Athens, Georgia was a town 70 miles east of the former city of Atlanta. Athens was home to the University of Georgia and the U.S. Navy Supply School.
Athens became a temporary haven for refugees of the nuclear blasts in Atlanta, as well as residents of other north Georgia towns looking for stable shelter and food. Area civic leaders set up a provisional state government in the city in October 1983, similarly to other towns and cities in the southeastern U.S., specifically Asheville and Hattiesburg.
Unlike those towns, however, Athens would not survive.
Tensions over food and medicine, along with growing social tensions, exploded in an "orgy of violence and death" which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 98 percent of the population and scattering of the survivors in March 1984.
All information about the region comes from written records discovered in Athens by World Census and Reclamation Bureau scouts assigned to north Georgia in 2009. These records include personal journals and letters, political pamphlets and a copy of the provisional state constitution sealed in a vault, as well as copies of the Athens Banner-Herald and University of Georgia Red and Black newspapers from September 1983 through March 1984.
The city of Athens became a haven for desperate refugees from the city of Atlanta and other bombed sites in the region.
With no surviving government officials nor members of the legislature in the area, the city government declared itself to be the successor to the Georgia state government on October 29, 1983.
The leaders from Athens, and surrounding towns, met at the University of Georgia on November 14 to discuss forming a provisional state government. Feeling a sense of urgency, the leaders approved the state constitution as is, and appointed four candidates for governor. Only two - University President Fred Davison and the Athens mayor - agreed to run. Davison won easily in an election amongst the constitutional convention delegates.
Davison's administration was marked by increasing levels of protest and pleading, as food supplies ran short and radiation began to affect the region. The one ray of hope, that Davison played upon, was the discovery of an exploratory party from Toccoa in the northeast region of the state in late November. Information was exchanged and residents were heartened to learn that there were other survivors.
The Toccoa party agreed to send news of Athens back to Toccoa, and promised to return.
Tensions of all types - racial, social class, Athens against the rural towns, students against anyone outside the UGa campus - continued to fester and grow, and exploded when Davison was shot to death by gunmen believed to be associated with racist groups who opposed his administration. Rioting ensued in Athens for days, and finally calmed down a week before Christmas.
Thirteen government officials designated to take over for Davison in the gubernatorial chain of command refused the post, likely to spare themselves and their families from Davison's fate. Charles Hasty, a local minister, volunteered to run for governor in a special election "for the good of the people and our society". He ran unopposed, and was elected unanimously with 960 votes.
Hasty began to work at uniting the various groups that made up Athens and records indicate he was making progress, especially amongst the students and rural residents. His assassination in February on campus initially was met with sadness; a state day of mourning was declared on February 28, the date of Hasty's memorial service and funeral at the church he had pastored.
That day, nine different dissident groups - including a local white racist group that emerged in nearby Winterville after Doomsday, a black power group made up of refugees from suburban Atlanta and a large group of UGa athletes led by members of the football team - fought in Athens. They attacked each other and random citizens. Four of the groups broke into the memorial service and created mayhem; acting governor Titus MacNeil is said to have barely escaped with his life.
Over the next several weeks, the groups began attacking homes and businesses, gradually increasing their level of violence. Frustrated residents at first looked to the government for assistance; MacNeil pled for residents to look to Athens law enforcement and the Georgia State Militia for protection. When an incident involving the deaths of 27 schoolchildren in early March occurred - despite the presence of Athens police and the State Militia - various records indicate that residents lost faith in the government and law and took things into their own hands.
No one knows what sparked the final conflict that led to the near-destruction of the city and deaths of its residents. It is known that at some point, the dissident groups - armed with their own weapons and weapons confiscated from local law enforcement - met in Athens to "take each other out". Some of the groups planned to go on a killing spree to "take out the rest of the people". It is known that the supply of food was the big issue, the rationale being that the less people there were, the more food for the survivors. And each group wanted to be the only one left after the confrontation.
It is believed that there were just over 1,000 people left after all of the murders and violence that March, and that all of them left the region. A large group went to Toccoa, the others likely to their own homesteads or farms to survive the best they could.
When a party from Tococa returned in April 1986, they discovered a ruined cityscape, some animal life in the area and no signs of human life.
Headlines from the September 27, 1983 edition of the Athens Banner-Herald newspaper:
US ATTACKED BY SOVIET NUCLEAR MISSILES:
ATLANTA BOMBED; ENTIRE NATION GONE?
