The Watson Family History can be traced back to slavery. On both sides of the family tree it branches back to either a white plantation owner and/or a slave. The Watson Family also can trace their roots to the Creek Indians as well. Joseph Lee Watson best known as "Joe" and Hettie Irene Tait were born and raised in Burnt Corn, Alabama.
Joseph Lee "Joe" Watson was born in Burnt Corn February 14, 1919 to Alfred Mobley "Mob" Watson and Elvira Armstrong. Mobley (Mob) and Elvira were poor dirt farmers trying to survive in a cruel world of segregration and Jim Crow laws. They had two sons, Joseph Lee (Joe) and Harmon Sylvester (Ves). Mobley died suddenly of a heart attack at age 44 and left Elvira to raise two young boys, ages 12 and 14. Because Joe was 14 years old at the time of his father death and was the older of the two boys he had to take on the responsibility of the "man of the house." Elvira eventually remarried a man from Beatrice, Alabama by the name of Choice Wright. After Choice's death Elvira then married Will Green and they lived in the New Hope area of Burnt Corn.
Hettie Irene Tait was born in Burnt Corn, Alabama on November 27, 1918 to James "Jim" Tait and Irene Marshall. Hettie was the second youngest of nine children. Her sibling includes: Rudy, Garfield, John David, Roger Lorenzo, Annie Coleman, Maggie, Earlene, and Verlie Rebecca.
Hettie and Joe both attended the only "colored" school in the area Puryearville School located next to the present day Pilgrim Rest Methodist Church. The school went from the 1st to 10th grades and only had a few class rooms. The school had three teachers: Dewitt Tait, Charles Stallworth and George Davison. The Principal was Professor McCastle. The school year ran between October and April leaving the remainder of the year to plant and harvest crops. They both completed the tenth grade at age 18. Although, Hettie was a grade behind Joe, but was in the same grade as Joe's brother Sylvester (Ves).
Although they had been knowing each other for years and were schoolmates but they were not considered "girlfriend/boyfriend" according to Hettie. Hettie claimed that Joe was too "silly and immature" and was too "little" for her. Besides, she was in love with another fellow named Meredith Daily. Hettie and Meredith courted for 2 to 3 years before he meet an untimely death at the early age of 23 in a logging accident on a brigde near Monroe Station. That death left Hettie heartbroken for about a year. Joe too had a girlfriend by the name of Elizabeth who was Hettie's cousin. During Hettie's mourning period, Joe made his move after about 7 or 8 months and slowly and methodically pursuing Hettie and finally winning and wooing her love. Hettie claimed Joe "worn her down" (see you thought Steve Urkle invented that phase, "I'm going to wear you down, baby")and she claimed that the reason she wasn't interested in him was because he acted "like a child". However, smooth (childish) Joe Watson got in and they courted for about a year before he asked her hand in marriage.
On November 5, 1938, they eloped in a 1930 Model "T" Ford and were secretly married at a Justice of the Peace office in Beatrice, Alabama. Hettie's sister Maggie and Joe's mother Elvira witness the ceremony. Hettie came back home and lived with her parents Jim and Irene Tait for two weeks like nothing ever happen. Hettie eventually broke the news to her shocked mother but, the secret was not revealed to her father Jim until a cousin Jack Lett came over to complain to Jim about Joe. Cousin Jack Lett claimed that Joe had been seeing his daughter Elizabeth and he had gotten her pregnant and it wasn't right for Hettie to be "courting" Joe. During that meeting the Cousin Jack Lett demanded that Jim put a stop to Joe seeing Hettie. Hettie's mother Irene jumps up and shouted out loudly "it's too damn late now" they're already married. Of course, Jim being the last one to know and finding it that way was shocked and disappointed and immediately summoned Joe to his house. Joe was advised that he should take his wife home with him that very day. Joe at the time was living with his mother Elvira and brother Sylvester on the old Mosely plantation house way back in the "piney woods" as they called it then and was later known as the Harper field. Hettie claimed the reason they kept the marriage a secret was because she was not ready to be a housewife and she sure "the hell" didn't want to live over in the "piney woods" on the Will Moseley plantation. However, Jim Tait changed that forever. Hettie had to go with her new husband and she claimed she hated every minutes living so far back in the woods.
