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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Black Sheep Sunday: Philanderer, Deadbeat, Kidnapper, and Child Trafficker

James Proctor Clark and Caledonia (Callie) Adeline Hurt were married on 20 June 1910 in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. They had three sons: James Proctor (Jim) Jr., Joseph Woodrow, and Norwood Francis. The family moved frequently between 1910 and 1918, first to Covington, Kentucky, then back to Louisville, and finally to Dayton, Ohio. While in Dayton, Callie obtained a divorce in April 1918 on the grounds of cruelty, neglect and abandonment and was awarded full custody of the boys. Although the court did not order visitation rights for Proctor, Callie allowed him to see them from time to time.

Finding herself the sole support of the children, Callie went to work at Dayton Wright Airplane Company sewing fabric on the airplanes. There were no daycare centers for children of working mothers in those days. The judge that granted the divorce suggested that the three boys be placed in St. Joseph’s Orphanage while she was at work. They usually resided at the orphanage during the day, but occasionally were there overnight when their mother worked the 12 hour shift.

Female employees of the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company
working on the skeleton of an aircraft wing at Plant 1
February 23, 1918

The nun in charge of the orphanage did not trust Proctor and warned Callie not to allow him access to the children. However, for reasons unknown, Callie continued to allow the father to visit their children at the orphanage. In November 1918, the boys were playing in the orphanage’s yard when Proctor arrived and “induced them to come to the street and enter an automobile.” Jim was seven, Joseph was five, and Francis was two when they were abducted.

Proctor was living with Irene Clarke, who was named in the divorce, and their infant son George (Oscar) at the time of the abduction. Irene and George fled to Iowa with Proctor and his sons where they opened a restaurant. Proctor eventually told the boys that their mother was dead. The restaurant went bankrupt and the family left town owing money. They repeated this pattern in several other towns until they arrived in Monroe, Louisiana where Proctor changed his name to Charles Williams and opened a grocery.

In 1922, Jim’s father sold the eleven year old to a farmer in El Dorado, Arkansas as a laborer. Jim ran away from the farmer and made his way to Natchez, Mississippi where he was apprehended by the sheriff. He told his story, including that he was told his mother was dead. Jim remembered his mother’s and grandmother’s names in Louisville which allowed the Natchez Chief of Police M. P. Ryan to locate them and inform them that Jim was found. Callie, by now remarried to Eddie (Les) Reid and living in Louisville, immediately left for Natchez, a two-day trip by train, to be reunited with her eldest son.

Callie and Jim. Photo from Times-Picayune
newspaper, September 29, 1922, page 1
Chief Ryan of Natchez traced Charles Williams to Monroe. The Monroe chief of police established that Charles Williams was living in Monroe with several children and took temporary custody of them. Callie took Jim with her to Monroe to determine whether those were her other two sons. The younger boys were turned over to her on September 29, 1922 after proof of custody was provided from the Dayton courts.

The Monroe police received another telegram on that same day from Mr. and Mrs. Jean Clarke, parents of Irene and grandparents of 4-year-old Oscar. They were on their way to Monroe from Dayton to "take charge" of their daughter and grandson and were expected to explain the "cryptic message to hold Mrs. Irene Clarke and boy."

The Dayton court set out a warrant for Proctor’s arrest but before the arrest could be made, James Proctor Clark, Irene Clarke, and their son Oscar disappeared leaving behind several hundred dollars worth of groceries and other goods. The expected explanation from Irene's parents was never reported in the tabloids.

Callie and the children returned to Louisville, Kentucky. She lived in Kentucky until her death in 1993 at 100 years of age.

The boys never saw their father again, however there were some reports of him in later years. One was in the summer of 1936 when he introduced himself to a nephew in Bardstown, Kentucky and said he was there to “have a last look around.” Another time was in Chicago where he was reportedly a painter in the 1940s. He may have returned to Dayton, living with a woman that was not Irene, from 1933 to 1948. His son Francis (now named Steve) received a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that Proctor died in January 1962.


James Proctor Clark, Sr.: philanderer, deadbeat, kidnapper and child trafficker–my 2nd cousin twice removed and the blackest sheep I hope to find in my family tree. He sounds like a very shady character, indeed. I have to admit that I'm glad I don't share much DNA with him.

Thanks for dropping by.
Black Sheep Sunday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers.


Bibliography

  1. Louisiana: New Orleans States newspaper, “Mrs. Reed Finds Kidnaped Boys”, September 27, 1922, page 19, column 7 (http://www.genealogybank.com).
  2. Louisiana: Times-Picayune newspaper, “Woman Recovers Sons ‘Kidnaped’ Four Years Ago”, September 29, 1922, page 1, column 2 and page 2, column 8 (http://www.genealogybank.com).
  3. Clark, Richard Lee. “Down on the Creek”, Louisville, Kentucky (1996), p. 5-6, 26-30.



1 comment:

Wendy said...

If ever there was a story for which the expression "OMG" was created, this is IT! Sad. Happy. Relieved.