Wednesday, April 30, 2014

When I asked my dad if he had met Mayor Crump he shared some stories -- but what if I hadn't asked?

    I mentioned in my previous post on the Faulkner-Francisco controversy that one of the problems of documenting or collaborating the Francisco accounts is that some of the best sources have been dead for five to 10 years.
    My father, Sidney Hurdle, was truly a font of historical information. He could place every member of our large and extended family in their exact and proper place and he could do the same with quite a few Marshall County families. He died last March.
    I'm not sure why -- perhaps because I had been reading his biography -- but one day I asked Dad if he had ever met Memphis political boss E.H. "Ed" Crump, who was born in Holly Springs. Dad's response was that he had met him once, in Ed Rather's office in the First State Bank. [ADDENDUM 5/1: Ed Rather was Ed Crump's grand-nephew].
    The Crump-Dancy feud over the clearing of a cemetery plot is something of a legend in Holly Springs. Crump had sent down a crew to clean up around his mother's grave, and in the process they cut down plants and a tree Mr. Dancy had planted in his family's cemetery plots. People didn't make many phone calls back then, but I think a furious exchange of letters took place. Mr. Crump finally came down to apologize to Mr. Dancy and to seek to make amends.
    I don't know whether Mr. Rather asked my dad to come by or whether the meeting was happenstance. It's quite possible that Mr. Dancy was in the office, too. I just can't remember.
    Dad told me that Crump met my grandfather, Jesse Hurdle, twice, almost 10 years apart. On seeing him for the second time 10 years later Crump immediately greeted my grandfather by name, asked about his wife Lucy, and clearly had not forgotten a thing about him. My grandfather was amazed and mightily impressed.
    One interesting fact about Crump is that he is always referred to as mayor of Memphis but was not actually mayor after 1915. He was impeached and removed from office for failing to enforce prohibition laws by Nashville politicians eager to reduce his political power. Instead his political power increased. He was elected Shelby County trustee and earned $50,000 per year in fees -- or roughly a million a year in today's money. For the next 40 years he would hand-pick almost every mayor. Wyeth Chandler, who left office in 1982, was the son of Crump man Walter Chandler.
    There really is no point or moral to this story other than I never would have heard about my father or grandfather meeting Crump if I had never asked. In the past couple of days I've talked to a lot of friends and heard some wonderful stories, but I'm afraid a lot of information has gone to the grave.

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