Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Medal of Honor Recipient: Oliver Hughes

Harry Truman once declared he’d rather have a Medal of Honor than be president. The area i live in is blessed to have had three Medal of Honor recipients so far: Sgt. Alvin C. York during WWI, Lt. Murl Conner during WWII and Cpl. Oliver Hughes during the Civil War.

Most people may not know about the heroics of Cpl. Hughes. The first soldier from this area to receive the citation, he was born in Fentress County, TN in 1844 and lived in the Static area, close to where Conner lived and not far from York's place at Pall Mall, TN. Cpl. Hughes was awarded the Medal of Honor for an act of extraordinary heroism which he performed on February 20, 1865, while serving with the Union army's 12th Kentucky Infantry at Town Creek, North Carolina.

The Union army had came up on Confederate lines along the road from Wilmington to Fort Fisher. Finding themselves in a comparatively open country with only a few pine trees, the federal troops were exposed to a merciless fire from the rebel artillery. Seeing that desperate measures were necessary, Lieutenant-Colonel L.H. Rassieur ordered an attack on the rebel lines. When it began, Cpl. Hughes saw the color-sergeant carrying the flag of the 11th South Carolina Infantry Regiment. The flag, in those days, was used to signal advances and retreats. Determined to capture it, he made a rush toward the color-sergeant, who retreated to within a short distance of his company. Still, Hughes persisted and within 3 feet of the mouth of one of their cannon, killed him and captured the colors. In the disray, the union was able to counter because with the Confederate flag gone so were the communications it provided.

Cpl. Hughes saved thousands of lives that day Town Creek, North Carolina. After the war, he returned home to farm, but a few years later moved to Macon County, Missouri. He died there in 1911 at the age of 69.

The flag of the 11th South Carolina regiment was returned by the U.S. War Department to the state of South Carolina on March 25, 1905.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

U.S. Rexroat

One early newspaper publisher/editor was a man by the name of Ulysses Sampson Rexroat. U.S. was born in 1869, probably in Russell County, to Sampson and Susan Absher Rexroat. His grandfather was Bro. William Rexroat, a popular Baptist preacher. It is unclear when the family moved to Chapman, Kansas, but when he died, Sampson Rexroat was, according to newspapers, one of oldest settlers in Chapman, which was settled in 1868.

It is also not clear when U.S. moved back to Kentucky, but he married Lula Walker of Columbia in 1892. Their only child, a son, Walker Brice, was born in 1893. Lula likely died either in childbirth or shortly thereafter as Walker Brice was reared by her parents and took their surname.

In 1897, U.S. was the editor of The Liberty Tribune in Liberty, Kentucky. He was also the secretary of the Liberty Fair in 1897. He apparently moved to Russell Springs the following year, because he was listed as a stockholder when the Russell Springs Fair Association was chartered in 1898. He was the groups first Secretary. In 1902, he started a newspaper in Russell Springs known as Kentucky Mountaineer.

March 4, 1903 -- (The Adair County News) "The Journal is the name of the new paper just started in Albany. Mr. U.S. Rexroat is its editor and publisher. Clinton County has a republican majority of about 500, but the editor of the journal states that his paper will be non-political. This announcement leads us to conclude that the readers of Clinton County are Democrats. We hope Mr. Rexroat will give them digestible material and that his venture will meet with success."

Ulysses Stewart Rexroat was born in Russell County in 1869, the first-born child of Sampson Rexroat and his second wife, Susan Absher Rexroat. So, i suppose being a native Russell countian allowed him to publish this commentary in his paper:

March 25, 1903 -- The Adair County News "Running a newspaper is just like shooting fish. All that is necessary is knowing how. The editor of the Albany Journal perhaps did not have on his studying cap when he wrote and published the following: Attorney O.B. Bertram went to Jamestown, Ky. last Sunday where he thinks of locating for the practice of his profession. May the Lord have mercy upon him. We've been there."

Ulysses was listed as a stockholder when the Russell Springs Fair Association was chartered in 1898 and served as its first Secretary. Two months after starting up his newspaper business in Albany, it was discovered that papers weren't the only thing being sold at the concession stand.

May 13, 1903 -- The Adair County News "U.S. Rexroat, who is the editor of the Albany Journal, was arrested last week, charged with selling liquor."

