The Middle of Nowhere?

Around 2011 I hosted a wonderful get together at my home in Nashville. My Mom’s first cousin Joe observed: it was the most diverse crowd he had ever been a part of. I hadn’t thought about it, but was proud to hear him say that.

In attendance were a Metro detective, several school teachers, college professors, lawyers and paralegals. An airline pilot, construction worker, home inspector, hair stylists, postman, woodworker and bank executive. A hot dog salesman, chief and former movie executive. A college and high school student, interior designer, real estate agents and marketing assistant. Nationalities included: the U.S., Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Russia and Panama. Ages covered seven decades.

I don’t think I could replicate that event again. In fact I have lost touch with many of them since then. I’m not sure why, but I fear it may be politics. My gut feeling, is my liberal friends think I’m a conservative, and my conservative friends think I’m a liberal. If you’re not with us, you’re against us I can almost hear them say. Being in the political middle ground is a lonely place these days. Kind of like the ole’ Maytag repairman. I guess there’s not much tolerance for a concealed permit carrying tree-hugger. 😉

My favorite quote of all time is from Ben Franklin: “If everyone’s thinking alike, nobody’s thinking”. Think, and try to look at things from both sides. Rotate your news sources. Check your facts. Compromise is the center point of an effective governmental process.

Two papers for each driveway.

The Civil War: 1957-1972


The Integration of Nashville Public Schools

By Bob Henderson

The 3rd phase the American Civil War

I remember my father pointing out historical landmarks around the Nashville area, such as the famous U.S.C.T. charge on Peach Orchard Hill, but never, can I recall a word about it in my 16 years of education, despite that fact that the Civil War Battle of Nashville was one of the most decisive of the war. It was literally fought in our own back yard.

Battle of Nashville Statues

Somehow I sensed the significance of that turning point in history, and felt I had some kind of connection to it. After all, 7 of my 8 great-great grandfathers fought in it. Ironically, the eighth one was the only one of them to lose his life in it. The Preachers death is a mystery.

I was very aware of slavery however, and felt the after-effects of it growing up in the turbulent Southern 1960’s. I consider that period the third phase of the American Civil War, and hopefully it’s final chapter. That war did not start out as a war against slavery, but it ended up transforming into a fight for human rights.

Growing up in south-west Nashville, I would say at least half the homes had African-American housekeepers, nannies and gardeners up through the 1960’s. We had a dear lady named Ruby that spent at least as much time raising us, as my parents. My brother had autism, and my poor mother needed all the help she could get. Miss Ruby was more like family than a domestic. She even came with us on family vacations to Florida, and I am still friends with her nephew today. Ironically, he and I would play “Army” in my back yard as kids, and unbeknownst to us at the time, we both ended up in similar roles in the military.

My parents helped Ruby out financially the rest of her life, including nursing care in her final years. It was sad to hear stories of another former domestic at that facility that has been cast aside by their former employers families. Ruby was always visited by our family. When I was going through a divorce in thirties, I remember crying on her shoulders.

Horsing around with Ruby

Hillwood High School

I was also on the front line of desegregation. In 1972 my all-white high school received about a third of the student population from the considerably less affluent North Nashville part of town. This was not done in a gradual transition, as originally proposed in 1954, but all at once September 7, 1972. Not only was there 100+ years of pent up racial tension, the economic class divide was even more palpable. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for these black students to catch the bus at 6 AM, ride an hour, and end up in “Beaver Cleaverville” where some may have had family that worked as domestics. They were not happy when they got there. 

First Day of Busing

Technically, the 11 year old Hillwood High had been integrated by a local family a few years before. But in 1971, they had only one daughter enrolled, and she was the only African-American student in the school. It was essentially a white high school. Ironically, the family lived in the area because her ancestors had been given a tract of land from their former slave masters on the Belle Meade Plantation. Her address in 1970 is listed as 6204 Harding Road, the location of the West Meade Mansion. There were still former slave cabins there at the time.

West Meade Mansion – Wikipedia

Unfortunately, my class was the youngest in the school that very tumultuous year. The class of 76’ was the last to see a segregated Hillwood in 1971 the year before. In 1972, for the second year in a row, we were the youngest class on campus. The new 7th grade were sent to Wharton Junior High, and Hillwood became 8 -12th grade. And what in the world were 8th graders doing in the same school as 17 & 18 year olds in the first place? That led to at least one pregnant 8th grader by a Junior that I know of. At least most of our classes were in the former H.G. Hill Elementary building and we had our own cafeteria.

H.G. Hill

The former Horace Greeley Hill school was next door to the high school. It was opened for the lower school in 1971. H.G. Hill made a fortune in grocery stores and real estate around the turn of the 19th century. Hillwood derives it’s name from his vast estate. His name sake, Horace Greeley was a notable abolitionist leading up to the Civil War. H. G. Hill was born in White County, TN in 1873. White county was a bitterly divided community during the war. There were a lot of Tennessee Unionist in Middle Tennessee. Even Shelbyville, southeast of Nashville, was dubbed “Little Boston” by local secessionist.

I was actually naively looking forward to the social experiment we were cast in. After all, every black person that I had met in my young life had always been nice to me. But these new students were not required to be nice to me, and the first day of school was a real eye-opener.

A few days before busing started, someone vandalized our next door neighbors mailbox. Judge William Miller sat on the 6th Federal Circuit Court of appeals. He was the United States authority that had been tasked with carrying out the 1954 Supreme Court decision to desegregate public schools. He had actively been involved in the case since 1955. 1957 saw the first small steps to integrate a hand full of first graders, but it took another 15 years of foot dragging before the law would be fully enforced.

