Meet Eric James - a Broadway & TV has-been, living in the Kentucky Bluegrass. A former law journalist turned politico, blogger, publisher, author, historian, archivist, & lecturer, Eric continues to build upon the success he earned during his 16 years in show business & 35 years as a pioneer in international real estate brokerage.
Presently, Eric is writing Volume II of his five volume history of the family of Frank & Jesse James- Jesse James Soul Liberty. He also publishes & writes their official web site Stray Leaves, and blog Leaves of Gas.
Previously, the book was nominated for the Spur Award, given by the Western Writers of America. See the previous announcement.
This nomination is for the best non-fiction biography, given by the Wild West History Association.
Television viewers are well acquainted with WWHA’s members. Many of them are sought-after authorities by cable TV channels such as History and Discovery. Look forward to the final announcement of winners this summer.
In Chapter 11 of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, the late Judge James R. Ross a great grandson of Jesse James, risked the loss of his judicial career when he proclaimed before a judicial review panel, “I’m a great grandson of Jesse James. No one in our family backs down.”
Jim Ross was responding to the political vendetta brought against him by conservative political elements in Orange County, California, after Jim made the landmark ruling that found Disneyland guilty of violating the civil rights of two gay young men, who were evicted from Disneyland for dancing together.
That was in 1980. At the same time at Disney World, a young gay man named George Kalogridis had been busing tables for Disney for nine years. He liked his job. He liked working at Disney. But he probably didn’t like being forced to keep part of himself a secret in order to keep his job. In the 33 years since Jim Ross made the courageous decision that fatefully cost him his career, the equal rights of gays is now a recognized fact in America. Thanks in part to a great grandson of Jesse James, gays can be freely open to be who they are.
Today in 2013, Alex Kalogridis is the first openly gay president of Walt Disney World, overseeing its operations in Anaheim, California. He’s also Chief Operating Officer of the Disneyland Resort in Paris. On June 1 of each year, Disneyland plays host to the LGBT community holding one of the world largest gay pride parades in America, attracting more than 150,000 visitors.
Take a bow, Jim Ross. Thank you for paying the price to insure equal rights in America. As the Associated Press reported at the time of Jim’s passing, “with that one ruling, Ross proved himself a far better man than his famous ancestor.”
Donate a copy of Jesse James Soul Liberty Vol. I to the library, school, historical, or genealogical society of your choice. Special discount pricing applies right now. See the book’s web site for details.
Here’s what reviewers are saying…
“The abundance of the accomplishments of the James family is more than enough to mitigate any stigma attached because of the outlaws. This family has led the way for social justice in many fields. They have been leaders in law, business, church, education and the arts..”
“In summary, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I did not want to put the book down. It reads a lot like the family sagas written by Howard Fast and John Jakes. However, this is all fact, not fiction.”
“My wife was buried in this, and continues to re-read. Just wish I had gotten the autographed version for her.”
James family members, long since lost to one another, are falling out of the heavens this week. For almost a decade I have tried to find the descendants of John Oliver James of Midland, Texas. The family photo of his father Edward Perry James and family appears on page 72 of Jesse James Soul Liberty.
I’ve visited Midland a couple of times, saw the home where John Oliver James lived, and visited his grave site. I learned a few years back that some of his descendants lived in Australia, and that family now includes descendants of Australia’s indigenous aboriginal people.
Search as I did, I found no results….until this week.
Suddenly, Casie Lea James-Spears, a great-granddaughter of John Oliver James, contacted me. Casie’s family includes her husband Jeff Spears and his two children Matthew Jeffrey & Amanda Grace Spears. Casie has two children of her own, Heather Michelle & Samantha Jo Wojahn. Casie’s family lives in Kansas City. Casie produced some leads about what she knew of her family, and a lot about what she didn’t know. I got back to work.
Following Casie’s clues, within a day I found Elizabeth Lee “Libby” James-Brown, another great-granddaughter, and her family – husband Craig Brown, and children Marlyn, Desmyn, LeeRoy, and Adina Brown. Libby and Casie had heard of each other, but had never met or knew anything about each other.
Casie wrote, “I cannot thank you enough for sharing all that you have with me. I’ve gone most of my life with little information about my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I feel like I’m getting a new family.”
Libby’s first reaction to finding Casie was joy. She wrote, “Casie and I have really only got each other now.” At that point Libby hadn’t seen all the rest of the family and stray leaves she is about to inherit, now numbering about 5,000, and many of us still very much alive and living.
Libby’s husband, Craig Brown, posted to his Facebook page a bit of his philosophy about living one’s family integrity and historical culture:
“Cultural Integrity = maintaining a lifestyle based on our ancestors/elders dreams to insure the sustainability of our culture. Doing the things to the best of your ability within the boundaries of truth, respect, caring, sharing and utilizing the tools we have been gifted by God. Put these elements into a healthy environment and your children’s, children’s children, etc….will prosper = the most valuable inheritance you ever will leave your families.”
