Annie 1
Annie Pope (née Williams) in 1886

The city of Chattanooga has only one insurance company but it is prosperous and venerable. The present president, a childhood playmate of mine named Bob Maclellan, whose grandfather founded the company, decided not long ago to put up a quite ambitious office building, all white marble and sculpture. To assemble his plot he had to buy some miscellaneous bits of property. One of those parcels, perhaps 15 x 60 feet with an unpainted railroad shack on it, belonged to the Estate of Henry Pope, deceased.

Henry Pope was another friend of mine, by mutual heritage.

I don't know what my friend Bob Maclellan paid the estate of my friend Henry Pope for that little piece of land, but my guess is that it ran expensive -- somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000.

To Bob Maclellan the purchase was a detail, an item among many items that had been a-building in the years before his new building was a-building. To Henry Pope, alas, as well as to the previous owner of the plot (his mother Annie Pope), the sale was less than a detail and less than an item, for both were dead. Only to me, to me alone, the transfer of title was the end of a story.

My maternal grandfather, born in Breslau in 1836, settled in Chattanooga as a clerk in the town's sole bank, not quite three years before the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861 when the war broke out, my grandfather was already a man of the world. He had spent two years at Charlottesville and two at the great university in Potsdam, in place of the Grand Tour. He had been to New York twice, going and coming. In Chattanooga he occupied a private house, impossible on a bank clerk's salary, meaning that my great-grandparents in Nashville were subsidizing him or that they had provided him with a comfortable proportion of the bank's capital stock. And he had bought four slaves.

My grandfather did serve in the Confederate Army and he did buy those four slaves. But lest there be any misunderstanding let me say here that my purely Southern maternal grandparents and my purely Southern paternal grandparents, and at least a million other Southern families including Robert E. Lee's, were anti-slavery. My father's father freed his slaves in his will as a Kentucky gentleman was honorably bound to do. My mother's father went farther. He declined to own another human being. He bought the four slaves but he never owned one of them. At the point of purchase he handed them their "freedom papers" -- letters of manumission. Then he put them to work at wages. At the time the Civil War broke out their wages were $1 per month. Each. Plus found.

Not one of the freedmen and -women bought and manumitted by my maternal grandfather ever left his employ. Nor the employ of his widow, my grandmother. When my grandfather died in 1906 one of his slave-born employees had died and the other three were still working for him. Another died before I was old enough to know him. The other two I knew well in my childhood, including Annie, the heroine of this chapter, whom I knew best. But I will defer reminiscence on Annie until I have disposed of the others.

I knew Alan, or Allan, or Allen -- however he would have spelled it if he had known the letters to spell it with. He and his mother were the last slaves grandfather bought. Mr. Lincoln had already been elected and a Southerner opposed to secession had to be prepared to defend himself with his fists or occasionally with his pistols. I am told that grandfather bought Alan, then about eight years old, because he had heard that the little boy was being mistreated, and Alan's mother, whose name I have forgotten, and who died before I was born, so as not to separate the two.

Grandfather would have educated Alan if the war had not intervened. His was a state that forbade Negro literacy, but as the law was worded this did not apply to free persons of any color. Apparently when grandfather returned from the war he considered it too late.

What I remember best about Alan was the way he would go into our chicken yard (everybody had one) and take a hen's head in his big left hand and whirl, twisting her head off. He would toss the head aside and the body would flutter and throb and agitate and travel and finally die. He would carry the body into the kitchen and then make a separate trip out to find the head, because my grandmother insisted that the neck and even the eyes be plucked, cooked, and eaten. To plagiarize a line from James Whitcomb Riley, "my grandmother was a frugal woman and wasted not a thing." What else I know about Alan is more likely to be hearsay than true recall. He was reputed to have taken only one bath "all over" in forty years and to have resisted, like Shaw's Eliza, the one forced on him then. His illiteracies and ignorancies and Negroisms, part of the family legend and all of them damned good stories, impressed me more before I grew up and heard the same illiteracies and ignorancies and Negroisms attributed to myriad family servants of other Southern families.

Of Alan's mother I heard nothing good. Grandmother would not "allow her in her kitchen," but did not state the reason, whether the woman was dirty or inept.

The third, who unlike Alan was an "inside" servant and who was as loved as Annie, died during World War I when I was too young to know him well, but I can never forget his name: Willie Mason Monroe Mitchell Harry Lazelius Cornelius Turner.

Now finally we come to Annie, who owns this chapter.

