Category Archives: Hereditary Health

Last Photo of Jesse Edwards James Jr. – Son of Jesse James

Jesse Edwards James Jr., son of Jesse Woodson James, Norwalk State Hospital, 1949

The James Preservation Trust has received the contribution of what is believed to be the last photo taken of Jesse Edwards James Jr., son of America’s iconic outlaw Jesse Woodson James.

The photo was taken in 1949 during Jesse Jr.’s confinement in the Norwalk State Hospital in Norwalk, California. Months later, Jesse Edwards James Jr. died on March 26, 1951 at the age of seventy-five.

In the same image also is pictured Jesse Jr.’s caregiver at Norwalk. He is Luther Garlin Henderson. The contribution of this historic photographic was made by Henderson’s son, Bruce Henderson, a retired attorney.

Luther Garlin Henderson 1903-1958, caregiver to Jesse James Jr. at Norwalk State Hospital

“My father suffered a heart attack in 1947, and was forced to cease employment in his industry. To support his wife, and infant son (me), he found less physically demanding work at Norwalk State Hospital, Norwalk, California.”                                                                                           – BRUCE HENDERSON ESQ. 


In the beginning, Norwalk Hospital was called Norwalk State Mental Hospital. Often it was referred to as a sanitarium.

Opened in 1916, the facility housed 105 patients with 21 employees, all administered by one physician. The 305 acre property included a farm, worked by the patients, most all of whom were unemployable men. The hospital had its own cemetery.

Then & Now – Norwalk State Hospital, Norwalk, California

Shortly after Jesse’s Jr.’s passing, the name of the facility was changed in 1953 to the Metropolitan State Hospital, housing 1,900 patients. Marilyn Monroe’s mother Gladys was a patient there. In 1955, actor Bela Lugosi was admitted for ninety days for treatment of his morphine addiction.

Today the facility is dramatically changed. Gone is the farm. Much of the land surrounding the Norwalk Hospital where Jesse Jr. was committed now is an industrial park. The old hospital has been replaced by a modern facility. Inside, treatment is administered to conservator patients with psychiatric disabilities, felony defendants found incompetent, parolees treated for mental disorders, and patients judged not guilty by virtue of insanity. A long history of abuse and negligence continues to be alleged.

The Norwalk Hospital Jesse Jr. knew sits abandoned. A walk of the grounds displays the apparent decay. The place is advertised as a location site for film makers.


Little, if any, documentation exists that records the experience of Jesse Jr. at Norwalk. Hospital records remain sealed. They even are unavailable to surviving family.

An insight into what Jesse Jr. may have experienced at Norwalk can be found in the book Life Writing and Schizophrenia: Encounters at the Edge of Meaning by Mary Elene Wood. On page 290, the author records the memory of one of Norwalk’s patients. 

“I lay in bed a lot.  It was horrible. There weren’t enough beds for everyone so women were lined up in the hallway. We were all so scared but they didn’t do anything to reassure or comfort us. We would all talk about what would happen to our kids, we were all worried about that. Some of the women lost their kids altogether. Some of the patients got electroshock therapy. I didn’t have to have that, I was lucky. They were scared about it. The whole time I kept thinking those horrible thoughts.”


Jesse Edwards James Jr. with caregiver Luther Garlin Henderson, Norwalk State Hospital, 1949
Reverse copy from photo of Jesse Edwards James Jr. & Luther Garlin Henderson, Norwalk State Hospital, 1949




An electro shock terminal used at Norwalk

Electro shock therapy, sometimes more aptly called electro-convulsion, was one of two therapies commonly applied to Norwalk patients. The second was hydrotherapy ice bath immersion.

Given his history of nervous disorder, Jesse Jr. very likely was administered electro shock therapy while at Norwalk.

However, the lingering question is, was Jesse Jr. ever subjected to a procedural lobotomy? The procedure was a popular application in the period, as evidenced by the tragic experience of Rosemary Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy.

Death certificate for Jesse Edwards James Jr.
Lo Angeles Death Index citation for Jesse Edwards James Jr.


Book Review: The Trial of Jesse James Jr.

A Damaged but Heroic Life Is Worth Living

Our James family’s cousin, Bobby Brush, died this morning at age 53. His was an extraordinary life, in fact, an heroic life. Bobby lived in those recesses which most people never experience or will recognize. Bobby was born with what is called today a pre-condition. Bobby was born with Down Syndrome.

Bobby Brush
Bobby Brush 1961-2013

From birth, Bobby’s life was in peril. His only assurance was his life would not be long. He could expect 18 years at most, maybe a bit longer if he was lucky. Bobby beat his odds.

Had Bobby been born a decade earlier, society surely would have banished him to its darkest shadows, never to experience the things most people take for granted, like playing ball, having friends, living independently, or going to work.