The mast top of the Judges mailbox had a statue of an eagle with outstretched wings. One night in 1972 the wings were broken off and a white stripe painted down its backside.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

As I recall, that first day was just loud. The rules for indoor voices flew out the window that morning. Lunch was a game changer at 4th period in Mrs. Van Buren’s class. Although the teachers all intermingled at their tables, the students separated into black and white on both sides of the cafeteria. Minutes into the first meal, a ruckus erupted on the far side of the lunchroom. A tall black girl from our Social Studies (ironically) class locked it up with another black girl, screaming and pulling hair. Our white 8th grade administrative aid, Mr. Warfield, rushed over to break it up. She then turned on him, and to everyones disbelief, picked up her lunch tray and smashed it into pieces over his head. I will never forget his dazed look, peas and carrots clumped over his flat-top hair-cut. I never saw the assailant in 4th period after that.

A distinct visible change was the new dress code, or lack there of. Up until 1971-72′, the rules required short hair for boys, collared shirts and dress trousers. Girls had to have dresses that could not go much above the knee. Juxtaposed 3 months latter: long hair, t-shirts, bluejeans and pants replaced dresses for most girls.

Cigarette smoking was tolerated in tucked away areas outside the buildings. Pot smoke was common in the parking lots, and at least one student that I knew of dealt “lids” out of his locker.  To make matters even worse, the drinking age was lowered to 18, mostly to allow Vietnam soldiers across the country to legally buy beer. The sensible thing to have done, would have been to lower it for anyone with an active duty military I.D. 

From age 16 on, I had no problem finding someplace that would not card me for alcohol. Even if they did, the drivers licenses didn’t have photos, so you could just borrow one. There was a beer store on 8th Avenue North, that would sell just about anyone a 16 gallon keg of beer for $38.

From 8th grade on, at Hillwood alone, there were six students killed in five years from a variety of accidental deaths, mostly alcohol related. I was a pall-bearer twice in one year. One of them was killed by a drunk driver on my motorcycle. After the death of my 3rd buddy in late 1976, my father told me I had lost more young friends than he had in World War II.

Another student was killed speeding to get a burger off campus. Leaving the school grounds without permission was a very common occurrence. It was a free-for-all over all. Skipping school was epidemic. Some teachers would rather have disruptive students stay away, and pass them with a D-. I have a report card that shows 72 days absent with a passing grade.

Although most people from this time won’t acknowledge it, there was a high degree of racial tension and violence between the North Nashville students and those of the Hillwood, West Meade, Brook Meade, Charlotte Park and Belle Meade* neighborhoods those first few years.  

*Half of upper-crust Belle Meade was zoned to Hillwood, but few attended. The other half of Belle Meade was zoned to Hillsboro High.

Don’t Take Me Alive

I was in several pretty severe fights in high school. Most were confined to the outdoor “smoking lounge” and gym. I recall defusing the last one with a bluff. I did pick up some tactics in street-smarts while I was there. “Don’t take me alive” was my bark.

In addition to the North-South Nashville divide for the Bicentennial class of 76’, there was still some blue-collar and white-collar rivalry between Charlotte Park and the rest of Hillwood. I was singled out in 1973 by a group of them for some reason. They terrorized me for months, until I recruited some friends from Hillsboro High to even things up. I think it was actually a case of mistaken identity. The reason I mention it, is the response my mother got from the black assistant principal Mr. Hill over the ordeal. He told her it was all he could do to keep the boys from killing each other, and that things were way out of control there.

J.J. Phillips

In my opinion race was an element, but I believe the larger ingredient was the socio-economic disparity. At Hillwood High, you had the poorest part of town being bused into the richest part of Nashville. As an example, there was a black friend of mine named J.J., who probably got picked on the worst. His parents were both doctors, and they lived in our neighborhood. They might have been the first African-American homeowners in West Meade. Some of the North Nashville kids wore him out, and he took it real hard. He also got an earful from his white neighbor, when his daughter was seen with J.J. talking one afternoon on the front porch. The last time I saw him was over Christmas 1976. There was something wrong, but he didn’t want to talk about it. No one in our class has heard from him since. 

That first year of busing ended in tragedy with a so-called “accident”. In an altercation over a yearbook on the last day of school, a boy scout was left dead in the hallway from a fist to the throat. Not much was made about it in the news. The initial charge of murder was reduced to manslaughter. The assailant was sent to a youth correctional facility. I’m not sure how long the sentence was for.

Many Hillwood area families had already started the white-flight to private schools the year before. By the 1973 school year, pretty much every one of them were full, and new ones were opening in Churches all over Nashville. 

  • Nashville Christian Academy: Founded 1971
  • Franklin Road Academy: Founded 1971
  • Harding Academy: Founded 1971
  • Donelson Christian Academy: Founded 1971
  • Goodpasture Christian School: Founded 1971
  • St. Paul Christian Academy: Founded 1971

At last count in 2019, I believe there are around 40 private schools in Davidson County. Pre 1971, I can only think of 7 high schools then.

BGA

MBA

Father Ryan

Harpeth Hall

Peabody Demonstration School

Saint Bernard

Saint Cecilia

According to this 2014 data, Green Hills/Forrest Hills ranks #9 in the country for the highest private school enrollment: 72%

From 1969 to 2007 the white student population in Nashville Metro public schools dropped from 74,000 to 23,000 despite a population growth of over 200,000.

