By COL. BOB SMITH
Special to the Press
Vowell & Sons from the late 1800s has had a black Thompson or Crutchfield. The last of these families was Joe Louis Crutchfield and Rod Thompson. Brooks Pro Company hired 90 percent black workers. There were only two whites: dock foreman A.B. Cheatham and truck driver Tommy Byars.
Arthur Douglas taught all the blacks how to run the business. After Cheatham and Byars left, Gallan Fulton and Rubon Randle became truck drivers and delivered eggs and chickens to New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Harlem. Arthur B. Douglas was the nephew of Geo M. Brooks, who was mayor of Martin and also the grandfather of Jack Brooks, one of my lifelong friends through the years.
Armstead Stafford, who operated Stafford Milling Company, hired and taught young blacks to grind and pack head light mean mix, hog and cow feed. At one time, about 10 blacks worked there.
Jack Vincent was very instrumental in getting blacks hired at Martin Manufactoring Company. His son Melvin worked young blacks at Church Street sweet potatoes house and beer distributor, and also farm work.
Jack Vincent was a mayor of Martin (1950-54, 1958-69). The most vibrant, colorful and unforgettable mayor of Martin was Doug Murphy, who buried many poor black families who had little or nothing. Murphy was a staunch supporter of the Martin Tigers baseball team. For years he bought baseball equipment when the team couldn’t afford it. To be frank, Murphy was a Tiger himself. Murphy also donated money to all the worthy black endeavors. One Martin black youth by the name of Martin “Britches” Bighem was given a job around the home. Martin’s desire was to become a mortician. Murphy gave Martin everything he needed to achieve this goal. Guided step-by-step by Murphy, Martin became one of the best morticians in Tennessee.
Murphy was Martin’s mayor from 1962-1969, and he liked to pull jokes. In 1966, Beard Chevrolet would have a picnic on Paris Landing. I would take care of the barbecue for Viron Beard. Bob Brandon had a speedboat, and he let Murphy drive it. Murphy asked me, “Bob, you want to ride with me.” I said yes and hopped in the speedboat. We took off, making the boat hop, skip and jump across the lake. When we got back to shore, Murphy asked if the ride had scared me. I said no, and he looked surprised. He had drank some beers. Little did he know that I had consumed a six-pack.
Doug Murphy was kind and filled with love. That same kind generosity still flows through the heart of his son David Murphy. He makes it easy to love the friendly undertaker.
There were wagons that young blacks would earn handouts from, like the ice wagon of Sandy Smith. Black and white kids would help ride his wagon and help him deliver ice all over Martin. Their reward was rag bologna and Nehi sodas. Sandy Would keep his bobble of “pop” hid under the tarp that covered the ice. We never saw him take a swig, but we could tell by his spirit-filled voice that he had indulged.
Published in The WCP 2.26.13