Did James Madison own Slaves? #205

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James Madison The Fourth President of the United States of America

Series on Presidential Slavery

James Madison was born on March 16, 1751, at Belle Grove Plantation near Port Conway, Virginia. His family had lived in Virginia since the mid-1600s. His father was a tobacco planter who grew up on a plantation, then called Mount Pleasant, which he inherited upon reaching adulthood. With an estimated 100 slaves and a 5,000 acres plantation, Madison’s father was the largest landowner and a leading citizen in the Piedmont. Madison’s maternal grandfather was a prominent planter and tobacco merchant. In the early 1760s, the Madison family moved into a newly built house, which they named Montpelier.

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Madison was well educated in Latin, Greek and Theology; with emphasis placed on speech and debate.  He held a Bachelor of Arts degree and could have entered the clergy or law professions.  He continued at Princeton to study Hebrew and political philosophy.  Madison saw himself as a law student but never as a lawyer – he never joined the bar or practiced.

Madison married Dolly Payne Todd, a 26-year-old widow, previously wife of John Todd, a Quaker in Philadelphia. Dolly suffered recurring illnesses because of her exposure to yellow fever.  Madison never had children, but he adopted Dolly’s one surviving son, John Payne Todd after the marriage.

Madison inherited Montpelier and other possessions, including his father’s numerous slaves at his death.  Madison was one person who tried to find an answer to the problem of slavery, it concerned him greatly.  Madison held many important political offices; he used these offices to try to bring to an end this “evil” in his society. When Madison wrote home to his father he would often ask about “the family.” To Madison “the family” included the family slaves.  Yet, he continued to maintain slaves at Montpelier.  In today’s world, that is hypocritical as one cannot own a slave yet feel “bad” that there is slavery.

Madison wrote to his brother, Ambrose, that the backward step would not only be dishonorable but would make the dreaded freeing of all slaves that much sooner. Madison dreaded the freeing of all slaves because neither he nor Thomas Jefferson thought that it was the proper time to advance the proposition of total emancipation. During that same year, 1785, Madison spoke in favor of a Jefferson bill for the gradual abolition of slavery; it failed.

Madison’s feelings about the slavery issue become even clearer as events led to the Federal Convention of 1787.  Madison wrote, “Where slavery exists the republican Theory becomes still more fallacious.”  However at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Madison argued in support of the clause extending slave trade until 1808 by saying that the convention did it in order to keep the Southern states in the union, for if they did not join the union, the consequences might be dreadful.

Madison continued to work to bring about an end to slavery through prudent constitutional methods.  He spoke of placing a tax on imported slaves. No matter what Madison did, he had slaves and looked for ways of changing slavery, slowly, who would take care of Montpelier?

He felt compassion; on one occasion before leaving home he left instructions to Mordecai Collins, one of several overseers on his Montpelier estate, “To treat the Negroes with all the humanity & kindness consistent with their necessary subordination and work.”  Again, hypocritical, he did not actually want them “free” at the time, but treated kindly, now today’s evaluation of that is “they were still not free”. 

Madison’s planned for the gradual ending of the peculiar institution in his “Memorandum on an African Colony for Freed Slaves” with the means of establishing a Settlement of freed blacks on the Coast of Africa.   It may be remarked as one motive to a compassionate experiment, would today’s Black Community say Madison was compassionate, and I doubt it.  He hopes to put an end to slavery involving approximately 600,000 slaves.  This would be impossible by the prejudices of the Whites.

Early in his career James Madison said that he wanted “to depend as little as possible on the labor of slaves.”  But, he was forced to abandon his efforts to live free of slavery and the plantation system, his livelihood depended upon slaves.  He was also reluctant to accept African-Americans in the country even after they were freed.

As Madison began to draw up his will he started to ponder the fate of his own slaves. Although he had no children of his own, his relatively youthful wife, Dolly, was a concern for him. He wanted to free his slaves, but how? James Madison chose the (was his being kind to them happiness, I think not) happiness of his slaves over any personal benefits that he could receive by freeing them. The portion of his will that dealt with the future of his slaves offered no clause for their emancipation; it read:

I give and bequeath my ownership in the negroes and people of color held by me to my dear wife, but it is my desire that none of them should be sold without his or her consent or in case of their misbehavior; except that the infant children may be sold with their parent who consents for them to be sold.

