Edward I. Kellie
Needham Bryan Weatherford
F. (Spot) Baird
people collect antiques. Others collect baseball cards. Personally, I've always
been partial to East Texas characters -- the sometimes slightly off-center people
who lived lifetimes doing things differently than the rest of us.|
are some of my favorite East Texas characters collected over the last half-century.
of Lufkin called himself "an old,
worn-out country preacher." But he had a special gift for recasting mundane words
into verses sprinkled with humor or wreathed in sadness. None of Walker's poems
ever appeared in a book. His fans discovered his works in the Lufkin newspaper.
It was Walker, in fact, who described himself as one of "the oodles of poets who
cut strange capers and print their dodoes in the papers."
Edward I. Kellie, who weighed only 109 pounds, lived one of the fullest lives
of any newspaperman in East Texas. His parents died of yellow fever in New Orleans
in l856 and he hit the road, working as a newsboy, cowboy, printer's devil, steamboat
captain, soldier, county surveyor and anything else that caught his fancy. He
fought in the Civil War, coming to Jasper
in 1865 with the battle flag of his Confederate flag hidden in his uniform. He
founded the Jasper News-Boy and gave East Texas one of its liveliest newspapers
with a writing style much like Mark Twain's. On his deathbed, he extracted from
his daughter a promise to place his cherished Confederate battle flag in his casket.
Needham Bryan Weatherford
of Camden was the last of the old-time logging
bosses and could tell endless stories about his days with the W.T. Carter and
Brother Lumber Company. He could remember when a visitor to East Texas could ride
a train almost anywhere without getting out of hearing distance of a sawmill.
F. (Spot) Baird
brought national attention to Rhonesboro, a stop in the road west of Gilmer, by
cooking possum dishes all over Texas, but with a tongue-in-cheek approach that
made you wonder if he was serious or not. Baird often proclaimed "there are 22
differnent ways to cook possum...and 22 different ways to throw it out."
was perhaps the last of the old give 'em hell weekly newspaper editors. For years
he ran the Kountze News with such controvery that a fellow newspaperman suggested
that Kountze put up a sign in
Fullingham's yard: "Warning! Do not arouse this crazy old man."
will never be another snuff-dipper like Jerry Sadler, a politician-farmer
who ran the Texas Land Commission, often from his farm at Hickory Grove in Anderson
County. Sadler dipped snuff for 65 of his 74 years, starting as a youngster. Sadler
contended that snuff dipping was no handicap to political success. "Texas is well-stocked
with happy snuff-dippers," he said.
an 18-month-old child, Claibe Applegate fell from a porch and crippled
a leg for life. But, using a pair of crutches, he labored as a bandleader, postmaster,
railroad agent, schoolteacher, and principal. It was as a newspaperman, however,
that he left his greatest imprint. From his worn typewriter at the Panola County
Watchman in Carthage
came the sensitivity of a loving father, the wisdom of a patient schoolmaster,
and the tartness of a tough newspaperman. He never received a high school diploma,
but his legions of followers made that possible, too. In l965, seven years before
his death, Applegate hobbled on crutches across an auditorium stage and received
an honorary diploma from Gary High School.
White used to say,
"Jesus don't need no hams or shoes. But there's lots of poor folks who do." It
was that piece of country philosophy that prompted the former farmer to open God's
Storehouse, a rickety plank building in Jacksonville
that provided food for the hungry, clothing for the needed and toys for children.
For years, White conducted his self-styled welfare program all by himself, often
buying 30 to 40 hogs to be butchered for meat that would fill his storehouse for
June 20-26 , 2004 Column
Bob Bowman is a former president of the East Texas Historical Association
and the author of 30 books on East Texas history and folklore. He lives in Lufkin