Colonel James Martin Isbell was a noted local historian and author. James Martin Isbell was the son of Thomas Isbell and Lucinda Petty.James Martin Isbell was a grandson of Thomas Isbell and Discretion Howard Isbell.
James Martin Isbell married Sarah Louise Horton, daughter of David Eagles Horton and Sarah Jane Dula Horton. Sarah Louise Horton was the granddaughter of Nathan and Elizabeth Eagles Horton on her paternal side. She was the granddaughter of William S. Dula and Theodosia Beasley Dula on her maternal side.
Sarah Louise Horton Isbell was a second cousin of Tom Dula (Dooley) who was tracked down and captured by Colonel James Martin Isbell for the murder of Laura Foster. Colonel James Martin Isbell had previously led the search which located the body of Laura Foster. The song about Tom Dooley has been revived a couple of times over the decades, the most famous version being sung by The Kingston Trio; it was entitled Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley. The ballad was number one for one week in 1958. It has been re-recorded by many singers since.
Colonel James Martin Isbell was a second cousin of Col. Thomas Charles Land (1828-1912), who wrote the Ballad of Tom Dula (also known as “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley”), and his brother Linville Land who made the coffins of both Laura Foster and Tom Dula.
Tom Dula was a grand-nephew of the John Dula who got into a brawl with Thomas Isbell, grandfather of Colonel James Martin Isbell, on28 November28, 1796, during which Dula bit off Tom Isbell’s earlobe.
Ballad of Tom Dula by John Foster West: “Col. James M. Isbell, if we may believe the records, was more responsible for finding Laura Foster’s body…and…the prosecution of Tom Dula than any other individual. Col. Isbell was one of the aristocrats of Happy Valley. He was the great-grandson of Benjamin Howard…”
Colonel James Martin Isbell is cited as an authority in many local histories, pioneer North Carolina and Virginia accounts as well as several family histories. He is cited throughout records and newspaper articles of the Tom Dula murder trial, consistently referred to as Col. James M. Isbell.
“Col. James M. Isbell’s grandfather(sic), Martin, told him that Daniel Boone used to live six miles below James M. Isbell’s present home near the bank of the Yadkin river, on a little creek now known as Beaver Creek, one mile from where it flows into the Yadkin river, near Holman’s ford. The Boone house was in a little swamp and canebrake surrounding the point of a ridge, with but one approach—that by the ridge. The swamp was in the shape of a horse-shoe, with the point of the ridge projecting into it. The foundations of the chimney are still there, and the cabin itself has not been gone more than 52 years. Alfred Foster, who owned the land, showed Col. Isbell the cabin, which was still there during his boyhood, and he remembered how it looked. His grandmother, the wife of Benjamin Howard, knew Boone well as he often stayed with her father, Benjamin Howard, at the mouth of Elk creek, now Elkville.”
“COL. JAMES M. ISBELL. According to the statement made by this gentleman in May 1909, Benjamin Howard, his (great)grandfather, owned land near the village of Boone and used to range his stock in the mountains surrounding that picturesque village. He built a cabin of logs in front of what is now the Boys’ Dormitory of the Appalachian Training School for the accommodation of himself and his herders whenever he or they should come from his home on the headwaters of the Yadkin, at Elkville. Among the herders was an African slave named Burrell. When Col. Isbell was a boy, say, about 1845, Burrell was still alive, but was said to have been over 100 years old. He told Col. Isbell that he had billoted Daniel Boone across the Blue Ridge to the Howard cabin in the first trip Boone ever took across the mountains.”
Footnote 5: In the same book is the statement of James M. Isbell to J.P.A. in May, 1909, at latter’s home.
Footnote 6: It [meaning the cabin of Benjamin Howard] “could still be seen, a few years ago, at the foot of a range of hills some seven and a half miles above Wilkesboro, in Wilkes county.” Thwaites’ “Daniel Boone,” p.78.
1885: The LENOIR TOPIC, 1(?) October 1885, p.4, printed a letter from W.E. White about Daniel Boone’s life in the Yadkin Valley area, which included, “Col. James Isbell, of King’s Creek township(,) could perhaps say something concerning Godfrey Isbell and Pendleton Isbell who were pioneers and also soldiers of Col. Cleveland’s command.” Godfrey Isbell had been bondsman at the marriage of Col. James Isbell’s grandfather Thomas Isbell to Discretion Howard.
Daniel Boone: Master of the Wilderness (1939), by John Bakeless, p. 438, footnote 32.2 gives a footnote citation as follows about the cabin and Burrell’s account of it: “Burrell, the old slave, told the story to Col. James Martin Isbell, of King’s Creek, N. C. Col. Isbell’s grandmother, Mrs. Jordan Councill, daughter of Burrell’s owner, verified the story. She had herself known Daniel Boone.
Mrs. Jordan Councill was the former Sarah Howard, sister of James Martin Isbell’s grandmother. Mrs Sarah Howard Councill was Col.James Martin Isbell’s great-aunt.
Thomas Isbell and Lucinda Petty Isbell household is listed in the 1850 Federal Census record for Caldwell County, North Carolina. The census shows the parents of James Isbell, age 13. According to the census, the parents were Thomas Isbell, b. circa 1800 in N.C. and Luncinda Isbell, b. circa 1811 in N.C.
Name: Thomas Isbell
Estimated birth year: abt 1800
Birth Place: North Carolina
Home in 1850 (City,County,State): Kings Creek, Caldwell, North Carolina
Military Service during the War Between the States
James M. Isbell was Captain of Company A, 22nd N.C. Regiment. Three sons of John and Frances Knight Land (James, Thomas, & John) served under him until he was wounded and discharged. He was also a witness in Tom Land’s Confederate pension application, filed in east Tennessee.
Name: James M Isbell
Residence: Caldwell County, North Carolina
Age at Enlistment: 23
Enlistment Date: 30 Apr 1861
Rank at enlistment: 2nd Lieut
State Served: North Carolina
Survived the War?: Yes
Service Record: Commissioned an officer in Company A, North Carolina 22nd :Infantry Regiment on 30 Apr 1861.
Mustered out on 15 Jul 1861.
Enlisted in Company A, North Carolina 22nd Infantry
Regiment on 09 Aug 1861.
Promoted to Full Captain on 31 May 1862.
Promoted to Full 1st Lieutenant on 01 May 1862.
Mustered out on 13 Oct 1862.
1864 – James Martin Isbell was a member of the North Carolina Senate for the 46th Senatorial District
↑Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913) By John Preston Arthur,1914), p.81
↑Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913) By John Preston Arthur,1914), p.82
↑Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913) By John Preston Arthur,1914), p.95
↑ “Trail of Daniel Boone,” Skyland Magazine, by John P Arthur, 1:652 (S 1914)
↑ 1850 United States Federal Census Record, Kings Creek, Caldwell, North Carolina
↑ Citing this Record: “North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 ,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FZ1Z-X25 : 22 December 2016), James M. Isbell and Sarah Louisa Horton, 01 Mar 1857; citing , Caldwell, North Carolina, United States, p. V. 1-5 p19, Office of Archives and History, Division of Archives and Records. State Archive of North Carolina and various county Register of Deeds; FHL microfilm 590,352
↑ The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Publication Number: M593, GS Film number: 000552626, Digital Folder Number: 004277203, Image Number: 00052
↑ Citing this Record: “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MW8H-C12 : 12 April 2016), James M Isbell, North Carolina, United States; citing p. 2, family 16, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,626
↑ Citing this Record: “North Carolina Deaths, 1931-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FPK8-Q9F : 17 July 2017), J M Isbell in entry for Mary Virginia Isbell, 07 Feb 1940; citing Lenoir, Caldwell, North Carolina, fn 2164 cn 279, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh; FHL microfilm 1,943,179
↑ Citing this Record: “North Carolina Deaths, 1931-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FPDY-DBC : 17 July 2017), James Martin Isbell in entry for Sarah Louise Setzer, 18 Aug 1955; citing Morganton, Burke, N. C., v 18A cn 18416, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh; FHL microfilm 1,927,217
↑ Citing this Record: “North Carolina Deaths, 1931-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FG1X-8VG : 18 July 2017), James M. Isbell in entry for Sarah Frances Thomas, 28 Sep 1964; citing Lenoir, Caldwell, North Carolina, v 27A cn 27083, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh; FHL microfilm 1,953,510
↑ 1910 United States Federal Census, Kings Creek, Caldwell County, North Carolina
In an article on al.com from 2013, another Isbell home was featured. This was the Roberts-Taylor-Isbell home. The article is reprinted below:
Roberts-Taylor-Isbell House ‘just full of history’
The 1854 Roberts-Taylor-Isbell House, the lovely, Greek Revival townhouse on Government Street
Historic home restored to its original state.
near the Broad Street intersection, is one of the main attractions on the Mobile Historic Homes Tour this weekend, and it’s worth the price of admission all by itself. “It’s just full of history,” Roy Isbell said.
The Isbells, who have done a great deal of the work on the house themselves, see their project as a preservation rather than a restoration. The house caught fire in 2009, but wasn’t badly damaged. “The fire is such a small part of the house’s history,” Debbie Isbell said.
Visitors will notice different wallpaper styles in every room, which was very much in style at the time it was decorated. “Every inch of the house was covered in paper,” Roy Isbell said.
To reproduce the original wallpaper in the foyer, Roy and Ray commissioned a stencil, which was copied from the 1890s wallpaper they found under the staircase, then did the walls by hand. The trompe-l’oeil border is also a reproduction from the 1850s.
“It’s not that they couldn’t afford crown molding,” Ray Isbell explained. “Paper was ‘in.’”
When the Isbells bought the house in 1994, it was filled with furniture and memorabilia from the three related families who had occupied it since it was built. The Roberts and Taylors loved to collect things, and the Isbells have set out many treasures for tourgoers to enjoy, from 1930s Shakespeare Club pamphlets in the parlor to the 1875 china in the dining room.
The Isbells have also written a history of the home for the docents to narrate during the tour. A few highlights: Joel Abbot Roberts, a local banker, built the main house in 1854, but the first house on the lot was built circa 1837 by Joel’s father, Dr. Willis Roberts of Georgia. Joel Abbot Roberts’ ledger, on display in the front parlor, shows that he paid $24 for the parlor pocket doors.
Mirabeau Lamar, president of the Republic of Texas from 1838-41, was a family friend who visited often; his portrait hangs just outside the dining room, and the Isbells have a copy of a poem he wrote in tribute to Joel Roberts’ wife, Mary, called “Flowers from the Heart.”