  • 1957: 60,000 students, 48,000 white, 12,000 black (80-20)
  • 1963: 85,000 students 67,000 white 19,000 black, 1000 other
  • 1969: 96,000 students 74,000 white, 21,000 black, 1,000 other
  • 1970: 85,000 students 62,000 whites 21,000 blacks 2,000 other
  • 1971: 74,000 students 50,000 white 24,000 black
  • 1980: 66,000 students 40,000 white 22,000 black 2000 other
  • 1990: 67,000 students 35,000 white 24,000 black 8000 other
  • 2000: 68,000 students 30,000 white 28,000 black 11,000 other
  • 2007: 75,000 students 23,000 white 37,000 black 15,000 other (30-49-20)

My parents were able to get my brothers and sister into private schools in 1973, but things had deteriorated academically at Hillwood so bad, that Battle Ground Academy (BGA) required Hillwood boys to repeat a grade for the few slots left. I pleaded with my parents to let me remain were I was. I would later question my decision to stay.

Even the blue collar workers from the Ford Glass Plant neighborhood in Charlotte Park were doing all they could to get, at least their daughters, in private schools. There were many empty kitchens and second jobs all the sudden in that working class neighborhood.

Most of us loved these black people that had helped raise us. It was very confusing to be so at odds with such a large group of people that seemed to hate us for no reason. What did we do? It seemed we were caught in the cross-fire of history and the sins of our forefathers.

The Help

 My parents provided an automobile for Miss Ruby to commute in, but most of the domestics rode public transportation. About the time we came home from school you could see scores of negro ladies (dressed in white uniforms) standing on the suburban street corners waiting for the long bus ride home. On the drive home one day my friend Clinton made an interesting observation that afternoon: “You know Bob, the black folks today are not much better off than they were in slavery times. They just have to commute to work now”.

Clinton died August 26, 1974 in an accidental death. He was a child prodigy, taking trigonometry in 8th grade. He inspired many of us to read and learn. His influence on my education would be profound.

Everett Walker Assistant Principal

I would say that the chaos was the worst that first year, but it took another year or two to stabilize the mayhem. The best fix was hiring a new assistant principal. He was a rather tall African-American former Marine Corp drill instructor. Mr. Walker ran a tight ship, and everyone respected him for brining order to the school in 1975. It was finally beginning to feel safe, and now we were upperclassmen.

However, the damage had been done. The drain-off of quality teachers to the private schools, incentivized by tuition-free education for their children, took its toll. Worse than that, the most influential families didn’t have a dog in the fight anymore. They left public education and were not coming back. It was the perfect storm – neighborhood schools gone with the wind.

There were at least a dozen really good educators that withstood the fire-storm, and I commend them for their brave work:

“Mr. Walker, Mr. Whitmon, Coach Graves, Coach West, Albert Gaines, Frank Cirincione and Roy Carter were instrumental in the ‘tough love’ side of that, while Ivey Nixon and Shirley Luckett and even dear old Herschel Hardaway brought the tenderness and love a teenage kid needs so desperately.” – Howie K. Class of 1978

Don’t blow it!

I would bet that today, that not one in ten households in Hillwood Estates are in public schools – if that many. In fact, there are so few, they are talking about moving the school to another part of town on the outskirts of Nashville.

Before 1972, I’d bet at least 90% of neighborhoods went to school together.  Neighbors knew each other, parents were involved in PTA’s and children were supervised. In general, people were not so politically polarized, that I trace back to a breakdown in community cohesion, and the retreat to isolated, insular communities, Churches and schools.

The Nashville magnet schools are some of the best in the country, but that only provides for a small percentage of the population. I’m not saying that you could not get a proper education in public schools here, but you really had to work for it. The disciplinary problems were so wide spread that it seemed many teachers just gave up, concentrating on a dedicated few. In 10th grade, my English teacher separated our class in two: college bound on one side, the rest on the right. She ignored half the class for the remainder of the year.

If you were a marginal student with, maybe a dose of self esteem deficiency, or ADHD, it was real easy to give up and just do the minimum, which was not much. There was too little adult supervision and inspiration. Our world consisted of a series of social catastrophes: assassinations (K,K&K), Vietnam, Water Gate, a multitude of corrupt Tennessee politicians from the governor on down, and the 60’s hit town about 1972. Drugs were everywhere and blindsided families, schools and law enforcement.

Another development that divided the school even more, was the back-lash against the perceived drug culture with the “long-hairs”, or “freaks” targeted. The jocks against the freaks soon became the new turf war, as even prep school boys joined in the pursuit of anyone looking like a hippie around town. For me, this climaxed the summer of graduation in a convenience store parking lot. I snapped, after a prep school boy called me a long haired fagot. I hurled my Icee in his face, followed up my a right hook to his jaw. My buddy and I barley got out of there in one piece. Bill would be gone a few months later from an apparent drug overdose.

Bob and Bill

In the fall of 1975 I decided to try another high school and got permission to transfer to McGavock on the other side of Nashville. I was hoping to get a fresh start, as I was beginning to take school a little more seriously. But the hour bus ride to school everyday made for an early day, and after a semester of sleep deprivation, I decided to go back to Hillwood to finish my senior year. I got an appreciation for what the kids from North Nashville had to go thru on their daily commute.

McGavock High 1975

By 1976, the educational deficiency was so extreme that some colleges were adopting 090 level remedial classes to try to catch us all up: mostly math and english. The then, Belmont College, accepted a lot of under-educated high school graduates such as myself.

After I lost my 3rd friend in December 1976. I unceremonious cut my hair, poured into academics, and my grades improved. I sold books door to door two summers of college, totally transforming my appearance and self confidence. With some great teachers, small classes, and lot of tutoring, I was able to go from a 1.6 GPA my first semester, to a 3.0, over six years of co-op education.