This would have been a perfect time for James Madison to free his slaves, but he chose not to.  It appears that this “do good” had two sides to his face, one of goodness and the other evil.

After Madison’s death, in 1836, Dolly Madison returned to Washington to live out the last years of her life. Financial conditions forced her to sell Montpelier. In order to keep the slave families together Dolly Madison chose to sell them along with the farm. However she retained some slaves for her use in Washington. These slaves were freed upon her death because of her failure to register them in the city.

James Madison worked throughout his life to bring about an end to the institution of slavery, while owning slaves. James Madison was the ultimate racist, while proclaiming to want a “better situation” for the black people.


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Did Thomas Jefferson own Slaves? #204

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Thomas JeffersonThird President of the United States

Series on Presidential Slavery

Thomas Jefferson was born at the family home in Shadwell in the Colony of Virginia. His father Peter Jefferson was a planter and surveyor.  Peter Jefferson moved his family to Tuckahoe Plantation in 1745 upon the death of William Randolph, the plantation’s owner the Jefferson’s returned to Shadwell, where Peter died in 1757; his estate was divided between his sons Thomas and Randolph. Thomas inherited approximately 5,000 acres of land, including Monticello. He assumed full authority over his property at age 21.

In 1768, Jefferson began constructing his primary residence Monticello (Italian for “Little Mountain”) on a hilltop overlooking his 5,000-acre plantation.  He spent most of his adult life designing Monticello as architect and was quoted as saying, “Architecture is my delight, and putting up, and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements.”  

Construction was done mostly by local masons and carpenters, assisted by Jefferson’s slaves.  He moved into the South Pavilion in 1770. Turning Monticello into a masterpiece it was his continuing project.

On January 1, 1772, Jefferson married his third cousin,  Martha Wayles Skelton, the 23-year-old widow of Bathurst Skelton, and she moved into the South Pavilion.  During their ten years of marriage, Martha bore six children.

Martha’s father John Wayles died in 1773 and the couple inherited 135 people of color who were legally enslaved, and 11,000 acres.   Martha later suffered from ill health, a few months after the birth of her last child, she died.  Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, owned more than 600 African-American slaves throughout his adult life.  

Jefferson consistently spoke out against the international slave trade, outlawed while he was President, while he advocated gradual emancipation and colonization of domestic slaves. He believed black people were inherently inferior to white people and thought it was best the two races remained segregated.

Jefferson was a lifelong advocate of ending the slave trade and as president led the effort to criminalize the international slave trade that passed Congress and he signed in 1807, shortly before Britain passed a similar law.  This type of individual is a “fence rider”; they have slaves while trying to free them?

Jefferson supported gradual emancipation, training, and colonization of African-American slaves, believing that releasing unprepared people with no place to go and no means to support themselves would only bring them misfortune. In 1784, Jefferson proposed federal legislation banning slavery in the New Territories of the North and South after 1800, which failed to pass Congress by one vote.  

Jefferson expressed the beliefs that slavery corrupted both masters and slaves alike, supported colonization of freed slaves, promoted the idea that African-Americans were inferior in intelligence, and that emancipating large numbers of slaves made slave uprisings more likely.

After the death of his wife Martha, Jefferson had a long-term relationship with her half-sister, Sally Heming’s, a slave at Monticello.  Jefferson allowed two of Sally Heming’s surviving four children to “escape”; the other two he freed through his will after his death.  The children were the only family to gain freedom from Monticello.

In 1824, Jefferson proposed a national plan to end slavery by the federal government purchasing African-American slave children for $12.50, raising and training them in occupations of freemen, and sending them to the country of Santo Domingo.   

In his will, Jefferson freed three older men who had been forced to work for him for decades.  In 1827, the remaining 130 people who had been kept as slaves at Monticello were sold to pay the debts of Jefferson’s estate.