Four generations of the Roberts family lived here until 1897, when the home was acquired by R.V. Taylor; in turn, four generations of Taylors occupied it until 1988. The west wing was R.V. Taylor’s home office at the turn of the century when he was the mayor of Mobile. His only daughter, Helen Buck Taylor, married Captain J. Lloyd Abbot III, who counted among his ancestors Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines – for whom Dauphin Island’s Fort Gaines is named.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what guests on the home tour will learn about Mobile history and the Isbell House’s place in it. If you’re from Mobile, you may even discover some anecdotes about some of your relatives. The Roberts, Taylors and Isbells had quite a few cousins, including Herndons, Toulmins, Langdons, Pillans, Inges, Wallers and more.
“This house was never the grandest in Mobile,” Ray Isbell said. “But at the same time, it has so many original features to it.”
The Taylors had been quite wealthy, but were wiped out in the 1929 stock market crash, he said, and after that, couldn’t afford to do much in the way of renovations. “The true value of the house is that so little of it was changed,” he said.
From long ago now and far away, there are memories that are cherished. Home. Family. Gran. Aunts and uncles and first cousins. Family like my children have never gotten to be a part of, extended family. It made you feel safe, secure, loved. You learned what was important even when you did not know that you were being instilled with values and wit and humor. My ancestors James Richardson Isbell and Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell lived in that little community of Paint Rock while other kin lived in Larkinsville and other surrounding towns and communities. In Jackson County during those days Isbell was a fairy common name. There was John Isbell, James Isbell, Allen Isbell, Levi Isbell. There were Birdwells, too. John Birdwell, Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell’s father, with all his family were in Jackson County before statehood as well. There were the Houk and the Peters families, and the
Susan Anna Isbell Murray
Murray lines. Rev Simeon Houk whose wife was Tobitha Murray Houk married William Deaton Jackson Murray and Susan Anna Isbell Murray in the year 1848 in Jackson County.
My Birdwell/Isbell line settled in Jackson County, Alabama after they had brought their family into the Mississippi Territory a good fourteen years before statehood. And then moved to Franklin, now Colbert County, Alabama. But first were the towns of Paint Rock and Woodville, Trenton, Pleasant Grove, and the communities of Aspel and LimRock and all the surrounding little towns and communities.
When I read the account of one man named Hodges recount in a speech in 1993 his experience and delight in being born and raised in the little community of LimRock and Aspel. His title is Judge Bob Hodges and his story sounds so much like one that my Gran may have told. It made me feel at home, safe, and longing for the good old days, the simple days, the days of extended family. The content of his speech follows:
AN ADDRESS AT LIM ROCK ‐ ASPEL HERITAGE DAY on October 9 , 1993 by Jackson County Circuit Judge Bob Hodges
Before you take anything else I say seriously, I want to read to you my father’s business card he used at Hodges Drug Store for over 30 years: “Robert Leslie Levi Buchannon Fairbanks Hodges, Jr……. Born on land lying N W One-fourth o f S E One ‐ fourth of Sec 10, Township 4 , Range 7E, Berry’s Cove, North Lim Rock, Alabama…… Now located in trading business about, 1 2 miles N E born site…….Come’n see me…. T
elelphone: Day: 2 longs and 1 short Nite: 2 longs and a half….” As you can see, he never forgot where he came from, and he was one of the best representatives o f the Lim Rock Chamber of Commerce who ever served. My roots go back here a t least three generations before me, and my memories of this community go back to the years of my childhood just before World War II. I want to share some of them with you today, because the heritage of a place, to me, means what culture that place has left us ‐ that unique and special quality a community has that is measured not just by its physical boundaries and its geographical features, but by its people: Who they were, what they believed in, and what they raised their children to be. And so, as I began thinking about what to say today, I considered In any memories of this community and its people, and ‘the special place it has occupied in my heart and in my family.
It began, for me, over 60 years ago, when three brothers left the cotton fields here on a sharecropper farm and moved ten miles up the road to the big city of Scottsboro. Each of them, my Dad, my Uncle Mess, and my Uncle Charles, never missed a chance t o remind travelers who stopped at Hodges Drug Store ‘that Lim Rock and Aspel were not just places you passed by on your way from Woodville to Scottsboro ‐ Lim Rock and Aspel, to them, was an oasis where you could come from Huntsville or Scottsboro or wherever else and quench your thirst for plain and simple beauty and good solid. working people who loved a good laugh and a rocker on the porch in the evening after a plate of pinto beans and corn bread and turnip greens, and the sound of the animals in the barn at night. The stuff a farm boy never finds, no matter how long he has been gone from the farm and no matter how far removed he has become in his dress and his income, from that simple beginning. The stuff he always longs to return to, and he can only find in a place he called home.
From my great ‐ grandfather George Johnson Hodges, known to the folks in this community only as Crockett, or my Grandfather Bob, for whom I was named, to my father, I learned legends of the people who lived here. They were told over and over to me and to others in my hearing so many times that they have become the stuff of this community. Whether they ever really happened or not is now not important to me when I think of them and of this community ‐ What i s important is the humor and the dignity of those who were portrayed in the stories I heard and the respect of the storytellers for them and for this community.
M y memories begin with evenings spent with. my grandfather here as a very small child on the porch of a two ‐ story log house which sat just over yonder around the curve from the Methodist Church. And I remember the smell in the springtime in those evenings of freshly turned earth, and of his eagerness over the crop he thought he could coax out of it, and of our watching and waiting for the sound of the Joe Wheeler to come churning through the night, its whistle blowing for the people of Lim Rock.
I remember Clyde Gentle’s store, where my father had his first job as a boy clerking and keeping up with the eggs and chickens on the rolling store, and the smell of pine wood floors and kerosene, and the sight of mule harnesses hanging from pegs, and glass jars of candy, while we waited for the Joe Wheeler to return me to Scottsboro after a weekend. Even as a child, there was a sadness on leaving, a sense that the old man in the overalls who was waving bye to me as the train pulled out from Clyde Gentles’ store, and so many others like him in this community were somehow special parts of my beginning that I wanted to come back to and hold on to until I understood the peace and the simple virtues of this place.
I remember cotton fields and hoes and long pick sacks and the hot day in the field when my grandfather and Charlie Stewart watched me drink in gulps from a cool thermos jug and then cackled and told me it was a chamber pot they kept under the wagon for themselves.
Some of the past citizens of this community, many of them now dead and gone, have become legends in my mind, because of the stories I was told about them. The athletes in Lim Rock took on superhuman proportions for me. Dr. Rayford Hodges swore to me in the drug store as he was sipping his coffee, time and again, that Rabbit Gray, the catcher for Lim Rock’s baseball team, played barefooted and once caught a foul ball that traveled 200 feet and never got higher than his head. M y father swore to me that Shine Lusk kicked a 50 yard field goal barefooted for Lim Rock’s football team, against the wind, in the closing seconds of a big game against Aspel.
The people of this community were always church ‐ going people on Sundays. My father’s earliest memories were of being carried in a wagon by my Grandmother to the Primitive Baptist Church. He remembered it well, because when they got to my Grandfather with the footwashing, he always let out a cackle when they got to the foot with the stub of a little toe he had cut off when cutting railroad ties.
The people of this community“ have always stood out for me as being folks with a never ‐ give ‐ u p attitude. Through the droughts, the flooding rains, the bitter winters, the poverty of the depression, the great tornado that swept through Paint Rock and here, the infant flu deaths that struck family after family ‐ through all those times when it seemed that a mother and father and children could not possibly hold up for another day ‐ your ancestors and mine ‐ and some of you who are older and here today ‐ squared up your shoulders and spit on your hands and went back to work and endured. I think that never ‑ give ‐ u p attitude is best remembered by me in a little story by Bob Hodges my grandfather told me that happened back in the late twenties.
My Uncle Mess, an older and larger boy than my father by far, had my father down, pinned flat to the ground, pummeling him at will, when my grandfather discovered them on his way back from milking. “What’s going on here?”, he asked. Immediately, my father, who was flat on his back and taking a mighty whipping, said: “Papa, you better get him off of me or I’m gonna kill him.”
The generations of the people of Lim Rock and Aspel before us were hard ‐ working, church ‐ going, mostly quiet ‐ spoken people, it seems from my memory and from stories I heard. But in all that toil and adversity they faced as farmers and farmers’ children, there beat within many of them the pulse of a sense of humor that no other community surpassed.
My father never got past the little nine ‐ grade school house that used to sit down the road over yonder, and he always envied his older brother, Charles, for being so bright and for getting a college education. There came a day when my father’s old school teacher came in the drug store to get a prescription filled and my father” waited on her. He was working there as a teenager then, and he had some conversation with the lady, and then called all of us employees over t meet her.
We gathered around, and he said, “Now, Miss Birdie, tell all these people what you just told me.” She looked at u s and said: “He was the brightest student I ever had. He made all A’s and h e could work any problem I ever gave him. He was a brilliant student.” My father swelled up and beamed at all of us, and the little old lady made her way to the store going out, and she turned, looked back at my father, and said: “CHARLES (not R.L.), it sure was nice to see you again.”
My grandfather and my father had the same name, except for the junior and senior that separated them. One day a juror summons came to the drug store delivered by the sheriff and made out to just R . L . Hodges. My father made a call to the courthouse and discovered that, by the birthdate, it was intended for my father. He called my grandfather to the store and told him he had a jury summons delivered there for him.
M y grandfather took the subpoena, never said a word, went to the courthouse the next week, and served on the jury. Many months went by, with never another word being said. Then, just before Christmas, Mr. Brad Stewart, a long ‐ time friend and customer of m y father’s, delivered a nice big country ham to m y father as a gift, wrapped in brown paper and labeled “R.L.Hodges.” My father put it on a table at the back of the store until he could take it home at quitting time. In comes my grandfather, walks straight to the back room, picks up the ham, and starts out the drug store. “Papa” screamed my father. “Papa ‐ that’s m ham!” “Son,” my grandfather said, “If that was my name on that jury summons, that is my name on this ham.” And off he went.
Lim Rock and Aspel people have always been known as good neighbors. My grandfather Bob Hodges’ neighbor was Charlie Stewart, who lived on the next farm down the road toward the school house. One cold January day, when the snow was on the ground and more predicted, a Saturday, my grandfather told Charlie that h e was taking his wife and children down to Paint Rock Valley to sit with a sick relative for the night, would be gone the whole weekend, and would Charlie milk the cow and feed the mule the next day. Charlie readily agreed to help out.
