Continuing the autobiography of John Cripps this is an edited version of Chapter One. All dates and places that can be used for identity theft have been replaced by Latin text. I apologize to the honest readers, but I’m in the Internet biz, and therefore very cautious. It is mainly three paragraphs and does not take away from some of the interesting aspects!

CHAPTER ONE
Welcome Earthlings, I Come In Peace!

I Don’t Remember Being Born

Ken and Lorraine Cripps, John Cripps in the oven

I’m cookin’ in the oven

I share a few things with that great Southern philosopher, Forrest Gump. We both hail from the deep South and were both named in honor of someone. Similarly, we use lots of axioms, spurn materialism, and our spine is constructed of loyalty. It is even possible that my dream job would be sitting on a tractor, mowing all day.

As with Gump, I don’t remember being born. However, my earliest memory is that of my brother, Rick, being born. I was about three months shy of my third birthday, but I remember being in the parking lot of the hospital. The memories of the following three years have been all but written over in the hard drive of my mind. Therefore I will have to rely on others to fill in the remainder of Chapter One.

John Thomas Cripps took his first breath on XXXXXX, Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor.

John Cripps birth

My mother’s family comes to check out new John Thomas

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor.

I Got A Name

Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I got a name, I got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I got a name, I got a name
(Jim Croce)

I was named after my maternal uncle, John Thomas Bishop, who was murdered at the young age of 27. My entire life I’ve been fed fairy tale versions of the event. Thanks to my Uncle Eugene, after XX years, I finally managed to hear the true story surrounding John’s death.

Uncle John Thomas was born July 20, 1922 and was killed January 20, 1950. He lived in Durant, Mississippi which, at the time, was a city with a bad reputation. My aunt said Durant had been written up nationwide as a notorious railroad town. It had garnered the moniker ‘Lil Chicago’ due to mob-operated night clubs and honky-tonks along with all the bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, and murder that accompanies it. Blackjack Powell, later of the Dixie Mafia, was the kingpin.

Even though my uncle had a good upbringing, at some point he had fallen in with some bad men. He was held for 18 months in the Hinds County Jail in connection with charges of armed robbery of two Birmingham, Alabama stores. There was never a trial, as the extradition to Alabama never took place. He was later released, and returned home to Durant.

On that fateful evening, he was out with a girlfriend accompanied by another couple at the Hillside Inn, a honky-tonk between Durant and West. As he was about to leave, a girl grabbed him by the arm. He turned and was shot point blank, over the counter, by the young bartender, Buford Morris Brister, Jr. He probably died quickly. When my Uncle Gene arrived 30 minutes later, he found John Thomas on the floor covered with a sheet. When he asked who had shot John, the bartender fled.

Gene rode in the ambulance to Doctor Howell who informed him John had a hole through his chest so large he could easily slide a pencil through it.

According to my Uncle Eugene, no one could get anywhere with an investigation. He, along with my grandfather, tried to find out more details, but no one would talk. All the people in the club who were present stated they never saw what happened. Buford Brister claimed it was self-defense. He maintained John Thomas was “drunk and shooting up the place.” It’s odd that a room full of people would not notice someone shooting off rounds. But, since it couldn’t be proven otherwise, Brister was acquitted. You would expect this sort of kangaroo court in an area like ‘Lil Chicago.’

Why did Brister shoot John? Did they a quarrel with each other? Brister claimed they did. Some believed it was all a “set up,” and Brister was just the lackey. If so, who called for the “hit”? Had John crossed someone, perhaps Blackjack Powell? Was it jealousy? That part of the story is strictly conjecture, as we will never know.

The odd thing is Buford Morris Brister, Jr. is still alive and living in Pickens, Mississippi. He has children, grand-children and great grand-children while the uncle I never knew lies in the clay with nothing but a future nephew named after him. God never promised life would be just on this side of eternity, but rest assured it will be on the other side.

John Thomas was the firstborn, and well loved by his parents and siblings. Even his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Ann, found a place in the heart of my grandparents. They named their youngest daughter after her. My grandmother was greatly affected by John’s death. She had already lost a son, Delma Asa, in Normandy during World War II. Nearly six years later, she loses her beloved firstborn.

I have been told John Thomas was a poet and songwriter. I have two handwritten poems, and a third typed poem which I am not certain is his creation. They can be viewed below. Apparently there are more, and I plan to continue my search. As a songwriter myself, I can see conflict in his writing. There is not enough to form a solid opinion, but I believe it is very possible John did not like the life he was leading. I think he longed to be away from it. The lesson here is simple: “avoid bad company”- don’t fall in with the wrong crowd. It is a deep pit to try to climb out of.

Another interesting thing about my namesake is his appearance. All my life I’ve heard John Thomas favored the Hollywood actor, Tyrone Power. Apparently everyone thought so. One thing for sure – every single person I’ve ever talked with about my uncle stated, “He had striking good looks.”

Tyronne Power was a noted film and stage actor from the 1932 until his death in 1958, at age 44. He was a huge matinee idol, well known for his “striking looks.” In fact, a biography written about Power is titled, The Last Idol. Even though he limited the number of films to allow him more time for stage performance, and the fact he died young…he still ranks in the top 100 box-office moneymakers of all time. This is the man everyone proclaims John Thomas Bishop favored.

When you have such “striking looks” you don’t chase women, they chase you. I’m told he didn’t always make the best choices in this respect. It is highly possible the “Tyrone Power looks” contributed to his death, whether by jealousy, or otherwise. That part of the story we shall never know.

I have been told I favor John Thomas, though I can’t really see it in the photographs. I do readily acknowledge favoring his youngest sibling, Leroy Bishop.

One last note before leaving this chapter. You would think it was my mother who suggested to name me after my uncle. Surprisingly, it was my father. He’s gone now and I can’t ask him why. My mother has no clue. I can only speculate it was all the talk about how much the family loved him. And by the way, the name didn’t end with me. My eldest son is John Thomas Cripps, Jr. and his oldest is John Thomas Cripps III. Will there be a John Thomas IV? We wait with bated breath!

Coming up next:
Baby John Thomas Cripps makes the cover of the Rolling Stone! No, but he did score a spot in the nationwide Ralston Purina magazine. That was one pretty baby! I don’t know what happened over the years….