A Black Mississippi Family and Constantine Montgomery

by Willie L. Robinson

My efforts to learn more about my genealogy and family history continue to be most rewarding for me. During a visit with Cousin Luberta Fairman Porter in Norfield, Lincoln County, Mississippi in September of 2001, I came into possession of a book entitled, Good For What’s Buggin’ You - The Life and Works of J.C. Redd, by Bob Pittman. The book, which was published in 1982, is about the late Jabus Constantine “J.C.” Redd of Lincoln County. J.C., with his wife Annie, was the founder of the Redd Pest Control Company, Inc., of Jackson, Mississippi, in 1946. He was a son of Levi L. Redd and Mary Blanche Montgomery Redd. Norfield is located on Highway 51 about seventeen miles south of Brookhaven, which is the county seat.

In the book on pages 97 and 98, J.C. gives an account of a heroic deed done by his paternal grandfather, Constantine Montgomery, who went to the defense of a neighboring black family, after members of the Ku Klux Klan had made plans to pay the family a visit one night. The Klan members had decided the black family members needed to be whipped. The only "crime" committed by the family, the book states, was that they were more prosperous than some of their white neighbors.

On the night of the planned visit, Constantine, a carpenter and a man of influence in the area, posted himself outside of the home of his neighbors and waited for the Klan members to arrive. Upon their arrival, Constantine warned them that they would have to kill him before entering the house and doing harm to the family. The Klansmen changed their minds and left. Constantine, while preventing the family from being whipped, may have also prevented the occurrence of something even more tragic that night considering the reputation of the KKK. He was known as a peacemaker and that role was demonstrated that night as the heroism of Constantine Monrgomery may have saved the lives of an innocent family.

I have not been able to pinpoint exactly when the incident occurred, or exactly who all were members of the black family at the time. Constantine was born in 1843, and he died in 1919. The son of the black family was born in 1888. He would have been about thirty-one years old when Constantine died, and married for about a year and a half.

In 1900, the black family consisted of the parents, a son and a daughter. By a reference in the story, it is clear the son was a member of the family at the time of the planned activity by the KKK. Since his mother lived until 1926, she was there also. I estimate that the father died between 1910 and 1912. He was probably also there if the incident occurred when Constantine was no more than sixty-five year old. It is likely that the wife of the son had not joined the family by that time if it occurred before 1918, which it probably did. The daughter lived longer than any other member of the family, and she was likely at home when the Klan went calling on them.

In the book, J.C. describes his family members as being longtime acquaints of the black family at the time of the incident, and that could have been the motivation for Constantine’s actions that night in going to the aid of his innocent neighbors. He could have also acted as he did simply because it was the right thing to do under the circumstances. My research shows the families were neighbors in 1870, and I think the relationship dates back much farther than that.

It is not known if the occupants of the house were ever aware of how close they came to an encounter with members of the KKK or not. Family tradition does not offer an account of the incident. That is not so unusual considering the fear the Klan was able to create in black people during the time. At any rate, I am very appreciative that Constantine took the action that he took that night in protecting my Robinson family members. I am also pleased that J.C. Redd documented this story in his book, and I was fortunate enough to find it. A member of that family was Thornton Edgar "T.E." Robinson, the man who became my paternal grandfather, the father of Willie Ivy Robinson (1923-2000). My mother, Lenora Amos Robinson (1924-1969), named me Willie Edgar Lee Robinson when I was born in August 1943.

Thornton Edgar, who married Narsis Bailey, was a son of Ivey Robinson and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Dunn Robinson. Narsis was a daughter of Eugene Bailey and Mariah Hardy Bailey. Constantine, who married Arcada Elizabeth Moak, was a son of William Montgomery and Sarina Albritton Montgomery. Arcada Elizabeth was a daughter of John Moak and Nancy Roberts Moak. Redd family tradition says some members of the Moak family were of the Bogue Chitto Clan of the Choctaw Indian Tribe. Robinson family tradition has it that Lizzie was also of Native-American descent.

Lizzie's death certificate shows her mother's name was Elizabeth also, and her father was Thornton Dunn. Lizzie was born in the area, and as far as I have been able to determine, she spent all her life there. Her mother was born in Mississippi and Thornton, a mulatto, was born in Louisiana as indicated by the Lincoln County Census of 1870. Lizzie's roots may have also included Bogue Chitto. She was between seventy-five and seventy-eight years old when she died in August 1926.

Ivey and Elizabeth were neighbors of the Montgomery family in Lincoln County in 1870, which was the year the county was formed from parts of the counties of Amite, Copiah, Franklin, Lawrence and Pike. William had died by then, and Sarina was head of the Montgomery household. Constantine and Arcadia were married the following year in 1871. The year 1870 was also the first time black people in general were counted by name in the United States Census following the abolishment of slavery in 1865.

In addition to Willie Ivy, T.E. and Narsis were the parents of Mary Elizabeth (Bourrage), Eugene J. "Tuddy", Silas M. "Tee", Tycer M. "Slim" and Edith Marie "Kitty" (Norwood). Edith Marie, named Eddis Mariah at birth, was born four months and three weeks after the accident that caused her father's death in October 1933. Victoria "Sissy" Robinson was T.E's sister, his only known sibling to have lived to reach adulthood. Aunt Sissy never married or had children. She was seventy years old when she died in December 1954. T.E. was also the father of Eddie Robinson, son of Hattie Jackson, and Stephen "Stevie" Wallace, son of Arie Gordon.