The next morning, more snow having fallen during the night, and bitter cold, Charlie came trudging up in the darkness, milked the cow, set the pail on the back porch, fed the mule, and on his way out through the snow, just as he passed my grandfather’s bedroom window, my grandfather threw up the shade and the window, and said, “Much obliged, Charlie.” You don’t find good neighbors like that any more.
There are many, many other stories I could tell which reflect the solid kind of people who founded this community and those who came after them. It says something about what we revere in this community and its people that those of us who have ties here come back and back again and are here today to celebrate it.
Someone once wrote that you can never really go home again, but I think we can, time and again, in our memories. Less than thirty days before my father died, just before Christmas of 1983, we took our last ride together. He was s o frail I had to help him in the car, and he was so weak he could hardly talk above a whisper. “We’ll o anywhere you want,” I said as I backed the car out of his driveway. “I’ll show you,” he said, and he just from then on, pointed his finger where he wanted me to turn.
W e came here, and w e rode through Aspel and by Jenny’s Chapel and past Gentry Hastings’ house and down to Pinky’s Store to say hello and then by the old Clyde Gentle store where he first worked as a boy. And then on we went, by the fields where there used to be cotton and by the piece of ground where the barn and log house once stood, and around the curve where the old schoolhouse once stood, and then out into Berrys Cove where he was born, until. he became too tired to continue. He wasn’t talking during the ride, but both of us were thinking of these communities and his childhood and all the years that had brought him full circle back to here. You see, he never ever forgot that this was home. And you never ever forgot to take him in. That is why I am here today, and that is why I thank you for letting me be a part of it.
The phone number has changed for us – It’s no longer ” 2 longs and 1 short”, but our “trading business“, as he said on his card, is still about 1 2 miles northeast of Berrys Cove, and, for our family, this is still home.
Robert L . (Bob) Hodges practiced law before being elected Circuit Judge of Jackson County, Alabama. He is a highly esteemed judiciary by profession, much sought after as a speaker, and without equal as a storyteller and writer. Bob is the son of the late R . L and Zelma (Nichols) Hodges, Jr. who set an impeccable example before him.
As a country music singer, he is best remembered as the “King of Country Music” and is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and “hoedown” format to the star singer-based format that helped make it internationally renowned. He was a prolific songwriter and established Acuff-Rose Publishing that held the rights to a multitude of songs which were hits. Acuff-Rose signed acts such as Hank Williams, the Louvin Brothers, Don Gibson, John D Loudermilk, Boudleaux & Felice Bryant, Redd Stewart, Roy Orbison, and the Everly Brothers and Pee Wee King’s “Tennessee Waltz.”. In 1952 Hank Williams told Ralph Gleason this about Roy Acuff, “He’s the biggest singer this music ever knew. You booked him and you didn’t worry about crowds. For drawing power in the South, it was Roy Acuff, then God.”
His parents are Simon E Neill Acuff who was born 1877 and died in 1943 and Ida Carr Acuff who was born 1879 and died in 1969. His siblings included Paul Briscoe Acuff 1900-1984 and Claude Acuff 1909-1971.
He was born Roy Claxton Acuff, the third of five children, into a musical family. His father was a Baptist preacher and accomplished fiddle player and his mother played the piano. During his early years, the Acuff house was a popular place for local gatherings and at these events, he would often amuse people by balancing farm tools on his chin. He also learned to play harmonica and jaw harp at a young age. The Acuffs were a fairly prominent Union County, Tennessee family. Roy’s paternal grandfather, Coram Acuff, had been a Tennessee state senator, and Roy’s maternal grandfather was a local physician. The talent was passed through to Roy’s father and mother, and himself.
In 1919 his family relocated to Fountain City (now a suburb of Knoxville), Tennessee, where he attended Central High School and sang in the school chapel’s choir as well as performing in school plays. His primary passion was athletics and he was a three-sport standout at Central, and after graduating in 1925, he was offered a scholarship to Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee, but turned it down.
He played with several small baseball clubs around Knoxville, worked at odd jobs, and occasionally boxed. In 1929 he tried out for the Knoxville Smokies, a minor-league baseball team then affiliated with the New York (now San Francisco) Giants. After a series of collapses in spring training following a sunstroke, ended his baseball career prematurely and the effects left him ill for several years to the point where he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1930. Not only was he attracted to the sport of baseball, he had a penchant for fighting – after his family moved to Knoxville, he was frequently arrested for fighting.
While recovering, he took up the fiddle, often playing on the family’s front porch in late afternoons after the sun went down. His father gave him several records of regionally-renowned fiddlers, such as ‘Fiddlin’ John Carson and Gid Tanner, which were important influences on his early style. In 1932 he hired on with Dr. Hauer’s Medicine Show as one of its entertainers where he met legendary Appalachian banjoist Clarence Ashley, from whom he learned “The House of the Rising Sun” and “Greenback Dollar,” both of which he later recorded.
In 1934 he left the medicine show circuit and began playing at local shows with various musicians in the Knoxville area. That year, guitarist Jess Easterday and Hawaiian guitarist Clell Summey joined Acuff to form the Tennessee Crackerjacks, which performed regularly on Knoxville radio stations WROL and WNOX. Within a year, the group had added bassist Red Jones and changed its name to the Crazy Tennesseans. The popularity of his rendering of the song “The Great Speckled Bird” helped the group land a contract with the American Record Company, for whom they recorded several dozen tracks (including the band’s best-known track, “Wabash Cannonball”) in 1936 and 1937 before leaving over a contract dispute.
Acuff headed north to Chicago for a recording session, which resulted in 20 different songs. In addition to “The Great Speckled Bird,” he recorded “Steamboat Whistle Blues” and “The Wabash Cannonball,” another Tennessee standard that featured the singer imitating the sound of a train whistle; he also made a handful of risqué numbers during these sessions, which were released under the name the Bang Boys.
In 1938 the Crazy Tennesseans relocated to Nashville, Tennessee to audition for the Grand Ole Opry and they were offered a contract. He changed the group’s name to the “Smoky Mountain Boys,” referring to the mountains near where he and his bandmates were raised. Shortly after the band joined the Opry, Clell Summey left the group, and was replaced by dobro player Beecher (Pete) Kirby, or “Bashful Brother Oswald.” His powerful lead vocals and Kirby’s dobro playing and high-pitched backing vocals gave the band its distinctive sound. By 1939, Jess Easterday had switched to bass to replace Red Jones, and Acuff had added guitarist Lonnie “Pap” Wilson and banjoist Rachel Veach to fill out the band’s line-up.
Within a year, Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys rivaled long-time Opry banjoist Uncle Dave Macon as the troupe’s most popular act. In 1940 he and his band traveled to Hollywood, California, where they appeared in the motion picture “Grand Ole Opry.” He also appeared in several subsequent B-movies, including “O, My Darling Clementine” (1943), in which he played a singing sheriff, and “Night Train to Memphis” (1946), the title of which comes from a song he recorded in 1940.
In 1943, Acuff was initiated into the East Nashville Freemasonic Lodge in Tennessee and he would remain a lifelong member. Later that same year, Acuff invited Tennessee Governor Prentice Cooper to be the guest of honor at a gala held to mark the nationwide premier of the Opry’s Prince Albert show. Cooper rejected the offer, however, and lambasted Acuff and his “disgraceful” music for making Tennessee the “hillbilly capital of the United States.” A Nashville journalist reported the governor’s comments to Acuff, and suggested Acuff run for governor himself. While Acuff initially did not take the suggestion seriously, he did accept the Republican Party nomination for governor in 1948.
In 1942 he and songwriter Fred Rose formed Acuff-Rose Publishing Company. He originally sought the company in order to publish his own music, but soon realized there was a high demand from other country artists, many of whom had been exploited by larger publishing firms. Due in large part to Rose’s ASCAP connections and gifted ability as a talent scout, Acuff-Rose quickly became the most important publishing company in country music. In 1946, the company signed country singer Hank Williams, and in 1950 published their first major hit, Patti Page’s rendition of “Tennessee Waltz”.
Later that year, he left the Grand Ole Opry after a management dispute. In 1948 he made an unsuccessful run for the governor of Tennessee on the Republican ballot. He then spent several years touring the Western United States, although demand for his appearances dwindled with the lack of national exposure and the rise of musicians such as Ernest Tubb and Eddy Arnold, who were more popular with younger audiences. He eventually returned to the Opry however, by the 1960s, his record sales had dropped off considerably.
After nearly losing his life in an automobile accident outside of Sparta, Tennessee in 1965, he contemplated retiring, making only token appearances on the Opry stage and similar shows, and occasionally performing duos with long-time bandmate Bashful Brother Oswald. In 1972 his career received a brief resurgence in the folk revival movement after he appeared on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” paving the way for one of the defining moments of his career, which came on the night of March 16, 1974, when the Opry officially moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland, Tennessee. The first show at the new venue opened with a huge projection of a late-1930s image of Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys onto a large screen above the stage. A recording from one of the band’s 1939 appearances was played over the sound system, with the iconic voice of Opry founder George Hay introducing the band, followed by the band’s performance of “Wabash Cannonball”. Here is the access to his 1940 rendition of “Wabash Cannonball” on youtube (you will have to click on the link to go to youtube because the embed feature has been disabled):
Roy Acuff was called the King of Country Music, and for more than 60 years he lived up to that title. If any performer embodied country music, it was Roy Acuff. Throughout his career, Acuff was a champion for traditional country values, enforcing his beliefs as a performer, a music publisher, and as the Grand Master of the Grand Ole Opry. Acuff was the first country music superstar after the death of Jimmie Rodgers, pioneering an influential vocal style that complemented the spare, simple songs he was performing. Generations of artists, from Hank Williams to George Jones, have been influenced by Acuff, and countless others have paid respect to him. At the time of his death in 1992, he was still actively involved in the Grand Ole Opry, and was as popular as ever.
The beginning of the 1980s was a difficult period for Acuff, as he experienced the death of his wife and several longtime band members, including pianist Jimmie Riddle and fiddler Howdy Forrester. In 1987, he released his final charting record that was an inspirational duet with Charlie Louvin called “The Precious Jewel.”
In the 1980s, after the death of his wife, Mildred (Mildred Louise Douglas Acuff 1914-1981) he moved into a house on the Opryland grounds and continued performing. He arrived early most days at the Opry, performing odd jobs, such as stocking soda in backstage refrigerators. In 1991, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts and given a lifetime achievement award by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the first Country music artist to receive the esteemed honor. Additionally, in 1962 he became the first living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Two museums have been named in his honor, the Roy Acuff Museum at Opryland and the Roy Acuff Union Museum and Library in his hometown of Maynardville. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1541 Vine Street. He died of congestive heart failure in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 89.
