JESSE WILLIE BOYD
(1906 - 1951)
Jesse was born in February 1906. He was the 8th of eleven children born to Benjamin and Maggie Boyd. It was in Cleburne County where he received his formal education (he finished the fourth grade) and learned his work ethic and strong sense of family responsibility. He was hired out with a mule and a wagon for $3.00 a day when he was 12 years old. After spending his early years on the farm, he left home during his teens to work in the city and make a life for himself. He carried with him two family mannerisms. When he was mildly upset, he would put his hand on his hip--jerk his head and shoulders back and give a stern look. The other thing he did was put a knuckle of one of his fingers between his teeth and bite on it (this demonstration meant that he was angry about something) and you could expect to be lashed out at or receive some form of punishment.
While a young man he met and married Miss Velma Davis of Montgomery, Alabama. They took up housekeeping in Birmingham for a few years where their five children were born. The children were Jesse, Jr. (Sonny), Robert Lee, Bessie Mae (Sister), Lorenzo, and Willie. Willie was the youngest and shortly after his birth in 1936, the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a difficult time in 1936. The nation was just coming out of a depression and in Cincinnati, the Ohio River has overflowed its banks. Good jobs for a black man were practically nonexistent. The strain of caring for five kids and no steady income was too much for Velma and she soon took her three youngest children and went to Chicago. Jesse wasn't having any part of that, so he immediately went to Chicago to get Bessie Mae and Lorenzo and brought them back to Cincinnati. The only reason he left Willie is because he was breast-feeding.
Another demonstration of strong family responsibility occurred when Lorenzo and Bessie set their house on fire. The welfare workers found out that the kids were alone while the father worked and there was no mother present. They took the kids (all four) and put them in an orphanage. After a day or so, Jesse retrieved his children and returned them to Alabama until such time as he could properly take care of them.
Jesse was an accomplished wood craftsman, plumber, automotive mechanic, and a preacher. He spent many years being employed as a "Laborer". I think that is a term for workers who had not attained a high school or higher diploma. In any event, Jesse would turn church out when he got up and sang. The ladies would be jumping and shouting, and when he preached, the congregation seemed to hang on every word. Jesse did not bring a lot of women into his home (he never remarried) to help raise his kids, but he was somewhat of a womanizer and he could probably put away booze with the best of them.
Jesse wanted to make sure that his children received a high school education. He got them up in the mornings before he went to work and they had a 10 p.m. curfew. He was a working man and a bachelor and that might have had some bearing on the actions of his children, but he maintained a home and all the rudiments that go with it. He painted decorations on oilcloth, made wine, and shot his pistol in the basement to welcome in the New Year. He papered walls and repaired broken water pipes. He used to build pieces of furniture (without power tools) and the neighbors clamored for his pieces. He used to say that he was going to build his own casket and all the kids had to do was put him in it. Death sneaked up on him before he could accomplish that. At his funeral, he was killed by one of his lovers, there were so many women exhibiting remorse, you kind of wondered what was this man doing. Given the times and his resources, I'd say he did pretty well with his kids.
Jesse W. Boyd, he was my father and I love and miss him. Rest in Peace Daddy!