In 1982 I graduated  with a business degree and went to Navy officer candidate school, wanting to get as far away from my past as possible. Maybe I was longing for the order and discipline that was so lacking in my youth. Maybe I was revolting against the revolt. I don’t know, but it fit me like a glove. The highlight of my basic training was on the rifle range, scoring expert in my class. Afterwords Gunnery Sergeant Campos commented: “Henderson, I think we finally found something you know how to do well”. Years later, I almost fell out of my seat, when I heard that line about Private Pyle in the movie Full Medal Jacket.

The vast majority of my friends did not survive college academics. Most of them flunked out their first year. My saving grace was there wasn’t much of a social life at the time on Belmont’s campus, I was broke and I worked out of state during the summers. Most importantly, I was told I could not do it.

Shine on You Crazy Diamond

Another wave of tragedy struck in the early 80’s with the cocaine surge. Fortunately, I was long-gone off to the military by then. That one claimed four more high school friends, from Hillwood, Hillsboro and Bellevue.

It was easy to feel bitter, resentful and contemptuous of those that made this weather we had to stand in. Our initial targets of ridicule were the teachers, administration and the Board of Education, but that was not fair. The more insidious element was the 1960’s counter-culture, and the drugs that came with it. Controlled substances poured into the power-vacuum of 1972, 73 and 74.

The most common side-effect of this teen-age wasteland was substance abuse. The cases are too numerous to quantify, including two super-star senior athletes that were our role models in 7th grade. As I write this, I anticipate yet another casualty.

In a larger sense, I believe the American Civil War took 111 years to run it’s course. Some would say it’s still being fought. More could be done, but I have seen substantial racial progress in my lifetime: financially, academically and socially. Having been at the ground-zero of act #3, I feel I own a part of it.

Prologue

A few years ago I took a girlfriend to a Rose Park teacher retirement party that was held in North Nashville. We were the only white couple at a very large backyard BBQ, and very warmly received. Almost everyone in attendance had gone to Hillwood High School. Ironically it was the largest social function I have ever been to with alumni of my high school, outside of a class reunion!

Walking into History: The Beginning of School Desegregation in Nashville

John Egerton

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

ARTICLE

PUBLISHED MAY 4, 2009

Excerpts from:

“Nashville was almost 180 years old in 1957 (its founding had coincided with that of the American nation), and it wore its age with a certain patrician pride. Early in its frontier history, an admiring local citizen had dubbed it “the Athens of the West” (later remapped to the South by the Civil War and other changes of geography and perspective). Its leaders liked that image; it called to mind a place of reasonable and civic-minded people, of moderately progressive conservatives. In the war of rebellion, Nashville had spread its sympathies in both directions, sending hundreds of its own residents, white and black, to fight and die for the Union Blue as well as the Confederate Gray. It was not a place of extremes, but of the center. Had they been left to their own devices, some Nashvillians apparently believed, they could have worked out their racial problems amicably and equitably.

Such an opportunity for compromise and reconciliation never blossomed in the Nashville of that war-wracked era, and in the postwar Reconstruction era and beyond, the dream of full citizenship for former slaves soon turned to dust. Slavery was gone, but so was the promise of economic and political freedom; every southern state passed laws mandating racial segregation in a “separate but equal” society that assured Caucasians of perpetual advantage in every station of life—in political parties, civic agencies, hotels, theaters, trolleys and trains, from hospital rooms to schoolrooms to the workplace and even the graveyard.

But decades later, in the fall of 1957, a new opportunity was at hand. The elusive ideal of racial equality, often glimpsed but rarely grasped in the United States, was once again coming into focus for Nashvillians—and this time, it was going to be reflected in the quietly serious faces of a few brown-skinned six-year-olds. Powerful forces were rallying to one side or the other, for the children or against them. A fundamental principle of American democracy, as interpreted by the nation’s highest court, was about to be applied, and Nashville would be an early testing ground—one of the first of the South’s cities to put into motion a comprehensive plan for the desegregation of its public schools, and the only one to that date with a strategy of building from the bottom up, one grade at a time.”

“Nashville was learning that recovery from trauma, followed by limited success and a predictable normality, was not news and not history—it was just the way things were supposed to be. And so it happened that the little trailblazers of desegregation, along with their white classmates, eventually slipped quietly back into the anonymity of childhood.” –John Egerton

Statistics

Student Population 1957-2007

1957: 60,000 students, 48,000 white, 12,000 black (80-20)

1963: 85,000 students 67,000 white 19,000 black, 1000 other

1969: 96,000 students 74,000 white, 21,000 black, 1,000 other

1970: 85,000 students 62,000 whites 21,000 blacks 2,000 other

1971: 74,000 students 50,000 white 24,000 black

1980: 66,000 students 40,000 white 22,000 black 2000 other

1990: 67,000 students 35,000 white 24,000 black 8000 other

2000: 68,000 students 30,000 white 28,000 black 11,000 other

2007: 75,000 students 23,000 white 37,000 black 15,000 other (30-49-20)

New Private Schools in 1971

Nashville Christian Academy: Founded 1971

Franklin Road Academy: Founded 1971

Harding Academy: Founded 1971

Donelson Christian Academy: Founded 1971

Goodpasture Christian School: Founded 1971

St. Paul Christian Academy: Founded 1971

Hillwood Class of 1976 (photographed)

1971: 370 Students – 100% White

1972: 383 Students – 280 White 102 Black

1976: 189 Students – 170 White 19 Black

In memory of Hillwood students lost:

Joe Robinson School Year 1971-72

Sharon Arkovitz School Year 1972-73

Bob Kendall School Year 1973-74

Terry Miller School Year 1973-74

Clinton Elrod School Year 1974-75

David Miller School Year 1975-76

Vol. XI
From my fathers scape book. June 18, 1957, the day I was born.
Like most families, my parents read both sides of politics. The Banner was the more conservative of the two.

