Leading Researcher Gene Brantley Dies in Auto Accident
Gene Brantley, one of the most learned men of the millenium, when it comes to Brantley history and genealogy, was killed in an auto accident on April 8, 1999. Gene had taken his son and grandson fishing and they were returning when the accident occurred. It took place on a county road in Baldwin county, Georgia. According to what I understand, an opposing car operated by a lady who had apparently dosed at the wheel crossed the center line and awoke as she drifted off the road edge on Gene's side. Gene was faced with either being struck head on or broadside as she darted back. Because he elected to swerve to his side, he took the full impact. The boys were not hurt. Gene was not killed instantly, but knowing that his injuries were fatal, bid his son Jeff and his young grandson farewell. He died like he lived; always thinking of others.
I had just visited Gene a few weeks earlier. This was the first time since he had moved. He ask me to spend the night, but I had an appointment the next morning back in Atlanta. We stayed up until 11:30PM talking genealogy. Since I had came in from a different direction than I was taking home, I ask Gene how to get back to the main road toward Atlanta. He suggested that I just follow him a little way and he would take to the main highway. I told him that that wasn't necessary, he could just draw me a little map. He insisted. I thought that this would be just a mile or two, but it was about 10 miles later when he finally came to the intersection of the main highway. What a guy! He thought nothing of driving 10 miles out and 10 miles back at mid night, just to be sure I would have no trouble.
As many know, we had hoped for a long time, that Gene would finally publish a book of all books on the Brantley family. He had talked about it for years. Certainly no one could have done a better job on the Chatham County line as they moved into Georgia and later westward. He and his brother Tim have spent most of their adult life putting together pieces of information they had gathered all over the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. I'm not sure now what may happen about the book. Both Tim and I would love to do it and as a memorial to Gene, but Tim's eye sight is a factor now, and I do not see how I can devote much time to the effort until my children have moved out. That is at least another 3 years.
Just before Gene's death he along with some other researchers published a book that did involve the Brantley family in Washington County, Georgia. Gene made sure that a lot of Brantley history and genealogy was included in it. The book is entitled "Colby Smith and his descendants". Many of us Washington County Brantleys descend also from this Revolutionary War solider too. It is available through the Washington County Historical Society in Sandersville, Georgia.