Formal steps toward the organization of the Dixie Highway Association were taken last Saturday, the 3rd inst., at the conference called by the governors of seven states at Chattanooga, Tenn. One of the largest and most enthusiastic gatherings of good road advocates convened in the Tennessee city to consider plans for the location and construction of the Dixie Highway from Chicago to Miami, and while a disagreement of political significance developed between the original promoters and the governors over the control of the proposed highway connecting the North and the South, there was every indication that the project will be successfully completed.
The conference was called by Governor Ralston of Indiana, and men of affairs from six states, with county delegations from Tennessee, made up of public officials, bankers, miners and farmers assembled in Chattanooga. Governor McCreary of Kentucky was the first of the Governors to reach the scene of the conference. Special trains also brought delegates from Georgia, headed by Gov. Slaton; from Ohio, led by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and a personal representative of Gov. Willis; from Illinois, with a personal representative of Gov. Dunne; from Tennessee, headed by Governor Rye.
The demonstration was most impressive. The day opened with a parade of automobile through the streets bright with national colors, festooned from post to post of the White Way street-lighting system. This was followed by a review of the Eleventh U. S. Cavalry by the Governors. At noon the Rotary Club of Rome, Ga., gave a luncheon, which was attended by 400 rotarians from various cities of the Southern and Central States. In the afternoon the conference session was held and at night the Chattanooga Automobile Club gave a dinner which was attended by 500 of the leading spirits of the highway movement.
Previous to the public session the Governors met in a private conference and determined upon a plan to take over full control of the highway plan. They decided they could ignore the founders of the project, leave the first Board of Directors of the highway corporation off the list of active directors and from their capitals dictate where and how the highway should be built. When informed of this action, C. E. James and others who had been supplying funds for the preliminary investigations, at once announced their withdrawal from the project, saying that they had no money to be used for political advancement of any person or party. Governor Rye of Tennessee and Governor McCreary of Kentucky adhered to the plan of keeping the matter within control of the executives of the States. But Governor Ralston of Indiana and Governor Slaton of Georgia indicate a willingness to compromise and permit the original directors and their successors to act with the directors to be named by the Governors. When the public session was under way an agreement was reached which renewed the enthusiasm of those interested in the project.
President Wilson sent a telegram of congratulation to those handling the details of the conference, in which he said the highway would be of the greatest importance alike to the people of the East, the South, and the Middle West. Governor Ralston made the principal address of the conference, outlining the proposed highway plan. He said in part: “Without roads there can be no transportation. Men can not remain in a fixed place and make progress. They can not visit and explore different sections of their country without traveling and they can not travel to an advantage except over highways. Highways, therefore, must of necessity precede transportation.
“Transportation, of course, means commerce and commerce means a better understanding between people. The more people trade with one another, the more they appreciate their interdependence upon one another and interdependence in the end breeds good neighborhood and a closer fellowship. People living ten miles apart, without any means of transportation connecting their respective communities are strangers though they are citizens of the same county, whereas people living twenty-five miles apart, with their respective localities united by an easy means of transportation, are friends, and by their personal touch with one another, each gives the other an impetus in life—which minimizes selfishness and magnifies good will among men. And thus it is that highways and railroads no longer separate farms and neighborhoods; they connect them. A road is a tie that binds, and the better and longer the road the more far-reaching is its binding and brother-making power. For transportation means the way as well as the right of way—the track as well as the train.
“The proposed highway we are considering will cover 322.6 miles in Indiana; 173.7 miles in Kentucky; 179.3 miles in Tennessee; 514.4 miles in Georgia, and 360 miles in Florida; in all 1550 miles.
“It will affect in the seven states north of the Ohio, 30,000,000 people, who own between 600,000 and 700,000 automobiles. It will affect still more people than this in the six states it touches. According to U. S. census of 1910, Illinois had a population of 5,638,591; Indiana, 2,700,876; Kentucky, 2,289,905; Tennessee, 2,184,789; Georgia, 2,609,121; Florida, 752,619, making a grand total of 16,175,901.
“We are all familiar with the arguments of the automobile builder and promoter regarding the expenditures of the automobile tourist. How he distributes money along his traveled way, creating a demand for new "inns" and knitting the people of the nation together in a homogeneous mass. How the cost of a well-improved road is soon recouped out of the increased profits it enables the cultivators of the soil to save on their marketed products. But just now the dominant question is how to stir the people of the county, state and nation to a full realization of the relation they actually sustain to this highway problem.
“I have not come here to insist that the Dixie highway shall be constructed through any particular section of the country lying between its extremes, Chicago and Miami; but simply to urge that the road be built. If there be those who can not be reconciled to join in the movement, unless they have assurance that the road will come through their particular section of country or city, I beg to remind them that the promoters of the Lincoln highway do not live on the line of that road.”