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Douglas Fleming Roosa

stunt parachutist, was born Willie Jones in either Memphis, Tennessee, or Mississippi to Rebecca Lang of Memphis. Nothing is known about his father or Willie's education. Little is known about Jones's early life, but published reports suggest he began to fly in his teens. Conflicting stories describe his first airborne stunts. According to the Chicago Defender, Jones joined the Orange Flying Circus in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1923, whereas an article published in Ebony magazine reports that Jones began to fly in Saint Louis at the age of fifteen and walked his first wing in 1927 at a Missouri county fair Whatever the truth all accounts agree that Jones took to flying right away exhibiting the fearlessness that all the early stunt flyers had to have to do risky tricks with no safety equipment in the rickety wood canvas and wire World War I surplus Jenny ...


Clifford Edward Watkins

circus minstrel, vaudeville bandleader, soloist, and entrepreneur, was born Perry George Lowery in Topeka, Kansas, the youngest of eight children of Rachel (Tucker) and Andrew Lowery. “P. G.,” as he was known, was so proficient on the cornet that he was called the “World's Greatest Colored Cornet Soloist” by his teacher, Boston Conservatory Professor H. C. Brown (Indianapolis Freeman, 22 Feb. 1896).

During Reconstruction land promoters led wagon trains of newly emancipated black citizens to settle the recently opened former Indian Territory The Lowery family was among these and settled in Reece near Eureka Kansas on a 180 acre plot on Spring Creek in Greenwood County Soon after their arrival the Lowery family who were singers and instrumentalists organized the Star of the West Brass Band which became popular in the area How P G learned to play the cornet so well ...


Elliott S. Hurwitt

dancer and comedian, was born in Prescott, Arkansas, the son of George Thompson, whose father, Aaron Thompson, was a local white doctor. Thompson's mother, Hannah Pandora Driver, was six years older than his father and came from a large family that “populated that whole community,” as Thompson would later recall (Helen Armstead-Johnson Collection). The four Driver brothers, including Thompson's maternal grandfather, owned their farms. Several of the Driver girls became schoolteachers in the area, and a Driver cousin of Thompson's was nominated for a bishopric in the 1960s.

Although his family was upwardly mobile Thompson himself had only a rudimentary education men in the family were expected to work as farmers and laborers When Thompson was seven years of age his mother died after this tragic loss life at home was not pleasant for Thompson His father remarried repeatedly and Thompson had numerous half brothers and ...