Edward Perry James & Elizabeth Langford, son of Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May
. John Oliver “Jack” James & Dimple Hite
.. Virginia James & Unknown Worrell
… George William James & Beverly Ann Ham
…. Casie Lea James & Joshua Todd Wojahn
….. Heather Michelle Wojahn
….. Samantha Jo Wojahn
…. Casie Lea James & Jeffrey Thomas “Jeff” Spears
… Robert Lee “Bob” James & Susan Anne Syron
…. Elizabeth Lee “Libby” James & Craig Onan Brown
….. Marlyn Bruce Brown
….. Desmyn Francis Brown
….. Leeroy James Brown
….. Adina Susanne Brown
Raymond James, who appears on pg. 67 of Jesse James Soul Liberty, visited me last week. Raymond has spent a lot of time studying the Operations Orders for the 12th Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War, in which his great grandfather John Thomas James (pg.73) served. Raymond has identified the campaign movements of his grandfather on a daily basis from start to finish. An extraordinary accomplishment that hopefully will make its way into print.
On other topics, Raymond also related a story told to him by his grandmother, Lydia Crow-James. The James family, Lydia said, raised Morgan horses. From her hilltop home in Dabney in Pulaski County, during winter she could see clear to Shopville where the horses were penned. After the James Gang raid on the Columbia Bank in Ky. on April 29, 1872, a large number of the Morgan horses were stolen from their pen in Shopville. Left behind were some very tired, sorry looking horses. A while later, the stolen Morgan horses reappeared at the James farm after the attempted bank robbery in Somerset, presumed to have been by the James Gang who fled when a group of hunters assembled at the same time in the town square for a hunting party.
It’s an interesting story, which unfortunately can’t be verified, unlike the troop movements of the 12th Kentucky Infantry.
Commenting on his appearance in Jesse James Soul Liberty, Raymond said he had read the book twice. “The first time I read it from start to finish. The second time I read it again, but this time with the notes. Reading the notes was like getting an extra book!”
Sadly, Raymond also informed me of the recent passing of his grandson. An autopsy is being conducted. We wish Raymond’s daughter Kathy well.
UPDATE: Raymond James now informs us the autopsy is in on the death of his grandson. The young man died of a brain aneurysm. The autopsy report notes such deaths occur when the brain’s blood vessels become constricted. One other case of death brought on by a brain aneurysm among James family members is known. The death of Eleanor Marie James-Brush was caused likewise, cutting short her life at age 62. Eleanor was known to drink 2-3 pots of coffee per day, the caffeine from which was the most likely cause for constricting her blood vessels and triggering the event. Constriction may also be caused by recreational drug use, particularly hard drugs like heroine, even in short term use or in use long past.
GOOD NEWS…Jesse James Soul Liberty has been nominated for the 2013 Spur Award, conferred by the Western Writers of America, in the category of Best Western Non-Fiction-Biography. Winners will be announced in late June at WWA’s annual convention in Las Vegas. Anybody placing any odds?
Marley Brant – In The Shadow (Incarnat Books 2012) 523 pp. soft cover, $19.95
Book Review by Nancy B. Samuelson
Marley Brant is well known to most of us in the outlaw-lawman community. She is the author of nine previous books. Among her books are The Outlaw Youngers: A Confederate Brotherhood, Jesse James: The Man and the Myth and The Illustrated History of the James-Younger Gang. This is Marley’s first book of historical fiction. She draws on her extensive research about the James-Younger gang and now tells the story from the point of view of Bob Younger. The characters in the book are all real people and most of the events described did happen so this is good history.
The horrors of the border war in Missouri and Kansas and the national Civil War that followed are all brought to life very well. The death of Henry Younger, father of the Younger family, and the rape of one of the Younger sisters is all described through the eyes of a very young and innocent Bob Younger. As older brother Cole becomes involved with William C. Quantrill and his band of bushwhackers the Younger family continue to suffer. The family is forced to move, the mother is forced to burn her own home, and the family is forced to move still again.
During Reconstruction things do not improve for the Younger family. The family once had extensive land holdings in Western Missouri but this is all gone. Bob Younger has a dream of returning to Missouri, becoming a farmer and regaining some of the lost family land. But nothing seems to work out for any of the Youngers for very long. The Younger boys try first one thing and another and move about here and there. Cole becomes involved in outlaw activities and the other three brothers, John, Jim, and Bob are eventually drawn in to the outlaw life too. Brother John is killed in a gunfight with lawmen.
Bob now attempts to make it on his own and does return to Missouri. He meets a lady named, Maggie, who is living on some of the land once owned by the Youngers. Bob and Maggie establish a romantic relationship and attempt to make a go of it farming. Bob feels he needs more money to make the farm a paying proposition. He is again drawn into the outlaw activities. This time the James-Younger gang attempt to rob the bank at Northfield, Minnesota and all outlaw-lawman buffs know how this raid ended. The three Younger brothers are all sentenced to life in prison.
