Marietta's Gen. Lucius Clay remembered at ceremony

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Marietta Daily Journal, Ga.
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Mar. 25—Marietta native Lucius Clay was recalled and honored this week on the grounds of the military base that bears his name: The Clay National Guard Center at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

Gen. Clay (1898 — 1978) made his mark in many ways — overseas for his orchestration of the Berlin Airlift following World War II, across this nation as the architect of the U.S. Interstate System and right here in Marietta where he was born.

As part of the program, a framed photograph of Gen. Clay with President Dwight D. Eisenhower was presented to Thomas Carden, adjutant general of the Georgia Department of Defense.

On hand was Clay's grandson, Chuck Clay, who told those in attendance that among the many things he remembers about his grandfather was his photographic memory.

"He could sit down and give you every president, which he did one night at the dinner table — every president, every vice-president, what he thought were the pluses or the negatives of each administration going from George Washington through Richard Nixon. And I just sat there and said, 'If I had to come up with 10 of them, I'd be hard-pressed.'"

At one point in his career, Clay was charged with planning more than 600 airports — and one of those landed in Marietta.

"That was a little place called Rickenbacker Field. Rickenbacker Field was going to be the next Eastern (Airlines) headquarters. Eddie Rickenbacker was president of Eastern Airlines and they broke dirt out here," Chuck Clay said.

"And then they had that small little occurrence called World War II and suddenly that became one of the key reasons we got the Bell Bomber (plant) ..." Chuck Clay said of the factory that built more than 600 B-29 Bombers for the WWII fight and transformed Marietta from rural countryside to an industrial center.

Another major impact Gen. Clay had on Cobb County came during his work for the Eisenhower administration in locating the path of the interstate highway system, including I-75 that bisects Cobb County.

Cobb historian Dan Cox explained that Eisenhower's push for the highway system was rooted in a cross-country trip Eisenhower had made decades earlier.

"The government wanted to send him (then-Lt. Eisenhower) out to California. Well, he realized after that, that was not the way to travel. It took him 62 days to get from Washington to San Francisco. So he had that in the back of his mind."

Monday's ceremony was organized by Joe Daniell and Vinings Bank and attracted former congressmen, military officials and Cobb Sheriff Craig Owens, among the masked and socially-distant crowd.