Lamentable Southern History

by Gary Wright

The greatest tragedy of all is the one unremembered

On June 29, 1967, blonde bomb-shell and Hollywood star, Jayne Mansfield was on her way to New Orleans from Biloxi, Mississippi, where she had been performing at a local nightclub. With her was Ronald B. Harrison, a driver for the Gus Stevens Dinner Club, her lawyer, Samuel S. Brody, and three of Mansfield’s children in Stevens’ 1966 Buick Electra. She never reached her destination.

Jayne Mansfield_edited-1

Jayne Mansfield

On a dark stretch of road, near Slidell, Louisiana, just as a truck was approaching a machine emitting a thick white fog used to spray mosquitoes, the Electra hit the trailer-truck from behind. Mansfield, Harrison and Brody were all killed in the accident. Mansfield’s children: Mickey, Zoltan and Marie (Mariska), who had apparently been sleeping on the rear seat, were injured, but survived. That Buick Electra was later purchased by a private individual and placed in a macabre touring show for a time, until it eventually disappeared, believed to have been purchased by a Mansfield aficionado who wanted her memory to rest in peace.


On August 16, 1977, music icon Elvis Presley died at the age of 42. The cause of death was covered up by his family, but it is believed that an overdose of prescription drugs caused his heart to stop. Interestingly, of all the pop and rock songs he made famous, his only three Grammy awards were for gospel music, including ‘How Great Thou Art.’ Elvis had an identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborn and was buried in an unmarked grave in Tupelo, Mississippi. Imagine if his brother had lived and there had been two of them.

Elvis' birthplace

Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo, MS


On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. He was shot twice and died shortly after at Parkland Hospital. Within an hour after his death, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the crime. Oswald was, in turn, murdered three days later by Jack Ruby. The entire string of incidences sparked the greatest conspiracy theories in history. The notions still refuse to die.

Assasination in Dallas

Assasination in Dallas


Early on September 17, 1928, a storm made landfall near West Palm Beach, Florida, with winds of 145 mph (233 km/h). In the city, more than 1,711 homes were destroyed. Elsewhere in the county, impact was severest around Lake Okeechobee. The storm surge caused water to pour out of the southern edge of the lake, flooding hundreds of square miles as high as 20 feet above ground. Numerous houses and buildings were swept away in the cities around the lake, at least 2,500 people drowned, and damage was estimated at $25 million.

Hurricane photo

While crossing Florida, the system weakened significantly, but the “Okeechobee Hurricane” curved northeastward and briefly re-emerged into the Atlantic on September 18. The storm soon made another landfall near Edisto Island, South Carolina, with winds of 85 mph, and early on the following day, the system became a hurricane over North Carolina. Overall, the system caused $100 million in damage and at least 4,079 deaths. Folklorist and musician Will McLean wrote a beautiful and moving song about the hurricane entitled “Hold Back the Waters of Lake Okeechobee.”


On April 12, 1861, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard fired on the Union Fort Sumter, South Carolina, igniting the American Civil War. Southern states had recently seceded from the Union and planned an amiable disassociation from the north. However, Lincoln and the north thought differently. “The Union must be preserved at all costs,” was the intention of Lincoln and many hard-liners of the north. Southern states demanded that the Union withdraw all its forces and materials from the South. They refused, and several Union-held forts were besieged by Southern forces. Many believe that had the South simply maintained the siege, the ‘War of Northern Aggression’ could have been averted entirely. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with the Confederate agents however, because he did not consider the Confederacy a legitimate nation, and making any treaty with it would be recognition of it as a sovereign government.

Fort Sumpter

Gen. Beauregard determined that he would fire on the fort. He did so, and after two days of heavy bombardment, Major Anderson agreed to surrender the fort to the Confederates. There were no casualties on either side directly from the hostilities, but there was talk on both sides of increased aggression. Calmer heads encouraged negotiating, but when Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South as a response, the die was cast, and the Confederacy braced for the invasion on Southern soil. That invasion came. On July 21, 1861, the first large-scale units of the Union met Southern resistance near Manassas, Virginia at the Battle of the First Bull Run.


In Pulaski, Tennessee in late 1866, a group of Confederate war veterans met and formed a group to fight northern reconstruction, and the Ku Klux Klan was born. From 1867 onward, African-American participation in public life in the South became one of the most unfavorably viewed aspects of Reconstruction, as blacks won election to southern state governments, and the U.S. Congress. For its part, the Ku Klux Klan dedicated itself to an underground campaign of violence against Republican leaders and their supporters—both black and white—in an effort to reverse the policies of Radical Reconstruction and restore ‘white supremacy’ in the South.


The birth of the Ku Klux Klan was like the birth of Frankenstein’s Monster. On paper it may have looked good to many, but in action it proved disastrous to all. Hopefully, that part of Southern history will be remembered always, so that it will never be repeated.


Photo of Jayne Mansfield com is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to

Birthplace of Elvis Presley is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to

JFK assassination photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to

1928 Hurricane photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to

Fort Sumter rendering is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to

KKK photo is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to






4 thoughts on “Lamentable Southern History

  1. James Armour

    Enough already! Southern history is under assault daily. Removal of our monuments, flags, etc.. Those that are not aware of Southern history don’t care about it.

    1. Gary Wright

      I hope that by writing the truth, both good and bad, concerning our Southern history others may understand it just a little bit better. Thank you for your comments.

  2. Gary, very interesting!

    1. Gary Wright

      Thank you. I’m glad you liked it. Our Southern history is so rich, varied and full of surprise and wonder.

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