According to Hettie the reason Joe, his mother Elvira and brother Ves was living so back in the wood was because after Joe father's death they lost their homestead property. Joe's father Mobley "Mob" owned 40 acres of land that was given to him by his father William "Bill" Watson. "Pa Bill" as they called him had aquired over 400 acres of land during his lifetime when property was fifty cent an acre. Pa Bill had thiteen 13) children and before he died he gave all of his children 40 arces of land to live on and farm. "Mob" and Elvra was obviously making a decent living on his forty arces until his untimely death of a heart attack at age 44. That left 14 year-old Joe and his mother Elvira to try to maintain the farm. Elvira eventally lost the farm over a $400.00 debt. They had to move off the property and rent from Will Mosely in the "piney woods." Joe promised himself that he will again acquire as much property possible and to keep it in the family forever.
Joe claimed he did not know Elizabeth was pregnant when he asked Hettie to marry him. Elizabeth gave birth to Joe's first child and they named him George Lee Lett. I suspect that smooth Joe was covering his tracks. The marriage was pre-planned under the pretext of going to Beatrice to a carnival. Normally Jim Tait would not have allowed that but after learning that her sister Maggie and Joe's mother Elvira was going along Jim Tait reluntantly permitted it.
Hettie claimed that she didn't like Joe because he was "immature and childish" but at the early age of 14 he had to become the "man of the house" because his father Mobley Watson had suddenly died of a heart attack. That left Elvira and the two boys to fin for themselves. Joe was the oldest and had to step up to the plate help his mother raise his younger brother Sylvester (Vest) and provide for the household.
Joe and Hettie first child was born on July 12, 1939 and they named him Alfred Mobley in honor Joe's father. Times continued to be tough for the newly weds but love conquer all. In 1941, they were blessed with their second child a beautiful baby girl whom they named Margaret Louise. In 1943, their third child and second son was born and he was named after his father Joseph. Life goes on for the Watsons and their three children in the hard times of Alabama. They made their living by farming and gardening.
In 1947, Hettie became pregnant again and gave birth to a little girl they called Gloria. Yes, the boy/girl streak had been broken. Not to be outdone, Joe had to try make the next one a boy to get on cycle again. In 1948, another girl, yes another girl was born breaking Joe's boy/girl strategy. They named this little angel Betty Ann. She was named after her grandmother's Elvira sister Betty.
In the late forties, times had gotten better financially for Joe and Hettie, during this period they acquired a piece property next to Hettie's parents, Jim and Irene Tait. They built a beautiful little house on a hill that they called home for the next 40 years. Their infamous address was Route 1, Box 99, Drewery, Alabama and remained that way until the postal service changed it many years later. The mail was always delivered by a rural mail carrier known as Mr. Owens the mail man. Burnt Corn Post Office was just a mile away but the Watsons mail came through the Drewry, Alabama post office that was about 10 miles away. If you needed stamps you would put a note and the money in the mail box and Mr. Owens would leave your stamps. Or, tape the moey to your letter and it would convert to a stamp.
By 1950, Alfred the oldest child was only 11 years old and Betty Ann the youngest child was 2 year old. By now, the Watsons has at least three new farm hands to help with field work, Alfred age 11 (nicknamed "Lewis"), Margaret age 9 (nicknamed "Ease"), and Joseph age 7 (nicknamed "Sonny") and Dorothy age 5 who was still a little too young to be of any help, except to help watch out for little Betty Ann who 2 year old. Dorothy and Bett Ann escaped nick names except for the pet names the other sibling would called them.
In 1951, two years after the death of Gloria and three years after the birth of Betty Ann, the stroke delivered a pleasant shocking surprise, twins. Yes, the Watsons now are proud parents of a set twins that were officially born on September 30, 1951. Twins were not common during that era and was not expected and to the surprise of Hettie's doctor, (Dr Eddins) and her midwife,(Georgia Andrews) a baby boy and then a girl was delivered. This was such good news to the community that everyone wanted do what they could to help. A (mean) sixth grade teacher at Burnt Corn Junior High School offers to name these two bundles of joy. Eunice Pierce Daily (Mrs. E.P. Daily) named them Vernon and Vernetta. This birth must have confused Dr. Eddins and/or the midwife Mrs. Georgia Andrew because they documented the date birth as September 31, 1951. That mistake will haunt the twins for another sixteen years. They didn't know if they were born on September 30th or October 1st. In an effort to straighten it out, Hettie remembered well that these babies were born very early on a Sunday morning, one birth at about 1:30am and the other around 3:00am. Sunday would have put the birth on September 30th. It took many years to get the State of Alabama to correct the mistake.
