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Judge Jeff Truly was born in Fayette, July 21, 1861, on the day the Battle of Manassas was fought; was educated in the common schools of the country, afterwards attending a high school in Natchez. In 1879 he entered the law office of the late Captain J. J. Whitney, of Fayette, and studied under him two years; in 1881 and 1882 he was in Saint Joseph, Louisiana, and further pursued his studies in the law office of Steel & Garrett (the senior member of this firm afterwards moved to New York, and became district attorney of Cook County). Upon leaving Messrs. Steel & Garrett, Mr. Truly matriculated at Tulane Law College, New Orleans, and took a common law course.
He was admitted to practice in the fall of 1883, hanging out his shingle in Fayette, and at once showed such energetic zeal and level-headed grasp of fact, as well as a splendid ability to analyze evidence and understand human nature, that he very quickly built up for himself a lucrative practice which continued to grow until December 12, 1898, when he was appointed Judge of the Sixth District by Governor A. J. McLaurin. He served one full term as circuit judge and was re-appointed by Governor Longino. To know of his success in prompt dispatch of business before his courts, quick and uniformly fair and correct rulings, and impartial and fearless judgment in all matters before his tribunal, one has only to ask the attorneys who practiced at the various bars in the district for an opinion.
The following comments from various papers of the state, including "The Fayette Chronicle", show the esteem held for him by those who know him best:
Judge Truly is a man of positive character, a profound lawyer and honorable gentleman. He is always in the lead in his county looking toward the material advancement of his section. In 1886 he was a member of the legislature from Jefferson County and also served on the state Democratic Executive Convention for one or two terms. He served as president of the Alcorn A.& M. College, near Rodney, and for six years was attorney of Jefferson County. Fayette Chronicle, December 9, 189
Judge Truly's record on the circuit bench merited the praise of all. In 1903 he was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court to fill the unexpired term of J.J. Price, native of Rankin County, but now living in Magnolia, who had resigned. Truly's record on the Supreme Bench has been highly endorsed by the bar of the state, and one of his decisions on the railroad rate question formed the basis of most favorable comment in Congress, when the bill was up for discussion in that body. Brandon News, April 6, 1906
He is one of the leading lawyers of Jefferson County and enjoys a most lucrative practice. Personally, he is a typical gentleman of the old school, though he is yet a young man. He has a large, brainy head, and will wear his honor as becomes the dignity of the high office. Natchez Democrat
The State Bar Association met in Jackson in September, 1932 and elected Judge Truly to the presidency of the organization. The Fayette Chronicle, September 9, 1932
Judge Truly celebrated a birthday last Sunday, and on an evening of the previous week the ladies of the Business Women's Circle of the Fayette Presbyterian Church held an informal recitation on the lawn at the Church, complimentary to Mrs. Truly and himself. Judge Truly has long been a Ruling Elder of this congregation and was largely instrumental in influencing the congregation to undertake the erection of the present church edifice. .
Though he has passed the allotted years of man, Judge Truly is still active, alert and forceful, mentally and physically. He has long been recognized as one of the brilliant legal minds of Mississippi, having served both as circuit judge and as an associate justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court with distinction; in returning to the private practice of his profession and the management of his considerable private interests, he refused a flattering offer to move to one of the large cities of the nation as general counsel for a great corporation. He preferred to remain in his home town and county and lend his efforts and talents and means to its upbuilding. Fayette Chronicle, 1935
Tribute appeared in the Centennial Exposition Edition of "The Fayette Chronicle" in 1904

A special thank you to Jeanne Truly Davis for sharing these tributes to Judge Jeff Truly with us.


Lydia Elizabeth Herring Gordon Cunningham

(This "Tribute of Respect" from the McNair Farmers Alliance of Jefferson County, MS. was sent to the family of the deceased, Lydia Elizabeth Herring Cunningham, and also published in the Fayette Chronicle in Feb. 1890.)

Whereas it has please the great Master of the universe to remove by death from our midst, our worthy and honored Sister, Mrs. Lydia E. Cunningham and whereas in her death McNair Farmers Alliance and the entire community in which she lived has sustained a great loss. Therefore it is resolved 1st That we bow in humble submission to the Divine will, 2nd That we tender our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved family and recommend them to follow the example set by our deceased sister in the beautiful life which she lived. 3rd that a copy of these resolutions be furnished the family of the deceased and also a copy to the Chronicle for publication.