During his musical career, he recorded a total of 43 albums (from 1949 to 1987) and 20 singles (from 1936 to 1989). One son, Roy Neill Acuff was born 1943; and died in 2015. Roy Claxton Acuff is buried at Spring Hill Cemetery at Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. He rests in a plot in Hill Crest Garden.
What is so interesting about Roy Claxton Acuff is his kin to our Isbell line through his mother Ida Carr Acuff.
Ida Carr’s parents were: Alonzo Willett Carr born 1855 and Mary Paralee Sharp
Roy Acuff’s descent from Zachariah Isbell:
Zachariah Isbell born circa 1722 and wife Elizabeth Polly Miller. Zachariah Isbell and Elizabeth Polly Miller had a daughter Lovisa Isbell.
Lovisa Isbell was born 21 November 1743 in Charleston, Dorchester County, South Carolina and died 6 April 1808 in Jonesborough, Washington County, Tennessee. She married John Carr, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, in 1756 in Charleston, Dorchester County, South Carolina. John Carr was born 1737 or 1743 in Charleston, Dorchester County, South Carolina and died in 1818 in Washington County, Tennessee. His birth is given as 10 or 19 Jan 1737 by some researchers and as 21 Nov 1743 by other researchers. His death is given as 6 April or 11 June 1818 by other researchers. John Carr and Lovisa Isbell Carr are buried at Carr-Crumley-Krouse Cemetery in Jonesborough, Washington County, Tennessee.
Ralph Bolton Carr made application to DAR on the Revolutionary War service of John Carr, husband of Lovisa Isbell Carr, as a fourth-great-grandson of John Carr. John Carr’s service is documented in the South Carolina Archives as having served in Captain Thomas Woodward’s 8th Company of Rangers under Col William Thompson, and also having served later in Col William Thompson in the 3rd Regiment of South Carolina. John Carr’s Revolutionary service is documented through the genealogical line as provided by 1) the family Bible, 2) the family Bible in possession of Mrs Peter Naher (who is the aunt of Ralph Bolton Carr) of Johnson City, Tennessee, by by the Will of Alfred Carr, 3) by the family Bible in possession of Mr Paul Carr (uncle of Ralph Bolton Carr) in Johnson City, Tennessee and marriage records of Washington County on page 44 Marriage Records 1787-1840 by Mullins, 4) by Willis of Washington County, Tennessee, Book 1, page 302 of Richard Carr, and 5) Will Book 1, page 166 Will of John Carr, Washington County Will, State of Franklin DAR Publication.
The descent of Roy Claxton Acuff continues with the son of Lovisa Isbell and John Carr through their son John Carr who married Dorcas McCubbin. One of the children of John and Dorcas McCubbin Carr was James McCubbin Carr.
James McCubbin Carr was born 5 February 1801 in Claiborne County, Tennesssee and died 8 September 1889 in Union County, Tennessee. He was amarried to Sarah Sallie Rogers and one of their seven known children was Richard Jackson Carr. Richard Jackson Carr was born 26 February 1826 in Claiborne County, Tennessee and died 12 February 1899 in Maynardville, Union County, Tennessee. Some give his death year 1889, but it is likely that 1899 is correct. His burial place has not with certainty known. Richard Jackson Carr married Nancy Ann Marshall and one of their sons was Alonzo Willet Carr.
Alonzo Willet Carr was born 1 July 1855 in Union County, Tennessee and died 2 July 1933 n Clinton, Anderson County, Tennessee. He was laid to rest in Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee. Alonzo W Carr married Mary Paralee Sharp and they had seven known children: Ormiston T Carr born 1876, Charles A Carr born 1877, James Carr born 1883, Ollie Carr born 1883, Nellie M Carr born 1891, Trula F 1896 and Ida Florence Carr. Ida Carr was born 21 October 1879 and died 17 September 1969 in Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee.
Ida Florence Carr and Rev Simon Ed Neill “Eddy”Acuff were married 25 September 1898 in Union County, Tennessee, USA, likely in Maynardville. By 1930 they were living in Knoxville, Tennessee. and later located to Nashville. There may have been a good reason for that re-location. Their known children were: Paul Briscoe Acuff 1900-1984, Nancy Juanita Acuff 1901-1985, Roy Claxton Acuff 1903-1992, Susie Lee Acuff 24 September 1905-22 December 1990, and Claud R Acuff 1910-1971. Nancy Juanita Carr married Harstell D Phillips. Susie Lee Acuff married Robert L Allen.
Roy Acuff’s ancestors with the surname Isbell included many Revolutionary War Soldiers and veterans of many of wars and boatloads of Ministers of the Gospel. The state of Tennessee was founded by Zachariah Isbell. He was a member of the Watauga Settlement and among the original 13 Commissioners who set up the settlement. Zachariah and many other Isbell kin were at King’s Mountain and some of the fiercest and most pivotal battles of the Revolution.
And the beat goes on with talent of the musical variety in our local Isbell family in northwestern Alabama. A local Isbell relative, Jason Isbell. He earned two Grammies this year. His group is known as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.
Isbell cousin, Roy Acuff seems to have been the first to record “The House of the Rising Sun.” His rendition dates back to 1938.
Hmmm, the Crackerjacks are not just Tennessean, but Alabamian, too.
was a powerful movie. Did you ever wonder what inspired such a gut wrenching portrayal of the military experience? Hassell G Hasford 1922-1971 and Hazel G Hasford 1929-1993 gave birth to the person who was inspired to write the novel Their son Jerry Gustave, called Gus, Hasford was born 28 November 1947 in Russellville, Franklin County, Alabama and died 29 January 1993 on Aegina Island, Regional unit of Islands in Attica, Greece in an impoverished state. His life was cut short from the complications of diabetes.
Gus Hasford during the Vietnam conflict
Always, it seemed, a person of unorthodox ways, he failed to finish high school graduation because he refused to take his final exams. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1967. He served as a combat correspondent in Vietnam.
He used his emotions, and likely the experiences during the war that was never declared a war and put pen to paper. The result of using his wartime experiences came his first novel, “The Short-Timers”, published in 1979.
It is generally assumed that the novel’s central character, the wise-cracking ‘Private Joker’, is semi-autobiographical. The novel was greeted with positive reviews and the motion picture rights were acquired by director Stanley Kubrick.
Hasford collaborated with Kubrick and author Michael Herr on the screenplay to what would become the motion picture “Full Metal Jacket”, with actor Matthew Modine portraying the Private Joker role.
Personality conflicts between Hasford, Kubrick and Herr complicated the process, or more accurately it was a conflict on how much credit Gus would get for all his hard work. All three were nominated for an Academy Award in 1987.
He was arrested in 1988 in San Luis Obispo, California and charged with having stolen some 748 library books. He being the voracious reader and bibliophile, he got himself in to trouble with the law – over books. Sentenced to six months in jail, he was released after three months and promised to pay damages with the royalties from his next book.
The novel, a sequel to “The Short-Timers”, was called “The Phantom Blooper” and was supposed to be part of a trilogy. The trilogy would remain incomplete when, he died at the age of 45 on the Greek island of Aegina in 1993.
Here is a link to a trailer. Some people got really upset thinking this trailer spoiled the movie for them. But, it happened during the first few minutes of the movie, so it actually did not spoil anything.
He wrote a poem that does not seem to provide a glowing review of that conflict that still haunts America, its citizenry and its veterans. Here is the poem:
By Gustav HasfordSleep, America.
Silence is a warm bed.
Sleep your nightmares of small
cries cut open now
in the secret places of
Black Land, Bamboo City.Sleep tight, America
dogtags eating sweatgrimaced
Five O’clock news: My son the Meat.Laughing scars, huh?
Squeeze every window empty
Fear only the natural unreality
and kiss nostalgia goodbye.
Bayonet teddy bear and snore.
Bad dreams are something you ate.
So sleep, you mother.
From Winning Hearts and Minds, a collection of poetry by Vietnam vets, published in 1972.
“I joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War while I was still in Vietnam. About February, ’68. Also, I had a poem in Winning Hearts and Minds, published by the First Casualty Press, which was the first anthology of writing about the war by the veterans themselves.”
–Gus Hasford, LA Times Magazine, June 28, 1987
For more extensive information about this remarkable man from the Shoals area, there is a blog dedicated to him. http://gustavhasford.blogspot.com/
and maybe, just maybe, turn out to be a hero in the end. In this case William M Isbell and brother James H Isbell were heroes of the battle of San Jacinto.
The Isbell family line in the Shoals area runs deep. One of the Isbell sons was William. The history of his life is so compelling.
William M Isbell was born in 1816 in Greenville, Green County, Tennessee on the 15th day of June and died 2 December 1877. When just a boy, William Isbell’s father, Dr James R Isbell, gave his son a good whooping after he caught him in a lie. William ran away from his homeplace and went to Abington, Virginia where he lived until fall of 1834. He traveled to Texas and established himself a farm on Cummings Creek. A number, too many, researchers give Dr James R Isbell’s wife’s name as Elizabeth Birdwell which is in error. The Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell is my line and she was married to a different James Isbell. Neither Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell or her husband James Isbell ever set a foot in Texas.
William M Isbell and James H Isbell’s grandparents were Zachariah and Elizabeth Isbell of the Watauga Settlement which of itself is very historic as well as his participation at Kings Mountain. William Zachariah Isbell was born in the year 1769in Fort Watauga, Warren, Tennessee/North Carolina and died 1825in Warren, Tennessee. It is unclear whether William Zachariah Isbell was a brother or a first cousin of Dr James R Isbell. who was the father of the San Jacinto heroes. James R. Isbell was probably a son or grandson of Zachariah Isbell Sr. An Isbell family researcher, Sarah Coon commented on a genealogy forum with this statement,“ It is thought that James R. Isbell may have been a son of Zachariah Isbell, Jr. But of course, there is no proof.” Ray Isbell, a cousin and avid researcher of the Isbell families provides this insight: Zach Isbell Jr. may have been too young to be James R.’s father. One of his older brothers Jason or William was more likely James’ father.
Jason Isbell also lived in Greene County, Tennessee for a time, as did brother William. Their sister Hannah Isbell (b. c1747) lived in Greene County, Tennessee when her first husband Samuel Williams died there 1788 and in 1791 when she married second to James Taylor. Brother William Isbell was bondsman at that marriage.