Joe's thoughts about the twins must have been that God either got him back on track with the "boy/girl" thing or God was replacing the loss of Gloria just two years earlier by sending him two to make up for the loss, or if nothing else he has been blessed with two more potential farmhands. The Twins, like some of the others had to be give nicknames, why? good question. Vernon was nicknamed "Peter" and Vernette was nicknamed "Duke." Those names stuck throughout their childhood.
By this time Joe had gotten big into farming and also had another job as a mechanic working for Lee Motors Company in Monroeville. Times were looking better for the Watsons they now own their home and had purchase another car, own two mules, a wagon, and twenty acres of land, as well as owned a 1938 Chevorlet pickup truck they called "Tin Lizzy." Tin Lizzy served faithfully up until the early 1960's. Then it was retired and parked on the hill next to house for many year to rust away. As fate would intervene, some city slicker came by and offers to buy Tin Lizzy. Having no loyalty to the truck that saw him through the good times and the hard times, Tin Lizzy was sold for a few bucks.
By 1952, look like things were going pretty good for the Watsons, a family of seven children and a dog named "old Spot." Joe was industries and decided that 20 acres of land and a job at Lee Motor Company was not enough to support his family. He needed more, after all he was once quoted as saying that to be successfully as a farmer "you must plant long rows of cotton and corn, and a heed of them." Twenty acres wasn't enough, ironically, he became interested in buying the "old planatation property which the the same trace of land where he sharecropped and raised as a boy. He borrowed $6000.00 from Sam Lowery (a local businessman and predatory lender) to buy 80 acres of land known as the Old Mosley place.
Hettie went berserk when she learned that Joe had made such a purchase and mortgage the house, the farm, and the twenty acres of land to complete the deal. Joe reasoned that he could make it work, after all he has now six new field hands and a potential total of eight when the twin comes of age. Sam Lowery never believe that Joe would be able to repay the loan so he had no problem loaning him the money in order to add the Watson property to his masses 20,000 acres of land he had acquired in a similar manner during the Depression years. When the final balloon payment came due on the loan, Sam Lowery refused to accept payment. Joe had to hire an attorney in Monroeville he called "Lawyer Owens" to get the matter settled. Of course, that cause some strife between the two men. Joe was able to get clear title to the property.
By 1953, Joe may have doubted his potential to repay the loan with only eight farm hands to depend on. Joe was confident in his ability to make babies and believing with no doubt that he had the right stuff to create two more farm hands in one single shot to cement his potential to pay off the mortgage. So, just to make sure that he has enough help they gave birth to another set of twins on August 23, 1953. This time the twins were girls and they were named Annette and Paulette. Even though Joe couldn't make the "boy/girl" thing work in his favor again but he was able to get the "two thing" working in his favor again. They were not identical twins so this made it easy for Joe to tell his potential farm hands apart. Nine beautiful children and better yet nine beautiful farm hands, now the family is complete, so he thought.
All of Hettie children affectionly called her "MU" rather ma, mamma, mudear, or mom. They also called Hettie's mother (Irene Tait) "moul" rather grandma. Why? We don't know except that it was passed down to the younger children. It so happens that they all called Grandmother Elvira their father's mother "Grandma Green." The children also referred to Grandma Green (in private) as the "mean grandma" and Grandma Irene as the "good grandma." Grandma Irene was best known for her cursing and her homemade wine. Behind's Joe back his children called the "the rock" because he was a hard man. The actually term was lifted from a radio DJ of WBOP Radio that called himself "Poppa Rock" and the children figured their poppa was hard as a rock and therefore started to refer to him as Poppa Rock and later shorten it to "the rock." As you can see that the famous wrestler turned actor was not the original "The Rock."