This was the second time Rexroat had been in the clutches of the law, charged with the same offense. En route to Columbia, he gave the police officer the slip and escaped. Learning he was at Russell Springs, Deputy United States Marshall R.E. McCandless and Commissioner F.R. Winfrey, went there and, just as the Commissioner entered the Springs Hotel and inquired about him, Rexroat made his escape out the back way. The Marshall was stationed out back and after a chase of 300 yards and firing at him several times, Rexroat was apprehended.

June 3, 1903 -- The Adair County News "U.S. Rexroat, who is charged with retailing liquor, was arrested at Russell Springs Wednesday night and brought to Columbia and lodged in jail. Thursday afternoon he was tried and held over, his bond being fixed at $200. The prisoner not being prepared to execute bond, the officer immediately started with him to Louisville."

Immediately after his run-in with the law, U.S. left Kentucky and moved out West. He moved around a lot, from job to job, living Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, generally working in the printing trade, oft times as a newspaper editor. But, the newspaper business wasn't Rexroat's only vocation. In between all of those jobs, he also worked in the cafe and grocery business, conducted a ranch and supply store in South Dakota, worked on a wheat farm in Kansas and worked nearly two years at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

In September of 1905, he married Maud Gravette in Bentonville, Arkansas. In 1915, he married Clara Peck, a native American of South Dakota. They had three daughters. In 1920, they were living in Strike Axe, Oklahoma, and in 1930, in Wynona City, Oklahoma. 

Here are the known newspapers where Rexroat was employed:

1897: The Liberty Tribune - Liberty, Kentucky
1902: Kentucky Mountaineer - R. Springs, Kentucky
1903: Albany Journal - Albany, Ky.
1910: Gravette News Herald - Gravette, Arkansas
1912: Elsmore Leader - Elsmore, Kansas
1913: Interior Journal - Tina, Missouri
1914: The Simpson News - Simpson Kansas
1916: The Advocate - Lakin, Kansas
1917: The Argonia Argosy - Argonia, Kansas
1918: The Rolla News - Rolla, Kansas
1921: The Hustler - Apperson, Okla.

Rexroat fell victim to life's circumstances at the start of the 1930's, as he explained in a letter to the Amarillo Globe-Times on March 9, 1931while living in Perryton, Texas:

"I am just another unfortunate person appealing to you for whatever assistance you may grant through your column of your highly esteemed newspaper. Circumstances over which i had no control have forced me into an unenviable position. I have been out of steady employment for a year, although i have sought work assiduously during that investment with a stock company, daily paper at Seminole, Oklahoma, boom oil town, broke me and the slump in oil, with its attendant depression, "nailed me to the cross," as it were, and I have been trying in vain to find some kind of permanent job in order to keep my three little girls in school...I would appreciate any other work that will enable me to help myself and family."

In late 1940 or early 1941, U.S. became ill and was brought back to Kentucky. He died on February 18, 1941 at the Central State psychiatric facility in Louisville. His death drew no notice in the Russell County News, but the February 26, 1941 edition of the Adair County News carried a brief obituary, which said services were held at the Christian Church in Russell Springs. Burial was at Rexroat Cemetery in Russell County.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wop Plants A Tree

On Dec. 11, 1901, the Adair County News wrote that William Oliver Perry McWhorter, who lived at Cartwright, Kentucky, attended the 1876 Philadelphia Exhibition. On his way home, he visited the tomb of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Virginia, and while he was there, picked up a walnut that had fallen from a tree, which cast its shadow over the tomb. A story in the Dec. 11, 1901 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal said that, when he arrived back home in Clinton County, Wop (as he was known) planted the nut, which grew into a fifty foot high tree.

No doubt it was a popular attraction for folks near and far, and I am guessing that Wop probably told the story of how the tree came to be hundreds of times. What a grand thing for the community of Cartwright, Kentucky, and if you are wondering, when I first published this story on March 13, 2018, a family member said that all of the trees around Wop's home were cut for a new road. It could be that this tree he planted was one of those trees.