Although Jefferson is regarded as a leading spokesman for democracy, some modern scholarships has been critical of him, finding a contradiction between his ownership and trading of many slaves that worked his plantations, and his famous declaration that “all men are created equal.”

Yet, Jefferson continues to ranked high among U.S. presidents.


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Did John Adams own slaves? #203

Series on Presidential Slavery

John AdamsSecond President United States of America

He was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second President of the United States. He was a leader of the American Revolution and served as the first vice president of the United States.

Many of the Continental Congress and the Founding Fathers voiced their opinion on slavery including John Adams. He and especially his wife Abigail, were opposed to slavery, but it seems that his views on race were mostly in line with the times. 

Yet, he did not own slaves, his family was of modest wealth, and Adams was morally opposed to slavery and refused to employ slaves. His wife, Abigail Adams, went so far as to employ free blacks for labor as opposed to the two domestic slaves owned by her father. She also helped educate a young African American man in an evening school and their own family home while living in Philadelphia.

However, during the War of Independence, he was opposed in the use of black soldiers out of fear of losing Southern support for the Continental Army.  For John Adams, slave owner opinion seemed to nullify his approach to the subject during his political career.

Unfortunately, John Adams’ views on slavery were not so proactive. As a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature, Adams openly opposed legislation on the abolition of slavery in the state on the grounds that the issue was too conflict-ridden. He even wrote that legislation opposed to slavery should “sleep for a time” until it was less troublesome. Little did he know how many people would die settling the issue some decades into the future?

Yet, he was on the record as critical of the “privileged” Southern society whose power depended on human bondage. His slavery views became more obvious as he condemned the practice as “an evil of colossal magnitude” and worried about the effect slavery would have on the nation in the future. For him slaves were human beings and fully deserved the rights ordained by God that all men were granted.


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President George Washington on Slavery…#202

First President – George Washington

Series #1 on Presidential Slavery

George Washington’s stand on slavery was what he believed in and politically supported.   He never publicly talked against slavery, or for it. 

Washington had a strong work ethic and demanded the same from both enslaved and hired workers. He provided his slaves with basic food, clothing and somewhere to live which was not always adequate, and with medical care. In return, he expected them to work diligently from sunrise to sunset over the six-day working week. Some three-quarters of his slaves labored in the fields, while the remainder worked at the main residence as domestic servants. They supplemented their diet by hunting, trapping, and growing vegetables in their free time, and bought extra rations, clothing and house wares with income from the sale of game and produce.

His slaves built their own community around marriage and family, though because Washington allocated slaves to farms according to the demands of the business without regard for their relationships, many husbands lived separately from their wives and children on other plantations. Washington used both reward and punishment to encourage and discipline his slaves, but was constantly disappointed when they failed to meet his standards. Slaves resisted enslavement by stealing food and clothing, pretending to be ill and running away.

Washington’s first doubts about slavery were entirely economic, prompted by his transition from tobacco to grain crops which left him with a surplus of slaves. As commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775, he initially refused to accept African-Americans, free or slave, into the ranks, but reversed this position due to the demands of war.

Privately, Washington considered ending his ownership of slaves in the mid-1790s, but could not realize this because of his economic dependence on them, the refusal of his family to cooperate toward emancipation of the dower slaves(slaves fathered by owners), and his own principled aversion to selling slaves like cattle.

Some of George Washington’s slaves legally became free on Jan. 1, 1801. Martha did not choose to free these people.  George Washington’s Will provide for the emancipation of his slaves, he was the only slave-owning Founding Father to do so.

Because many of his slaves were married to Martha’s dower slaves, whom he could not legally free, Washington stipulated that, with the exception of his valet William Lee, who was freed immediately, his slaves be emancipated on the death of Martha. Martha Washington freed some of the slaves in 1801, a year before her own death, but her dower slaves were passed to her grandchildren and remained in bondage.

It is not surprising as civil war loomed on the horizon, that both North and South would claim Washington as their patron of democracy. Throughout the antebellum period he was beloved by Northerners and Southerners alike and by 1861 had come to symbolize all that was virtuous and heroic about the American Revolution.

