A Small Measure of Coca-Cola’s Betrayal

Commentary by Billy Bearden

A licensed pharmacist at age 19 and a Lt. Colonel of the Georgia Confederate Calvary who, out of his own pocket, funded his own unit of mounted Southerners and fought under Joe Wheeler— Dr. John Stith Pemberton invented the world’s most famous trademarked product – Coca-Cola.

Created in a brass kettle behind Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta in May of 1886 and averaging only nine drinks a day the first year, his concoction now is measured in billions of dollars per year. Dr. Pemberton would die two years later and be interred in Linwood Cemetary in Columbus, Georgia. Ironically, his grave is not shaped like a Coke Bottle, but carries the logo of a Confederate Mason.

In a show of respect for the passing of this Confederate Veteran and a fellow druggist, all Atlanta Pharmacies, Drug Stores and Soda Fountains closed for his funeral.

Coke rose to its lofty heights on the backs and bank accounts of Southerners like Villa Rican Asa Candler and Ernest and Robert Woodruff, and bottlers Thomas and Whitehead – as well as from our own paychecks and pocket change.

Coca-Cola was once proud of its roots as evidenced by their advertising on the back of a 1943 Life Magazine featuring Stonewall Jackson, and in the program for the Grand Reunion of the last three Confederate Veterans in Norfolk Virginia in May 1951, and Coke even offered ‘Confederate money’ coupons.

In 1966, in support of the federal government’s "Operation Golden Eagle," the Chairman of the President’s Task Force on Travel, Vice President Hubert Humphrey said, "To all Americans I say , get up and go , this land is your land. See it. Get to know its history. Get to know your fellow citizens… I hope every American will choose 1966 as the year to discover America." [Bold emphasis mine]

Coca-Cola’s ‘Sprite’ brand was chosen to help push the effort, and on the bottom of select 7-oz. and 10-oz. returnable bottles are embossed locations like Gettysburg National Military Park, Ft. Sumter National Park, Shiloh National Military Park, and Chickamauga National Military Park.

Today Sprite is used to court the urban black basketball youth with the "Obey your Thirst" slogan and a little big-afro-headed smart-mouth black doll.

In 1985 Coca-Cola produced a limited 10-oz. bottle helping to commemorate the Andersonville Georgia 10th Annual Historic Fair, in 1987 a bottle was produced by Coke proclaiming 1987 was "Christmas in Dixie" and even released a 8-oz. "Stone Mountain 40th Anniversary" bottle.

If you wish to see any more of Coca-Cola’s "Southern" advertising you will have to travel to Japan, where they sell a canned coffee called "Georgia" and the logo is that of a Tara-type Plantation with a Rhett and Scarlett couple standing near a horse and buggy.

Coca-Cola in Georgia has joined anti-Southern forces in the Chamber of Commerce, and has wasted hundreds of thousands of those almighty dollars to payoff the 1956 Georgia flag change legislators.

But 1985 was also the death of Robert Woodruff, and a new change in business philosophy, which meant the death of Coke as we knew it. New Coke was the start of non-Southern management leadership. Having no touch with their roots any longer, the dollar became the only priority. Bottles are now made in Mexico, products are sweetened with anything but sugar, and world-wide hate and disgust against Coke are common daily news. Just this past week are some examples:
Russians Boycott Coke
Workers at Coca-Cola Plants Go on Strike
…and let us not forget that people in India are fighting mad that Coke is taking their ground water to make the brown bubbly gold while folks and crops go thirsty. A search of the world wide web will find Coke boycotts around the globe from very diverse groups with a variety of gripes against the once beloved company.

Recently I heard that Coke stock was sliding—again. Well "My give a damn is busted" I am drinking the competitor’s brands and ignoring the boo-hoos of a company that long ago urinated on me and tried to tell me it was raining.

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