It’s That Time of Year To Take Inventory . . .


In the Headlines

Not ready yet to leave the Christmas celebrations that honored the birth of Christ?  Me, too!  Yet, I am being rudely pushed to look back on the major stories and the deaths around the world in the headlines of 2016 before bidding it farewell–as if living through them wasn’t enough already!  This isn’t to say that I won’t welcome 2017 with open arms, because I will.  But, we can’t possibly know (or choose not to foretell) what is in store next for humankind.  And this is where I choose prayer over worry or anticipation, and to poke fun when and where I can.

Acknowledging Deaths of Notables

So let’s just chat a little about the counts and categorizations of these notable deaths of those humans who were better known than most of us because of their occupations and their lives in the limelight.  Yet for them, like many of our family, friends and neighbors, they were chosen–regardless of their age, gender, race or ethnicity, DNA heritage, wealth, or reason for notability to end their journey and stay here on planet earth.  Now this is what I call an equalizer!   Most of these notables were widely known in Hollywood and were comfortable in the various social circles in which these people congregate to celebrate life and their successes, and various media worldwide annually count and pay homage to them.

Interestingly enough though, these counts and categorizations vary depending upon the source who provides them.    For example, TV Guide’s web article sites 60; Legacy.com’s slideshow includes 93; CBS News’ slideshow has 151 as of December 28; and, one of my favorite genealogical resources findagrave.com has a comprehensive “Necrology” Page that lists people and links to individual biographies and memorial pages for those who have died during a specific time period.  Findagrave states that it lists only 75 of the most famous people who died during the year–it starts in the year 1900 and maintains famous deaths by year and occupation through the present day.  And my count of the photos totals 75.  In contrast, however, Findagrave’s comprehensive list classifies notables and spans them across a variety of 31 categories.  One would quite naturally think then that one wouldn’t find counts of as many as 76 names within a single category. Yet six of the 31 categories have 70+  deaths listed. In fact, Findagrave’s sum of their categorized listings for 2016 totaled  566 !!!  I guess I’m just being picky, or maybe Findagrave chose not to rank individual notables or their talents and skills for which they might be best known so they cross-classified them.

Below is my raw table of the 31 categories and counts of deceased with links to Findagrave’s categorized lists and associated pictures and biographies–followed by my admittedly quirky comments.

Click on any category within this table to go directly to findagrave.com’s page. choose thumbnails or list view, then click on any individual to see their full biography and memorial page.

Actors 76
Actresses 73
Animals 1
Artists & Architects 7
Authors and Writers 54
Business Magnates 3
Crime Fighters & Lawyers 1
Criminals, Eccentrics, & Oddities 1
Educators 1
Entertainers 75
Explorers & Adventurers 4
Magicians 0
Medal of Honor Recipients 3
Military Figures 5
Miscellaneous 9
Musicians & Composers 75
Native Americans 1
Organized Crime Figures 0
Philanthropists 0
Politicians 75
Relatives of Notables 0
Religious Figures 10
Royalty 6
Scientists & Inventors 9
Social Reformers 0
Sports Figures 75
Suffragists 0
U.S. First Ladies 1
U.S. Presidents & Vice Presidents 0
U.S. Supreme Court Justices 1
Victims of Crime & Disaster 0

Quirky Commentary

Let’s start with the obvious:

  • Take a look first at those table categories that were empty. These would be: Magicians–maybe there is more to this thing they call “magic,” than I realized; Organized Crime Figures–Ah ha–does crime really pay?; Philanthropists–did their gifts to charities and helping the needy buy them more time?; In the Relatives of Notables category, did Notables save their relatives just because they could?; Has society just given up and there are no more Social Reformers or Suffragists?; U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents–now there are a few who are getting up there and we all know the tolls of  being Commander In Chief;  Victims of Crime and Disasters–were there none this year, well that would be a wonder, if it were true.
  • Separate categories for Actors and Actresses?  After 1660 in England, women first started to appear on stage, the terms actor or actress was initially used interchangeably for female performers; in the 1950’s and 1960’s post-World War II period, contributions of women to cultural life in general were being reviewed and occupational titles were being updated to become unisex and universally applied to men and women.  With all the attention recently to transgenders–doesn’t a single category just make more sense?
  • Well, here’s a category that is seldom seen or heard about within notable deaths: Animals.  Let’s see, that reduces my 566 total down to 565.  In this instance, the inclusion was the 18-year-old 2001 Kentucky Derby Winner “Monarchos.”
  • Nancy Reagan’s fame became more universal when she was wife of our 40th President, Ronald Reagan and this country’s First Lady.  (But she was First Lady #39 because President James Buchanan never married!)  Nancy  Reagan was a professional actress from 1949-1956 and appeared in 11 movies and a music video.  She was also a social reformer for her “Just Say No” anti-drug abuse message.  So, Nancy’s fame was cross-classified among 3 categories:  Actress, Authors and Writers, and First Lady–But shouldn’t she also have been included within  the categories “relative of a notable,”  and “Politician?” After all, most of us know she was the woman behind the man–especially in the latter years of Reagan’s administration, during his catnaps.  So, I’ll subtract another 2 from my running count of 565 to make it 563 notable deaths of humans!
  • Now, what comes to your minds when you think “Artists and Architects?”I’m open to suggestions for one or more categories to improve upon Findagrave’s overarching category; but among the 7 notables listed, only 1 was a fine arts and sculpture artist–Marcel Barbeau; two were architects–Gertrude Kerbis and  Zaha Hadid; the remaining four notables:  1 was a cartoon films animator, another was a cartoonist and illustrator, and finally the last two included an entertainer’s costume designer, and a Paris-born fashion designer!
  • But wait, what about the 75 entertainers and 75 musicians and composers? Were the actors and actresses not entertainers, or were the entertainers who among them were Screen, TV, and music producers or directors, comedians, singers, not entertaining?
  • And finally, there also were 75 politicians listed–well, we all have heard far too much about politics and politicians this year–I will just leave this one alone.

