South Alabama man crazy for camellias

County Road 12: Camellia Man

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - In 1959 Alabama designated the camellia as our state flower. They come in all colors and sizes, and you’ll find them all over the state, especially if you make a stop in the small Cowart community near Dothan.

"There are days that I will come out here and just stop,” said Cowart resident Dr. Max McKinney. “Even though I've been doing this for 40 years, I see something new every day."

Dr. McKinney is retired now. He was a math professor at Southwestern State University in Georgia. When he retired he moved to Dothan in 1990. Fifteen years later a terrible tragedy changed his life. His wife died in 2005.

“I decided to do something for therapy. I got back into the Camellias. I was completely consumed," McKinney said.

His collection is something you have to see.

“These are my grandchildren. I come out here and know them by name. I really do. I event talk to them. I’ve got five acres here, over 1,700 plants, and over 1,000 varieties," McKinney said.

He can tell you the name of every one of them. For McKinney this is a place where he can just escape and do what he loves. He puts a ton of time into caring for his flowers, but he doesn’t sell them. He just gives them away. He loves sharing the result of all his hard work.

“When people ask me what’s my favorite, I say the last one I saw," McKinney said.

McKinney says people stop by all the time to take a look, and he loves to give tours. If you’re in the Dothan are you can give him a call at 334-701-5158.

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