Between 1954 and 1958, life gets a little better for the Watson and for families all around America. Farming was beginning to peak and crops production was at a zenith. Life goes on as planned for the next six years. During this period Joe expanded his farming business by investing into a "pulp wood truck." Paper wooding allowed him to continue to bring in income after the farming crops were harvested. It is obvious that this business plan worked because life began to even better for the Watsons. He was soon able to replace the "jig saws" with "power saws" and added "boom wood loader" to the pulpwood truck. Business was so good that he added another pulpwood truck to his fleet and now operating two trucks. Joe even used his personal vehilce as a taxi to take locals back and forth to town for a fee. He was so well known as a taxi that the County wanted him to officially get a taxi permit. As quiet as it was keep, Joe was also known for a short period time to supplement his income by bootlegging.
Prior to the days of Television, the Watsons listen to AM radio that sitted on the manor "piece" over the fireplace in a room they called "the house." During the day hours the radio was always tuned to WBAM "The Big BAM" Radio Station in Montgomery, Alabama. They played a variety of mixed music including a few black nationally known artists of the day. However, at night it was different thing. The radio was tuned to WLAC Radio, Nashville, Tennessee. They played all black music between 10:00pm and 12 Midnight. A white disc jockey called himself "John R" played all the latest black music of the day and he was followed up by another white disc jockey by the name of the "Horseman." Randy's Records Shop sponsored their shows in Nashville. Randy Record Shop was the only source to purchase black music. You write and order the music of your choice and they would send your vinyl 45 or 78 rpm records or an album Cash On Deliver (COD) via mail. At that time ordering music wasn't a problem because the Watson didn't own a record player.
Around 1955 or 1956, Joe finally purchased the family first black and white television set which received only three channels, WEAR TV channel 3 - Pensacola, FL, WKRG TV channel 5 - Mobile, Alabama, and WSFA channel 12 - Montgomery, Alabama. They were only on only for a few hours on certain parts of the day. Amos N Andy and Perry Mason were their favorite TV shows. The kids favorite programs were "Howdie Doody" and Captain Kanagroo." Hettie favorites were the "stories" as she reffred to the televising of the "SOAPS". Yes, the "Edge of Night" and "All My Children" were on TV during that period. The televison set proved to be one of the most important gidget that Joe purchased for his family. Now there was a world outside of Burnt Corn and it helped shaped the minds and hearts of the Watson clan as they watched how the rest of America and World was living. During this period the Civil Rights Movement was being televised to the world and now the Watson family and the people of Burnt Corn was no longer ready to accept segregation as a way of life anymore. Televison gave the Watson children insight into their future and motivated them to strive to be more just a teacher when they go to college.
Joe was now able to trade his 1953 Chevrolet Bel-Air in on a new 1956 Chevrolet and trade his mules in on Ford 8N tractor. Built an inside "outhouse" in back of the property. They able to traded in Sear catalogs for real toilet paper. Installed a pump in the water well and had running water inside of the house with a Kithen sink. Traded the wood stove for a gas stove. Supplemented the fireplace with gas heaters. Cut a "picture window" into the living room. Added a "tin crib" along side the wooded crib. Brought a new green GMC pickup truck . He built a smoke house to store and cure meats. Replaced traditional "canning" with mason jars with Alcoa freezing paper and a General Electric "Deep Freezer." Rub boards and wash pots were replaced with a rounded "GE" washer with a wringer. The number 10 wash tub was still being used for washing clothes and as bathtub. Oh , life has really improved for the Watsons. However, these nice conveniences came as result of lot hard work on the farm that the entire Watson family participated in.
All the Watson children attended the Burnt Corn Junior High School. Alfred and Margaret actually attend a couple years at the Puryearville School where their parents attend. The principal at Puryearville during that time was Reverend Kyle and he retired after the new Burnt Corn Junior School was built across the road from the old Puryearville school. Earl Lett remained the only principal of the Burnt Corn Junior School until it closed in 1960s. Since Burnt Corn is located on the county line of Monroe and Conecuh counties the children had an option to attend high school in either Evergreen or Monroeville. For reasons unknown, the Watsons children chose to attend the Conecuh County Training School (later renamed Marshall High) in Evergreen, Alabama. While attending Burnt Corn Junior High they rode Mr. Albert Stanley bus to school. However, in order to attend high school in Evergreen they had to walk about a mile and a half to caught Mr. Carjuice Johnson's bus to Evergreen, Alabama. There were a lot of fond memories of the monthly Friday night dances at Burnt Corn Junior High that was D.J.ed by "Bruce the Rooster" from Brewton, Alabama. The last set of twins Annette and Paulette and Donald Ray attended Monroe County High School primarily because by time Joe had gotten a job as a Bus driver to that school and the government had forced intergration of schools.