William Zachariah Isbell and Sarah Richardson Isbell were also the parents of Levi Isbell who married Sarah H Birdwell and James Isbell who married Elizabeth Birdwell. Levi and James Isbell and their families are the ancestors of many Shoals area Isbell families. Because it is an important facet of our history, a synopsis of the settlement from the Watauga Association follows:
During the spring of 1835 William M Isbell enlisted in Captain Robert M Williamson’s company of Colonel John H Moore’s regiment at Gonzales, Texas. Captain Williamson was referred to as “Three-legged Willie”. The enlistment was for a two month campaign against the Indians on the upper Brazos River. In October of the same year he joined Captain Thomas Alley’s company and was engaged in December in the Siege of Bexar.
He then went about his business and planted a crop of corn on Mill Creek in Guadalupe County, Texas. He then joined Captain Moseley Baker’s regiment as a soldier in Company D. That was part of Colonel Edward Burleson’s First Regiment of Texas Volunteers. He participated in the battle of San Jacinto as a private. His older brother, James H Isbell, served in the same unit as a private. James H Isbell enlisted in Nacogdoches on the 14th of January 1836. There is documentation located to prove James H Isbell’s service. It follows:
Soldiers of the Battle of San Jacinto
ISBELL, JAMES H. — Born in Tennessee. He was a son of James R. Isbell who died in Austin County, September 6, 1840. In the Headright Certificate issued to him February 3, 1838 by the Harrisburg County Board for one-third of a league of land, it is stated that he come to Texas in January, 1836. He subscribed to the oath of allegiance to Texas at Nacogdoches, January 14, 1836. He was issued Bounty Certificate No. 1380 for 320 acres of land June 23, 1840 for having served in the army from March 1 to June 1, 1836. He was a member of Captain Moseley Baker’s “San Felipe Company” at San Jacinto. On August 20, 1838 he received Donation Certificate No. 516 for 640 acres for having participated in the battle. On January 31, 1838 he received a Bounty Certificate, unnumbered, for 320 acres of land for having served in the army from July 20 to November 20, 1836. The Deed Records of Fayette and Harris Counties show Mr. Isbell as living in Fayette County in 1845 and Harris County in 1853. Isbell died in Bell County in 1858. Mr. James H. Isbell left a widow, Mrs. Amanda Isbell, and three minor children, Ann, Kate, and James Isbell.
According to Johnnie Belle MacDonald in her book, The Soldiers of San Jacinto published in 2008, this is recorded: At four o’clock one April afternoon 172 years ago, 934 men, unwashed, underfed, caked with mud and dressed in rags, began a slow walk through knee-high grass. A half hour later they crested a low hill. What they did in the next eighteen minutes made our world possible. These were the Soldiers of San Jacinto.
James H Isbell is buried at South Belton Cemetery in Belton which is in Bell County, Texas. William M Isbell is buried at Tehuacana Cemetery in Mexia which is in Limestone County, Texas, USA
Having left the army, William Isbell, went back home to Mill Creek and dutifully harvested his crop. During the winter of 1836 he worked at Jan Long’s tavern in Brazoria. There he tended bar. During the period of time he lived in Houston, Texas (1837-1840) he “wagoned” west for Major Bennett” and in 1841 William Isbell campaigned against Indians under Mark B. Lewis and Thomas Green. After returning to San Antonio he served for six months as a Texas Ranger under John Coffee Hays.
William Isbell removed to Washington County, Texas sometime during the winter of 1842; and then removed to Caldwell, Burleson County, Texas. In Caldwell by 1860 he owned a farm valued at $600 and $2,700 in personal property.
Isbell married Olivia Elvira Jackson on January 13, 1843. They had eight children, three of whom died at an early age. Olivia died in 1865, and in 1867 William married Mary Jane Woods Franklin, a widow. They had six children, three of whom died young. Isbell was blinded in an accident in 1856. “I have never seen my present wife and younger children,” he ended his personal narrative, published in the 1872 Texas Almanac, “as I have been entirely blind for fourteen years.” He died at the Burleson County community of Prairie Mound on December 11, 1877.
The known children by his wife Olivia Elvira Jackson Isbell are: Martha Jane Isbell 1846-1900; Emily Cemantha Isbell 1848-1848; James Reed Isbell 1850-1865; Euphemia Catherine Isbell born 1852; William Douglas Isbell 1855-1866?; John Isaac Isbell 1857-1928; Alexander Marens Isbell born 1861; Julia Isbell born 1864. The known children by his wife Mary Jane Wood Franklin (widow who was half his age) are: William Isbell born 1867; James Isbell 1869-1880; Greenville Tennessee Isbell 1870-1951; Simon M Isbell 1873-1886; Kittie Isbell 1875-1886; Lucinda H Isbell 1877-1888.
William Banta and J. W. Caldwell, Jr.., Twenty-seven Years on the Texas Frontier (1893; rev. by L. G. Parks, Council Hill, Oklahoma, 1933).
Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986).
Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto(Houston: Anson Jones, 1932).
Homer S. Thrall, People’s Illustrated Almanac: Texas Handbook and Immigrants Guide for 1880 (St. Louis: Thompson, 1880). Homer S. Thrall, A Pictorial History of Texas(St. Louis: Thompson, 1879).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.
that I never knew I had. His mother’s name is listed in every document found as Ludie Murray. She was the daughter of Marion McCook Murray who was known as Mack Murray. Mack Murray was a son of John K Murray and Lucinda Isbell Murray. John K Murray died of dysentery
Bartlesville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
during the War Between the States. John K Murray was one of three brothers (the oldest brother being my ggg-grandfather, William Deaton Jackson Murray who was known as John Murray to family and friends) who served in the 1st Alabama Tennessee Independent Vidette Cavalry; they joined in Jackson County where they lived before removing to what is now Colbert County.
Mack Franklin Potts (1922-2011)
Mack Franklin Potts, 88, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma died August 19, 2011 at his home in Bartlesville. He was born April 9, 1922 in Waterloo, Alabama. He was the son of John Cary Potts and Sarah Lucinda (Murray) Potts. He grew up in the family home in Waterloo.
Mack married Juanita Nell Threet of Waterloo on August 30, 1941, and after serving in the Air Force and completing his education at the University of Tennessee, he had a 40 year career with Phillips Petroleum Company as a Chemical Engineer, in Bartlesville, Kansas City, Puerto Rico, England, and India. He enjoyed crossword puzzles, being with his family, and socializing with many close friends.
He was a veteran of World War II, serving with the China/Burma/India (CBI) campaign, and was an active member of the Bartlesville chapter of the CBI veterans.
Mack had recently become a great grandfather again, and had a total of 3 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. He was a member of the First Methodist Church of Bartlesville and the Hillcrest Country Club.
Mack was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Murray Potts of Florence, Alabama, and Joe Potts of Atlanta, Georgia.
He is survived by: his wife, Juanita Nell (Threet) Potts of Bartlesville, his son, Terrell Franklin Potts and his wife Jo, of Missouri, his brother Karl Potts, of Alabama, three grandchildren, Joel Potts and his wife Allyssa of California, Rebecca (Potts) Shank and her husband Merric of Washington, Susan Fanning of Tulsa, and 4 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m on Saturday, September 24, at the Arnold Moore Funeral Home Chapel, 621 S. Johnstone, in Bartlesville. Online condolences may be offered at http://www.honoringmemories.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any contributions be made in Mack’s name to the SPCA, 16620 State Highway 123, Bartlesville, OK 74003 or to the American Diabetes Association , Okla. Affiliate, Inc., 1211 N Shartell Ave., #603, Okla. City, OK 73103-2425.
Published in Examiner-Enterprise from September 22 to October 22, 2011
in neighboring Lawrence County were thriving communities way back when. So many of these families are also represented in the neighboring counties in North Alabama of Colbert and Franklin County. This is true of the Vandiver and the Jackson families.
The photo is a group photo of the James Newton “Jim” Jackson family. Jim Jackson and Georgie Anna Vandiver lived and died in the Lawrence County areas of Mount Hope and Wolfe Springs. Georgie Anna was no doubt named after her father, George Washington Vandiver, a descendant of Hollingsworth Vandiver.
Pvt George W Vandiver military marker at Mt Olivet Cemetery
George Ann was one of six children born to George Washington Vandiver and Mary Ann Hall Vandiver. The other children were: Phoeba Miranda, Susanne, John Wesley, Margaret Caroline and William Andrew Vandiver. George Washington Vandiver served in the 27th Alabama Regiment of Infantry in Company K. He died during the War Between the States on 9 December 1863. He is buried in the Nashville, Tennessee Mount Olivet Cemetery.
George Anna Vandiver married James Newton Jackson November 2, 1879 in Lawrence County, Alabama.
They had the following children: Robert Leander Jackson, Lucinda Jackson, Aller Ross Jackson, Ophiliar Jackson, Fannie Bell Jackson, Thomas Kennard Jackson and Kitty Ann Jackson. Ophiliar and Kitty Ann died in infancy. So far, the three children pictured are not identified from among the five children who survived.
a Franklin County, Alabama town has a most interesting history.
Phil Campbell located in Franklin County, Alabama, twelve miles south of Russellville, was founded in 1857. In the 1880s, a railroad work crew leader and engineer by the name of Phillip Campbell who resided in Sheffield, Alabama. “Campbell. Campbell was born in Liverpool, England in 1848. In 1880, he was employed as a railroad construction superintendent in Evansville, Indiana. A few years later, he moved to Sheffield to supervise the construction of the Birmingham, Sheffield and Tennessee River Railroad and was appointed to the first board of alderman for Sheffield in 1885. He served as mayor from 1893 to 1895. He was often addressed as “Major” but nothing is known about his military service.”
“With blast furnaces under construction in Sheffield and Birmingham, the promoters of the new railroad dreamed of making a fortune by handling iron ore, limestone and coal to the two industrial sites….Campbell’s contract required that the tracks from Sheffield be extended into Franklin County by a certain date with a locomotive on it. The construction gang worked furiously to finish laying the rails on time, but someone forgot to fire the steam engine. When the oversight was discovered, the deadline was about to expire. Campbell quickly gathered several yoke of oxen from nearby farms and hitched them to the locomotive. This is how the first “iron horse” entered Franklin County, in disgrace, but it was on time” i
Mel Allen, a prominent local businessman in Franklin County, wanted to establish a town in the vicinity of his general store. He told Campbell if he would construct a railroad depot and add a side track to the stretch of railroad going through the area, he would name the subsequent town after Major Phil Campbell who was then the mayor of Sheffield. Campbell built both the depot and siding, which led to Phil Campbell being the only town in Alabama to have both the first and last names of an individual. Major Campbell eventually left the County and moved to New Orleans where he died June 30, 1932, aged 84 years and 6 months.