The scenes between Bob and Maggie are very touching, however, I wanted to know a lot more about Maggie and her previous life that the author told us. There is a considerable amount of material here and there in the book about farming and country life. Some of these comments led me to the conclusion that the author is a city girl. (This reviewer did grow up on a farm in Missouri.)
The description of the Younger’s lives in Stillwater Prison is well done. And the scenes depicting the death of Bob Younger turned on my tear ducts.
There is not much new about the James-Younger gang in this book. But to tell the story through the eyes of Bob Younger is an interesting twist. The book is well worth reading if you have an interest in this group of outlaws and in the Younger family.
This Thanksgiving I’m particularly grateful to all among the family of Frank & Jesse James who worked with me and made their own contributions toward bringing my history of the Jesse James family to publication.
Yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving, I received an email from one family member who had just received her copy of the book. She expressed regret that Thanksgiving would prevent her from jumping right into the book, and that reading the book would have to wait until after Thanksgiving was done.
I replied,stating this needn’t be so. No need to wait upon reading the book at all to ingest the seasoning of all of its nourishing tidbits and tangy secrets. All that needed to be done was to insert her copy of Jesse James Soul Liberty into a food processor and grind away. When done the book easily could be absorbed as holiday stuffing.
Virginia Jacques-Church is celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary today with her husband Arthur B. Church. Virginia is the granddaughter of William Heberd James, great granddaughter of Luther Tillman James, & 2nd great granddaughter of Thomas Martin James, an uncle of Frank & Jesse James. Virginia added many valuable contributions about her line of the family for Jesse James Soul Liberty. You’ll find her and Arthur pictured on page 177.
After inspecting my booth at the Kentucky Book Fair for tomorrow, I was asked, “Have you seen your book up at the State Capitol?” I got to the Capitol right before it closed. Sure enough, right off the Capitol rotunda, graced by the statues of Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Henry Clay, & Dr. Ephriam McDowell who appears in my book, and a few steps from the entrance to the Governor’s office, there was my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, handsomely displayed in an antique showcase in the company of some of Kentucky’s finest writers. Any writer will know, viewing your book in a presentation like that is a thrill. I then attended a reception for all the authors, and got to meet some very interesting people. I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of history enthusiasts at the Fair, and signing my book for them.
Nov. 8, 2012…Last night a fire occurred in the home where Frank & Jesse James’ parents were married in Stamping Ground, Ky. Rev. Robert Sallee James married Zerelda Elizabeth Cole on Dec. 28, 1841, standing before the fireplace in the home of Zerelda’s uncle, Judge James Madison Lindsay. Judge Lindsay parented Zerelda several years in this home, before sending her to convent school. That fireplace was the cause of last night’s fire.
The current owner of the home is James Barber, the son of the late John Barber. When John acquired the property about a decade ago, he sold off much of the land & the contents of the home. As a distant cousin of the Zerelda’s Cole family, John kept the historic home for himself. A couple days before John died, he offered the home to me for purchase, which I declined.
The historic site also was location where the revelation of the Zee James Collection came to light. The collection consisted of the trunk & contents that Zerelda had packed with Jesse’s widow following Jesse’s assassination. The women sent the trunk back to the family home for safe keeping. The home which remained in the ownership of Lindsay family cousins since Jesse’s murder preserved the historic artifacts for well over 100 years.
The fire damage to the home is repairable. Whether it gets repaired remains to be seen.
Not an Election Day passes without reminders of the numerous James family who served in elected or appointed pubic office. Subverted by the reputations of the wartime guerrillas Frank & Jesse James, or the vote riggers among their James family, Sam Ralston & Samuel Hughes Woodson, most all who were duly elected or appointed served honorably.
Some still serve today with distinction, without being elected or appointed. Like the family feminists Rev. Mollie Paine-McGreevy, an Episcopal priest serving the LGBT community, or Gail McGreevy-Harmon, who still fights today’s political battles as an attorney for Planned Parenthood and women’s rights.
All trace their roots to the soul liberty of John M. James and his band of rebel preachers, individuals forced into self-exile for their belief in the personhood of liberty.
In the elections of today as well as those in the future, liberty always will require guardianship. And be assured, there always will be a James – man or woman – to preserve the freedom of the individual.
Books like to write themselves, probably because they don’t trust their parent. As author, my Chapter One for Jesse James Soul Liberty was a different chapter than this. For all the time I wrote this book, the book was being written to conform to a totally different structure and architecture, which I had meticulously planned.
Then arrived the defining moment when a critical decision had to be made. The book had grown too big in content, and too costly for publication. Choice One was to move forward as planned, and severely reduce the content of Jesse James Soul Liberty to fit into a single volume. Or Choice Two, to break up Volume I into two separate volumes and restructure the book accordingly. I surrendered everything I worked for and planned. I opted for Choice Two.
My forced decision was no less than divine inspiration. The book and its content claimed, “We can do better.” And so, it is. What remains unknown is this. Who is really writing my book?