1958 is the year that proves to be the year that begins peak and the decline of the "big" farming empire for Joe and Hettie. By this time nine of his children were of working age ranging from youngest, the twins Annette and Paulette age 6 to the oldest Alfred age 17. He is about to witness the loss of his human capital assets a couple of year at a time. Even though, Hettie was the major player and driving force to ensure that the crops were harvested along with all the children. She was considered the "General" because it was her job to be there on the front line leading the troops to find a way to good honest hard work. The Watsons workdays were long and hard, beginning literally at the "crack of dawn" and ending when the sun sets. Then the chores had to be done before retiring to bed, feeding the livestock, chickens, dogs and cats; cooking supper, cutting firewood, sweeping the yard, cleaning the house, etc. Before going to the fields every morning, Hettie would get up and fire up the old wood burning stove and cook a full course breakfast and with the assistance of her girls ensures that the house is cleaned and all beds were made before leaving for the cotton fields that day. The boys' job was to cut and get the firewood for the wooden stove and fireplace, milk the cows, and feed the live stock.
Joe and Hettie believed in keeping their children business because Joe is often quoted as saying "an idle mind is the devil's workshop." In Joe's mind there should never be idle time and he justifed it as you won't have time to get into any trouble. There are many instances of his children working on Saturdays and holidays while others were off. I can personally remember having to pick cotton on New Year's Day. However, the kids learned very quickly that if Joe is around that you looked very busy or if not you will be very shortly.
Joe is often noted for some of his favorite saying, for example, if things are not going right for Joe, he is always heard saying "Lord, Lord, Lord." Or, if one of the kids did something that didn't make a lot sense to him he was quoted as saying, "you will never have any sense as long as you have a round hole in your ass." Or he would say, "I bet if I could put your brain in a peckerwood, he would fly backward."
The Watson's believed is strict disciple and often would give the children a "whipping" for misconduct. However, Hettie was the prime disciplinarian in the household. Rarely did Joe have to whip his children but when he did you knew you were in trouble. Joe used to have a leather razor scrap that he used to sharpen his shaving razor; it was about two feet long and 6 inches wide. Several lashes with that thing brought you into line really quick. Joe always would point to the fact this discipline was need because none of children never gotten into trouble and they are went on to be successful and productive citizen in their right.
In 1959, their first born, Alfred is graduating from High School and preparing to go college, yes college. Alfred decided that he wanted to became a professional Mechanic and entered Alabama A&M College in Normal, Alabama that year. That was something Joe didn't understand, going to college to be a mechanic, when you can simple grab a wrench and go to work. Beside, Alfred repaired enough broken vehicles to be somewhat of an expert by now. But, Joe and Hettie wanted their children to get a college education. Little did they know that for Alfred going to college was secondary to getting out of the fields and getting away from cutting paper wood.
1959, was a big year and turning point in the Watson's history. Joe and Hettie had earned the right to vote. Only a few blacks (Negros)during that period had the right to vote because of illegal poll taxes and literacy tests. It is their first time voting in a major presidential election. A bright young politician by the name John Kennedy was running against the Vice President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. I can remember the lively debates between the Watsons and the Cokers over who to vote for. The Cokers were Nixon fans while the Watsons believed that Kennedy would be the best choice. History will eventually prove that the Watson's were right.
In December 1959, the Watsons got a nice Christmas present, just when they thought their family was complete. Their last child was born in Monroe County Hospital and delivered by Dr. Woodrow Eddins. This child was the only child of the Watson clan not delivered at home and not by a midwife. Donald Ray Watson was born on December 21, 1959. His birth certificate reflect that he was born in 1958, it was alter to get him in school to reflect that he was six years old when the normal year began. By this time the Watsons were doing well and their farming business was reasonably successful.
