Remembering George “Tommy” Traylor
The Tallapoosa River and those who love it have lost a long-time ambassador, friend, and voice for the river, Mr. George “Tommy” Traylor, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 88.
Mr. Traylor loved and enjoyed the Tallapoosa River and remembered the river in its natural state before Harris Dam was constructed a few miles upstream of his family property in the early 1980s.
For decades after the dam disconnected the middle Tallapoosa and resulted in the loss of nearly half of the remaining free-flowing mainstem river in Alabama, Mr. Traylor did not hesitate to give Alabama Power, the dam owner, a piece of his mind about its impacts on the river and the people who use it below the dam. When many were silent, he was not.
Over the years, he also welcomed aquatic biologists, river advocates, fishers, and boaters to his property, providing many folks access to the river on a stretch where public access is scarce. Members of ARA’s staff had the privilege of getting to know Mr. Traylor when we began engaging with the relicensing of Harris Dam in 2018. Mr. Traylor and his family invited us to their home along the river many times, told us what the river meant to them, and connected us with others who are willing to work to protect and restore the Tallapoosa. Through his son, Jimmy, Mr. Traylor continued to be a courageous voice during the relicensing of Harris Dam, unafraid to tell federal agencies and the power company the truth about the harms caused to rivers and downstream communities by hydropower dams.
Mr. Traylor and Jimmy both agreed to be featured in ARA’s 2021 Southern Exposure film, Heal the River, about hydropower relicensing and how the process can result in changes that improve river conditions for aquatic creatures and people who enjoy the river. We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to capture his river-loving spirit in film.
Cindy and Martha first met Mr. Traylor and Jimmy while attending public meetings about the relicensing of Harris dam. Mr. Traylor was passionate about doing what was right for the river and the downstream community. He and Jimmy became allies of ARA and part of a team of concerned individuals who shared their experiences and knowledge to advocate for an improved license for the dam with requirements that begin to restore the middle Tallapoosa.
Last fall, Victoria and I visited with Mr. Traylor and Jimmy at their “barn” on the river. Though his health was in decline, Mr. Traylor welcomed us, sat with us by the river, and made sure we helped ourselves to the plentiful vines of muscadines and scuppernongs he grew behind the barn. We picked and ate the ripe ones right off the vine with him as he loaded us down with bag after bag of his homegrown fruit. I still have a bag of his muscadines in my freezer now, waiting to be baked into a pie and eaten on the banks of the Tallapoosa while remembering Mr. Traylor.
Even in death, Mr. Traylor continued to act on behalf of the river he loved. In lieu of flowers, his family asked people to make donations to Alabama Rivers Alliance so we can collectively continue to stand up for, protect, and cherish the Tallapoosa River. Thank you, Mr. Traylor, for sharing your love of the river with us; for welcoming ARA staff and so many others to the Tallapoosa; for speaking up and pushing for changes that benefit the fish, mussels, turtles, crayfish, and other aquatic life that have nowhere else to live but in our rivers; and for your generosity and kindness. We will miss you and will continue to stand up for and restore the Tallapoosa River in your memory for years to come.
In Loving Memory,
You can read Mr. Traylor’s obituary by clicking here.