The Vagabond - the Gadsden City seal and T.J. Milner

February 12, 2021 chris
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By Danny Crownover

Like many other cities, Gadsden has an official flag. Back in 1937, the city commission appointed a group of four men and five women to design a city seal that would also be used toward a city flag. The group decided upon a design that carries the official seal of the city on a gold background bordered with green.

Included in the design was the statue of Emma Sansom, Memorial Bridge, industries such as the steel plant, the railroads and one of many dairy farms located in the city. The bronze seal was designed by architect Paul W. Hofferbert and presented to the City of Gadsden for approval during the Great Depression. That seal and flag were officially adopted on August 31, 1937.

“Uncle Tom”

If you happened to visit the Etowah County Courthouse in the early 1950s, you were apt to be met by a smiling elderly man who shook your hand and asked about your health in a most pleasing manner, particularly if he knew you. There were few people back then who did not know the man’s friendly smile, which with his affable approach combine to make him a popular man.

His name was Thomas Joshua (T.J.) Milner, more familiarly known as “Uncle Tom.” He was a bailiff of the circuit court and was universally rated as a good officer by those who had official business with him.

Milner was the second of 10 children born to Mr. and Mrs. Francis Marion Milner of Alford Bend, near Hokes Bluff. Milner was born on a farm on April 30, 1877, where he lived and worked until 1925, when he came to Gadsden to work in the steel mill, a job he said that he held for two years, three months and seven days. Milner transferred to the Birmingham Slag Company and was with it for three years.

In January of1942, Milner was appointed as a bailiff of the Etowah County Circuit Court by the late Judge W.M. Rayburn. As bailiff, Milner waited on the court and saw that everything was ready for business.

All the jurymen respected Milner for his unfailing kindness. If a jury is forced to stay together in a capital case, Milner took the members for walks and saw that they were comfortably lodged t and well fed.

Milner married Laura Chapen Booker of East Gadsden on December 21, 1904. The couple had seven children – Thomas Elmo, Rev. T.J. Milner, Oscar Wal-ker Milner, Miss Ruby Judy Milner, Mary Louise Milner Smith, Emma Mildred Milner Allmon and Frances Evelyn Seale.

Milner was a member of the Methodist church since 1886. He was the Sunday school superintendent of Milner’s Chapel Church on the Piedmont Highway that was named in honor of his family. He and his wife resided for many years on Windsor Street in East Gadsden.

Milner died at the age of 82 on March 22, 1960. He is buried at Crestwood Memorial Cemetery in East Gadsden.