Guest article by Steve Bell

The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953. On the 27th of June, 1950, the United Nations Security Council authorized the formation and dispatch of UN forces to Korea to repel what was recognized as a North Korean invasion. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN forces, with the United States providing 88% of the UN’s military personnel.

One soldier from Macon, Georgia, answered the call of duty. Lt. James Wesley Bracken, Jr., committed the ultimate example of “Service Above Self” as he was killed in action, in October 1951, while serving his country.

Commemorative cedar tree
A Deodar cedar tree takes up residence in front of city hall. Photo courtesy Steve Bell.

Nine years later, a citizen of Macon donated a Deodar Cedar tree to be planted in front of its City Hall in honor of Lt. Bracken’s heroic sacrifice. This tree became a staple of the downtown landscape–citizens gathered under its branches to discuss the cares of the day, it became a welcoming sign to all that entered City Hall, and it was often decorated with lights during Christmas. Its seemingly permanent reign over City Hall ended this past fall when Hurricane Irma blew through, bringing destruction and toppling the majestic cedar.

While the once proud tree now lay on the ground, the Macon-Bibb city government left it as a symbol until all fallen trees and debris from the storm could be cleared first for its citizens. Then and only then, City Hall’s tree would be removed, another act of “Service Above Self”.

As soon as it was announced that the tree had fallen, The Rotary Club of Downtown Macon contacted the Mayor’s office and asked if they could replace the tree. An identical variety of the tree, often found in the Western Himalayas, was located.

Almost 60 years after the first tree was planted in honor of Lt. Bracken, a new 25-foot tree was purchased and planted by the Rotary Club of Downtown Macon with the help of Macon-Bibb’s Parks and Recreation. This evergreen will continue to be a reminder of the sacrifices that advance goodwill and peace, locally and around the world.

This new tree honors Lt. Bracken once again, and it stands as a reminder of Rotary’s “Four Way Test” for all who enter into Macon-Bibb’s City Hall: of the words we speak, Rotarians ask, “1. Is it the Truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Not a bad symbol to stand in front of City Hall.

The Rotary Club represents members of community who are dedicated to service through their personal relationships, their community activities, and their business and professional activities. Members of the Rotary Club strive to uphold the highest ideals of service, the importance of ethical behavior, and the dignity of all useful occupations. For more information about the Rotary Club of Downtown Macon, please visit our website at



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