#busing #civilrights

Circa 1977

Tim Graves and Allen Diehl kept us in stitches with their cartoons. Allen’s impressions of some of the teachers were worthy of Saturday Night Live.

by Tim Graves

by Allen Diehl
Allen’s Comedic Impersonation Genius

Hillwood High School

Julius Howard Williams

1793 – 1862  (68 years)

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, my cousin and I give thanks by honoring our distinguished ancestors. This consists of identifying new family cemeteries and maintaining existing ones. This years goal was to find a new one.

My cousin Billy Pittard located the resting place of our 4th Great Grandfather: Julius Howard Williams. There are two Williams family cemeteries in the area. One is located at 12649 Cainsville Rd, Lebanon, TN 37090, the Julius Williams location is about 3 miles southeast on Greenvale Road (it’s on private property).

Julius was the first to settle in Tennessee of this family line. He was the son of Joesph Williams, which is suppose two be buried there too (although no headstones were legible with the name). The original homestead was near a spring down the hill from the cemetery.

Julius owned a racetrack on Cainsville Road where Simmons Bluff intersects. President Andrew Jackson was a friend and raced horses there according to family legend.

His daughter Rebecca Jane (Becky) married out 3rd Great Grandfather Reverend John Phillips. John Phillips died of unknown causes at the age of 40 in April 1862, only about a week after the Battle of Shiloh. His father-in-law Julius died the next month, and we discovered several other Williams family deaths July thru October 1862. #coincidence?

Becky died a year after the war at age 43. Her children (our great grandfathers and their sisters) were scattered to various families in Wilson and Rutherford Counties.

The cemetery has been very well taken care of over the years. In fact, it’s the most intact one we have discovered. If only other landowners were so reverent of the hundreds of small family cemeteries across the region.

B-17 F #42-30385 KIA 26 July 1944

In July of 1944, B-17 #42-30385 flew 21 bombing missions in 26 days. Their last target was a Natzi aircraft engine plant near Vienna, Austria. Things went south when the fighter escorts didn’t show up. All most half the bomber group went down in flames by over 150 German fighters. My cousin pilot 2nd Lt. David Kerr was one of them.

After 74 years we found the crash site with the help of several local Austrians. This is what it looks like today. There are thousands of pieces of the aircraft scattered for many kilometers. Many are clustered near these 360Âş images.

https://roundme.com/embed/271988/832484

Dear Family,

I am taking my boy Ryan to see the crash site today. Yesterday the family that owns the property treated me like a king. The son of the ranch refused to let me cary my backpack up the mountain! We talked for hours after this incredible exploration over dinner.

Upon arrival, my most gracious host presented me the radio operators chart holder complete with their call tag #30385. This I will give to his sister Mary Ann. The green coloration on one piece of the aluminum left no doubt this was David’s B-17 F model. He also gave me three 50 caliber rounds (defused) and a couple of squares of flack jacket armor.

3 local Austrians spend most of the day with me cataloging everything from flight controls to bomb fragments. One guy dug up parts with his metal detector at every turn (Steve you would be impressed with his skill). His older brothers were on the scene right after the crash in 1944. Not aware of what this really was, they described it as Christmas-like with all the silver, red and green bright colors – the smell of burning spruce.

As I reached the summit with the family Cocker Spaniel, I was greeted by only the birds and the wisp of the cool mountain air. A cuckoo bird in the distance chimed in. In the distance to the west, a 3000 meter snow caped mountain top stood majestically across the valley below.

From the Rocky Mountains, to the Smoky Mountains it’s the most beautiful forrest
I have ever trekked. There is no underbrush like Tennessee, so you can see a long distance down the steep slopes. No poisonous snakes to threaten travelers here. In fact I didn’t see a squirrel, bee or spider web on this bright, warm May day.

The tranquil nature of the landscape juxtaposed with the most violent event imaginable, was odd. It felt so incredibly peaceful in the midst of a 74 year aerial graveyard. It remains like sunken shipwreck. There is a large opening in the dense tall spruces near the top of the ridge line were trees will not grow again. This would be a fitting place for a small monument to the crews.

We found plexiglass from the plane which indicated to me an explosion before it had a chance to burn. We located the precise location were most of the crew where found, buried and reburied in 1947 at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri.

The sole of a boot, shredded nylon, even large pieces of of a leather glove lay scattered on the hillside 74 years later. In David’s plane alone every 1000 lb. bomb but one detonated on the way down. A hole the size of baseball in the massive propeller blade was shot clean through. Most of the airplane is less than the size of your fist, and they lay at every step for hundreds of yards down the steep slope.

Some of the parachutes were witnessed catching on fire going down. I believe that much of the crew were probably killed in the explosions, and most likely died instantly, including David and his copilot.

Eye witness accounts of the fall have been well documented by our host. He has a vast database of information with a map detailing debris over more than 6 kilometers of the area.

The year after this infamous tragedy the area was overrun by the Soviets with fierce fighting. The grandmother of the current property owner was killed in a 1945 rocket attack on her property. Ironically, this was the high-water mark of the Soviet push west in this region.

Our Austrian friends grandfather was able to survive the war and surrendered to the American forces. He told me that most locals in the past have not wanted to discuss the
WWII history in this region. This is changing he said.

The family is very protective of this sacred ground and have done a great job keeping it as-is. At their request, we will keep its location a secret. My hope is, that this might give some closure to family still living that never knew their fate. Like so many horrible wars, many times, they just never came home.