Church was a huge factor in the lives of the Watsons and they all joined the Bethany Baptist Church at a very early age. Hettie also was a member of the Bethany Baptist Church where she was an Usher. Joe however, was not Baptist but rather Methodist. He was a member of the Pilgrim Rest Methodist Church where he served as the Secretary and a Trustee. None of the children joined the Pilgrim Rest Methodist Church and Joe remained a member on the books until his death. He had stopped actively attending services sometime during the mid 1980's because of a disagreement on the operation of the church and how church funds were used. I can remember one story about Joe and his church, that he was always at odds with church officals over money and how the church was ran. He particurly disliked a certain Presiding Elder and the feeling was mutual. One Sunday, the Elder was on the pulpit and knowing that Joe would not lead a prayer, called on Joe to the prayer. Joe relied, "prayer your damn self." Of course, at that point you could hear a mouse running across cotton. The Elder finally lead the prayer himself. There never a conflict as to whose church we should attend because church services were only conduct once a month. Bethany on the first sundays and Pilrest Rest on the third sundays.
Not going to church was not and option. You worked six days a week and to go to church every Sunday. Everyone must attend Sunday school and church services every Sunday without fail. The Pastor only held services at Bethany church only once a month. However, on second sundays we went to Green Street Church, on third sundays Pilgrim Rest church and on the fourth sundays to New Hope Church. Fifth sundays after sunday school and sunday afternoons were the only leisure time.
In 1960, Margaret the second child (and the first girl) in the family is graduating from Conecuh County Training School (CCTS), where O.F. Frazer was Principal. Margaret decided that after graduation she wanted to move to Mobile, Alabama live with her Aunt Earlene Agee to work. Her goal was to find a full time job and to get out of the cotton fields forever. While in Mobile she met and married Ulysses Vawters. Joe wasn't very happy that he was losing his first daughter to a stranger. A simple ceremony was held at the Monroe County Courthouse and Rev J.O. Malone performed the ceremony. Joe did not attend the ceremony but was the first as I understand it to shed tears because that was the first marriage out of the Watson family and he was losing first daughter. Margaret and Ulysses moved to Cleveland, Ohio. They had three children: Ulysses Jr., Sherry, and Micah.
By 1961, Alfred (Lewis) was beginning to have enough of college and decided to enlisted into the U.S. Air Force. But, not before he could he fathered a child out of wedlock. That child was the Watson's Family sibling first born. Juanita Cunningham gave birth to a beautiful girl and she was named Valerie. Alfred entered the Air Force and made a career out of it and retired after 30 years flawless service. While still in the Air Force, he met and married his wife Kathy. They had no children together but did a adopt a son by the name of Chris.
In 1962, Joseph (Sonny) Joe and Hettie second son is graduating from High School in Evergreen, Alabama. Sonny tell his father that he too want to go college and be an Engineer. Okay son I suppose so, since I sent your brother to be a Mechanic. But Son, why does take five years of college to drive a train? No, No, Daddy! you don't understand I want to be a Civil Engineer so I can design and build beautiful buildings, create huge bridges, and make smooth roads and highways. Okay, if you say so. That Fall Joseph (Sonny) Watson entered Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. About a year before Sonny was due graduate he got a greeting from his Uncle, Yes Uncle Sam. Since Vietnam was in full swing they needed his services. He was drafted into the U.S. Army. The Army is sensitive to it draftees needs and wanted to live up to it's motto "Be all you can be" so they offered Joseph (Sonny) an opportunity to build roads, bridges and building in Southeast Asia. Yes, they sent his butt straight to Vietnam and assigned him to a Civil Engineering Unit. Sonny spent one-year tour of duty in Vietnam before returning to Fort Stewart Georgia where he met Liz. After his Army obligation was completed he returned to Nashville and married Liz. He also returns to school part time to complete his Civil Engineering program.
In 1963, while the entire family was picking cotton in the "Harper" field on a hot Monday morning, Joe arrived with the bad news that the Watsons children's half brother and Joe's first child, George Lee Lett had been killed in a two-car accident in Spanish Fort, Alabama. The words Joe used to tell us about George death were "I will be gone for today, because George Lee went and got himself killed last night." still rings with me today.
