By Christopher James

Around Georgia, the name Callaway is practically synonymous with gardens.

So it’s no surprise that members of the Callaway family from LaGrange, who created Callaway Gardens, also played a role in developing the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

On Saturday, May 5, at its annual ball, the State Botanical Garden honored Mark Callaway, whose foresight in the 1980s led to the formation of an advisory board to serve as a fundraising arm for the  313-acre preserve, part of University of Georgia Public Service and Outreach. Callaway also helped plan the first ball in 1985.

“We needed people who were willing to step up and make big donations,” Callaway says. “Gardens can be hugely expensive and I think it’s important that you have that support. We wanted to get more people involved.”

The Garden of the Worlds Ball this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. In addition to Callaway, philanthropist Deen Day Sanders was recognized for her support of the garden.

“This being our 50th anniversary, it’s an important year to mark our progress, our goals and celebrate the role the State Botanical Garden of Georgia has at the university and within the state of Georgia,” says Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “We need to remember the beginning of the garden and how it grew from an idea in 1968 to what it is today. A lot of that has to do with the people who have been involved in the garden, over the years.”


Mark Callaway’s involvement in the garden followed that of his grandmother, Alice Hand Callaway, for whom the visitor’s center and conservatory are named. The Callaway Foundation, one of three of the family’s philanthropic organizations, provided money for the facility, which was completed in 1984. The administration building also is named for Callaway.

Mark Callaway’s Morning Star Foundation later sponsored the construction of the International Garden.

Now a senior vice president and financial advisor for the Indigo Group at Morgan Stanley in Atlanta, Callaway says he wanted to establish the garden’s board of advisors to ensure that there would be broad support across the state for Georgia’s primary university-based research garden. Callaway chaired the first board of advisors.

Tom Wight, a charter member of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, says Callaway’s vision has led to successful fundraising that has allowed the garden to continue to expand over the years.

“I take real pride in what’s been accomplished,” says Tom Wight, who served with Callaway on that early advisory board. “I don’t say the board did it all, but we certainly played our role.”