32116319_10156394955309036_3535368498245009408_n
2nd Lt. David Kerr and family on his last visit home.

kerr-news

kerr-obit

Video narrative of 21 missions in 26 days.

Fox 17 News:
http://fox17.com/embed/news/local/nashville-man-gets-answers-on-relatives-death-74-years-after-world-war-ii-crash?external-id=14d09d4b826b416889fc6f4d9891244c

Hundred Days Offensive

Henderson,-William-Eugene.jpgWilliams Eugene Henderson, Sr. of Walter Hill, Tennessee enlisted in the United States Army September 17, 1917 as a Private #1907256. At the age of 22 he had been a sales manager for the Southwestern Publishing Company. Seven months later he was headed for The Great War with the 82nd Infantry Division (in WWII, this became the 82nd Airborne).

“W.E.” was assigned to the Toul Sector of France July 8th – 29th, and then to Argonne on September 5th, 1918. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest in U.S. military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers. It was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end.

“He was drafted into the 82nd, became a Sergeant and then went to OSC while in France, sometime in the summer of 1918. He was then assigned as a 2nd Lt. to the 308th 77th Division. Oct 9 he went over the top with others to rescue the Lost Battalion. The Meuse-Argonne offense was already on. He caught the flu in the next couple of days after returng to his trench works. Someone there had stolen his rain gear and books. Going to OSC, he missed the St. Mihiel offense and the begining of the Argonne offense, as well as missing the rest of the Argonne offensive due to the flu* probably saved his life. From there, he went to Nice France to recover. He was a Town Major of two small French villages from about Jan to April of 1919.” – Blake Henderson

The Lost Battalion

This mostly New York City division, must have been an interesting leadership experience for this former farm boy from Tennessee.

“The Lost Battalion is the name given to nine companies of the United States 77th Division, roughly 554 men, isolated by German forces during World War I after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner before 194 remaining men were rescued.” – wikipedia

* 2nd Lt. Henderson contracted the “Spanish Flu” just prior to this offensive, possibly saving his life. Germans called it the French Flu, French called it the German Flu. It’s origin is  likely have been from America.

 

WWITranscription of letter dated August 18, 1918

Eugene Henderson to mother:

“I certainly do wish I could at least spend my Sundays with you home folks, but of course that is impossible – but still I want you to know that I think of you and the dear home folks often – more than I ever did before, and home means more to me now than it could have ever meant if I had not [sic] France. Now you said something about me being home by Christmas well of course mother we could get back by xmas – but while we are over here, and to keep from ever having to do the thing once over again, we are going not only to run the beastly Huns out of France, but we are going to give them such a beating that what few are left will be only too glad to stay in Germany and let the rest of the world alone – that is if we decide to leave any of Germany – we haven’t quite decided about that yet. But one thing we are decided on is not only to run the Germans out of here, but to give them the biggest beating in history. I doubt if we can whip them as much as we want to between now and xmas. We whip them now every day, but we enjoy it so well and know we are doing the world such a good turn we are going to keep on whipping them until Germany as a whole is on her knees ready to accept peace terms the allies offer. Germany doubtless will be giving out peace terms pretty soon, we don’t care for them – they started the war, we are going to end it. Peace terms will be made by us, not by Germany.

Mother I am well as can be, and doing 2 [sic] very well ended at school, am working really harder than I ever have in my life, they schedule calls for work from 5:45 o’clock in the morning until 10 at night. Of course this is allowances for meals, but we have to keep our [sic] all the time, and everything fixed in first class order, so all of our spare moments are spent doing these little things that really amount to work. The discipline is very rigid. Everything exactly so. I’ll have lot of interesting things to tell you about it when I get back. Am sorry mother that you did not get the first letters wrote you. Maybe you have before now – no I did not get very seasick – was a little sick one day. With words of love, and good wishes and [sic]. Your devoted son Gene”

A month later, he was awarded a battlefield commission. On September 29th, 1918 Sergeant Henderson was promoted to Second Lieutenant. He was transferred to the 77th Infantry Division.

My grandfather “Pop Pop” convalesced at the family farm for some time after the war.  I asked him once, if he was ever scared. He recalled a story that he apparently never shared with my father, or anyone else for that mater. One night, under the cover of darkness, Sgt. Henderson infiltrated enemy lines leading a small squad. I’s possible that’s what earned him a battlefield promotion to 2nd Lieutenant.

He later rejoined his older brothers business and became the general sales manager of the Southwestern Company. He held that position until his death in 1965. He was also a Mason and Rotarian.

308th.jpg

The Movie:

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The Battle of West Nashville

Meuse-Argonne:

Henderson,-William-Eugene.jpgWilliams Eugene Henderson, Sr. of Walter Hill, Tennessee enlisted in the United States Army September 17, 1917 as a Sergeant #1907256. At the age of 22 he had been a sales manger for the Southwestern Publishing Company. Seven months later he was headed for The Great War with Company H, 308th Infantry – 77th Division.

“W.E.” was assigned to the Toul Sector of France July 8th – 29th, and then to Argonne on September 5th, 1918. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive* was the largest in U.S. military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers. It was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end.

WWITranscription of letter dated August 18, 1918

Eugene Henderson to mother:

“I certainly do wish I could at least spend my Sundays with you home folks, but of course that is impossible – but still I want you…

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THE WATERS HOME 

 

By VIRGINIA and DICK LAWLOR

The tall, square, two-story dwelling at the end of Waters Street in Water­town, sits like an ancient matriarch, fanned and sheltered by the waving branches of majestic trees. It watches with calm eyes as you approach as though it were wondering which of its children were returning for a visit. It is a house which has been filling up with memories for the pioneer Waters family since it was built in 1844 by Wilson Lawrence Waters.