In 1964, Dorothy was more than ready to graduate to leave home and to go to college, any college, just get me out of here, so she said. Dorothy claimed she wanted to attend Wilbur Force University in Ohio, but never said what she wanted to be or at study while away at college. You see Dorothy of all Joe and Hettie children hated the farm the most. Graduation couldn't have come soon enough. In the Fall of 1964, Dorothy entered Wilbur Force University in Ohio and actually remained in the college for an entire semester before fleeing to Cleveland to live with her sister Margaret. Her motives from the very beginning were to leave the farm and never return. While in Cleveland, she met David Henderson and before long wedding bells was ringing. They got married and had two children: Debra and David. Dorothy was employed by the County and worked for there for more than 30 years. Dorothy and David still reside in Cleveland.
In 1965, Joe mourned the loss of his mother Elvira Green, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer a few years earlier. Her funeral marks the first time the entire family was back at home together at the same time since 1958. He always referred to her as "Mon" and I can remember Betty Ann, Vernon, Vernetta, Annette, and Paulette was picking cotton in the "Lowery" field when about 10:00 am Joe's came over to pick them and break the news about their grandmother and he said "ya'll come on out of the field, Mon is died".
In 1967, Betty Ann was Hettie & Joe's last child to graduate from Conecuh County Training School (CCTS) before it's name was change to Marshall High School. She never pretended that she wanted to go to college, her goal was to get out of the fields and go Cleveland and live with sisters Margaret and Dorothy and that that exactly what she did. No more picking cotton for Betty Ann. Betty Ann met Barry Moore and they were married. They did not have any children. Betty Ann currently works for the federal government at the Veterans Administration.
In 1969, Vernon (Peter) and Vernetta is getting ready to graduate from Marshall High School (formerly Conecuh County Training School (CCTS) named in honor of Thursgood Marshall in 1968. They too like their sibling before them had their sites set on going to college and getting out of the fields. However, going away to college like their sibling was not an option because at this time Joe and Hettie farm business was at the end of it's life cycle and funds was not there to sent two kids away to college at the same time. Thanks to Governors George & Lalene Wallace, college was still a possibility for Joe and Hettie's twins. The Wallace Administrations had established 17 new Junior colleges around the State of Alabama and one of them was in Monroeville, Alabama. The Patrick Henry Junior College run busses to pick students up to attend college each day. With tuition at $45.00 per quarters, Vernon and Vernetta were able to attend college. Joe and Hettie wanted all their children to go to college and he promised after the completion of the two years he would assist the financing at a University. This must have been difficult promise for the Watsons because they would have another set of twins ready to to college as well.
Just prior to completing Junior College Vernon "lottery number" came up and his college deferment was cancel and he called to be drafted into the Army. Vernon being well aware that the Vietnam War was still going on and he would be a prime candidate for the Army infantry so he decide that he would join the Navy and see the world. In October 1971, Vernon joins the United States Navy and serves a four-year enlistment. However, joining the Navy to "see the world" was limited to Pensacola, Florida where he spent his entire tour. That was Uncle Sam's way of punishing him for cheating a tour in Vietnam. (Thank You Uncle Sam). While in the Navy Vernon meets and marry Mary Lynn Lambert in a wedding ceremony held April 26, 1975. Vernon and Mary lives in Pensacola, Florida and have two children, Vernon II and Monique Lynetta. Vernon and Mary owns WBQP TV-12 the first black-owned television in the area.
Vernetta went on and graduated with honors from Patrick Henry Junior College and attended Alabama A&M University where her older brother, Alfred (Lewis) matriculated. Vernetta received a teaching degree and went back to get and advanced degree as well. She has been teaching elementary school the Fall of 1973. While going to school for her Master's degree she met Freddy Blackburn and they were married. They have no children. Vernette and Freddy live in Huntsville, Alabama.
In 1971, Annette and Paulette, the second set of twins is graduating from Monroe County High School as a result of the federal desegregation order. They are the Watson's first children to graduate from an integrated school. Annette and Paulette too attended Patrick Henry Junior College.
However, Paulette decided after two years of college she would begin her working career. She was offered a position at the newly built Alabama River Pulp mill where she still employed. She met and married Johnny Williams of Frisco City, Alabama. They have two children, Justin and Megan. They built a beautiful home and lives in Burnt Corn.
