- by Joe Nolan, Monday, April 7th, 2008
Born on September 9, 1941 in Dawson, Ga., Otis Redding and family moved 300 miles north to Macon when he was three years old. Unlike many cities in the Peachtree state, Macon had been spared the ravages of Sherman’s march to the sea during the Civil War. By ‘44, Macon showed the scars of the quieter cruelty of stalled urban renewal and the impact of 30 years of the Great Migration, in which large sectors of the South’s African American population left their homes for economic opportunities in cities like Detroit and Chicago. The decaying downtown facades, and the old men sitting on the steps of the abandoned railway station, spoke the forlorn whispers of a city where “progress” had simply marched passed.
Upon their arrival in Macon, the Redding’s made a new home for themselves in the Tindall Heights Housing Project in West Macon. Officially known as Bellview, the residents at the Project all referred to their neglected neighborhood as “Hellview.” Otis’ father, Otis senior, like many black men in the neighborhood, worked at the nearby Robbins Air Force Base. However, due to a chronic battle with tuberculosis, Otis senior was an inconsistent provider. During one prosperous period, the family – including Otis’ mother, Fanny, his baby brother, Rodgers, and four sisters - was able to purchase a humble home of their own. However, after a devastating fire, the family found themselves moving back to into the Projects at “Hellview.”