I knew Annie long and well. She was nurse to my mother and aunt and uncles; she was nurse to my brother and me; in a different kind of nursing role she saw my grandmother through her last illness. My mother loved her, my aunt loved her, my uncles loved her, my brother loved her. I loved her. I wouldn't even be surprised if my grandmother loved her, but I cannot be sure. Grandmother, like all grande dames of her generation, took for granted the last full measure of devotion.

Annie 2

Annie was born in 1842, the same year as my grandmother, and did not die until 1932, seven years after my grandmother, and aged a venerable ninety. Chattanooga's daily paper published an editorial about her. Someone said this had never been done before for a colored woman, and be it remarked that the editorial was not in the least patronizing. Around the city it was remarked that Annie died of shock when my grandfather's bank went under, not an unusual event in 1932 but one that by coincidence happened to appear in the newspaper on the morning of the day Annie died. It was a convenient joke but Annie was irretrievably moribund and cannot have read it.

Grandfather bought Annie in 1859. When a 23-year-old Southern white bachelor bought a 16-year-old colored girl in those times, even if the wench was no New Orleans quadroon but one of the blackest of the black, as Annie was, his motives could not but be suspect. But my grandfather was not mustered into the Confederate Army until more than two years later, at which time Annie had borne no child. And Annie, always an exemplary cook and maid, the sole servant in my grandfather's celibate household until Willie Mason Monroe Mitchell Harry Lazelius Cornelius Turner came in as a teenage boy a year or so later, was totally illiterate when she was transformed from a chattel to a bachelor's freedwoman; when grandfather left for the wars Annie could read and write quite well.

Grandfather was made a captain of artillery, because of training he had received at Potsdam, and was stationed at New Orleans. It did not take long for New Orleans to fall, as students of Civil War history know, and grandfather accepted parole as did most of the Confederate officers, though those that did not considered it somewhat less than respectable. Anyway, grandfather put a pack on his still uniformed back and went out peddling "notions" through Louisiana and Texas and Arkansas. When he got back to Chattanooga late in 1867 he had $12,000 in gold in that pack. Some fifty or sixty pounds of it. The French poilu in World War I carried fifteen pounds more than that on full marches, but still I admire my grandfather for bringing it safe home to Chattanooga through the hordes of returning, often lawless Johnny Rebs. He must have been a master at simulating destitution.

My grandfather and grandmother were married in 1869, and somehow Annie was still around and working for my grandfather. She did not have a child of record until more than six years after my grandfather returned; my grandmother never seemed to resent her; and my grandfather proved his virility by having four children. I suppose he must really have wanted a cook and not a concubine.

The Annie I remember, from years when she was in her seventies and later, was marked primarily by her intelligence, her efficiency and awareness, her total command of the correct thing to do at all times. My brother and I considered Annie the fount of all knowledge in the customs of our community and the interlocking relationships of its personnel. So, perhaps, had our mother, aunt, and uncles, and their generation before us. Annie was very short, very busty (the word in her times would have been buxom), -- a head buried in her bosom, as often mine was, was really buried -- later going only slightly to fat. Our respect for her was enhanced by the fact that she was the only person grandmother seemed to treat as an equal. Grandmother might scold Annie as she did everyone, but Annie scolded right back, which nobody else did. Nobody else.

Annie always knew what to do when we cut a heel or skinned a knee or had a toothache or earache or bellyache. Annie know when to apply first aid and when to call the doctor, and she didn't have to consult anyone. Annie always knew, and everyone knew Annie knew.

Annie was never subservient. I don't doubt that once upon a time she was, but by the time I knew her she had outgrown it. She had her job to do, which was essentially subservient and which she performed with dignity, and we had our job to do, which was to live up to what she conceived to be our position, and if we didn't do our job properly she wasn't going to grieve about it so long as she did hers.

Annie taught us our peculiar Southern culture, consisting of its vulgar idiom, its folk songs, its social distinctions among poor white trash, ignorant people, just people, important people but not quality, and quality. Segregation was a fact of life in our South then and Annie couldn't have made entrance into our small Negro aristocracy who eschewed our society as vigorously as we theirs, but she made us recognize the difference between the respectable, dignified segment and the psychologically harassed undermasses that might be driven to violence and irresponsibility by their condition, in whichever race.

"Annie," wailed my ten-year-old brother, standing in the wings about to give a piano recital, his hand tight in Annie's, "I don't want to go out there."

"Hesh," said Annie. "All you got to do, set on that stool and play like you do every day."

"But they won't know."

"Hesh," said Annie. "You don't care what they know. You play for you-self, fo'get about what they think."

Annie played for herself and didn't have to care about what they thought. My brother played very well after Annie had shoved him onto the platform, and he got an ovation. Annie played very well all her life and I am giving her her ovation now.