J.C. asserts in the book that his family got along well with the Robinson family. He goes on to say the children of the families played together, swam together, and on occasions, even ate together. My late father, who was one of the Robinson children mentioned by J.C. in the book, had also given me the same information about the relationship between the families about a year or two before he died in 2000 while living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I learned from my father that Aunt Sissy used to do housework for the Redd family.

On his way to becoming a successful business man, J.C. was Valedictorian of his graduating Class of 1930. One of the jobs he performed as a young man while still in high school was driving the school bus. His father Levi bought a stripped-down Ford truck and J.C. built a bus body for it and turned it into a school bus. He mentions that experience on pages 13 and 97. In the book J.C. makes reference to having to pass up the black children who walked to school in the same general area as the school attended by the white children, because he was not permitted to let them ride the bus. Another part of the story about the school bus was told to me by my father, as he was one of the walkers.

After being invited to get on the bus several times by some of the riders who knew him, young Willie Ivy decided one day to do just that, and he did. My Uncle Eugene, who was also one of the walker, confirmed that his brother did ride the bus. Willie Ivy didn't take a seat after he got on the bus. Instead, he laid down on the floor on his stomach with his arms hanging off the back of the bus and started "clowning" as the other riders laughed at him. When the bus stopped to allow students to get off, Willie Ivy got off also. He got back on and continued entertaining the other riders when the bus continued on its way.

When the children of the Redd family arrived home, Aunt Sissy was there and she learned what her nephew had done by "integrating" the school bus on his way home from school that day. Needless to say, young Willie Ivy had some of the facts of life of the times explained to him in his home that day, and the facts were impressed upon him in a way that he never attempted to ride that school bus again. Aunt Sissy was descrided as being "very scared" when she got home from work that day because of what her nephew had done on his way home from school.

Prior to 2004, I had met, as I recall, only one member of the Redd Family. He was Rembert Morris (R.M.) Redd, who was of my generation. I met with R.M. on several occasions and had telephone conversations with him. He was very helpful to me in my research. It was R.M. who carried me to the family home of his ancestor Constantine Montgomery, and told me that some of my family members may be buried near the cemetery where his great-grandfather is buried. R.M. passed away in 2003.

On July 6, 2004, I had an opportunity to meet Gordon L. Redd, Sr., and his wife Mabel L. Redd in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I had lunch at a local restaurant that day with Mr. Gordon and Ms. Mable. We enjoyed the food and had very good conversation. While at the restaurant, Mr. Gordon introduced me to some of his friends as the son of one of his former classmates. Mr. Gordon and my father were born twenty-six days apart in 1923. Constantine Montgomery was Mr. Gordon's paternal grandfather.

Gordon L. Redd, Sr., Mable L. Redd and Willie L. Robinson on July 6, 2004
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

My father and uncle also told me that J.C. would at times while traveling on business to Omaha, Nebraska and Milwaukee, look in the telephone directory for their numbers and call them. I recall seeing the Redd Man Pest Control trucks around the City of Jackson when I was a student at Jackson State College in the 1960s, but I had no idea of the Redd's family connection to the Robinson family at the time. Because of the documentation about my family in J.C.'s book, and conversations I had with my father and uncle, I now have a better perspective on part of my family's history.

Friendship between some members of the Redd and Robinson families continues, as does my genealogical research in this area. I think there is still much to be learned about the history of the two Mississippi families before, as well as after 1865. History does not change. It is our perspective on the past that is capable of being altered to bring new meaning to the present, as we process the historical information available to us for sharing with, and enlightening generations of the future.

By going to the defense of his neighbors, Constantine Montgomery just may have changed the course of history for the Robinson family that night so many years ago in Lincoln County, Mississippi. I am very thankful that the man known as a peacemaker cared enough to get involved.

******************************

"The roads you travel so briskly
lead out of dim antiquity,
and you study the past chiefly because
of its bearing on the living present
and its promise for the future."

-Lt. Gen. James G. Harbord,
K.C.M.G., D.S.M., LL.D., U.S. ARMY (RET.)
(1866-1947)

REFERENCES

NOTES

I offer special thanks to Linda Durr Rudd of Jackson, MS for research assistance she provided me in the development of this page.

I offer special thanks to Jennings G. Smith of Brookhaven, MS for information he provided me from his notes in the development of this page.

I offer special thanks to Gordon L. Redd, Jr., of Gulfport, MS, and other members of his family for giving a copy of the book to my cousin Luberta Fairman Porter of Norfield, MS. I learned of the reference to my family in the book by reading Cousin Luberta's copy of it.

LINKS

615-876-1852 (Home) 615-498-6074 (Cell)

This site is developed and maintained by Willie L. Robinson.

DATE CREATED: September 21, 2001

LAST UPDATE: November 02, 2012

Email: Wlr0819@aol.com