The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #40889   Message #588420
Posted By: catspaw49
08-Nov-01 - 02:23 PM
Thread Name: Who is like Jean Ritchie?
Subject: RE: Who is like Jean Ritchie?
Yes, that's my mission but I'm happy to be corrected!!!

I picked it up myself from somewhere else many years ago from a newspaper as I recall. I never investigated it beyond that and I appreciate your info.....which I shall go investigate. Now perhaps you can also help on another piece of Mississippi information for me regarding the Tallahatchie Bridge story as told in the song "Ode to Billie Joe." See if I have it right.

The story of Billie Joe is based in truth but stylized to some degree. It is an old story, dating back to the the late 40's when the only daughter of John Hatch, a Mississippi Klansman of some note, was in love with the first black attorney in the state. Jubilee Simmons was the grandson of slaves and had gone to school at the University of Chicago and returned to his family's home state, taking up residence in Carroll county in 1948. John Hatch's daughter was known to be a bit wild and young Kelli had already incurred her father's wrath on numerous occasions. Kelli was living with two other 22 year old women in the small town of Campton, Mississippi when she met and began dating Simmons. Her father learned of it a few weeks later and came into town drunk with some Klan buddies to hunt down and kill Simmons. Simmons law offices were opposite the county courthouse and from an open window he could hear the drunken invectives hurled his way from across the square. He slipped out a back door and went to Kelli's house to take her away and save them both from the murderous rancor of her father and his "brethren."

Not finding Jubilee in his office the Klansmen split up to search for him and John Hatch went to his daughter's, presumably to beat her or possibly worse. He arrived before the pair had left and headed in the back porch door adjoining the kitchen. Seeing him coming, Simmons grabbed a kitchen knife and jumped atop the counter and then onto the top of the refrigerator that stood by the door. As John Hatch passed, he didn't notice Simmons who then jumped him safely from behind and in the ensuing struggle, Hatch was stabbed with the knife. The lovers bagged his body and threw it off a bridge on their way out of town. They were on their way to Chicago when they were arrested in Clarksville, Tennessee and returned for trial in Mississippi. Jubilee represented both and thanks to the testimony of one of the roommates and Mrs. Hatch who had suffered abuse for years at the hands of her husband, both were acquitted and moved to Chicago where he established a moderately successful practice on the south side.

The original song told the story as it was, but owing to legal considerations, the Gentry version was done instead. The original was titled, "The Day that Jubilee the Barrister Jumped Off of Kelli Hatch's Fridge."