Not opinion, fact!


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The First African American March was 103 years ago…#201

After the Civil War, there was a system called Black codes, they limited the freedom of the African Americans.   Though the Union freed some 4 million slaves, the question of freed blacks’ status was still unresolved. In 1865, Lincoln proposed limiting the right to vote for African Americans that shocked many; however, his assassination days later changed the course of history.  His successor Andrew Johnson would be the one to preside over the beginning of Reconstruction.  Johnson’s Reconstruction policies were that the Confederate states were required to uphold the abolition of slavery.

The states and their ruling class that traditionally dominated were white planters and they were given a relatively free hand in rebuilding their own governments.  Former slaves fought to assert their independence and gain economic self-sufficiency during the earliest years of Reconstruction.  White landowners acted to control the labor force through a system similar to the one that had existed during slavery. They were still burdened by the color of their skin.

Mississippi and South Carolina enacted the first Black codes. Mississippi’s law required blacks to have written evidence of employment for the coming year each January; if they left before the end of the contract, they would be forced to forfeit earlier wages and were subject to arrest. In South Carolina, a law prohibited blacks from holding any occupation other than farmer or servant unless they paid an annual tax of $10 to $100.

Under Johnson’s Reconstruction, nearly all the southern states would enact their own Black. While the codes granted certain freedoms to African Americans including the right to buy and own property, marry, make contracts their primary purpose was to restrict African American labor and activity.  Anyone who broke labor contracts were subject to arrest, beating and forced labor. 

After passing the Civil Rights Act (over Johnson’s veto), Republicans in Congress effectively took control of Reconstruction. The Reconstruction Act of 1867 required southern states to ratify the 14th Amendment which granted “equal protection” of the Constitution to former slaves and enact universal male voting before they could rejoin the Union.  Still limits, males only could vote!  

After the Civil War and the Reconstruction era, white supremacy was largely restored across the South in the 1870s, and the segregationist policies known as “Jim Crow” soon became the law of the land. In 1877, when the last federal soldiers left the South and Reconstruction ended, African Americans had seen little improvement in their economic and social status.     Discrimination would continue in America with the rise of Jim Crow laws, but would inspire the Civil Rights Movement to come.

The Great Migration was the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans from the South to the cities of the North, Midwest and West in 1916.  Driven from their homes by unsatisfactory economic opportunities and harsh segregationist laws, many African Americans headed north, where they took advantage of the need for industrial workers that arose during the First World War. During the Great Migration, African Americans began to build a new place for themselves in public life, actively confronting racial prejudice as well as economic, political and social challenges to create a Black urban culture.

The Ku Klux Klan had been officially dissolved in 1869, however, the KKK continued underground after that, and intimidation, and violence even lynching of black southerners were not uncommon practices in the Jim Crow South.  With war production kicking into high gear, recruiters persuade African Americans to come north, to the dismay of white Southerners.

On Saturday, July 28, 1917, a group of between 8,000 and 10,000 African American men, women and children began marching through the streets of Manhattan in what became one of the first civil rights protests in American history 103 years ago. 

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal provided more federal support to African Americans than at any time since Reconstruction. Even so, New Deal legislation and policies continued to allow considerable discrimination. During the mid-thirties, the NAACP launched a legal campaign against inequalities in public education. By 1936, the majority of black voters had abandoned their historic allegiance to the Republican Party and joined with labor unions, farmers, progressives, and ethnic minorities in assuring President Roosevelt’s landslide re-election. The election played a significant role in shifting the balance of power in the Democratic Party from its Southern block of white conservatives towards this new coalition.

In addition, the fight continues today…


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Hate Crime

Chuck is an educator, Young Adult Novelist, and passionate about helping people with depression and anxiety by sharing his own insights and experiences.

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health

I’m sitting here reading an article over and over about a young Black woman who was attacked by white men in Madison. She was doused with lighter fluid and then set on fire. Let that sink in for a moment.

She was set on fire for no other reason than being black. This was a hate crime, plain and simple. It was attempted murder. Don’t think for a moment that this was for any other reason than her being black. It was hate! Hate for being who she is, a beautiful Black woman, and I am enraged.

