CHAPTER 9. THEOLOGY OF VERNON JOHNS
Hater of Racism
It was the race war that attracted Vernon Johns's sharpest words (Boddie 1972:70). "The nastiest and deadliest problem before the world is the insane hatred between the races. Life is bearable because of the variety it offers, yet here are men hating other men to the murder point, legislating against children before they are born because their skins, circumstances and background are different. If one opens his mind of the subject of religion, he may have to keep it open on the subject of justice."
He lashed out at the South (Kluger 1976:454): "It so happens in our country that the very section of it which is unquestionably the chief sea of orthodoxy is at the same time the dependable theater of our most heartless inhumanities." Why, he asked, were the "perpetrators and abettors" of lynching left "at peace with their ritual-loving God"? He demanded: "When will Christian preachers either preach Jesus or save the public from further deception by unfrocking themselves of His name?"
Hater of Class Distinctions
In the West Virginia Digest (March 16, 1940:4) he wrote "In all this talk about preset unrest, unemployment, economic upheaval, unbalanced budgets and so on -- we seldom hear anyone say that at the bottom of it all is the blunt fact the vast majority of people are too poor -- and that in the main they are too poor because quite a few others are too rich." He refers to the reduced conditions for the poor as a "criminally reduced allowance."
Vernon Johns (Powell 1995:25) used to say "Clothing enough to protect the body, shelter enough to provide a haven and protection from the elements, food enough to keep the body strong and in functioning order, and anything beyond this is luxury." This Spartan philosophy was an expression of his hatred of class distinctions. His clothes reflected his overall philosophy. (Also because of his philosophy, he probably felt most comfortable and natural in simple clothes.)
Hard on Whites
He writes (WVD, Feb. 17, 1940:4) of the brutality of the Nazis created amidst the horrors of the Great Depression and compares this to the harshness of the white Southerner:
". . . every type of brutality perpetrated by the Germans, in the name of race, is visited upon the Negro in our southland as regularly as he receives his daily bread. In fact much more regularly. Daily bread is becoming very uncertain for both white and black. But the unfairness, the oppression, the contempt and the contemptibleness of the average white is certain, like the rotation of the seasons."
Johns writes (WVD March 2, 1940:4) that when his oldest son, Vernon Jr., was three years old, he asked his daddy to take him for a ride on the street car. While Vernon paid the fare, Vernon Jr. sat himself "gloriously in the first seat forward. Reared back on the front seat, he was. His fine brown face wreathed with the thrill of being."
"From childhood, I have walked knee-deep through the contempt of white Virginians. I understand their thoughts afar off. But the wickedness of their system was born anew for me that Sunday when I pulled my child down from his proud perch and, in obedience to the law dragged him back to the rear. It was then that the kind God gave me that little lie to tell my child, Let us sit back here where we can see everybody,' I said. This would save his pride a little longer. How much longer no one knows. But not today I said to myself, shall he drink the vial of damnation' which the South has prepared for his soul. Not today shall it be ground into his senses that there is something wrong about him. That he belongs behind. That to go forward, for him, is a crime like robbery and arson. That to move with poise and dignity in the presence of white Virginians, instead of slinking, offends them like rape or treason. That for a Negro to have the carriage and bearing of a free man brings down upon his head the wrath of the whole white community, with the exception of rare souls here and there who have escaped from the psychological hell of the South."
"Everywhere in the South a Negro is called upon to choose constantly whether he will save his skin or soul. Whether he will entertain broken bones or broken spirit. He must lose his soul to save his body. They cannot march abreast."
Harder on Blacks
What is often overlooked is that Johns' criticism of society was absolutely without racial bias -- he not only criticized whites, but he also criticized blacks. Often liberals, especially white liberals, are afraid to criticize blacks because they might be dubbed as supporters of racism. And so blacks often pursue the wrong course because there is no one to criticize them for their blunders. But Vernon Johns never let that stop him. When he thought blacks were not fighting hard enough against Jim Crow he spoke out and loudly. He was saying "a plague on both your houses" to the white and black liberals. He refused to cooperate with the white and black liberals and their numerous organizations designed to obtain better relations between the two races. In the South, these groups, as Egerton (1994) has shown, were not effective, nor did they ever really dissent from the overall racist system. Vernon Johns would have none of this. He wanted to follow his own voice, and that was a voice which consistently said that I will not accept the racist Jim Crow system.
