A Case of Mistaken Identity
Archives | 06/09/2011
Last week, we had a lady bring her elderly mother into the Archives. They had heard a family story that the elder woman’s father, whom she did not know very well, had killed a man while serving as a policeman in LaGrange and gone to prison. They knew the approximate year and nothing more. After a good bit of searching, we discovered that all they had exactly correct was the year. We found that the family did indeed live in LaGrange about that time. We found record of a man with the same last name who was a security guard, not policeman, for one of the local cotton mills, not working for the city. He had been investigating several burglaries at the mill. In the course of interviewing a suspect, the guard was badly attacked and just managed to pull and fire his gun in self-defense. He was, as a matter of due process, arrested and taken to jail. However, the news account made it clear it was a case of self-defense. Nothing more came of it, so we can only conclude he was released later without charges. The man had a different first name from her father. As it turned out, it was his brother. The younger woman said “Well, he was such a liar, he probably just used his brother’s name.” However, we explained to her that LaGrange in the 1920s was a smaller place than it is now and each section, especially each mill village, was a tightly knit community. The father, using his real name, lived with his family only two blocks from the mill where the brother was the security person. We found several news articles about the family, mostly related to the woman’s older sisters getting married. It would not have been possible for the same man to use two different names in such a small area where everyone lived and worked at the same factory and were neighbors within a few blocks. We have never seen anyone smile as widely as the older woman did that afternoon and have never been so profusely thanked for a “discovery” that we can recall. Even when we told her that even if it had been her father, it was obviously self-defense and nothing to be ashamed of, she replied “I don’t care, I’m just glad to learn the truth that my daddy, no matter what else he may have done, did not kill anybody.” It’s the perfect example of that all family stories have a grain of truth, but they do not always turn out to be exactly as passed down, even when they do make a good story.