I sit here, sipping my coffee, crying my eyes out because I cannot get the faces of my Black students in BSU out of my head. I think about all the Black students that I have known and many who I still keep in touch with, and I am breaking down, tears streaming…

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Mayhem in Madison, Wisconsin…#200

Madison, Wisconsin is only a couple miles away, I live in a small town adjacent to Madison.  Protesting continues in Madison.  The Beltline on the southwestern edge of the city has protesters almost daily.  The latest being a trucker, local not a big rig, was stopped on the Beltline by protesters.  They went up to his side window telling him they would let him though if he said what they wanted him to say.  It was never know what!  When he tried to move slowly forward, a protestor fell to the ground screaming that he had hit her with the truck.  When police and EMT have arrived, they could not get to the protestor because the crowd would not let them through. 

When they did manage to get to her, she was transferred to the hospital with “no injuries”.  These things are not just in someone else’s backyard, they are covering America like a Locust plague, locust moves from one area t the next destroying all vegetation in their path.  I am beginning to think that the peaceful protest are now gone and have been replace by some small out of control movement that is crossing America one block, one road, one business at a time.

Tuesday night, a man was protesting inside a restaurant downtown Madison with a megaphone and a baseball bat.  The male protester was using his megaphone to disrupt the peace; the baseball bat on his shoulders was a threat as he yelled at customers and restaurant staff at point-blank range.  His arrest looked eerily similar to George Floyd, but this time police were handling him with kid gloves, patient and mindful of what could happen.  I believe these protesters are deliberately testing law enforcement, waiting for them to make a mistake.

The man struggled with police and was not cooperating, he did yell I cannot breathe and no one was anywhere near putting this man in such a position.  He apparently was using the George Floyd words to call attention to himself.  Bystanders demanded officers release him claiming he had done nothing wrong, he was only exercising his First Amendment rights.  Bystanders with cameras did not give up, yelling let him go free.  He was officially detained for disorderly conduct while armed (with baseball bat), resisting arrest, and attempting to escape.

Two of the officers suffered minor injuries during the arrest.  The question…was there a more peaceful way to handle the situation.  The customers did feel threatened.    

Later in the evening, protesters marched from the county jail downtown to the state capitol, blocking traffic and promising that it would not be a peaceful protest.  They tore down one statue called “Forward” the state motto and another of Col. Hans Christian Heg, an abolitionist who died fighting of the Union in the Civil War; they dragged them into Lake Monona. 

Later, fury exploded outside the Wisconsin State Capitol as protesters smashed windows at the statehouse, attacked a senator, then tearing down the statues.  State Senator Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee took a picture of the protestors.

Protesters, chanting for the release of the man who had been arrested earlier, also broke glass at the Tommy Thompson Center on West Washington Avenue, and set a small fire at the Dane County jail before police arrived just before 1 a.m.

Assembly Speaker robin Vos, R-Rochester tweeted of being sad at the “cowardice” of Madison officials to deal with the thugs.  Well, the public and our Nation as a whole have tied the hands of Law Enforcement.  They are “fearful” of what may happen to them if they show any force.  Listen people, you either want law enforcement that protects and handles “thugs”, or you want “thugs” to be set free or not touched at all no matter what they do, burn, loot, beat up people.

After 1 a.m., a line of about 20 police officers stood in riot gear as a crowd of about 100 remained, breaking into occasional chants; police played a recording stating the gathering was unlawful and telling people to leave.

I have not been out in six months due to health problems, not Covid-19, I do not know if I am lucky or not.  However, all of this is what is happening in my neck of the woods along with a few of my own opinions tossed in.


Poor Southern Whites, Pre and Post Civil War…#199

In the years before the Civil War, white society in the South was divided between the wealthy, and the poor white farmers.  This poor population had little more than the land that they work. They are largely the lost people of the South in American history.  This was my history, my ancestors!

The wealthy lived in a world of opulent mansions and mint juleps. Most white southerners were not wealthy enough to own slaves. They raised their own food and made their own clothes, often eating less and working harder than slaves. Poor white farmers scratched out a living in the less fertile backcountry and mountain valleys.