In 2021, when a certain house and property at Cartwright was being sold, historian David Cross wrote that Wop had lived there for several years. Known by some as the “Doctor Cartwright house," he said, it was located on Cartwright Loop, just up and across the road from Stony Point Baptist Church and just down the hill from Cartwright Cemetery. Could this be where Wop planted the tree? David said Wop was the second postmaster at Cartwright. The first one was John W. Long. Wop also operated a general store there,

William Oliver Perry McWhorter was born in 1834 to John Foster and Elizabeth Beckett McWhorter. He was married to Emeline Ragsdil McWhorter (1863–1947). Wop died in 1919. He and his wife and three daughters, Minnie, Cora and Flora, are buried at Cartwright Cemetery.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hillbilly Jim: WWE Hall of Fame

Mudlick, Kentucky's most well-known resident, Hillbilly Jim, is headed to the WWE Hall of Fame.

The former wrestler will join Goldberg, Ivory, The Dudley Boyz and Jeff Jarrett as part of the 2018 Hall of Fame class that will be enshrined April 6 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans during WrestleMania 34 weekend.

Hillbilly Jim, whose real name is Jim Morris, was born in Louisville, Kentucky but raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, although during his wrestling days, and even at his current job as host of of Moonshine Matinee on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country, his character was/is from Mudlick, Kentucky, which, of course, goes much better with his Hillbilly Jim moniker.

Morris was discovered in Bowling Green during the early 1980's by wrestler Mike Mann, son of Dale "TNT" Mann, who trained the soon-to-be WWE hall of famer.

But, how did this giant of a man go from being an Allstate basketball player for Bowling Green High School to being a then-World Wrestling Federation Superstar?

After playing basketball for several colleges, Jim left the states to play for the European League, then tried out for the N.B.A. When that didn't pan out, he made his way back to Bowling Green and spent his time working out in the gym while looking for a job. Some of you probably remember the days when there was this extraordinary huge character working as a bouncer at the Brass A Saloon and Mr. D's in Bowling Green.

This is when Jim's positive attitude began to pay off. Dale Mann asked Jim if he'd be interested in wrestling. He later recalled those days by saying, "It comes down to knowing people, not only knowing them, but being ready to go when you get your shot. Sometimes you only get one shot. If you're not ready, they'll go on to somebody else." Fortunately, Morris knew this was it and went with it.

Soon, he was signed by the Continental Wrestling Association, where he wrestled around the Memphis area as a biker aptly dubbed, Harley Davidson. He started attending WWE marches and soon some of the wrestlers like Rowdy Roddy Piper began noticing him in the crowd. His fame ballooned once he joined WWE, then known as WWF, as a happy-go-lucky country boy babyface known as Hillbilly Jim, who would strut to the ring dressed in overalls. He began his run in the WWF in 1984. His role as Hillbilly Jim came naturally to him, he said. He drew on his Kentucky roots to morph into a larger-than-life version of himself.

"It was always a very doable and easy character to step into," Jim said. "I know a lot of country people. I know what that translates to. I did the best I could to bring that to the ring. It's a lot like I really am in person. I'm a happy, excitable kind of character. And I just wanted to denote happiness."

In the WWE, Jim was aligned with Hulk Hogan and his popularity soared as he was pitted against the likes of Mr. Fuji during the infamous Tuxedo matches. The two rivals battled in formal wear in Philadelphia, St. Louis and most notably at Madison Square Garden in New York.

For the now 65-year-old Hillbilly Jim, his popular Country and Southern rock radio show on Sirius XM is coming up on its 13-year anniversary. He is grateful to all of those who cheered for him from the stands and to WWE for giving him the platform in which he made his name. "I don't have my Sirius XM radio show because I'm Jim Morris. I've got it because I'm Hillbilly Jim," he said. "This company gave me Hillbilly Jim."

Monday, March 5, 2018

Randy "Macho Man" Savage versus Dale "TNT" Mann

The date was February 8, 1978. Gulas Pro Wrestling and the National Wrestling Association featured Randy "Macho Man" Savage versus Dale "TNT" Mann in one of two main events at Fairgrounds Arena in Nashville. It was the third match between the two popular wrestlers in eight days.

The match was billed as a "Winner Take All, Fight to a Finish!" Also on the same card, Tojo Yammoto and Leaping Lanny Poffo were featured in one tag team match and in another, Kurt and Karl Von Steiger, who at one point in their careers were known as The Germans. They were managed by my friend, Wendell Burchett (or Bur'chette, as he was billed). For all of you wrestling trivia fans, Wendell wore an army helmet and used it as a weapon of distraction during matches, although more times than not, as he once related to me, the helmet was grabbed by an opponent and used on him.