Truly, 2016 was a year among years to be remembered–not because it was great in so many ways.  But rather, because it was so painfully hurtful and outright unbelievable in far too many categories–You know, all lives matter! We all should conduct ourselves mannerly and respectfully.  We also should ask ourselves today what legacies do we think we will leave behind, and what will we be remembered for by others when its time for our names to be listed?

Happy 2017 Everyone!

The Lee’s–a Historically Significant Virginia and Maryland Political Family


Colonial America and Prominent Lee Family Members

Many prominent members of the Lee Family are known for their accomplishments in politics and the military.  This family first became prominent in Colonial America when Richard Henry Lee I arrived in Virginia in 1639 and went on to become possibly the richest man in Virginia by the time of his death.

“The family of Lee has more men of merit in it than any other family.”  – John Adams, 1779 (Lawyer, Statesman, President)

Among Colonial Lee’s notable descendants were: Thomas Lee (1690–1750), a co-founder of the Ohio Company in 1747 (a land speculation company organized to trade with the Native Americans), and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses; Francis Lightfoot Lee(1734–1797) and Richard Henry Lee II (1732–1794), signers of the United States Declaration of Independence; Thomas Sim Lee (1745–1819), Governor of Maryland and, most famous, General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) Confederate States of America commander in the American Civil War. President Zachary Taylor and Chief Justice Edward Douglass White were also descendants of Richard Lee I. Confederate President Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor.

My interest and connection to the Lee Family dates back to July 1892 when Catherine Irene Bolling/Bowling married James Franklin Lee.  Catherine was my second great grand aunt, sister of my paternal great grandfather, Edward Bud Vincent Bowling Sr (1872 – 1946), and daughter of my paternal second great grandfather, Larwrence T. “Larl” Boling and Elizabeth “Betsy” Tapp, (of  the Widow Tapp Farm on the Wilderness Battlefield) in Spotsylvania, Virginia.  James Franklin Lee is the sixth great grandson of Colonel Richard Henry Lee I, and third great grandson of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Richard Henry Lee arrives in Jamestown

Richard Henry LeeIn 1639,  at the age of 22, Colonel Richard Lee I, “The Immigrant” (1613–1664) was the first of England’s Lee Family to arrive in Virginia’s Tidewater Region of Jamestown (settled in 1607).  Richard had very little to his name when he arrived other than the patronage of an influential man, Sir Francis Wyatt, the 1st Governor of Virginia. Once in Jamestown, he became Attorney General of the Colony of Virginia, Colonial Secretary of State, and member of the King’s Council. He became Clerk of the Quarter Court at Jamestown, within the Secretary of State’s office. He was a loyal supporter of King Charles I of England, and his public offices ceased when Oliver Cromwell seized power in England in 1649. Additionally, Richard Henry Lee served as High Sheriff and was a Colonel in the Militia.  Richard was also a tobacco planter, trader, owner and trader of slaves, and employer and importer of indentured English servants (who paid for their passage to America with 7 years of labor). At the time of his death he was the largest landholder in the colony (13,000 acres) and perhaps the richest man in Virginia.

Marriage to Anne Owen Constable (1641)

Anne Constable LeeRecords show Richard Henry Lee and Anne Owen Constable met on their voyage from England to America in 1639. Anne Owen Constable was the sixth child of 15 born to her parents, Francis and Alice Owen Constable. Anne’s parents sent her away to the Americas as a ward of King Charles I through Sir Francis Wyatt, the 1st Governor of Virginia, so she could escape a certain death from the bubonic plague, also known as the “black death.” Both of Anne’s parents and all but two siblings died from the plaque shortly after her departure. Richard and Anne married in Jamestown in 1641 two years after Richard began courting her. Richard was 28 and Anne, 26. After their marriage, Richard sent for Anne’s only two remaining siblings who had not contracted or succumbed to the plague. It is believed that because of Anne’s family’s connections to the King that Richard Lee rapidly climbed the political ladder.  Richard and Anne had 10 children together, all of whom prospered and increased the prominence of the Lee family in the history of Maryland, Virginia, and the United States.

