“God Knows I Am Sorry.”

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Continuing the study of A. Max Wilson’s children, we now meet the second son, James Fannin Wilson.

And confidentially, I’ve sat on the story of Fannin for several days because I wasn’t sure how to present it.

In straight journalism, one presents the data, without editorializing or embroidering the piece further. One doesn’t make excuses for the subject of the story, or speculate what he or she might have done leading up to the moment. As Sergeant Joe Friday would say, “just give me the facts, ma’am.” So, I’ll just start with the first thing I found about him, and you’ll see what I mean:

J. Fannin Wilson, 23, of Lexington, Ky., late of New Orleans, late of Calhoun County, Florida. As reported in the Lexington (Ky) Herald for December 6, 1926. Source: Genealogybank.com

J. Fannin Wilson, 23, of Lexington, Ky., late of New Orleans, late of Calhoun County, Florida. As reported in the Lexington (Ky) Herald for December 6, 1926. Source: Genealogybank.com

Dec 13, 1926 edition of the Lexington Herald. Fannin spent Christmas at the big house instead of Belle's house. Source: Genealogybank.com

Dec 13, 1926 edition of the Lexington Herald. Fannin spent Christmas at the big house instead of Belle’s house. Source: Genealogybank.com

Other documents revealed that Fannin got caught up in gambling, and could not pay the debts. So, he turned to embezzling — and cooking the books — to cover himself. It wasn’t a paltry sum that he embezzled, either:

The Lexington Leader for January 19, 1927. At the hearing, Fannin plead guilty for embezzling 10Gs. Source: Genealogybank.com

The Lexington Leader for January 19, 1927. At the hearing, Fannin plead guilty for embezzling 10Gs. Source: Genealogybank.com

Fannin’s gambling debts were not insignificant; $10,000 back in 1927 was the equivalent of over $135,000 in today’s money. This was a big-time debt. Maybe Fannin also had big-time collection agents hounding him, too.

So, Fannin goes before the judge for sentencing:

 

January 20, 1927, page 1, The Lexington Herald. Source: Genealogy Bank.com

January 20, 1927, page 1, The Lexington Herald. Source: Genealogy Bank.com

The second part of the story. January 20, 1927, page 11, The Lexington Herald. Source: Genealogybank.com

The second part of the story. January 20, 1927, page 11, The Lexington Herald. Source: Genealogybank.com

Here’s more of the story here, from the January 19, 1927 edition of The Lexington Leader. Fannin is quoted in this article:

The Lexington Leader, p2, January 19, 1927. Source: Genealogybank.com

The Lexington Leader, p2, January 19, 1927. The reference to the gambling problem is in the second column. Source: Genealogybank.com

The rest of the first column of the sentencing article, above, from The Lexington Herald. Source: Genealogybank.com

The rest of the first column of the sentencing article, above, from The Lexington Herald. Source: Genealogybank.com

“God knows I am sorry,” Fannin said.

I’m sure he was. This would be the equivalent of hitting bottom; he wanted a chance to start over. But the judge wanted to be sure of it, and Fannin would have a chance to start over after serving his time.

Fannin served his sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta. (Records on prisoners are available online via the National Archives in Atlanta, but, only up through 1921.)


In 1940, we catch up with Fannin again in the U.S. Census. He is living in New Orleans, living on Gayoso Street. He’s listed as “James F”, and employed as a “Hand Book,” which is further described as related to ‘horse racing.’ (Here’s an interesting article about hand book operators in New Orleans.)

We find James Fannin again in 1945, living in Blountstown with his mother and brother, Warren. James is in the Army.

Florida State Census for 1945. Source: Ancestry.com

Florida State Census for 1945. Source: Ancestry.com

The next information I have on James Fannin is from his mother Belle’s obituary from the Panama City News Herald for April 14 1967, stating he is a resident of New Orleans. Belle was living in Blountstown when she died.

I don’t think James Fannin ever married. I have not yet located any marriage record. However, we do learn that he served his country.

Fannin is buried in Biloxi National Cemetery.

Fannin's grave. He's in Biloxi National Cemetery. Source: Find-a-grave.com

Fannin’s grave. He’s in Biloxi National Cemetery. Source: Find-a-grave.com

I think James Fannin turned around his life the best he could, given that he might have struggled with a gambling addiction all of his life. I don’t know that he also had a problem with alcohol and I’m not presuming that is the case, but I do know from my own experience (and from hearing the experience, strength and hope from my fellows in AA) that many folks in recovery often struggle with more than addiction, and it doesn’t have to be a substance (i.e., shopping, work, running, chocolate).

Because I don’t know if Fannin ever married, I don’t know if he left descendants. I doubt that Fannin would have been entrusted with the Wilson family Bible, though, if one of Max’s children was, indeed, the recipient of this still-lost relic.

I still have a few more of Max’s descendants to explore. More will be revealed late in the week.

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