By the way, about that match between Randy Savage and Dale Mann forty years ago today, Mann won by disqualification. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Feb. 8, 1978 was the third time in eight days that Savage and Mann had wrestled each other. The first, on Feb. 1st at Nashville, was for the NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Championship. Savage retained the title because of a time limit draw. The second time was on Feb. 7th at Birmingham, Alabama, and again Savage retained the title because of a time limit draw.

Another piece of wrestling trivia, for a time, before Savage ascended to the throne at the WWE in Samford, Connecticut, the Poffo family wrestled regularly throughout Kentucky. Most always, the ring they used was provided by Dale Mann.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Eulogy for Billy Graham

A private (invitation only) funeral service for the Rev. Billy Graham will be held today at noon in a tent outside the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Graham died Feb. 21st at his home in Montreat. He was 99. He will be buried next to his wife Ruth, at the Billy Graham Library Prayer Garden. She was buried there on June 17, 2007. The tent is symbolic of the "canvas cathedral" in which Graham conducted his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that lasted eight weeks and propelled him to national prominence.

  Following the private interment service, Graham's grave marker will be put in place. The marker is made of North Carolina stone. Written on it is a scripture reference to John 14:6, a bible verse he used regularly throughout his ministry.

  "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

  Billy Graham's casket was designed and built by inmates at the nation's largest maximum security prison, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. While touring the correctional facility after preaching there in 2005, Graham's son Franklin saw caskets being built. Inmates at Angola make caskets for other inmates who cannot afford to purchase one. Moved by this, the younger Graham requested that inmates make caskets for his mother and father. The casket s made of pine and lined with a mattress pad. A wooden cross is nailed to the top of the casket. Ruth Graham's casket is identical to this one.

  Graham conducted more than 400 Crusades on six continents beginning in 1947, taking the Gospel to some 215 million people in more than 185 countries. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film and webcasts. Twice, during Crusades in Seoul, South Korea, Graham preached to crowds of more than one million people. In the United States, Graham preached in 45 states (plus Washington, D.C.) and more than 125 U.S. cities. More than 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades. Millions more have done so as a result of broadcast outreaches.

  Born Nov. 7, 1918, four days before the armistice ended World War I, William Franklin "Billy" Graham Jr. grew up during the Depression and developed a work ethic that would carry him through decades of ministry on six continents. He was raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte. Back then, "Billy Frank," as he was called, preferred baseball to religion. "I detested going to church," he said when recalling his youth.

  But in 1934, that changed. At a revival led by traveling evangelist Mordecai Fowler Ham, 15-year-old Graham committed his life to serving Jesus Christ. No one was more surprised than Graham himself. "I was opposed to evangelism," he said. "But finally, I was persuaded by a friend [to go to a meeting]...and the spirit of God began to speak to me as I went back night after night. One night, when the invitation was given to accept Jesus, I just said, 'Lord, I'm going.' I knew I was headed in a new direction."

  Several years later, Graham's "new direction" led him to the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida), and later, Wheaton College in suburban Chicago, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of medical missionaries in China. The couple graduated and married in the summer of 1943. Mr. and Mrs. Graham and their five children made their home in the mountains of North Carolina. They were married 64 years before Ruth's death in 2007.

  After two years of traveling as a speaker for the Youth for Christ organization, Billy Graham held his first official evangelistic Crusade Sept. 13 – 21, 1947 in the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when Graham was 29 years old. It was attended by 6,000 people. But, it was his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that first captured the nation's attention. Originally scheduled to run for three weeks, the "tent meetings" were extended for a total of eight weeks as hundreds of thousands of men, women and children gathered to hear Graham's messages.

  "I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins," said Graham at his final Crusade at New York's Flushing Meadows Corona Park, June 24 – 26, 2005 when Graham was 86 years old. More than 230,000 people attended.

  According to a 2005 Gallup Poll, 35 million Americans—one in six adults—had heard Billy Graham preach in person. He was regularly listed by the Gallup organization as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World." In 1983, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan —the highest honor the president can bestow on a private citizen. In 1996, U.S. lawmakers awarded Graham and his wife, Ruth, the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest honor Congress can bestow on a private citizen.

  In addition to his crusades, Graham provided counsel to 12 sitting U.S. presidents, beginning with Harry S. Truman. I was at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on the night of May 28, 1970, when Richard Nixon spoke at a Billy Graham Crusade. I wrote about it in "Nixon's Night Out."

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...