The first school in Phil Campbell was a two story frame building constructed in 1910. It was located at the back of the Phil Campbell Methodist Church. The school was subsequently destroyed by fire.
The second school was constructed in 1915 and was located at the site of the present school on Alabama State Route 13 in Phil Campbell. This school was a small wooden building. Like the previous school, this school was also destroyed by fire. The fire began at six o’clock in the evening on Christmas Day, 1924.
During the next two years, school was held in local church buildings, the town’s former bank building, and the U.S. Post Office building located near the railroad.
Graduation services for the first accredited Phil Campbell High School class were conducted in the Phil Campbell Methodist Church. The year was 1926 and the class had eight graduating members.
The third Phil Campbell school was completed in 1926. There were two buildings, a main classroom building and a vocational school. After the main building was destroyed by fire in 1954, the present school buildings were constructed.
“Phil Campbell is the birthplace of Billy Sherrill (born Nov. 5, 1936) a record producer and arranger who is most famous for his association with a number of country artists, most notably Tammy Wynette. On February 23, 2010 Sherrill was selected for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Don Williams, Ferlin Husky, and Jimmy Dean. Other artists with whom Sherrill has worked include Shelby Lynne, Marty Robbins, Ray Charles, Elvis Costello, Johnny Paycheck, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash, Janie Fricke,Barbara Mandrell, Lacy J. Dalton, Ray Conniff, Bob Luman, Johnny Duncan, Jim and Jesse, Jody Miller, Joe Stampley, Charlie Walker, Johnny Duncan, Barbara Fairchild,Andy Williams, Cliff Richard (“The Minute You’re Gone”) and David Allan Coe.”ii
Near the town of Phil Campbell can be found Dismals Canyon. It is believed that the dark, misty canyon got its dreary name from Scotch-Irish settlers. Known for its colorful history of secret Indian rituals and as a hideout for outlaws, Dismals Canyon was also the holding ground for some of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians prior to the Trail of Tears. Within the area’s boundaries is one of the oldest stands of forest east of the Mississippi River. Waterfalls, rock formations, cliffs and natural bridges are also features in Dismals Canyon. Night tours are conducted during the summer to see the glow-in-the-dark worms known as “Dismalites,” which are seen on moss-covered boulders in the canyon. This is the only known location in the United States to see these night creatures. Other known locations are China and New Zealand.
The human history of the canyon is a long one. Artifacts from Paleo-indians—the earliest known Americans—have been found dating back ten thousand years. Later inhabitants were the Pueblos, the Cherokees and of course, the white settlers. U.S. troops held a large group of Chickasaw Indians captive in the canyon in 1838 before forcing them to Muscle Shoals where they began what historians now call the Trail of Tears.
In June 1995 the writer Phil Campbell organized and wrote about a convention of people who shared their name with the town of Phil Campbell, Alabama. Twenty-two Phil Campbells and one Phyllis Campbell, hailing from all over America, attended. The story of the Phil Campbell convention was published in Might Magazine, a San-Francisco-based publication founded by Dave Eggers. The essay was later included in Might’s anthology, Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp, and the convention itself was mentioned by Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
A second “Phil Campbell Day” was organized the following year, but it was not as well attended. Phil Campbell’s city hall, however, still maintains a file of all the Phil Campbells who visit and another “Phil Campbell Day” was planned for mid 2011 but on April 27, 2011, the town suffered extensive damage from a swift moving tornado with 11 confirmed deaths. According to the Mayor Jerry Mays, preliminary reports show that about one-third of the town’s buildings were destroyed and the estimated property damage was at $119 million.
A former chief warrant officer from Sheffield who was killed during battle in the Vietnam War is being inducted into the Alabama Military Hall of Honor.
David Rolland Jackson, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, was killed during a mission in 1969, about two weeks before he was to end his tour of duty in Vietnam. Before he was killed by enemy gunfire while piloting a helicopter, U.S. Army officials say Jackson’s actions resulted in the lives of numerous American soldiers being spared.
“Through his timely and courageous actions, he was responsible for saving the lives of several of his comrades and instrumental in the defeat of the enemy force,” U.S. Army officials wrote in one of the numerous citations recognizing his military achievements.
Jackson, who would have been 65 had he lived, will be inducted in the hall of honor Oct. 31 during a ceremony at Marion Military Institute. Only 38 other Alabamians have been inducted into the hall.
His widow, Mary Jackson, of Sheffield, said she sent an application of the hall of honor committee in 2007, but her late husband was not among those who were chosen.
“I’m thrilled,” Mary Jackson said. “I felt he deserved it because he lost his life doing a brave thing. It’s a great honor, but unfortunately, it doesn’t bring him back.”
Jackson received numerous medals posthumously, namely the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
He was born in Sheffield on Nov. 13, 1942, and attended Sheffield High School. He left school early to join the U.S. Navy and returned home three years later to work at the Sheffield Fire Department. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on Oct. 24, 1967.
Nearly two years later, on Sept, 22, 1969, Jackson volunteered when American troops involved in a fierce battle in South Vietnam sent out an emergency call for a resupply of ammunition.
The helicopter Jackson was flying began taking on gunfire from automatic weapons as it approached the drop site.
Unable to land, Jackson continued hovering over the drop area until the ammunition was unloaded. He returned later in the day to complete the mission and bring out several severely wounded soldiers despite taking on heavy gunfire from enemy soldiers.
Jackson, a member of the 71st Assault Helicopter Co., was not as fortunate three days later.
With his bags already packed and ready for a transfer to Germany, Jackson again volunteered for a dangerous air assault mission near the village of Chi Tu. A bullet fragment that penetrated the helicopter struck Jackson, and he died before receiving medical attention.
“Based on the citations, David was a real good pilot,” Mary Jackson said. “He was doing his duty and trying to help those who were in danger.”
The Jacksons had two children during their marriage, both of whom no longer live in the Shoals.
Sheffield historian Richard Sheridan helped Jackson file the application to have her late husband considered for the honor.
“I didn’t know him personally, but his record is worth the recognition,” Sheridan said.
Jackson’s co-pilot for those two September 1969 missions is now a chaplain at the Pentagon.
He wrote a story detailing the missions after Jackson’s daughter wrote emails seeking to hear from people who knew her father.
“It gave me a lot of closure although it was very graphic,” Jackson said.
With great respect and a slight feel for the excruciating agony that those who served in a thankless war in the Republic of Vietnam experienced, the following is an attempt to provide a snapshot of history as lived by those boys we grew up with in Sheffield. They were our sons, our husbands, our brothers, our schoolmates, and our friends. There are many who served from the area, but few could match the nightmares experienced by the two subjects of this story: William “Bill” Presley and Harold Lee Hovater. Sheffield may never be more proud of its boys, turned men by war. Sheffield, in Colbert County, Alabama has a long history of volunteers in each and every war since our Independence. I am so proud of my little hometown of Sheffield. If only, it could return to the thriving little city it was once.
Look closely. Come closer. Closer. You can clearly see that the war lives in the mind of this hero. It plays, like a 3-D video with maximum volume surround sound, in his mind and it shows in his eyes. It plays pretty much nightly.
Harold Lee Hovater is just a hometown boy. If you see him today he seems so like your brother, your cousin, your neighbor, or your husband. And he is, but more importantly he is the stuff that heroes are made of, In fact he IS a hero. A real life, living and breathing hero. But if you could see what he sees, especially when he tries to sleep, without a doubt, you would shudder with all that he has gone through for you, for me, for our children , and for our children’s children.
Harold Hovater is proud of his family. He and his wife, Vicky Laster Hovater live in a nice apartment in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Vicky tells of her love story with Harold. In the their youth Harold and Vicky had dated. She was three days away from marrying someone else when Harold stated he needed to talk to her before she married. She never had that talk with Harold. The day after the wedding Harold joined the Army. Each married and went about having children and a family of their own. Two years ago, she contacted Harold and told him that she had loved him all her life. That was it for both. They left everything behind them and became a couple after all those decades. They truly seem to be happy. Vicky would grab Harold’s hand and squeeze it tight when it was obvious that he was having a hard time relaying his memories of the war. For Harold Hovater the adage that war is hell is as true today as it was in the 1960s when the war was raging.
Vicky has one son Jon-Thomas Willet and Harold has five children all from previous marriages. When asked if I knew Lee Hovater, the name seemed familiar. He grabbed a photo of his son Lee Hovater and pounded at his chest saying “…he is my heart.” Those at Leighton Elementary will remember Lee Hovater as a student in Vicki Turberville’s class. Lee Hovater was a special needs student, he is now 34 years old. Harold’s children are Tammy Hovater, Lee Hovater, Roger Hovater, Casey Hovater, and Jennifer Hovater Collett. Harold’s five children and Vicky’s one child are now Harold and Vicky Hovater’s six children.
Harold joined the Army and enlisted in Company A, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Battalion of the Light Weapons Infantry of the U. S. Army; and trained. They saw service in the Republic of Vietnam: South Vietnam. Harold and his unit flew into South Vietnam. He said it looked just like they were flying onto Panama City Beach. It seemed picturesque to the soldiers just arriving. They did not stay long on the beach scene, but entered the steaming jungle of Vietnam to get the job done for their America. It was in the jungles of Vietnam that every breath was one more breath toward living to get home to tell the stories of his bravery.
Harold Hovater, Leldon Roden, Herschel Kyle, and Steve Kyle all joined the Army together. It was Steve Kyle that Harold would wind up serving with in Vietnam. Harold served in the Spirit of America Platoon.
Harold’s best friend was Ray Ashnault. This account of the war in the jungles of Vietnam is dedicated to Raymond John Ashnault at the request of Harold’s family. That seems like such a small way to honor one of our Heroes of the Shoals just a little bit. A little more information about Harold’s best friend follows.
Raymond John Ashnault was born 17 April 1948 in Union County, New Jersey and lived in Cranford, Union County, New Jersey when he entered service. He held the rank of United States Army Specialist 4 and served with Company A, First Battalion, Eighth Cavalry, First Cavalry Division. His tour date started 2 Dec 1968. He was of the Catholic faith. He was deployed in defensive position with this Battalion when a friendly tank crew accidentally fired a shell on them that was directed at hostile forces. The prior June he had been injured during an offensive and was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with a V for Valor.
