Billie Hester And The Cherokee Garage

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Former racing announcer Jimmy Mosteller visits Billie Hester at his Smyrna home.

Hester retired Cherokee Garage in 1980 and leased his building as a stable for carriage horses used for Atlanta tourists. “They set up stalls inside and I had the back area fenced in so it worked out pretty good.”

In 1995 history lost the building when it was sold and razed for the Centennial Olympic Park.

Billie and Katie had moved to Smyrna back in 1963 from Atlanta’s Grove Park, also Jimmy Mosteller’s and Charlie Mincey’s old neighborhood. Until a few years ago, there in a building behind his Smyrna home, Billie still built transmissions for the Atlanta cab company his daughter Peggy and son-in-law once owned.

Katie Belle died in 1993. Their other two kids were boys, who both graduated from Atlanta’s West Fulton High School then Georgia Tech. Today John designs golf courses in all parts of the world and Gene is a financial planner.

“I’ve got three smart kids but they didn’t get it from me,” he laughed.

Billie “Sunday” Hester still has his roots in the hollowed grounds of old Lathemtown, now a mixture of pastures and prized land considered by many as north metro Atlanta. He still has family and friends there, and even restored Katie Belle’s childhood home where she was born (across the road from Will Lathem’s former store and cotton gin).

“I rent the place out now,” he said. “But I wanted to keep it in the family.”

The old Lathemtown store now houses a drapery shop. The old mule barn is still there, for now, and so is the house Billie moved into when he left Atlanta in 1925. However, he told us he personally will remain in his Smyrna residence.

“I’ve got a ton of friends and family and visit as often as possible,” he said, “but this has been home for forty years and I have my garden to tend. I think that’s about as close as I’m moving back to old ‘Foddersville.'”

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the June 2003 edition of the Pioneer Pages magazine.  Billie Hester passed away March 7, 2004.  Later that same year, he was inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.  He shares that honor with Cherokee garage drivers Gober Sosebee, Charlie Mincey, and Jerry Wimbish.

Eddie Samples is a racing historian and writer, and is the son of champion stock car racer and Georgia Racing Hall of Famer Ed Samples.

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