Nor may you infer that Annie spoke inferior English for our times and region. My grandfather, an adequate scholar, may not have taught her to pronounce all her r's, but in that respect he was somewhat deficient himself.

I know so many things about Annie, it is strange that there are other, important, things about her I do not know.

I do not know what she did during those six or more years while my grandfather was off to his war and his peddling.

I do not know how she happened to come back into my grandfather's service after that time. But then, I do not know what brought back Willie Mason Monroe Mitchell Harry Lazelius Cornelius Turner, and Alan or Allan or Allen, and his mother, that other colored woman whose face I have forgotten and whose very name I cannot remember. I only know they did come back. During the war they may have worked for fancy wages such as three or even four dollars a month. After the war, times may have been hard and my grandfather may have been soft; he may have felt an obligation to care for his former retainers. There is even the possibility that my grandfather was as grand a guy as his children and widow and servants made him out to be.

An important item in the list of things I do not know about Annie is where she got her surname. Did she always have it? No, Southern Negroes didn't have surnames before 1865. Did she marry a colored man whose first name was Pope -- not an unlikely name for a house servant in the 1860s -- and adopt his sole name for her surname? Or had her husband belonged to a family named Pope, so that he endowed her with a built-in surname? And what became of her husband, Pope --- or --- Pope?

However it happened, somewhere along the line between 1869 when my maternal grandparents got married and 1876 when their last child, my youngest and most famous uncle, was born, Annie got married too; and if her name hadn't been Annie Pope before, it became Annie Pope then.

I can picture Annie's wedding, although it must have occurred thirty-odd years before I was born. Grandmother's very best dispensable light-colored dress with its embroidered bodice and tucked waist and flared skirt had been fitted to the three-inch-shorter, compulsively giggling Annie, with my stern grandmother doing supervisory duty. (Supervisory duty, for my maternal grandmother, consisted of shoving everybody else aside and doing it herself.) The wedding had to be Presbyterian, of course -- no total-immersion parsons for us, even though Annie and the hypothetical Pope were probably Baptists -- so Doctor Bachman had been diplomatically approached and asked to designate some young white or worthy colored clergyman to officiate and Doctor Bachman had said, sifting the words and the throat-clearings through the bushy mustache that I never saw in any color but white but that must have been black then, "Hrmmph, hrmmph, what's all this nonsense, hrmmph, it's Annie ant it, hrmmph, hrmmph, of cose I'll maa huh hrmmph hrmmph m'seff." So they were married by Chattanooga's millionaire minister in the kitchen on Fifth Street. Not in the Presbyterian Church, because by convention colored folk were barred from the ground floor and Doctor Bachman already had too much of a paunch to puff his way up the stairs to the gallery. Not in the parlor on Fifth Street, because it simply wasn't done. But all the family dressed up fit to kill and attended, along with the invited colored community, and Doctor Bachman wore his Sunday suit as did my grandfather.

So was Annie married and now her name was Annie Pope and, as the Holy Bible would say, Pope knew his wife Annie and she conceived and bare a son and she called his name Henry.

I don't know why Henry Pope was named Henry. It can't matter.

My Aunt Ernestine was born in 1871 and Henry was almost ten years younger, so he must have been born about 1880, when Annie was close to the tail end of her childbearing period. He was the only Pope child.

Almost from the time Henry Pope was born it was apparent, it was conspicuously apparent that he was very, very bright.

My grandfather was a great believer in the public school system. He served on the School Board of Chattanooga for more than thirty years. When John Roy Baylor came to Chattanooga with the idea of founding a private school, he is said to have been told, "Your worst enemy will be Mr. Noa." So Doctor Baylor began his campaign by enrolling my uncle in his first class. This did not weaken my grandfather's faith in public education, but my grandfather was, after all, a product of his background and his environment; when he boasted about Chattanooga's public schools it would never have occurred to him to think about any but the white children's schools.

Annie, docile and placid and contented, was making $7 a month by now, and with that much money a Person could get Ideas.

The year was 1896. My younger uncle, having been graduated from the newly founded Baylor University School, went forth from Chattanooga to the capital of Maryland to attend the big naval academy there. He was not the only Chattanoogan to depart in that year of grace for schools northward. Another was Henry Pope.

Sometime before then, my grandfather had given Annie a present of a small piece of real estate on Georgia Avenue. Being a banker, he had probably acquired it by foreclosing a mortgage. Whatever occasioned my grandfather's acquisition of it, the property now belonged to Annie and it was worth about a hundred dollars. Bob Maclellan's father could have saved Provident 99% by buying it then.