ATHENS GOVERNMENT DECLARES MARTIAL LAW
FOUR MUSHROOM CLOUDS SEEN OVER ATLANTA
NO WORD FROM WASHINGTON, REAGAN
Headlines from the September 28, 1983 edition of the Banner-Herald:
REFUGEES POUR INTO ATHENS
Coming from all directions, refugees report chaos, violence, despair
MAYOR, FAMILY MISSING FROM RESIDENTS
ALL MAJOR AND MOST MINOR CITIES LIKELY HIT BY USSR
Police: "No word from anyone outside Athens"
Headline and first few paragraphs of the only story on the front page of the February 25, 1984 edition of the Athens Banner-Herald (the newspaper had apparently went to a monthly production schedule by this time. This special edition, published on February 25, was four pages):
February 24, 1984 special edition
GOVERNOR HASTY ASSASSINATED
AT UGA BY UNKNOWN GUNMEN
Governor Charles R. Hasty was assassinated yesterday morning by unknown gunmen while making an appearance to students at the University of Georgia library.
Governor Hasty, speaking to agricultural students in the first-floor Reading Room, was shot twice in the head and once in the chest, according to medical records obtained by the Banner-Herald. The Governor was taken by ambulance to Saint Mary's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:14 a.m.
Lieutenant Governor Titus MacNeil was informed of Governor Hasty's death at 12:15 p.m., and sworn in by Chief Justice Carter C. Nichols at 12:19 p.m. as the state's new Governor. Governor MacNeil then imposed martial law for an "indefinite period" of time (see page 2, column 1).
After the gunmen shot Hasty, eyewitnesses report seeing them run out of the room and through the lobby, then escaping on horseback.Sources tell the Banner-Herald that mounted university police did pursue the gunmen, who were able to escape. Sources also say that a manhunt for these gunmen is ongoing.
The mood throughout the city was said to be sullen, including on the UGa campus, in contrast to riots on and off campus that accompanied the assassination of acting Governor Fred Davison in December.
Found scrawled on a ruined wall on the University of Georgia campus by WCRB scouts:
KILL THE JOCKS LIKE THEY KILLED EVERYONE ELSE
The remains of a church sign in Athens:
J HN 3:16 SEE YOU ALL IN HEAV N
Found in an envelope in a bank vault in Athens, alongside approximately $200,000 in U.S. dollar bills, several of which had "STATE OF GEORGIA" written over "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" (no actual State of Georgia currency was found):
This is the first draft of the new State of Georgia currency, minted in Athens, Georgia.
Diary of Amy Lettner, September 27, 1983:
Mom tells me that Daddy's probably gone to heaven, to meet Jesus, ahead of us. He was in Atlanta last night. Mom said Atlanta's gone. I couldn't get much out of her, because she kept crying. We hugged for a long time, then Mrs. Cavendish came over to sit with us.
We don't know what's going on, if anyone outside the city's survived. How are we going to eat? How are we going to live? Are the Russians invading?
Diary of Amy Lettner, March 29, 1984:
I don't deserve to live. All the things I did to survive, I know are wrong, but I did them anyway. Marcus keeps telling me aims, we have to live, we have to survive. What the hell kind of life IS this? Bombs, guns, war, violence, murder, rape, hunger, starvation, boils, disease, death. Where is God?
There's almost nobody left, and if there is they probably have a gun, a knife, a bullet or a blade with your name on it.
From the journal of Robert L. Granger, April 24, 1984:
We are leaving for northern Georgia in the morning, as there is nothing for us left here. There is, of course, nothing left for me here. My family has owned this farm for generations. My parents, and grandparents, great-grand parents, and great-great-great grandparents lived on this farm. I raised my family here. My family was started here and here they will stay, as their final resting place.
(Note : ink stain on the previous and next sentences)
I do not know why the Lord allowed me to live, to survive in this hellish world, and took my loved ones home. But I will trust Him. I will go to Toccoa, with the others, in search of a land I hope will give us a better chance to survive and perhaps one day, enjoy life as we did before the war.
To whomever finds this, I leave my journal, along with some other artifacts and written records, in the hopes that you will understand what happened here. That these ruins did not just appear. People lived here. People were left here, after the war. Good people. Honest people. Scared people. People who were good, and decent, and God-fearing, and law-abiding, who did some horrible things to survive. Good people who turned into animals -- no, who were turned into animals by this war, these circumstances we all found ourselves in. We know of no one, outside of Toccoa, who has survived. I hope that other survivors, whomever they are, wherever they come from, will find this and, not make the same mistakes we made ourselves.
May God bless us who are about to embark on this journey, and whomever finds this in the future.
Robert L. Granger, 4/24/1984