Marquis De Lafayette Occupies Place of Honor in LaGrange

Article excerpt

LaGRANGE, Ga. -- This west Georgia town will kick off a four-month festival celebrating its French connection this month by unveiling the newly spiffed-up bronze statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, the centerpiece of its city square.

The statue will be rededicated Feb. 23, the 25th anniversary of its placement.

Historically, Lafayette had only a slight brush with Troup County.

He first came to the United States when he was 19 to help the Colonials win their freedom, then returned to France to play a key role in the French Revolution. He was inspired by the Declaration of Independence when he wrote France's Declaration of the Rights of Man.

When he was in his 60s, Lafayette was invited back to America to tour the nation he helped form. He passed through Georgia's Chattahoochee River Valley in 1824, and he remarked the land reminded him of his estate near Paris, named La Grange.

When Troup County was formed a few years later, people remembered his comment and named the county seat LaGrange.

He is still remembered in this city 60 miles southwest of Atlanta, and the new festival is a way to honor his memory.

"He was a hero for the whole world," said Libba Traylor, one of the festival organizers. "He was a champion of freedom."

The story behind LaGrange's Lafayette statue is one of courage in the face of tyranny -- in another century and another war.

The late Waights Henry, a former president of LaGrange College, traveled to Europe to research the man who gave LaGrange its name and went to Lafayette's hometown of LePuy, about halfway between Paris and Marseilles. …