Annette on the other hand went to complete her education at ?????? University and majored in Social Work. She now reside in Atlanta, GA and is not marries and has no kids.
In 1976, Donald Ray, the last child to graduated from high school in the Watson family is also the last one graduate from Monroe County High School. He went into the U.S. Navy after graduation, following in the footsteps of his brother Vernon Peter). While in the Navy, hehad a son out of wedlock by the name of Shawn. As it shouldn't matter except in documenting the family history, Shawn's mother Mary Lou is white and he is a bi-racial child. Ray later married a black woman that was station with him in the Navy by the name of Denise ________ from Los Angeles, CA and they had two children, Jasmine and Jeremy. Ray and Denise divorce in 1998. Ray then moved to Atlanta, GA with his sister Annette where he met his current wife Gloria and her son Sterling. They were married in a ceremony held in Atlanta. Ray and Gloria now live in Atlanta. As fate would it and the irony of it all is that the Watson's would get another "Gloria" Watson in the family after losing baby Gloria in 1949.
During the decade of the 70's, Joe becomes Political involves in his community and runs for public office and win a seat on the County's Planning Commssion. His job was to help determine the future of Monroe County. He was active in making decisions to bring industry into Monroe County such as Vanity Fair Mill relocating it's Corporate Offices to Monroeville, Alabama and help bring Factory Outlet Malls and even a major Paper Mill to the County. Joe was also appointed and later elected as Constable of Burnt Corn. That was the law enforcement officer for Burnt Corn. Joe did not wear a uniform but he did wear a gun and a badge on his civivian clothes and even had a portable blue light to affix on his persoanal car or truck.
Now it is the 1980's and Ronald Reagan is President(Ronald Reagan dies as I write) and the Watson's are at retirement age and are now empty nesters and couldn't have been any more happier. Just the two of them with no children to worry about any more. Joe's $6000.00 investment in the Moseley property had really paid off. He farmed and tilled the soil and made money from farming the property for over twenty years. He also sold the timber off the property for 35 times the amount he paid for the property. They are once again living very comfortable and finacially stable. Joe decided that he wanted to invest again into more property, so he decided to buy the Comer Booker property that was once owned by Eddie Moseley. The property included a house, a store and forty acres of land. Joe purchased the property in 1980? Farming and pulpwooding is not an option anymore, he is an entreputereur and a full fledged business man owning and operating Burnt Corn Grocery on a full time basis. The store did very well for Hettie and Joe.
He ran the store successfully until his health starting failing him. He then looked to pass it on to one of children. He wanted one of his boys to take over the store, (he was very chavanisnatic), but all of his boys were gone on their own and were doing well for themselves and did not wish to return to Burnt Corn and run a country store. Then, his second option was for one of the girls to run the store and that didn't pan out either as none of the girls wanted to give up their careers and return to Burnt Corn to operate a little ole country store. His last option was to rent the store, but only to someone in the immediate family. Somehow, Joe was able convince his name sake, Joseph (Sonny) Jr. to quit his government job at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL and come back to Burnt Corn and operate the this little country store. Joseph (Sonny) came back and has been operating the store just as successfully as Joe had done before him.
By now, Joe had acquired more than two hundred acres of land, several houses and a striving business. He always impressed upon his children that they worked hard with him to acquire this property and he didn't want it to fall back into the hands of white folks or the State. He often would say "as long as we have this property that is free and clear of any debts regardless of what might happens in the future to any of my children they will always have a place to come home to live." He set up a Watson Estate & Trust that requird upon his and Hettie's deaths that the property could never be sold. Therefore, ensuring that this property will pass from generation to generation. Not bad thinking for a man with only a 10th grade education.
In 1984, Joe was diagnosed with prostrate cancer and eventfully succumbs to it in 1991. The Watson history has proven that cancer is very common on the Watson side of the family. Cancer has resulted in many deaths in the Watson's family. The Watson's side of the family generally dies an early death. Hettie side of the family, 'the Marshalls" tend to have longivity. Majority of the Marshall side of the family live long lives and basically died of old age.
Since Joe's death the family has been getting together bi-annually for a sibling family reunion. As of this writing the entire family has been blessed and still is intact. Hettie is now is now 86 years old and the oldest child is now 65 years old and the youngest child is now 46 years old.
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