Wednesday, June 10, 2020

J.H. McKinley was Bozo Texino


Pleasanton City Cemetery in Atascosa County, Texas is where Clinton County, Kentucky native J.H. McKinley lies buried. Born at Cartwright on March 25, 1893, he was an early-20th-century train man who was also a railroad car graffiti artist, someone who marked up freight cars with pictures and messages in text.

For a long time the identity of Bozo Texino remained at least semi-anonymous. The mythical character McKinley created began leaving his hobo chalk-drawn graffiti/artwork on the sides of boxcars from Maine to California as early as 1919. In the photo you can see his graphic signature and the simple bust of a pipe-smoking character in a peaked hat with an infinity-shaped brim. In 1939, he told a reporter he had adorned a quarter-million or so boxcars since bringing Bozo Texino.

James Herbert McKinley worked for Missouri Pacific, first as a fireman then later as a locomotive engineer. He was known to sometimes wear a checkered shirt, a bow-tie and a derby hat with his denim railroad overalls and is remembered by his peers as one of the wildest engineers who ever worked for Missouri-Pacific.

As I mentioned, Bozo Texino's identity wasn’t exactly a secret. For more than 25 years he wrote a humor column called “Bozo Texino Sez” for Missouri-Pacific magazine and occasionally would write a piece in Albany's New Era newspaper.

"When I was a teenager," he wrote in 1953, "and used to climb the steep grade from the foot of the 76 Falls, I didn't know that some day I'd go to the top of the falls in a boat. When I used to swiim in the 7-foot swimming hole on Ind­ian Creek I didn't know that some day it would be a 77-foot swimming hole. No one could have ever made me believe that some day I'd catch a fish 100-foot above Aunt Ann Ellen Grider's chimney.

Born March 25, 1893, McKinley left Clinton County when he was barely 17 and moved to San Antonio. In 1914 he was hired to work on the San Antonio, Uvaloe and Gulf Railroad, then two years later on the IGN. Both of those railroad companies were eventually bought by Missouri-Pacific. McKinley was promoted to engineer in 1928, but it was his penchant for humor that made him well known and admired through­out that part of the country.

"I remember when very few people trusted a bank and buried their money under the hearth in front of an open fire­place or under a haystack," he wrote in 1954. "Ev­erybody trusted and loved one another and nobody would tell a lie until they started trading coon dogs."

James Herbert McKinley was the son of Charles Ellis and Rachel Neathery McKinkey. He died in Pleasanton, Texas, just outside San Antonio, on February 26, 1967. Several of his relatives live in Clinton County.

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