings to bless others, and to what nobler purpose could anyone aspire?