Sentimental Sunday – How My Great-Grandfather escaped the Ku Klux Klan.

My maternal great grandparents, Melissa and Sam Jones in Bakersfield, California probably in the late 1960s.

As part of celebrating  Mother’s day with my mom last week, we went through her box of old photos and reminisced.

We rediscovered a bunch of treasures that I’d forgotten about, including the one above, a picture of my maternal great-grandfather, Sam Jones and mom recounted my favorite story about him.

Born July 18, 1882 in Alma, Arkansas, the Rev. Sam Jones lived a good part of his life in Oklahoma.  But an incident there with the local Ku Klux Klan chased him out of town. No one can remember now what the incident was, but everyone recalls that when Sam learned that the Klan was after him, he had himself nailed into a pine box, placed on a wagon and driven out of town like he was already dead.  He would settle in Bakersfield, California where he was known as an entrepreneur and mentor to many young black men.

I don’t know how long Sam had to stay nailed up in that box, and even though I’ve heard the story plenty of times, it still makes me shake my head in awe. I never met my maternal great-grandfather. He died on December 16, 1976 when I was just seven years-old. But because of this story and all the good things I’ve heard about him over the years, he has always seemed heroic to me and loomed large in my mind.   Indeed he was large, almost 7 feet tall!  Only my brother, at 6′ 4″  inherited any of great-grandpa’s height, but I hope if need be we descendants have somehow garnered even an iota of his courage.

So what’s your favorite family tale?

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10 Comments

Filed under African-American history, Ku Klux Klan, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Sentimental Sunday – How My Great-Grandfather escaped the Ku Klux Klan.

  1. What an incredible story and what an even more incredible man. It’s sad that he had to move because of such hatred, but gratifying that he made a name for himself and became an inspiration and mentor to others!

  2. Loved this story. I have one similar in 1868 in Rutherford, NC. I should post it. I guess due to the times, survival instincts kicked in. My great- grandmother used to say Emancipated, but not Free.

  3. Deb

    Isn’t it amazing what our grandparents and great-grandparents endured so that we can live the lives we are living now? My maternal grandmother was born in the woods escaping from Russia. My great-grandparents were fleeing with a group of people who wanted to kill my grandmother bc they were afraid her cries would give them away. My great-grandmother bundled her up tightly, and by the time they reached the fisherman who had arranged to put them on a boat to freedom, my grandmother had turned blue. My great-grandparents gave their newborn to the fisherman to bury and as the boat started taking off, he ran out in the water and handed my grandmother, now breathing, to my great-grandparents. They sailed into Ellis Island. And the rest is history.

  4. AMY

    Dionne,

    What an amazing story! You come from those who persevere. I admire your Great-Granddad, Sam! Thank You for sharing!

  5. Thank you for sharing this story. What a brave man he was! How sad you were never able to meet him personally. How interesting it would have been to hear him tell his stories!

  6. Dionne, I wasn’t so lucky, I have a gg-uncle was was lynched in 1887 in Tennessee. I happened upon a newspaper clip that stated it, plus there was lots of oral history passed down about it. Pretty sad stuff, what our ancestors endured.

    • Robyn, so sorry to hear about your great-great uncle. It is amazing what they endured. But I’m so glad we’re able to honor them by telling their stories.

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