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Goss was Tallassee's historian

By Michael Butler

Simply put, Bill Goss was Tallassee's historian, but his efforts far exceeded his passion in preserving history for his hometown. Goss passed away on Sunday. He was 92.

Goss had always said he wanted to live to be 100. Still, he accomplished so much in his nine-plus decades.

"It's like a library has burned down," Tallassee citizen and former city councilman Donny Barton said of the loss of Goss and his vast knowledge of all things Tallassee.

He collected many artifacts and memorabilia. It became a part of his daily life in his retirement years. He regularly had to outbid fellow Tallasseeans on eBay in an effort to add to his extensive collection.

He was a stickler for accuracy knowing that incorrect information would be passed on as just that for generations to come. He would regularly set the record straight when those myths were stated, citing the facts based on the countless hours he spent in research.

The historian supplied many of the relics he had gathered for the Tallassee Falls Museum, where he had worked as its curator. He was a member of the Talisi Historical Preservation Society. He was a geneologist too.

Suzannah Solomon Wilson was his neighbor and close friend.

"They say there are only six degrees of separation between people," she said. "My six degrees to Mr. Goss began when he was a college student at Troy Teachers College. He and my daddy's sister Ellen were cheerleaders at Troy, and he and my daddy were there at about the same time.

"When Mr. Goss moved back to Tallassee, Ellen happened to be visiting my parents. When they told her Mr. Goss had moved across the street, Ellen kept saying 'Bill Goss? Bill Goss! You mean Bill Goss moved back home?' It was as if she couldn't believe he moved back home after all his travels and adventures.
I used to say all the really smart people lived on James Street - my parents, Pete Cottle and Bill Goss."

Goss recorded approximately 500 radio shows on Tallassee history for WTLS. The program still airs every Wednesday morning. He has written many articles and co-authored the book, "Images of America - Tallassee."

Goss on his 90th birthday in 2020 receiving a key to the city from former mayor Johnny Hammock

His description of Tallassee's founding is on a historic marker on the grounds of the Community Library. In all, he wrote the text for three markers. In May of this year, the Tallassee City Council passed a motion to honor Goss with a dowtown park bearing his name.

"Mr. Goss could out-think almost anyone," Wilson added. "He had a mind like a steel trap. He not only knew everything there was to  know about the history of Tallassee, he could recount facts on a variety of subjects, recall stories from his life that happened 85 years ago and had over 40 thousand genealogical files on his computer. Every time someone died in the Tallassee area, he added all the pertinent information to his files."

Born during the Great Depression, he began working at the Palace Café of the Woodall Hotel (later known as the Hotel Talisi) at the age of 13. He also worked at the Tallassee Drug Store as a teenager making popular malts for customers. He graduated from Tallassee High School in 1948.

"I was president of the student body," Goss said of his time at THS, "I wore shoes with holes in them. I always put carboard in them. I walked from East Tallassee.

"It was raining one day, so the cardboard had worn through. We had assembly that day. I was on stage. I saw some students laughing on the first row. My mother taught us that the important thing is not what is on the outside but the inside of the person. It really didn't bother me that my foot was exposed because mother could not afford to buy new shoes."

After high school, Goss received his degree from Troy and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He got his Masters in Education from Auburn University, attended West Texas State College and did post-graduate work at the University of Florida.

He taught History, English, Government, Economics and Journalism at Charles Henderson High School. He joined the Department of Defense Overseas Dependents Schools as an administrator. After returning to the states, Goss continued his duties in education in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. He was as educator for 38 years. He lived and worked in four continents.

Goss in 1950 at the age of 20

Upon returning to Tallassee in 1995, he went back to work at the Hotel Talisi for six years as a cashier and tour guide. He spent 15 years as Commander of Tallassee American Post 118. He was an poll worker for 20 years.

"In his national and international travels his heart and mind were forever attached to his hometown roots, and kindness was his stellar characteristic," cousin and friend W.C. Bryant noted. "He firmly believed that sustaining education is the foundation for a person's success, and it was education that fostered his."

A member of the Tallassee High School Alumni Association since its inception, Goss served as chair of the THS Hall of Pride Committee and the Alumni Scholarship Committee.

"A group of us formed the Tallassee High School Alumni Association in 2012," Wilson said of Goss, who was inducted into the Hall of Pride himself in 2016. "He became an active member serving as our scholarship committee chairman, and stayed very busy nominating people for the Hall of Pride. Even in his last weeks, he was trying to finish a nomination.

"He proofread countless essays and newsletters for me and still remembered every grammatical rule he learned in high school. I
could rarely catch him in a mistake. Last month he re-wrote two essays for me that are to be included in the website the alumni
association is working to produce."

Goss was awarded with the Frances Herren Wagnon Award for volunteerism by the Tallassee Chamber of Commerce in 2001. He served on the Centennial Committee that celebrated Tallassee's 100th anniversary as in incorporated city in 2008.

2016 Hall of Pride Induction

His obituary stated, "Bill discovered that there was no record or photographs of the first eight mayors (1908-1948) at Tallassee City Hall. He researched and compiled a list and obtained photographs of those mayors. Bill recommended that a City of Tallassee flag be created and it happened. He was guest-editor of the 68 pages centennial edition of The Tallassee Tribune, the largest ever published in Tallassee. In 2014, he also co-authored Gladys McNair’s 1941 Study of Tallassee."

Wilson remembers Goss consoling her with the loss of her sister in 2019.

"I called Mr. Goss the next morning to tell him, and he recited a poem verbatim that he had learned in high school. The poem, by William Cullen Bryant, was one he learned in high school. Here, along with some of his remarks at my sister's service, are the words he recited to me."

'So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.'

"William Cullen Bryat tells us to live our lives so we don't fear death," Goss said, "but face it with peace of mind. He reminds us that no one dies alone; we will be accompanied by every living person who has gone before us."