His death came shortly after his discharge from treatment for these injuries. Ray’s casualty status is listed as hostile dead: killed out-right. It is also noted that his death was Not Booby Trap Connected: None Of The Above; Other Weapons (including Cutting Instruments, Piercing Instruments, Blunt Instruments, Etc. Specialist 4th Class Raymond John Ashnault was killed outright in a war that was not declared to be such by our President or our Congress in Binh Long Province of the Republic of Vietnam in South Vietnam. Harold grieves for the loss of his very best friend of all in that lonely foreign place.
His burial site is located at Saint Gertrude’s Roman Catholic Cemetery. The cemetery is located in Colonia, Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. He is listed on The Wall of Vietnam soldiers killed in action. His name is located at: Wall Number: P-19W / L-65. May God bless your soul; and may your spirit of patriotism live on forever, and may your very best friend find peacefulness, Specialist 4th Class Raymond John Ashnault.
Another good friend in the same unit and who served with Harold and Ray Ashnault was Sgt. Leonard Bauck. He was killed in action on 2 June 1969. Harold recounts those dates like rote. If we could see in Harold’s mind’s eye, he probably relives their deaths second by agonizing second.
The accompanying photos show a proud display of just some of the awards that Harold Lee Hovater earned during his tours in Vietnam. He earned one Purple Heart when a direct hit exploded and ripped his head open. He earned the second one when shrapnel tore into his arms. He has five Bronze Stars. He is most proud of one in particular. The military ceremony included General Westmoreland awarding that Bronze Star in person to one of our Heroes of the Shoals – Harold Lee Hovater. It was Gen. Westmoreland who pinned that Bronze Star on the chest of one who richly deserved the award. Vicky has tastefully mounted Harold’s medals and awards on the wall of the living room in their home. The wall is covered.
William “Bill” Presley grew up in our southwest Sheffield neighborhood. He was ‘one of us’. He was special as they all were, and a handsome guy to boot. He survived the war well—but only as well as he wants you to see. He has wounds he walks around with every breathing second of the almost fifty years since his experience in the Vietnam war began. He succeeds in his daily life. But, oh those torturous nights he still experiences. He did not talk much about his service, just about those from our neighborhood who went into combat in the same war.
Bill Presley talks in a calming voice about the experience in South Vietnam; the tenor of his voice seems to soothe the listeners as he talks. What seems to bother him most is that five young southwest Sheffield boys served together. But only one returned home. The one who returned home was him. He was the only one alive to come back home.
Bill Presley is our quiet hero. He does not complain. He tries to ease the pain for others; maybe that helps him as well. He is also one of our Heroes of the Shoals. He and his wife, Nelda, travel sometimes on their motorcycles. Life seems good for Bill.
One of the four southwest Sheffield boys who was killed in action in South Vietnam was David Rolland Jackson. David Jackson was a Warrant Officer and died a victim of a helicopter air crash on land. He was with the Army Reserve which was active in the US Army. He served in Military Region 1— Quang Tin. He was born 23 November 1942 in Sheffield, Alabama and was killed in action at age twenty-six on 25 Sept 1969. He was the commander of the rotary wing aircraft when it was downed in the Province of Quang Tin. David Jackson left a grieving wife and children. He left a widow, Mrs. Mary W. Jackson, a son David R Jackson II, a daughter Jill S. Jackson, his mother Mrs. Lois Jackson and other relatives. He had a funeral with full military honors and was interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Sheffield, Colbert County, Alabama. His number on The Wall is P-17W L-07.
Another of the four southwest Sheffield boys who was killed in action in South Vietnam was Dennis Lavern English. Dennis lived in southwest Sheffield, but the family moved to Russellville in Franklin County, therefore, His name does not appear at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial near the Standpipe in downtown Sheffield. His name appears on the memorial in Franklin County. Dennis English only served twenty days in Vietnam. His tour of duty began on the second of August; he was killed in action on the twenty-first of the same month 1969. Dennis served as a Private in Company HHC of the 60th Infantry of the 2nd Battalion in the Light Weapons Infantry. Dennis was a ground casualty from a gun shot or small arms fire. His body was recovered from Military Region 3 in Long An. Dennis English’s number on The Wall is P-19W L-85.
In response to my query of a relative, a niece Danielle English, wrote this:
Dennis was my father’s youngest brother, we lost him to war before I was even born. I have always wondered about him. What he was like, what music he listened to, was there someone he had waiting for him at home? These questions and countless others have been left unanswered. He was so young like so many others that died so far from home. I have posted on other site[s] to see if there were any soldiers who served with him that might have some answers but have not had any luck.
My father John was over there at the same time. He has returned home with memories too painful to discuss and those include those about his brother. I have a picture of Dennis, he is about 12 year old in it and all smiles. The few comments that have slipped through from my dad are those of a sweet boy who everyone loved and could have done good in this world.
I wish I had more to offer you about him. I look forward to reading the article. Who knows maybe there is something more that the men who served in his unit can tell me. If there is please feel free to give my contact information. I would really love to know more about him. My hopes have always been to find someone who could fill in a few of the blanks, maybe find a few pictures so that I could continue telling my children about a young man who gave all in a country so far from home. His loss and those of the men with him that didn’t make it home and those who did but [were] damaged and scared should not be forgotten.
Another of the four southwest Sheffield boys who was killed in action in South Vietnam was Howard Handley. Quiet unassuming young Howard, it is hard to believe he was gone so young. I can visualize him as he looked in the 1950s with his golden tawny brown complexion and his crew cut hair that glistened the lightest blond in the sun. He never got to have a family. He will never know the heartache and joy that comes with having children. But, alas, he will forever be young.
His tour of duty included Saigon. He was a Staff Sgt, Specialist 5th Class ,Infantry Operations and Intelligence Specialist in the Military Region 3 – Tay Nnh for the US Army. He was killed as the result of artillery or rocket fire; he was ground dead but his body was recovered. He died of wounds received in action near Saigon; the obituary was published in the Times Daily Newspaper on 21 September 1968. He was killed in action 13 September 1968. He was but nineteen years old.
Howard was one of a large family of children born to George Hasten and Flora Belle Handley of Sheffield. His siblings were: James, Donald, Billy, Catherine, Wallace, Margaret, Gary and Kayla. This family lived on the next street from our house in southwest Sheffield on the same side of the street as Jimmy and Earl Johnson. The boys of like ages were all good friends; some still are today. The parents and family of Howard’s would visit The Wall any chance they got. Howard’s Wall Number is P-44W L-498.
The last of the four southwest Sheffield boys killed in action in South Vietnam was Robert King. Robert and his family lived behind the Winston Cemetery on Hook Street. Right there is where Sheffield meets Tuscumbia. His sister Joan was in my class at Southwest Elementary. Robert Henry King was born, likely in Winston County, on 12 February 1944 to Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Harrison King; he was the namesake of his paternal grandfather who was a lifelong resident of Winston County, Alabama. His home city was Tuscumbia in Colbert County, Alabama on the date of his enlistment. His tour start date was 17 November 1967. Robert King served as a First Lieutenant in the 117th Aviation Company, 12th Aviation Group of the 222nd Aviation Battalion in Province 42. Robert was a rotary wing aviator for the Army. The date of his death is 25 January 1968. He died serving his country in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). He was married at the time of his death. His Wall number is P-44W L-498..
Robert King was one of the handsome hometown boys that graduated from Sheffield High School in the class of 1962. His senior portrait is featured top left of page 21 in the Demitasse 1962. He is listed in the Index as Bob King. There were others from that senior class that would serve their country in that undeclared war in that faraway land of jungles.
Despite the different locales during the war that Harold Hovater and Bill Presley were assigned to in The Republic of Vietnam: South Vietnam, there were similarities that resulted from their service. This is likely true of all vets of this long war. There was the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that afflicted the returning veterans. The fact that our government attempted to deny the syndrome, postpone acknowledgement, and delay services to these heroes just makes my blood boil. But, as a student of history, this is the pattern that our government has developed and continues to employ. This strategy is evident as far back as The War Between the States in the 1860s. Online the Mayo Clinic describes PTSD as:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of yourself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life. In a case such as this, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Getting treatment as soon as possible after post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop may prevent long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hovater and Presley acknowledge they suffer from PTSD. The nightmares these two heroes have are indescribable. Bill says that his wife, Nelda Holloway Presley, knows better than to wake him during one of his nightly movies-in-his-mind. If he does not get awakened, he does not remember the dream, or should I say nightmare. Vicky Laster Hovater, on the other hand says that she does wake her husband up when he has one of his frequent night terrors. The two heroes discussed the disorder and the huge numbers of vets who continue to be plagued with the terrors that anxiety of war has visited upon them. One thing that Bill Presley stated helps him is to go to the gatherings that vets like him have, such as reunions. He says that talking to someone that has been there and had similar experiences during and after the war helps. It seems that vets can talk to vets, while vets find it impossible to talk about their experiences with the rest of us. That is so very understandable and seems to be true of veterans of all wars.
Again, the Mayo Clinic addresses the needs of those who suffer with PTSD: traumatic stress disorder. Things you can do include:
Follow your health professional’s instructions. Although it may take a while to feel benefits from therapy or medications, most people do recover. Remind yourself that it takes time. Healing won’t come overnight. Following your treatment plan will help move you forward.
Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, eat a balanced diet, exercise and take time to relax. Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can worsen anxiety.
Don’t self-medicate. Turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings isn’t healthy, even though it may be a tempting way to cope. It can lead to more problems down the road and prevent real healing.
Break the cycle. When you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or jump into a hobby to re-focus.
Talk to someone. Stay connected with supportive and caring family, friends, faith leaders or others. You don’t have to talk about what happened, if you don’t want to. Just sharing time with loved ones can offer healing and comfort.
Consider a support group. Many communities have support groups geared to specific situations. Ask your health care professional for help finding one, look in your local phone book or contact your community’s social services system.
And then there is consideration that is needed for those surrounding the veteran with PTSD; this is what may be overlooked especially by those who surround the veteran. The Mayo Clinic provides us with the understanding that Post-traumatic stress disorder can significantly strain the emotional and mental health of the affected person’s caregivers and loved ones. In fact, the term “compassion fatigue” was coined to describe the feelings, such as depression and helplessness, that commonly develop in those close to a person with PTSD. So, even the ones who never left home can suffer dramatically along with the heroes that returned.
