Tuesday, April 14, 2009

John Wilkes Booth

To mark the 144th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination, I'm putting the spotlight on those Americans who hate democracy enough to have named their little sons in honor of one of our nation's most notorious villains.*

I am only listing people who signed themselves "John Wilkes Booth XXX" as adults and parents of infants named John Wilkes Booth. After all, it's not the kid's fault — unless he chooses to sign it on his draft card when he's 44.
  • John Wilkes Booth Green, Burnet Co., TX, b. 17 Dec 1872
  • John Wilkes Booth Shipley, Searcy Co., AR, b. 9 May 1874
  • John Wilkes Booth O'Brien, Gastonia, NC 
  • John Wilkes Booth Franks, Harris Co., TX, d. 17 Jan 1957
  • Wilkes Booth Lacy, Dallas, TX, b. 1894
  • Wilkes Booth Walker, Houston, TX, b. 9 Sept 1941 d. 3 Jul 2008
  • George and Nancy Sharp, parents of John Wilkes Booth Sharp, Carroll Co., GA, b. 1871
  • Richard and Julia Wagoner, parents of John Wilkes Booth Wagoner, Tyler Co., West Virginia, b. 1873
  • Wilkins and Arminda Dewees, parents of J Wilkes Booth Dewees, Hickory Hill, Illinois, b. 1870
  • Benjamin and Missouria Emmons, parents of John Wilkes Booth Emmons, Bethel, Kentucky, b. 1865
  • John and Mary Winston of Milam, Texas, parents of John Wilkes Booth Winston, b. 1865
I'm not really sure what to make of this example: an African American girl born in North Carolina in 1921 named "Wilkes Booth Lincoln March."

This is just a sampling — there are thousands of people in the 1870, 1880, and 1900 census records named John Wilkes Booth X, JWBooth X, J Wilkes Booth X, Wilkes Booth X, Booth X, etc.

*Obviously, there is no shortage of villains in American history. Many people have killed more of their fellow human beings than JWB ever did, and I am not claiming that he is the only baddie out there. I reserve a special level of villainhood for those who assassinate elected officials — their crimes are against the nation and the democratic process, not just against a single person or group of people.


Brian Franklin said...

I think the key to understanding the African-American girl's name (and many of the others') is that it probably has little-to-nothing to do with "hating democracy" and more to do with hating some of the less-than-democratic methods and beliefs of Abraham Lincoln, even if he was a prime mover in bringing about the end of slavery.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

I think that most southerners understood that naming your kid after a presidential assassin is a pretty odious act of contempt for democracy, whatever that president's politics. There are thousands upon thousands of southerners in the 1870-1930 census records (both black and white) named Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, etc., but only these few named after Booth.

Even among those who considered Confederates heroes and named their children accordingly, the people in this post are extremists.

Larry Cebula said...

Brian, that is a strange and unlikely interpretation.

Fun post, Caitlin! Where did you get these records--is it from Ancestry.com?

Robert J. said...

Off topic: I had no idea you had another life. I'm seriously impressed and may need an autograph.

Unknown said...

Off topic:
Saw this on my flickr stream and instantly thought of you (at least, this blog): http://www.flickr.com/photos/47101250@N00/3423627556/
It is the gravestone in Scotland of a 12 year old girl "run over by an omnibus", with a little moral poem accompanying.


Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

What a great verse on that gravestone — thanks Rea P! It's something I'd expect to find on a Puritan gravestone from 1700, not a Scottish gravestone from the late 19th century.