The history of the American South cannot escape the specter of slavery, white supremacy, and severe class divisions.  Poor and working-class whites have usually been left out of our country’s story because in many ways acknowledging their existence is a denial of the American dream, a festering wound in the heart of America.

I am from the Deep South. I was brought up in a split non-racist / racist family. I was taught history written by superior white people.   I lived in poverty as a child and teenager; the South was a very complex place.  I was an adult before my parents were able to reach the status of middle-class.  I was drawn to history, American History that includes the South, I read, I learned and in my split upbringing I made my own decisions and theory of what was right and wrong.

All lives matter.


Defacing America…#198

Statue of Theodore Roosevelt is to be removed from in front of the American Museum of Natural History.  The statue shows Roosevelt on a horse, with a Native American man and an African man on his sides.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “That while Roosevelt was a “complex” figure, there’s an important distinction between the statue and the man – and the statue itself is especially problematic, in this case.  The statue clearly presents a white man as superior to people of color, and that’s just not acceptable in this day and age, and never should’ve been acceptable,” de Blasio said.

Well no Mayor…the man and the statue cannot be separated as you say, they represent the same.  Just because he is on a horse with the Indian and Black man at his sides does not mean the statue represent racism.  This is the perception of someone who alone believes it is so and gathers people together to protest.

Protestors are “on a roll” and God help anyone or anything get in their path that they dislike.  America is now talking about changing everything from street names, parks, you name it; an instant dislike it’s gone.

Maybe we should start a protest against fat and remove all fast food places, change restaurant menus, candy and soft drink companies.  Let us shut down everything regarding to “fat”.  Now, you will say that is ridiculous, it is, but there is a lot America needs to change.  Fat kills!

Mayor De Blasio’s hands are not clean.  He and his wife as co-mayor, wasted $1.8 Billion of the taxpayer’s money.  De Blasio and ‘co-mayor’ wife Charlene McCray have wasted $1.8B of taxpayer money, he was not removed.  Chirlane McCray, who has just been revealed as a world-class boondoggler in her own right.  Both have been involved in activity or projects that are unnecessary and wasteful of time or money, and undertaken for personal or political gain.  De Blasio has a history of campaign finance scandals; he is no stranger to fundraising scandals. Therefore, a protest should be started to remove him from office that would save taxpayer money.  However, that involves voting!

Prejudiced and ignorance appears to be unchecked by local authorities. Several of the defaced monuments are of abolitionists, including the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln.  America’s education institutions do not merely keep kids ignorant, but actively teach them to hate their country for its past.

Federal Law Prohibiting Removal or Defacing of all Historical Statues has gone to the wayside.  I am ashamed of what is happening in our country and how people are so blinded by the attempts to split our Nation in half.  This movement of hate is like a cancer growing in our country, it is destructive and history is being destroyed by those truly ignorant to the facts and encouraged by public figures and media.

Slavery in any form is deplorable and is truly the most disgusting thing I can think of.  However, thousands of people are under the cloud of slavery today, in the Middle East and Africa.  In addition, every race in the world has been in chains of slavery at one time or the other.  If we know our history, see the results of history and are taught factual history the good and the bad, then we have less chance of repeating it.

If this destruction of historical monuments continues to be allowed how long until other things like, our historical literature is burned in town squares. None of us is responsible for what our ancestors did or did not do period! I stand firm in the belief that anyone that destroys any type of monument of our history should face legal charges. What’s next, National Park, Battle Ship, Mount Rushmore?

And, if you destroy, the symbols that mark our history people will forget and can easily repeat the mistakes of the past. 


The year was 1939…#197

Father’s Day 1939, Sunday, June 18Father’s Day (United States) Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. The tradition was said to be started from a memorial service held for a large group of men who died in a mining accident in Monongah, West Virginia in 1907.

Happy Father’s Day (Daddy) in Heaven, Roy C. Johnson 10/19/1903 – 1/27/1977

I have looked up a few 1939 items the year I was born to share:

Happy Father’s Day Poems 1939