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Oakland Tours in Focus: Lollie Belle Moore Wylie

by Marcy Breffle, Education Coordinator

Lollie Belle Moore Wylie

Lollie Belle Moore Wylie

From gospel to hip-hop and blues to indie-rock, Atlanta’s musical roots run wide and deep. The city’s tuneful history is evident at Oakland Cemetery, where musicians of all genres are buried in eternal slumber. One of Oakland’s most prominent musical figures is Lollie Belle Moore Wylie. An accomplished poet, journalist, and composer, Lollie Belle Moore Wylie made significant contributions to Atlanta’s literary scene and celebrated the state of Georgia through song.
Laura Isabel “Lollie Belle” Moore was born in Bayou Doque d’Inde, Alabama on October 21, 1858. Her father, Thomas Polk Moore, passed away in 1859 and the Moore family moved to Atlanta six years later. In 1877, Lollie Belle Moore married Hart Wylie and the couple had two daughters, Augusta “Gussie” Louisa and Hart.
1887 would prove to be a transformative year for Wylie both personally and professionally. She published her first book of verses, Legends of the Cherokee Rose, and her husband passed away after a long illness. With two children to support, Wylie took a position as the society editor for the Atlanta Journal, becoming the first woman to hold a paid position at a Georgia newspaper. To expand her role and increase female readership, Atlanta Journal president Hoke Smith created the newspaper’s Department of Interest to Women. Wylie achieved prominence in the newspaper field, but soon established herself as a star on the rise with her other literary achievements.
As a professional writer, she edited two periodicals, (The Butterfly and Society), published a novel, and wrote editions of poems. She co-founded the Woman’s Press Club of Georgia in 1891 and organized the Atlanta Writer’s Club, the South’s first literary organization, in 1909. As president of the Atlanta Writer’s Club, Wylie had the idea to create a living memorial for writers in Piedmont Park. Located along Piedmont Avenue, the Authors’ Grove contains dozens of trees dedicated in memory of authors, journalists, and poets. Honored figures include Joel Chandler Harris, Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Allan Poe, James Whitcomb Riley, and Henry Grady.
Although she earned a living by writing, Wylie’s passion was music. She wrote both music and lyrics, and several of her songs were published. In August 1922 one of her works, “Georgia,” was adopted as the state’s official song. Wylie composed the music, which was set to the verses of poet Robert Loveman:

“From the mountains to the sea,
Where her rivers roll.
There I ever long to be,
O my heart; my soul;
By her meadows let me lie.
In her vales remain.
Underneath her roof-tree sky
Watch the shadows wane.

Georgia-land of our delight,
Haven of the blest,
Here by happy day and night,
Peace enthrones the breast.
Georgia, Georgia dearest earth
Underneath the blue,
Clime that ever giveth birth
To the brave and true.”

Lollie Belle Wylie in later years.

Lollie Belle Moore Wylie in later years.

The Georgia legislature stated that the “poem expresses the highest and loftiest sentiment as to our Beloved state, and that the music… is tuneful, refine, and beautiful.” “Georgia” remained the state’s official song from 1922 until 1979, when “Georgia on My Mind” was adopted.
Wylie died on February 16, 1923 and was buried at Oakland Cemetery. A beech tree was planted in her honor at Authors’ Grove, and in 2013 she was named a Georgia Woman of Achievement.
To learn more about Wylie and Oakland’s other music figures, attend the “Bandmasters, Fifers, Composers, and More: Oakland’s Music Makers” special topic tour this Sunday, September 18. The tour will leave from Oakland’s Bell Tower Building at 6:30 pm. The tour does not require a reservation and tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Center.

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