Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Hollerpalooza Street Fair

The 8th Happy Hollerpalooza Street Fair was held last Saturday and if you missed, be sure to look for it next year.  This is a wonderful neighborhood celebration!  It is not a bunch of out of town vendors selling the usual street fair goods.  All of the vendors were local (or so it seemed to me) and the food was provided by local restaurants.


Freezo had hot dogs for 50 ¢ in addition to their usual menu and although the place was packed, they had enough people working to keep the lines moving quickly.  In the parking lot behind the Freezo, the Epilepsy Fountaion was providing free bicycle helmets to children.


Beautiful day for the fair

At the other end of the fair, there was a motorcycle show.

There was a lot of music too.  Fulton High School Marching Band started the festivities with an impressive performance.  The Fulton High Gospel Choir was equally impressive.  Unfortunately, I had to leave after the choir sang, but there was an impressive list of performers.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Saying good-bye to Jennifer


This week my family attended the memorial service for our cousin Jennifer. As my family gathered to say good-bye to our sweet cousin, who left us far to soon, I looked around the room at the my family and I realized that I have been part of this tradition for more than fifty years. We have come together to mourn the loss of grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters and children. After I got home, I started thinking about all these occasions and the lessons I have learned and theimpact they have had on me.

As a young child, I had a lot of experience with funerals. In January of 1956, my Mother's Grandmother died and two weeks later her Mother died. In March of the next year my paternal grandfather died and in December of that year his Mother died. Three months after my Great Grandmother died, my Uncle died. So, before I was ten, I was completely capable of planning a funeral. Of course, someone else would have had to pay for it. On every occasion, the routine was the same.

We would all be in and out of my Greatgrandparents house. One evening the family would meet at Rose Funeral Home to receive friends. The room was a large hall with different areas for people to sit. This would usually last for a couple of hours and sometimes the children would talk quietly in the hall just outside the hall. We knew not to wander around the mortuary and I cannot recall anyone ever being repremanded. We were part of a serious event for our family and we knew it.

Still, it was hard to be quiet for so long. We did not have phones or ipads to amuse us. I don't remember even having colrong books or other little toys that are so common in churches today. So I would always look for my Aunt Marcene or Aunt Aileen to head toward the restroom. We could leave with an adult and all the girls would follow them. Thank goodness it was a large room, more like a lounge than a bathroom. They would go there to smoke a cigarette and we would go with them, not just for the break from having to stand quietly while friends and neighbors came by to pay there respects, but to hear the stories from from our Aunts. They might be dicussing last minute arrangements such as who was bringing what to the family dinner or who might need to stop at the store on the way home. I can't remember what they talked about, but I still remember that I loved them even more for not shooing us away.

The next day we would meet at Rose for the funeral. Rose had a place for the family to meet and they would enter the chapel after everyone had arrived. The family sat in a smaller room on the side of the chapel separated by a screen. You could see into the main part of the chapel and I always though that it would be nice to sit there. After the service, the family would be escorted to the cars that were lined up for the processional to Lynnhurst Cemetery. Lynnhurst was lined with weeping willow trees and had a gated archway at the entrance.

After driving to the cemetery and making our way to the grave site, a few last words were said, our last good-byes as well.

Then the family would go back to my Great Grandparents house to eat. The family would crowd into the small house that always had room for one more. Food would be set out on the dining table and we would go around the table in cafeteria fashion choosing what we wanted to eat and letting the Mothers would weave in and out of the line over to fix plates for the smallest children. We did't have any special order, we never had a children's table, it was all of us together as one family.

At every death we repeated this same ritual. There is a sense of comfort in this and in being confident that the worst times will bring out the best in your family. As time has passed, our family has become much larger and since we live farther apart, we don't see each as often we once did. However, when we get together, it is still very much the same. I enjoy talking to my cousins and catching up on the latest news. Although it's been more than fifty years, I can see us sitting the hallway of my Great Grandparent's house just being together.
Throughout the long week as the family prepared for the memorial service, each of us offered the only solace available, being ther and the knowledge that we would continue to be there in coming weeks, months and even years ahead, It reminded me of what is important in our lives because we all face difficulties at one time or another. Faith, family, friends and the power of prayer can see us through. As always, I pray for you- for continued healing, for guidance and that you will always have what you need to see you through.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Clinton School Integration and me

I grew up in a quiet neighborhood in the city with tree lined sidewalks. I knew all the neighbors and they knew me. We could walk just about anywhere I wanted to go. One of my uncles owned the drugstore, Mr. Proffitt owned the little neighborhood grocery store, Mrs. Hall had a perfect crabapple tree in her backyard. On hot summer nights we would play in the sprinklers while the grow-ups wold take turns churning ice cream. My great grandparents lived down the street and my family would get together at their house very often. The women would cook, the men would sit around and talk, but the cousins could play.