The next logical topic brings our narrative to how the government handles the needs of those who have returned from service and their families. Mighty poorly is what I have noticed from those that I have known over the years who have tried to obtain services. If benefits are provided at all, the time span (especially for the War Between the States) was to begin the benefits after most all of the intended recipients are dead. There are the VA hospitals, but the service and the quality of the service is just not there; not even after all these one hundred and fifty years or more of existence. Sometimes the veterans can not communicate with the doctors and other personnel because of a language barrier; and the turn-over rate at these facilities is astounding.
Bill and Harold agree that veterans who have medical needs or who suffer from PTSD are in a pickle. Veterans have a hard time getting disability benefits. At first the government would not acknowledge the disorder, the government dithered with beginning treatment, and now for the last forty-six years or so the disability benefits for the veterans is a hard fought for battle. It seems that a veteran who gets his head blown open is only eligible to a thirty percent disability. And a veteran who has both arms ripped by shrapnel is only eligible to a twenty percent disability, iirc. There was no mention of what the loved ones might suffer on the government’s part. But to be fair, a vet can get a Purple Heart for having his head exploded open, and for damage to both arms in an attack by the enemy of war can earn him another Purple Heart, but try to work and make a living to raise a family with all that plus coping with all the complications added on by Post traumatic stress syndrome. The Purple Hearts are more than well deserved, but do our veterans not deserve more for their service to our country? Something tells me that the hospitals, the caregivers, the medicine, the processes would all be improved that are provided by our tax dollars, if the elected and appointed government officials were forced onto a health plan that included using the VA facilities, personnel, and processes.
Another similarity that Bill Presley and Harold Hovater noted was veterans seem to have a problem with keeping a stable home life. They both gave some thought to the topic and agreed that many veterans they know of have had multiple marriages. Three seems to be the magic number. Perhaps it has a lot to do with “compassion fatigue” on the part of the spouse, perhaps it is just that the war rages on the mind of those who returned from war. Perhaps, it is just normal behavior reflected by our society of the day. But, it seemed to bother both heroes. The question in my mind is this: What do the young boys who went to Canada, shot off a toe, enrolled in college, or got married just to avoid the Vietnam War wonder and worry about today? Are the heroes or zeroes in their own mind? Even if one did not love the war; every American must love the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who serve to keep us free; it is a requirement as far as I am concerned.
When asked what was the hardest thing about the war the heroes had very similar answers. For Bill Presley the hardest thing seemed to be that of the five southwest Sheffield boys who went to war together, only one returned. The one who returned was him. While Bill seems to be a very easy going, laid back guy, he also appears to be a very thoughtful and kind person. He seems to have adjusted well to life outside of war, but still has scars that are not seen with the naked eye. The burden of living up to being the only one to survive must be very heavy. He has not forgotten the soldiers that did not return, or their families, even after almost fifty years. It brings to my mind the song by Kris Kristofferson that echoes the sentiments: Why me, Lord? What have I ever done to deserve even one of the blessings I’ve known? Why me, Lord? What have I ever done to enjoy even one of the blessings you’ve bestowed?
I recounted the story of a Vietnam vet that I know who said that the hardest thing about the war was having to shoot down a child who was seven or eight years old. But, that child was carrying a live grenade and heading toward that soldier. There was no choice. It was kill or be killed. The military conditions soldiers to kill reflexively . They train soldiers to target locations, not target humans. The term locations suggests target the location of the imminent threat, whether it be bullet, bomb, or grenade. Soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively. If soldiers are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, especially a civilian, they will likely–and understandably–suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat.
The use of child soldiers was rampant in the Republic of Vietnam: South Vietnam’s steaming jungle of hell from 1964 to 1972. In the most notorious case in Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos, the Khmer Rouge communist group exploited thousands of desensitized conscripted children to commit mass murders and other inhuman acts during the Cambodian genocide. The brainwashed child soldiers were taught to follow any order without hesitation. And yet there were those celebs of the day taunting our soldiers and calling them “Baby Killers”. Oh, please, just shut up you who disrespected our boys upon their return home!!!
When I was telling of this soldier, Sam Barron, one that Harold and Bill likely knew, I could see motion in Harold’s body. I witnessed a stiffening in his body. I saw his head shake with affirmation. His hands were shaking grand mal seizure-like and I believe that is when Vicky reached over and grasped his hand to quell the shaking; she held his hand with a squeezing grip like I have never seen in a woman. I witnessed a river of tears well up in his big blue eyes. The tears welled up in his eyes in such volume as I have never witnessed, and yet they did not flow down his face. Those big blue eyes and that river of tears that refused to flow is stamped indelibly into my mind. I told Bill and Harold that the soldier in question, mucho macho that he was, was torn apart by having to kill a kid in order to live. Harold nods his head, yes. He holds up two fingers and in the softest masculine voice you can imagine said, “Two.” He said without words that was the hardest part of the war for him.
Wow. Now that was emotional. At that point I asked Harold if he had family. At first he seemed confused. I asked since Vietnam did you have a family and kids? He said he had five kids. Well, if he had not done what was necessary in Vietnam, I stated, those five beautiful human beings would never have existed. At that point I felt some of the tension in his body fall away. Harold Lee Hovater was awarded a wall full of awards, medals, ribbons and stars. And he deserves every single one of them.
And then the discussion went into more global topics about the Vietnam War. There were the topics of: was it a conflict or a war since it was never declared a war, women in combat during wartime, the lack of respect that these returning heroes encountered, and the use of Agent Orange. Volumes could be written about each of these topics and there would be as many opinions of each topic as there are people discussing the topics, though some may be uninformed and lacking in knowledge of the history on the topics. Those can be ignored. But for what matters, it is the opinion of those who served, sacrificed, and suffered that stand above the rest of the crowd. Jane Fonda’s and other celeb opinions do not count one iota. Protestors of the war opinions do not count one iota. Mainstream media opinions do not count one iota. Politicians and government officials’ opinions do not matter not one iota. Nor do the opinions of those who refused to serve count one iota. And as never before, the history books often do not reflect the true story of political events. Each of these men had his own personal opinion on each of the above subjects, but it is the Agent Orange issue and the lack of respect these returning soldiers have been shown that should concern us most.
Map depicting dispersion of Agent Orange
Agent Orange was the code name for a herbicide developed for the military, primarily for use in tropical climates. Although the genesis of the product goes back to the 1940’s, serious testing for military applications did not begin until the early 1960’s. The Vietnam conflict started in August of 1964 and ended in April 1975. That was a total of 116 months of combat. That was sixteen months longer than the American Revolution had spanned. American involvement in Vietnam began in the late 1950s; my father-in-law was one of the first Ambassadors to Vietnam in the early 1950s. Major combat forces began taking part in large unit combat in 1964.
The purpose of the product was to deny an enemy cover and concealment in dense terrain by defoliating trees and shrubbery where the enemy could hide. The product “Agent Orange” (a code name for the orange band that was used to mark the drums it was stored) in, was principally effective against broad-leaf foliage, such as the dense jungle-like terrain found in Southeast Asia.
The product was tested in Vietnam in the early 1960’s, and brought into ever widening use during the height of the war (1967-68), though it’s use was diminished and eventually discontinued in 1971. It was a combination of two chemicals mixed with kerosene or diesel fuel and then distributed from airplanes. It was also sprayed by hand and from vehicles. The TCDD’s in Agent Orange are man-made and unwanted by-product of the manufacturing process of Agent Orange. It is NOT found in nature. It is toxic to humans. The Agent Orange used in Vietnam was later found to be extremely contaminated with TCDD, or dioxin. Estimations are that some 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed on South Vietnam during the years the war was raging.
Mysterious and seemingly not diagnosable ailments started occurring among those who had served their country in the Republic of Vietnam: South Vietnam. It would seem that the government and the VA made the veterans feel crazy, for even though there were medical problems apparent and obvious, there were no diagnoses to be had. Scores of them had symptoms, but no disease. Huh? This added to the psychological stress of those veterans and their families. The government had failed our servicemen again; so, what else is new?
Many who returned from warfare in the Republic of Vietnam: South Vietnam point to the prolific use of Agent Orange in resulting illnesses suffered. Cancer, birth defects, mood swings, depression and skin problems were reportedly contracted after the exposure to the by-products of Agent Orange. In addition, the veterans of this war had to live with the fear that they would contract one or more diseases as a result of exposure to the toxins in Agent Orange. The negatives poured upon these servicemen must have felt insurmountable to those who returned home.
At a recent appointment to the VA in Birmingham a sailor who became disabled after his service in the Persian Gulf War, encountered a Vietnam veteran who was still trying to get on the Agent Orange Registry and they told him it would be several months before they could schedule him for an appointment. The government and the VA already knows who served over there, so there is no need for veterans to have to prove their exposure to the toxins. Only recently have some of the rules and criteria to exposure been corrected.
He gives another example of a Navy man who had benefits denied because the VA said he did not serve in the areas that were affected. Well, no, but they failed to conceive that he was stationed there; but, he as a mailman for the ship went into those affected areas on a daily basis.
The use of Agent Orange in Vietnam brought the discussion around to the fact that for the first time known in history, the government had used an agent of destruction to plant and animal on our own men and women in battle. And yet they continue to sign up to serve even yet. When asked if they would serve their country again, both men answered with, “Yes.” Harold Hovater had served more than one tour in Vietnam voluntarily. Bill Presley had answered his country’s call for his first tour of duty; but re-upped for a second tour. Only one four letter word describes these two men accurately, and that is the four letter word HERO!
GOD BLESS THOSE WHO SERVE
The United States’ longest conflict, Vietnam shaped a generation and tested the resolve of the nation. Major battles in the Republic of Vietnam: South Vietnam:
each answered the call of his nation and served with distinction in a conflict that lasted longer than the American Revolution-The Vietnam War. And now we will WTF! And now we WTF: Wave The Flag for them. From now through Memorial Day, may each of us post as our profile photo a U.S.A Flag to honor them and veterans who are serving and have served in our military.
This post is a prelude to the article Remembering the Shoals will publish shortly about two outstanding and valorous Vietnam veterans of the Shoals area, it is appropriate that others that we can identify be honored as well. The Shoals area has given its sons and daughters to the service of our country since time immemorial, some never came home.
It would be wonderful if friends and family would add to the information about the soldiers who served through comments and photos added to this article and on our Facebook page. These are likely not all who were never to return from Vietnam; please add that information as well.
The following are the names and information on those who were Killed-In-Action while serving in the Vietnam War and were from Sheffield at the time of their service:
The photos are of Bill Presley and Harold Hovater who served with those who were KIA in Vietnam; the gravemarker photo is of Dennis Laverne English KIA; and actual photos of the war are courtesy of Bill Presley and Harold Hovater.