McNair, Miss

Feb. 15th, 1890


Jas. Stowers

Contributed by: Ann Geoghegan


Deborah Spence Baldridge Johnson

"Fayette, MS; November 17, 1885
     Mrs. Deborah S. Johnson, long known hereabouts as Aunt Debby and then as Grandma Johnson, has laid down the cross.  She was born in Orange County, NC, October, 1788, of Francis Baldridge (a Revolutionary soldier) and Elizabeth Turrentine, his wife.  These, with several other children, came to Jefferson County, MS, about the year 1800 and settled at the mouth of Cole's Creek.  The family were Presbyterians, but finding no organization of that church here, became Baptist.  They taught their children religious truth.  Miss Deborah was of a very gay disposition, fond of dress, of dancing and other worldly amusements.  Soon after marriage, she joined the Methodist Church at old Spring Hill, under the ministry of Rev. Miles Harper, the gifted pioneer.  She was converted about the same time, simultaneously with young Tommie Owens, who became so famous for his sanctified eccentricities.  Her marriage to Mr. John Clem Johnson took place December 24, 1807, and resulted most happily.  He afterward became a preacher, serving most of the time as an itinerant local; but at the time of his death was a member of the Mississippi Methodist Conference.  He found a helpmeet for him---just such a wife as a preacher needs---industrious, frugal, cheerful, fond of company and of church going.  She no longer engaged in frivolous pleasures, having far nobler joys and occupation helpful.  She was not very demonstrative, but very firm in her religious principles; not naturally amiable,  but so kind and loving as to win many friends.  She bore eleven children, of whom eight grew to maturity and three of whom are still alive to bless her memory, besides very many descendants---twenty or thirty to the fifth generation.  Her husband died thirty-two years ago, and she ever after lived with her oldest son, Rev.  W. B. Johnson, near Fayette.  He and his did all that could be done to lighten the labor and sorrow of her protracted old age.  She was very active till she reached seventy-five years.  Living to so great an age, her hearing partly failed and her eyesight wholly.  For more than four years, she was scarcely able to leave her bed.  Her constant prayer was for patience to endure the nervous suffering of her intense weakness and her enforced idleness.  This was indeed a sore trial to one so energetic by nature.  Toward the last, she prayed earnestly to be released.
     As the portals of morning opened October 7, 1885, her spirit sped away to the realms of endless day.  She spent on earth ninety-seven years and one day.  In heaven henceforth and forever.
                                                               J. P. Drake
                                                               Fayette, Miss."

Contributed by Nancy Brister


The following is a beautiful tribute to JOE BALDRIDGE

written for

The Daily Clarion Ledger in 1936, by Sarah Till Davis:

     "'Uncle Joe' is coming home today. Uncle Joe, with his intelligent, self-respecting, kind brown face, his tall, erect body, his work-hardened hands, the show-white hair of his eighty-five years, is making a long journey. For the second time in a month he is coming from Memphis to the little southwest Mississippi village called Fayette.  

     "Until three years ago, Uncle Joe had never left this village and the hills about it. He was born at Elsmere, the plantation home of Judge and Mrs. John Merrick Whitney, a place of some 2000 acres, ten years 'before the war' in 1851. Judge Whitney was the son of James Rex Whitney, who was with John Paul Jones in the Colonial navy. Joe was one of his slaves, a house servant 'raised in the yard.'  

     "Several years later (after the war) he made 'Miss Joe's' garden, the Elsmere, famous for miles around. 'Miss Joe,' nee Josephine Darden, was the wife of the son who inherited the rolling acres and the beautiful old house, Captain James Jeff Whitney.   

     "For twenty-nine or thirty years after 'Miss Joe's' passing, Joe Baldridge worked for anyone who wished his services as carpenter or gardener, unless a member of the Whitney family wanted him, that same day. If a Whitney wanted him, no one else could get him and if a member of the Captain Jeff Whitney's family wanted him, no other Whitney could get him. But his one great weakness was that if a dozen men asked him 'to work tomorrow,' he would promise all of them. Later, taxed with his failure to appear, he was always sincerely regretful; and he was always forgiven.   

     "Through these years Uncle Joe and his wife, Aunt Molly, kept the affectionate regard of their own race and of their white friends. Then Aunt Molly died.   

     "Three years ago (1933), because of his years and failing strength, Uncle Joe's children - there are two in Jackson, seven in Memphis, and one in Chicago - persuaded him to come to Memphis to live with them. They had a hard time keeping him there, as much as they humored him. Three weeks ago Uncle Joe persuaded them that he just had to come home for a visit, so Gus, a Pullman porter, with a run from Memphis to New Orleans, brought him.  

     "He was at home almost two weeks; he stayed with a relative at night, by day he walked the streets, the bypaths, and the hills where the paths have almost disappeared. He spoke to every man, woman, and child, white and black, whom he had ever known, and was particularly happy to see 'all the Whitney family and all the 'Incomes' (their children).

      "In some homes he had known three generations, and he always distinguished 'Ole Miss,' 'Little Miss,' and 'Miss.' In all homes he was welcome; I am sure he did not miss a meal, and there were many in-between cups of coffee.   

     "Asked about Memphis, he said, 'Memphis is a fine town, if it just had Fayette in the middle of it.' Asked about himself, he said, 'I'm all right, thank you ma'am, except from the knees down; I am at home' I'm just in a bed of vi'lets.' And he added, 'I hope I'll be this happy in Heaven.'  

     "He was in his 'bed of vi'lets' just about ten days. But they were misty, cold days, and still he walked. He had to drink from each of the three Whitney springs; he must wear in the pocket of his old flannel shirt some of the jonquils planted in the Elsmere garden so long ago; he must mark Aunt Molly's grave, and the place beside for his own. He walked, and the knees gave out; the heart weakened; his head ached so that he could not lie down. Gus took him back to Memphis. That was ten days ago. Today a great sheaf of yellow jonquils and daffodils, sent from her garden by the present gracious mistress of Elsmere, Mrs. Robert L. Corban, Sr., will meet the train from Memphis; Uncle Joe would smile proudly if he could see them, but he has 'laid down the hammer and the hoe.' He died in Memphis night before last.

     'Uncle Joe' is coming home today."


Contributed by:  Ann Allen Geoghegan from data gathered at the American Memory Project
(Webmaster's note:  This article was printed sometime in 1936)

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