Friday, April 28, 2023

To Kill A Mockingbird

 Right out of the pages of that novel, predating it by five years only ...

CNN — 

Carolyn Bryant Donham, the White woman whose accusation led to the 1955 lynching of Black teen Emmett Till in Mississippi – and whose role in the brutal death was reconsidered by a grand jury as recently as last year – has died in Louisiana, the Calcasieu Parish coroner’s office confirmed to CNN.


In August 1955, 14-year-old Emmett was beaten and shot to death after he allegedly whistled at Bryant – now Donham – in Money.

Later, her husband, Roy Bryant, and J.W. Milam, took Emmett from his bed and ordered him into the back of a pickup truck and beat him before shooting him in the head and tossing his body into the Tallahatchie River. They were both acquitted of murder by an all-White jury following a trial in which Carolyn Bryant testified that Emmett grabbed and verbally threatened her. 

Milam, who died in 1980, and Bryant, who died in 1994, admitted to the killing in a 1956 interview with Look magazine.

In 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Donham on any charges.

Donham testified in 1955 that Emmett grabbed her hand and waist and propositioned her, saying he had been with “White women before.” But years later, when professor Timothy Tyson raised that trial testimony in a 2008 interview with Donham, he claimed she told him, “That part’s not true.”

Saturday, April 15, 2023

A Slightly Different Color

It's a noteworthy moment when a person finds themself writing something like this:

Thank you for these wise words. After a certain age, life takes on a slightly different color. The future is more limited, the past heavier. Certain joys in life decrease, and if they are not replaced by others, this leads to a feeling of sadness. At least it has in my case.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Remembering Blair Fox

One of the truly consequential people in my life will depart the living earth today or perhaps tomorrow or maybe even the next day. But there is no reason to expect it will be longer than that.

Blair Fairchild Fox, son of Jill and Joe Fox, brother of Logan, Jeff (himself too deceased) and Michael Fox

Child of Guard Hill Road, Bedford NY, he grew up in a house down the hill from his grandmother's larger Georgian mansion. He came into his teenage years in the early 1970s. 

Speaking of his teenage years, he lived in a tenement on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with a buddy when he was probably 16. Those were different times.

He joined the Navy, was sent to Australia, broke his neck in an auto accident while on base and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The year was 1976. He was 18. 

Our lives intersected many times over the decades to follow.

I remember visiting him with my dad and Jill at the VA hospital in Roxbury, Mass. when he returned stateside shortly thereafter.

He lived for a while in an apartment building on West End Avenue that also housed folk singer Judy Collins.

He spent much time in Vermont, and lived for many years on Benvenue Avenue in Berkeley, California. I had many a good glass of wine over there in the late 1980s. 

He then moved himself to Austin, Texas. It was warmer in Texas. Too cold in the Bay Area, that chilly kind of cold that gets into your bones.

Blair's body has finally given out on him. He dodged many a bullet over the years. By some measures, he lived decades longer than anyone predicted he might, but none of us lives forever and Blair did not find a way to be exempted from that rule. 

You won't find much about him on paper. He wasn't that kind of person. But for anyone lucky enough to interact with him, he was nothing short of amazing. An amazing life lived by an amazing human being. 

This past weekend, I walked boots-deep into a streamlet in central Massachusetts and poured out some Prosecco and scattered some sheep poop. It was the only way I could think to honor the man. Sheep poop is a wonderful fertilizer. Ashes to ashes kind of thing. Then yesterday, I asked a guitarist to play the Grateful Dead song Ripple to remember him by. The final line of the song is thus

If I knew the way, I would take you home.

Blair Fox