When I started school, it was the same school that my father and grandfather attended.  On my way to school each morning, I would walk down the street, past my great grandparents house, across the railroad tracks, past the church, past my uncle's drugstore on my way to school. I knew every person, every single step of the way and they knew me. Once I overheard two women sitting on their porch and one of them said, "There goes Buddy's little girl."

Sometimes, when we least expect, something happens that changes your world forever. For me, this was one of those days and I would never look at the world in the same way again.

One Sunday we were walking up the sidewalk to the church and a crowd of people was gathered in front of the door. When we got closer, I could see that someone had thrown red paint on the doors.

Lincoln Park UMC

Although I was still pretty young, this was very upsetting to me because I had never seen anything like this before. I could tell that all of the the adults were upset too. I asked my Mother about it and she told me that some people were upset with with our church and the things that we believed. It was not until many years later that I would understand what happened that day.

On December 5, 1950, a group of citizens filed a lawsuit which became known as McSwain et al. v. County Board of Education of Anderson County, Tennessee (104 F. Supp. 1861, 1952).

In his ruling announced on April 26, 1952, Federal District Judge Taylor denied the lawsuit and upheld the position of the county school board. "Judge Taylor decided Clinton African Americans had little to complain about and the problems and inconveniences of separate schools were “too small to be regarded as a denial of constitutional rights.” link

The legal setting changed, however, on May 17, 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was unequal and struck down the separate but equal foundation of Jim Crow segregation. Two-and-one-half weeks later, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, in a hearing where the Clinton black families were again represented by Looby, Williams, Cowan, and Marshall, reversed Taylor’s 1952 ruling and returned McSwain et al. v. County Board of Education of Anderson County to federal district court for a new decision “in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court in Brown et al. v. Board of Education.”

As a result, Clinton High School was ordered to intergate. The Knoxville Ministerial Association (KMA), publicly supported the integration of Clinton High School. This organization of ministers in the local area, integrated themselves, was interested in equality. Ted Witt, our minister, fully supported the KMA on this issue.


I was right to be fearful. White people who supported integration were putting, themselves, their families and even their communities at risk. "Rev. Paul Turner, a white minister of First Baptist Church in Clinton, made his contribution when he escorted 10 of the 12 black students to school on December 4, 1956. When Turner returned from his walk, he was assaulted by a mob and badly beaten." reference

Years later, I had the honor of working with Alex Stuart, this is his story.

"On May 14, 1964, Mr. Stuart, then vice moderator of the local Union Presbytery, was attacked and injured during participation in a Presbytery matter. He, along with the Reverend Geddes Orman, the stated clerk of Union Presbytery and pastor of Norwood Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, and the minister of First Presbyterian Church at Knoxville College, were sent to Camden, Alabama, to check on some black churches in Alabama. Because the Knoxville College minister was black, he stayed with friends because he did not think the Camden hotel where his colleagues planned to stay would give him a room. After word got out that Mr. Stuart and the Reverend Orman had come to Camden with a black man, the two white ministers were attacked in their hotel room by a white man about 40 years old who mistakenly thought the men were civil rights workers. (This event occurred about a year after the Selma, Alabama, protest march during which a Unitarian minister was killed.) Mr. Stuart was severely beaten with the barrel of a shotgun; he suffered a broken right arm and multiple bruises on his left arm and leg and had to spend a week in Oak Ridge Hospital following his escape from Camden. His story made front-page news in the Knoxville News-Sentinel; the headline was "Pastor Tells of Alabama Beating." He was invited to tell his story at the June meeting of the General Assembly in Oklahoma City." reference

Jackie Lennon tells the story of her experience as a young black girl growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee in The Mee Street Chronicles.  It is a compelling, straight forward and honest look at her experience. 

 As an adult, I still remember how scary that Sunday morning was to me.  I am aware the my experience with fear was very limited compared to the brave black students that took those first steps to integrate public schools.

Statue of the Clinton 12, the first black students to enroll in Clinton High School