Annie went to some other bank and mortgaged that property for fifty dollars and sent her son Henry north to high school. Clothed in a suit one of my uncles had outgrown or outworn, financed with Annie's $50 mortgage money, educated only in a Chattanooga Negro grammar school that ejected its eight-grade graduates (and few there were who went so far) with less education than a fourth-grade pupil's in a white school, Henry Pope aged no more than 15-1/2 fared forth to acquire his further education all on his own, with no emotional sustenance where a boy entering his teen ages needs it most, with no physical sustenance beyond his mother's $7 a month, of which she sent him literally every penny.

Maybe Henry Pope had odd jobs, maybe he lived on those seven dollars, digging once every so often into whatever was left of his original $50 stake. That would have given him slightly more than $1.61 a week for room, board, clothes, and recreation. He attended Waite High School in Toledo, Ohio, made up his four-year entering deficit, and graduated in three years instead of the usual four. Then he found the fare or relied on shank's mare (1899 couldn't have been much of a year for hitchhiking) and got to and into Western Reserve University at Cleveland, Ohio. Thence he emerged in 1902 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering.

Why Toledo? Why Cleveland? Let's not ask. (We can't ask Henry Pope, he's dead.)

While Henry was away at school his mother found the money to put up a house on the Georgia Avenue lot. The house cost $175 and rented for one dollar a week, which when collected gave Annie an additional income. But Annie must have found impelling uses for this money, because when the panic of 1907 arrived she hadn't paid anything toward that original mortgage of $50. My widowed grandmother, who was broke too, make a part payment of $15 to save Annie from foreclosure. The house was still standing when Bob Maclellan bought the property, a fact that merely added to Bob's expense because he had to tear it down.

Let's go back to Henry, who was an honor graduate of Western Reserve. Today corporate recruiting from the colleges is taken as a matter of course, and a degree from M.I.T. is an automatic entr«e to a $10,000 job. It wasn't exactly like that in 1902, but there was still some recruiting. For example, Henry Pope entered a competitive contest held by a Chicago steel fabricator and I don't know if he won first prize but at least he won a job.

Picture the excitement on Fifth Street in Chattanooga! Henry had to have a new suit, so a new suit was provided. Henry had to have a respectable suitcase, so a respectable suitcase -- not new, but respectable -- was found. Henry had to have transportation and spending money, because of money he was just fresh out, and the money was forthcoming. There were presents besides -- neckties, hand-folded and hand-embroidered, and handkerchiefs, hand-cut and hand-stitched, and socks lovingly knitted with four thin needles. It was a well-outfitted Henry Pope that set off from Cleveland to Chicago to claim his new hard-earned job and an infinite future of the good things in life. In Chattanooga it was tacitly understood that Annie would soon quit grandmother's household and emigrate to her son's Chicago.

In Chicago they were oh so polite. They hadn't known, they couldn't have known, it had never occurred to them. But company policy and all that, and there wasn't any job even for an honor graduate of Western Reserve and a contest-winner if his skin happened to be so much darker than the skins of the majority of the people.

Don't weep yet for Henry Pope. He had enough money to get back to Chattanooga.

There was a famous, a very famous, train in those days before jet airliners came along to make spoiled travelers gripe when they have to spend seven hours to travel three thousand miles. The famous train was called the Memphis Special. It coursed the Southern Railway's lines from Washington to Memphis, and Chattanooga was one of its few stops. A song called "Chattanooga Choochoo" was written about that train.

Henry Pope, the mechanical engineer who had won a job in a nationwide competition, now applied for a different kind of job as a porter in a Pullman car on the Memphis Special. This job he got.

For more than forty years, until the day he got tired of living and just plain laid himself down and died, my friend Henry Pope was a porter on a Chattanooga car of the Memphis Special. Everybody who rode his car knew Henry. It would have been a nonstatus symbol to call him George, and every businessman before disembarking gave positive evidence of the warm acquaintanceship.

Don't weep for Henry Pope if you're thinking of money. Henry earned high and lived low. It was a bad year when Henry didn't bank three or four thousand net, and remember this went on for forty years of progressive inflation. When my other friend Bob Maclellan bought that little piece of property it didn't mean a thing to anyone, because Bob wouldn't miss the money and the Estate of Henry Pope, deceased, didn't need it.

And don't weep for Henry Pope in his personal life. He wooed and won and married the number one female flower of the Negro race, and if I've ever seen a prettier or a nicer girl of any race than Mattie Pope I don't know who it might be.

But if you want to weep for Henry Pope for some other reason, come weep with me.

--Albert H. Morehead