A Closer View at Richard’s Life In Virginia’s Tidewater Region

1The threat of Civil War hung over England for much of the 17th century. When the war officially broke out in 1642, England’s medieval and past traditions and King Charles I’s efforts to unify power, repress religious dissent, and head off what we might now call “free market reforms,” divided its people.  And the people of Maryland’s and Virginia’s Tidewater Regions remained loyal or “royalists,” to King Charles I, and later his son, King Charles II.

The then Governor of Jamestown, Sir William Berkeley, through various supporters, invited hundreds of England’s “distressed Cavaliers” to Virginia, granting them high offices and estates upon their arrival. Many who accepted his offer were the younger sons or grandsons of England’s aristocrats— and the founders of the majority of Tidewater’s leading families. Among them were Richard Lee (grandson of a Shropshire manor owner and great-great-great-grandfather to Robert E. Lee), John Washington (grandson of a Yorkshire manor owner and great-great-grandfather of George Washington), and George Mason (Royalist member of Parliament and great-great-grandfather of the namesake founding father). For these new elites in St. Mary’s City, Maryland and Jamestown, Virginia settlements along the Chesapeake. Whether highborn or self-made, the great planters had an extremely conservative vision for the future of their new country: they wished to re-create the genteel manor life of rural England in their new world and their succeeded beyond their expectations.   In the seventeenth century the English country gentlemen were, in effect, the kings of their domains. From their manor houses they directed the lives and labors of the tenant farmers and day laborers who lived in the villages associated with their manors. As justices of the peace, they presided over the local courts while their sons, nephews, and younger brothers often served as the parsons of the village churches, which belonged, of course, to the official Church of England (the “Anglican” church, rebranded “Episcopal” in America after the Revolution). It was expected of Jamestown’s gentlemen to show benevolence to their inferiors, host wedding parties for their servants, sponsor funerals for the poor, and display hospitality to their neighbors. They alone had the right to hunt, which was often one of their favorite pastimes. Their estates were largely self-sufficient, producing their own food, drink, livestock feed, leather, and handicrafts. (Surpluses were sold to England’s towns and cities.)

In England, upon the lord’s death, almost everything passed to his firstborn son, who had been groomed to rule; daughters married the best prospects; younger sons received a small sum of money and dispatched to make their own way as soldiers, priests, or merchants.

Tidewater’s successful tobacco planters copied from the world they grew up in.  They built graceful brick manors and housed their indentured tenants in cottages modeled on those in England, clustered in village-like residential areas. They bought servants who could build and run mills, breweries, smokehouses, and bakeries so that their plantations could meet all of their needs. They drove the construction of tidy Anglican churches and stately courthouses at convenient crossroads and the governor and his council appointed “commissioners,” that by 1661 were called “justices of the peace.”   Justices of the Peace presided over the courts.  In many respects, the justice of the peace was the local governing authority. In Virginia they set up an analog to the English Parliament called the House of Burgesses, which required that all members be wealthy. (Maryland’s General Assembly had similar stipulations.) They, too, were expected to assume the role of benign patriarch toward ordinary residents, and they also sent their surpluses to England’s cities. But in one key respect they deviated from English practice: they did not disinherit their younger sons, with whom Tidewater gentlemen often felt a special bond; most had come to America precisely because they were themselves the disinherited younger sons of country gentlemen.

Tidewater’s aspiring gentry created a thoroughly rural society without towns or even villages. It had no need for commercial ports and thus for cities, because the land was riven with navigable fingers of the Chesapeake, allowing the great planters to build their own docks. On clearing customs, oceangoing ships could sail directly to a plantation, unload the latest books, fashions, and furniture from London, and load barrels of tobacco. (Later, slaves would also arrive in this way.) Few local manufacturers could compete with cheaply sourced English goods, discouraging craftsmen and industry. So, they built no towns, other than the twin capitals mentioned above, until late in the 17th century.

From the 1670s on, the tidewater region gentry had an increasingly difficult time finding enough poor Englishmen servants. Those who completed their indentures often could not support themselves in an agricultural export economy increasingly dominated by great plantations, and ex-servants led or joined rebellions in 1663, 1675, and 1683. Unfortunately, this is when slave trading became the plantation owners’ solution.

1Woodard, Colin (2011-09-29). American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (Kindle Locations 814-928). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.