One of the more beautiful memories was the 50th Wedding Anniversary of its builder and his wife on Dec. 17, 1894, when the mansion was ablaze with light and old-fashioned bouquets from Mrs. Waters’ garden supplied every room with wild and beautiful color.

A faded little booklet, a cherished possession of great-granddaughter, Christine Teasley, includes a nostalgic poem written for the occasion by Mr. Waters’ brother, the Reverend James Waters, which gives an intimate and endearing word­ picture of the family and festivities in connection with that memorable wedding day. James was only 8 years old when his brother married but he recalls in fine detail the meat and dessert portions of that wedding feast, which consisted of turkeys, chicken pies, cherry cobblers, custard pies, and cakes with icing!

Little wonder that the neighbors turned out to honor Mr. Wilson Lawrence Waters on this important occasion; he was virtually and admittedly “Mr. Water­town.” In its earliest days the whole town was on his 400 acre farm. His store supplied the needs of the community and from it he sold the first turning plow in Wilson County. In 1845 the Post Office was moved to his store and the Three Forks designation was dropped in favor of Waters’ Town, later combined into one word, Watertown, in honor of Mr. Waters.

He also built and operated a water-powered grist mill and saw mill. He was the leading spirit in getting the old stagecoach road (Walden Ridge Road) replaced by the Lebanon-Sparta turnpike, and acted as President. But perhaps his greatest accomplishment for Watertown was his securing a route through the town for the Nashville and Knoxville Railroad (later, a part of the Tennessee Central system). This proved a heady tonic for the community and occasioned a spurt of economic and population growth. He lifted the first shovel of dirt before a large gathering of citizens in 1887. He was also the man who drove the last spike at Smithville.

This listing of accomplishments, however, gives only one view of the man. A yellowed and age-mutilated clipping describes Mr. Waters as “up to his eyes in business.” And that was true; but Mr. Waters was also the possessor of psychic powers. He was aware of his gift of prophesying the future of his dreams, so he kept a Dream Book wherein happenings and events were recounted which eventually took place in the manner he had foreseen in his dreams. A Peabody student used the book as a basis for what must have been a most interesting thesis.

The Wilson County History reports that while Mr. Waters was in the legisla­ture in 1865, he made a stirring appeal requesting that colored persons be tried in the same way that whites were. His ability to project into the future was not limited to dreams; his appeal was rejected but his idea was sound and prophetic, and even though its time had not yet arrived-arrive it most assuredly would, as Waters full well knew.

Like grandmother, like granddaughter! An equally festive and beautiful occasion was the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Wilson Lawrence Waters’ grand­daughter, the charming Christine Phillips Forrester and her husband, Robert L. Forrester, which was celebrated at a brilliant reception given by the Forrester children. In a newspaper interview Christine said that her life had been “so full and wonderful” that it was hard to believe that so many years had rolled by; and when she read the invitations being sent out, she said, “a little pepper got in my eyes.”

This time the reception rooms of the ancestral home were decorated with arrangements of gold flowers and the banquet table in the dining room was centered with jonquils and forsythia in an antique cut-glass punch bowl, a wedding gift of 50 years ago. Christine’s lovely bridal gown was worn by her eldest grandson’s wife. All the family—tall, handsome people beautifully gowned and groomed-were assisting in greeting and serving guests. All of them happy to be together.

But all the memories were not so joyous; the old home and its occupants were not strangers to sorrow. Only a handful of months after their Golden Anniversary festivities in 1964, Robert L. Forrester lay dying. For over a half century he had practiced law at the Tennessee bar; he had been honored with the State Presi­dency of the Exchange Club; had served 18 years on the State Board of Educa­tion; and was a faithful member of the Masonic Lodge. He was an old-school gallant, a lover-husband who was a shield and protector for his bride for all the brief 50 years, supporting and encouraging her activities whether it was directing the First Baptist Church choir, becoming Department President of the American Legion Auxiliary, or Board Member of the National Federation of Music Clubs. And all the family felt a deep pride when Christine was elected Tennessee Mother of the Year in I 962.

Christine and Bob had given four sons to serve in World War II. That fateful day when the heart-reaking news that one of these, Robert L. Forrester, Jr., a Captain in the, Air Force, had ben killed in a plane crash in the Galapagos Islands (1942), the old house started filling up with neighbors and friends and loved ones and the branches of the tall trees swept the ground as though they, too, were bowed in grief.

Recent happy news (July, 1975) concerns another son of the house, Eugene, a West Point graduate, who is now Major General Forrester, Commander of Army Recruiting Command at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois.

With Bob’s passing, Christine set about dividing her things, moving to Nash­ville to be nearer to all of her children, and of necessity selling the old home. As the key was turned in the lock for the last time by the hand of a Waters’ descend­ant, the house stood square and silent with its windows looking wistfully down Waters Street – it had caught the character of its occupants-like them, it, too, would endure with quiet dignity whatever came its way.

Bobby Phillips

Robert Wayne Henderson, Sr.

May 30, 1995 my father Bobby Henderson took me on a memorable drive with his older brother John Dayton Phillips that changed my life. We toured five family landmarks.

My father was adopted, I learned, about this time. His birth mother Gertrude (Gertie) Henderson Phillips died just two days after dad was born. Robert Wayne Phillips, was the fourth child of Gertrude* and John Korman Phillips. To make matters worse, he was born with the near fatal condition of infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (projectile vomiting). In 1926 this was usually fatal. His uncle, William Eugene Henderson (W.E.), stepped in and provided for a recently developed life-saving surgery procedure in Nashville. W.E. and his wife Jean subsequently adopted him from their brother-in-law (the original terms of this adoption have been contested by some of the Phillips I have spoken with).