Bobby Brush with parents Eleanor and Bobby Sr.
Robert Brush Sr. – Eleanor James-Brush – Bobby Brush Jr.

Had Bobby’s parents the means, they surely would have given all to make Bobby’s life, at best, an average one. But they were people of average means with limited resources. Still, they gave everything they had. When Bob & Eleanor James Brush died, Bobby’s sisters Anne and Elizabeth assumed his care with dedication and human compassion.

Siblings of Bobby Brush
Bobby’s siblings – Annie, Jim, Kathleen, & Elizabeth

Before Bobby entered his teens, another family entered Bobby’s life. The late Senator Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family established programs to help those born with Down’s syndrome meet their challenges. With his family’s and the support of the Kennedy family, Bobby attended school, made friends, and played games. In time he got a job in a bank, went to work every day, and lived with friends. I recall Bobby in 2000 when he offered an elegant toast to “my favorite aunt,” Deanie James, at her funeral. Bobby’s afflicted life had developed heroically.

Anne Marie Brush
Bobby’s caregiver, his sister Anne Marie
Elizabeth Jane Brush
Bobby’s caregiver, his sister Elizabeth Jane

In recent years, Bobby encountered Alzheimer’s, not a pre-condition of life like his Down’s syndrome, but just as devastating. Bobby had been on my mind for a while recently, particularly as I watched those who were not born with Bobby’s pre-condition swarm mindlessly and with antagonism over issues of public health care, with a lack of human compassion that is far too loud.

I’m grateful for the compassion Bobby’s parents and sisters showed him. I’m grateful for the foresight of the Kennedy family. I’m grateful for each person who helped Bobby to live his life as the rest of us do. With their support, Robert Charles Brush lived a truly heroic life. May his life never be dishonored by those who would withhold what it takes to make heroes of those damaged through no fault of their own by life’s pre-conditions.

Born with Down's Syndrome, Bobby Brush was aided in his development by the family of Sen. Ted Kennedy os Masachusettes.
Born with Down’s Syndrome, Bobby Brush was aided in his development by the family of Sen. Ted Kennedy os Massachusetts.

UPDATED: March 24, 2018

In honor of Bobby and Eleanor Marie James Brush, Bobby’s mother, and others among our James family who live with Down Syndrome.

50 Moms, 50 Kids, 1 Extra Chromosome

Attention Jesse James Kinfolk…Send me your ears

How can you tell a blood relative of Jesse James? Just look at the ears.

Every few weeks I receive photographic images that are claimed to be of Jesse James, or Frank James, or of the two together. More often, they are pictures of some who claim to be a relative of the James. It’s easy to dismiss almost every image promptly. But sometimes, when the physical resemblance appears close, the first thing I look at are the ears.

Zee Mimms James
Zee Mimms, wife of Jesse Woodson James

This image of Jesse James’ wife Zee is one of my most favorite James family pictures because it shows very clearly the physical ear definition that commonly appears among many in the Jesse James family.

Zee Mimms-James is not only Jesse’s wife, but she also is his first cousin. They both share the same grandparents, those being John M. James & Mary “Polly” Poor.

The giveaway in the ear formation of the James is the flattened part of the ear’s perimeter, and the deep peninsula canal located inside the ear at the bottom.

Zee Mimms James
Young Zee Mimms

Evident in this image of a young Zee Mimms is the same ear formation, which will last a lifetime. This architecture rarely appears in both ears, but only in one.

This singular ear pattern would have been familiar to Jesse James. While no image of Jesse shows he possessed the same ear form, it is easy from viewing photographic images of his children that he possessed the formation, too. His children Jesse Edwards James Jr. and Mary Susan James definitely did.

Jesse Edwards James Jr.
Jesse Edwards James Jr.
Mary Susan James
Mary Susan James

Among the Jesse James family, this ear formation appears to be genetic. Generations of the James display the same ear structure through time to present day.

Robert Franklin James
Robert Franklin James

Frank James, son, Robert Franklin James had one. So did Jesse’s cousin Susan Prudence James-Smith.

Prudence James Smith
Susan Prudence James-Smith

Living members of the Jesse James family display the same ear formation today, even among family who do not descend from Jesse James.

Finally, this is J. Mark Beamis. Mark is the son of Joan Malley-Beamis, author of Background of a Bandit, the first genealogy assembled by a James family member. Furthermore, Mark is a second great-grandson of Drury Woodson James, Frank and Jesse’s uncle; and he is a third great-grandson of John M. James and Mary “Polly” Poor.

J. Mark Beamis
J. Mark Beamis

Recently, when these images were presented to living descendants among the James family, some dashed to a mirror to check their ears. What they saw in the mirror was their James family genetic heritage, fully and irrefutably displayed.

To other James family members, only now becoming aware of this genetic characteristic, I’ll ask you to SEND ME YOUR EARS.

Jesse James
Jesse Woodson James






Frank James genetic ear
Frank James