World War II to Consolidation
Augusta's golden age In 1948, new life came to the city when the U.S. Army moved the Signal Training Center and Military Police School to Camp Gordon. Later, in November 1948, the Clarks Hill Reservoir was created by a newly constructed dam, which provided the city with a supply of hydroelectric power. In 1950, plans were announced to build the Savannah River Plant nearby, which would boost the city's population about 50,000. Augusta moved into the second half of the twentieth century on the threshold of becoming an urban industrial center in the South. E-Z-GO and Club Car, the two largest golf car manufacturers in the world, are centered in Augusta, and the Norfolk Southern and CSX run through the middle of downtown Augusta. The city is also a large private company hot-spot, home to the Georgia Bank & Trust and CareSouth. Difficult times The American Civil Rights Movement touched Augusta as it did the rest of the United States. In 1961, soul musician Ray Charles canceled a scheduled performance at the Bell Auditorium when he learned that the black attendees would be segregated from the whites and forced to sit in the balcony. A few days after the Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings in May 1970, six African-American students were shot in the back for looting by police following civil rights demonstrations. Racial tensions flared into a full blown riot with many buildings being set on fire. Today, African Americans constitute 53.6 percent (2006 estimate) of the population of Augusta-Richmond County While slavery and Jim Crow are but memories of the past, race relations continue to be contentious in city politics. Beginning in the late 1970s, businesses started leaving downtown Augusta for both Regency Mall and Augusta Mall. That started a trend of urban abandonment and decay. To counter this trend, city politicians and business leaders promoted revitalizing Augusta's hidden riverfront (obscured by a levee) into Riverwalk Augusta, with parks, an amphitheater, hotels, museums, and art galleries. The first segment of Riverwalk Augusta was opened in the late 1980s and later expanded in the early 1990s. However, the renaissance of the riverfront did not appear to be spilling over into Augusta's main street, Broad Street, as more businesses were leaving and more storefronts boarded up. Broad Street is the second widest Broad street in America. Revitalization In 1995, members of the art community and downtown boosters started a monthly event called First Friday. It was a night festival whose aim was to bring crowds back to downtown. It featured local bands, street performers, and art galleries with extended evening hours. Since 1995, more businesses have returned to downtown, including many new restaurants and bars. A block of upper Broad Street has been named Artists' Row and is home to several locally owned art galleries. First Friday still continues today in addition to many revitalization efforts to downtown. Enterprise Mill was recently renovated to include business offices and apartments.