Following her mothers death, the oldest J.K. Phillips sibling, Lucile Phillips (Ceil), was separated from her father John to live with her grandparents: Bettie and Robert Hatton Henderson at the Malone-Henderson home. According to Dayton’s wife Thelma, the 13 year old Lucile desperately wanted to raise her infant baby brother (the photo above breaks my heart). The two other boys, Ed and Dayton, remained with their father Johnny, who eventually remarried and had three more children.

*My paternal grandmother Gertrude, has two marked grave sites: one next to her husband John, in the Roselawn Cemetery in Murfreesboro, and the other in the Malone-Henderson Cemetery on Powells Chapel Road.  The latter is where she is interned.

Growing up in Nashville, I had no knowledge of my Phillips ancestory. In 1995, I was moving to Denver, and my father took me out to meet them for the first time in my life. This video captures that experience. It’s a priceless record of family history from Uncle Dayton, Aunt Ceil and my father.

All three parts were shot May 30, 1995.

Part 1 – The Preston Henderson Cemetery on Puckett Road in Norene (formerly Henderson Crossroads) Tennessee. Bobby Henderson and Dayton Phillips:

Part 2 – Lucile Phillips Johns at her home on Mercury Boulevard in Murfreesboro, TN Aunt Ceil displays several family antiques and their history.

Part 3 – The Old General Store. As I recall, this was on Mona Road somewhere. I don’t think it’s still standing. There is a short clip of  Eulalia Hewgley at the old Malone home on Powells Chapel Road.

The featured photo is at the Malone-Henderson Old Homeplace: right to left: Ed, Lucile, Bobby and Dayton.

Family Cemetery Tour 2017:

Tour 11 family cemeteries from Walter Hill to Watertown:

Watch some of the tour we did yesterday to raise public and private awareness of the need to protect family cemeteries in Rutherford and Wilson County, Tennessee.

Stop #1 –  Hoover Cemetery – Water Hill, Tennessee

Stop #2 – Malone-Henderson Cemetery – Powell’s Chapel Road

Stop #3 – The Old Homeplace – Powell’s Chapel Road

See a 360 virtual tour here.

Stop #4 – Charlton Ford Cemetery – Dinky Lane

Stops #5 & #6 – Patrick and William Short Cemeteries – Powell’s Chapel Road and Mona Road

Stops #7 & #8 – Williams Cemetery (Cainesville Road) and Preston Henderson Cemetery (Puckett Road)

Stops #9, 10 & 11 – John Phillips Log Cabin, John Phillips Cemetery (Hale Road) and David Phillips Cemetery (Bass Road) – Watertown, Tennessee

See more virtual tours here.

Family members: I am researching 2nd Lt. George Malone of the 18th Tennessee. I will look for his grave in Atlanta this month when I’m down there. My guess is that he was killed in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. His regiment was at the Dead Angle, ironically right next to my GGF 2nd Lt. Walter Scott Bearden of the 41st Tennessee. Additionally, their General Joseph B. Palmer was wounded a few days later in the Battle of Jonesboro where my GGF was severely wounded too during the last fight of the Battles of Atlanta.

A ride in the country

Rutherford and Wilson County Family Cemeteries:

“We all feel our fathers could not have chosen better women for our mothers than they did, could they have had all the advantages of our modern household arrangements.”…
“I have seen much of the world since I left you seventeen years ago [1862*]. I have lived in five different states of the Union, and visited many more, and know the average standard of morals and of the public conscience in a great many large communities, but I have never yet found the community so nearly free from moral defilement, and with so high an average of moral worth and so high a standard of duty, where manhood and womanhood have fewer stains upon them, than right here in Wilson County, within a circle of five miles from this point as a center.”
– Rev. David Waters – 1879
Watertown, Tennessee

Caravan tour of cemeteries and home sites of the ancestors of Tab and Hattie Henderson: Phillips, Waters, Cummings, Bass, Malone, Oakley, Peyton, Short, Williams and more.

Friday, November 24, 2017 • The day after Thanksgiving
Organizers:

• Billy Pittard: (310) 880-7276

• Bob Henderson: (615) 477-0737

9:00 AM – Meet at Walterhill Church of Christ 7277 Lebanon Rd, Murfreesboro, TN 37129 The church is about a mile north of the intersection of Lebanon Road (US 231) and Jefferson Pike. 9:15 – Caravan hits the road!

https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=18OprmbUtUJSt5YXQPq-ZhlT-ewLcFPv-

*in 1862 David Waters two brothers joined the 5th Tennessee Union Cavalry. Their father Wilson Turner Waters was a staunch Unionist.
#savingcemeteries

Shelah Waters, 1768-1860

Southern Roots and Branches

This is the story of my GGGGG grandparents, Shelah and Nancy Turner Waters.

Seventh among nine siblings, Shelah Waters was born July 8, 1768 in Charles County, Maryland – an area where his ancestors had lived for at least four generations.

Christened with the unusual biblical name, Shelah (usually pronounced “Shee-lee”), he would eventually become the namesake of numerous male descendants and their neighbors. There is no record as to the reason for his name, except that it was chosen from the Bible, as were the names of three of his brothers, Rezin, Asenath, and Enos.

Fifth among eleven children, Nancy Turner was born Oct. 12, 1770, also in Charles County, Maryland. Her ancestors had lived in the area for even longer than the Waters family, for Nancy’s GGG grandfather Arthur Turner had been among the earliest English settlers in Maryland.

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