A Rabbit and the Lynch Mob

lynch mobA week ago was the day of the funeral of my mom, Virginia McMillion. I’d flown in from Europe the day before and it was just a rough time for me in every way. I’d not planned to speak at the funeral as I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it. But that morning a couple of things came to mind that I felt would be good for folks to know about the heritage and upbringing both I and my parents had.

My dad, about 8 years old, 1929

My dad, about 8 years old

At the funeral I shared two stories of my parents’ upbringing that had a big impact on them and a big impact on me when I was told them as a child. First, about my dad. He went hunting with his dad when he was maybe 7 years old, around 1928. They came back with a rabbit he’d shot and showed it to his mom. Her only comment was something like, “Poor rabbit. Why did you shoot it? He never hurt anyone.” This of course made a huge impact on my dad and he never went hunting again. But in a broader sense, it was indicative of the traditions and life view of my dad’s mother and father and their families.

There was an underlying theme of kindness and even harmlessness that permeated the lives of those people. Trying to find something in the Bible that could describe this, the phrase “without guile” (John 1:47) came to mind. I’ve thought about how, if I’d tried to speak about this when I was young, I don’t think I could have verbalized it. But it continually touched me and impacted me at perhaps a subconscious level, strongly shaping my life. I wrote about my dad’s side of my family in “Texas People”.

“Sharecroppers” picking cotton

“Sharecroppers” picking cotton

At the funeral I next told about a major event in the history of my mom’s family. They lived on northeast Texas countryside and her grandfather was a very wealthy landowner and cotton farmer over 100 years ago. He had many “sharecroppers” working on his land, both whites and African-Americans. It happened that a white man came to the house of a black man over some argument. A fight broke out and in defending himself, the black man killed the white man. The black man fled for protection to the house of my great-grandfather, Marshall Womack. Soon after that a crowd of white men on horseback came to my great-grandfather’s house, demanding that he turn the black man over to them.

If you’re from the US, you probably know what was going on with this. But for those who might not understand, this time 100 years ago was still totally dominated in the southern states of the USA by rampant, often violent, racism. The sudden hangings of black men without trail, “lynching”, was often the way things were handled in situations like this.

But my mother’s grandfather went out to meet the lynch mob in front of his house and told them he had no intention of handing over the black man to them. It ended up that the black man was taken to Paris, Texas to stand trial where he was convicted of manslaughter and served a few years in jail. But he wasn’t turned over to a racist mob that day and my great-grandfather stood up against the evil that was so rampant in those times about these things.

My great grandfather, Marshal Womack (1869-1964)

My great grandfather, Marshal Womack (1869-1964)

These stories of my family’s history made a huge impact on me when I was young. It made me realize that there are important things in life having to do with what we call morals, ethics and the things of the soul and heart which are supremely important. Solomon said, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) My dad’s side of the family was still fairly Christian but my mom’s side was not as much. But even without being overtly Christian, there was still a strong underlying sense of right and wrong and at times a willingness to stand up and against the tide, like in the case of the lynch mob at my great grandfather’s house.

Growing up, I just knew that in my family, we had a standard of right and wrong that would end up standing alone at times against what many others felt was acceptable and normal. Somehow I knew I was accountable to a very high standard of decency, because of the heritage of my upbringing.

Probably all of us have things like this from our youth, stories your parents told you that shaped your life. Maybe you said in your heart, “I want to be like that.” Or maybe you said in your heart that you didn’t. This is a major way our lives are shaped and how we come to decide who we are and what we want to be.

Long ago God told believers back then, “This Word which I command you this day shall be in your heart. And you shall  teach it diligently to your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:6 & 7) We all have influence, for evil or for good. I’m so thankful to be from a family that taught me through their words and deeds to have a real love for mankind and for truth, justice and equality as well.

3 thoughts on “A Rabbit and the Lynch Mob

  1. Nice words Mark, and good on you that you perspire from a just and righteous seeking family. It’s what made you what you are, a truthful, truth seeker! I send wishes of joy your way my brother and friend, reborn into the same light, the light of our mighty solar King O Christo, and the Father within as without! Keep well, Mark! Love, Leo.

  2. So touching Mark, I have a lot of feelings and thoughts after reading this. I have always wished I could do or say meaningful words to influence my family in towards love and kindness. Call me what you will, but I am totally against hunting and killing animals. I have seen so much cruelty towards animals that I have almost given up on mankind and his ungodly ways.

  3. Well said Mark, thanks for bringing this story to us all. This is a true account of what happened at Slate Shoals as I personally knew most of the participants of the encounter, both black and white,when I was young. I try to live my life with integrity and honesty in all I do today. This was important to my grandfather to have a strong sense of right and wrong and not stand for any wrong doing.This is very important to me and my family. I was very close to my grandfather (your great grandfather) until his death. Most of the stories of the early days of Slate Shoals I have heard from many sources of both races so I know they are accurate.
    I am sorry that you never met him, but to sum it up visually from what I remember check out John Wayne in Mc Clintock or Chisom. That was him. I almost never saw him drive (except when we both got in trouble), he always rode his horse until just shortly before he died at 95.
    We all enjoyed visiting with you and I wish we had many years earlier. Maybe we can stay in touch through this media easier.
    Your Cousin, Marshall Womack

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