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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley, TN

17 Sep

#4 Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Roosevelt 32nd President of the United States, spoke out against the killing of an African American soldier in Ripley, TN.

“Early in 1944, a disgruntled Tennessean, WT Straub of Memphis, charged that Eleanor Roosevelt was indirectly responsible for a shoot-out between black soldiers and two white law enforcement officers in Ripley, Tennessee, in which one soldier was killed and an officer wounded.” – page 161, Days of Hope by Patricia Sullivan

Why Eleanor Roosevelt? WT Straub had mailed her newspaper clippings of the story involving the incident with the African American soliders and the White police officers that had taken place in Ripley, TN. Because Mrs. Roosevelt had taken a firm stand against segregation she had become an easy target for White supremacists.

Mrs. Roosvelt’s response:

“These articles are sad reading for you – not me.”

This stunned the City of Memphis and the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper demanded an explanation. Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary responded with:

“Mrs. Roosevelt meant that not she, but the South is responsible for things like that because of the condition there caused by discrimination against the Negro. Certainly she was not responsible for them. If she’d died in her cradle, conditions there would still be the same as they are.”

So just who was the African American soldier that died in Ripley whose story made it to the White House?

I haven’t been able to find him. My guess is that he might have been a soldier visiting home or he was a soldier at the base in Dyersburg, TN who happened to be in Ripley at the wrong time. I have found records of soldiers based in Dyersburg, TN dying in Ripley mainly through things such as plane crashes or other Army related incidents. At this time there was a lot of hostility towards African American soldiers because these soldiers were asserting their natural rights to freedom. These soldiers even had their right to vote protected when civilian African Americans did not! My next step here is to search through the Commercial Appeal archives at the University of Memphis library.

I did find an entry for a W.T. Straub in the 1940 Memphis City Directory. The directory indicates that he was employed as a conductor.

So just who was this soldier? I hope to have more information for you soon. So far my searches have turned up empty.

– Tiffany

Sources: page 161, Days of Hope by Patricia Sullivan, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 27 January, 29 January 1944.


Lynching of Albert Gooden – Follow Up

10 Sep

I covered the kidnapping and lynching of Albert Gooden of Tipton County about a year ago. That article can be found here.

While on the internet I did discover more information about Mr. Gooden’s death along with a photo. Interesting tidbits from the article,

  • Mr. Gooden owned an illegal gambling house
  • Two shootings took place that night, one victim was Jack Bolton age 24 African American male and the other was  Night Marshall Chester Doyle, a Deputy Sheriff in Tipton County
  • Quotes from the Covington Leader Newspaper and The Atlanta Daily World
  • The Tennessee Governor offered $5000 for information on Mr. Gooden’s killer

Please check out the article and photograph here:

Interesting to note I couldn’t locate a death certificate on Mr. Gooden.

There is also an article on Elbert Williams of Haywood County on the Pan African News site. I’ve been writing a piece on him to be published on this site in the future.



Source: PanAfrican News –,

The Unusual Death of Tom Rice

11 Aug

The book Lauderdale County from its Earliest Times has a lot of little tidbits about life in Lauderdale County. While reading the  book I came across a tidbit about a man named Tom Rice. What stood out about Mr. Rice’s tidbit is the way he died.


“Tom Rice (Negro). Tom swallowed a table fork in a fight, killing him”


Excuse me, he swallowed a fork? That sounds especially painful. I then searched for his death certificate. Because Mr. Rice died in 1910 he has one of the earliest versions of death certificates for Lauderdale County. The early death certificates list little to no information compared to later versions. His cause of death is listed simply as “choked”. According to his death certificate Mr. Rice was 70 years old at the time of his death having been born in 1840. At the time of his death he was married and he worked as a laborer. Further researched turned up a marriage certificate and census records for Mr. Rice. He was married to Rebecca Turner Rice and by 1900 they had four children, Kate, Annie, William and Mary. What is missing from the story is exactly what happened to Mr. Rice the day he died. Was he indeed in a fight? If so, who was he fighting with and where were they fighting? Since he died by swallowing and choking on a fork I wonder if they were at an African American eating establishment? If so, what was the name of that establishment? I sure hope he did not meet his death at home at his own dinner table.


– Tiffany

– Source: Lauderdale County from its Earliest Times pg 117. State of Tennessee Marriage and Death Records, US Census Records for Lauderdale County, TN


Newspaper Clippings – Baltimore American August 10, 1898

4 May



Source: Google News Archive Baltimore American August 10, 1898