Vernon Johns was not a modern day separatist as are so many of the current black empowerment people. He wanted the blacks to be independent from whites in the sense that they had their own bases of power so that they could then dissent from the separatist system and eventually overthrow it. He did not want a separate voice and power structure in order to stay separate. He was never a multi-culturalist. He was a fighter against racism, and he wanted power so that he could fight against racism.
In another column (WVD January 20, 1940:4) he continues to criticize blacks who do not cooperate with their race in collective efforts: ". . . what goes on outside a Negro's private abode is none of his business." He regrets that one can always depend on "the same dependable inaction" of blacks. He regrets that he has to agree with a "learned uncongenial lawyer" who said that "a Negro neighborhood will become as vicious and filthy as white people living in some other neighborhood will allow it to become."
"It is said that the white harlots who select the heart of the Negro community, and uncover their filth in the vestibule of Negro churches with the blessing of the Mayor and the City Fathers, could be rooted up; and white men left to lust in the same neighborhood where white men live; if the Charleston Negro had enough concern for collective decency to invoke the law." But, according to Johns, blacks don't value the collective tendency.
Black on Black Crime
Talk about being ahead of his time. Johns (WVD March 23, 1940:4) wrote very early of the tragedy of black on black crime that today seems to be such a popular topic of conversation. Being a nonracist, Johns would criticize anyone and everyone who he thought was behaving badly. He mentions that blacks do more harm to themselves than done by the minions of the Ku Klux Klan.
Hardest on Human Beings
Johns (1977) wrote that "It will be a long time yet before the brutishness in man is demolished by his better nature." To smash through man's complacency, in his sermons Johns often emphasized how humans were made of "dust" or made of the "cheapest materials."
Johns's lectures were always brilliant. He wrote a sermon entitled Civilized Interiors in the late 1940s (Johns 1950), taking as its point of departure the word of Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is Within" and George E. Buttrick's statement "Some perversity in us has conkered (sic) twenty-one civilizations."
During and just following the years of World War II, there was considerable talk of a declining civilization. He quotes numerous writers such as Oswald Spengler, Henry and Lloyd George, and H. G. Wells talking about how Western Civilization was perhaps nearing decline and catastrophe. Johns notes how strange this is considering the vast progress in technology that Western Civilization had accomplished.
But all this concern with exteriors and the look of things, ignores man's spiritual side. Many authors "failed to see that any culture in which men alter their environment without adorning their inner lives was a civilization dressed but unwashed." (Johns 1950:212) He continued by saying that "To preserve the externals of their culture men must bring its interior up to date. This they have never done. . . . The trouble with modern man is that his Interior lags a thousand years behind his Exterior." (Johns 1950:212-213)
This may also show the influence of Niebuhr, who argued that man is very much a sinner. Without recognizing this, and without emphasizing the need for spirituality as a possible ameliorative of this brutal nature, human beings will always face the possible collapse of their civilizations. Niebuhr said that "All of us continue to be, even in our highest moral achievements, in contradiction to God and therefore require His mercy." (Quoted in Lewis:37)
Johns emphasizes the importance of structure (WVD April 20, 1940:7). The troubles arising from the supposed differences between black and white human beings pale in comparison to the troubles arising from human beings period. It is an evil structure that allows humans to express their most evil side so freely. For instance, the structure of slavery hurt both blacks and whites. Change the structure and humans repress much of their evil impulses.
"The Southern leaders declared that southern civilization could not exist without African slavery, but it does exist without African slavery . . ." He cites the accomplishments of such blacks as Booker T. Washington, singer Marian Anderson, and the scientist Dr. George Washington Carver.
"The legal change to the status of freemen did change our actual condition. No argument is needed. We are justly grateful for the change. So are the white people who once opposed the change with their very lives." He adds that "the white race has juster reasons for welcoming the change. For the changeless law of justice binds the oppressor to the oppressed and as close as sin and suffering are, we march to fate abreast!" He adds that the emancipation of the slave brought the two results of freeing the body of the Negro and freeing the soul of the southern white. He adds that both white and black people together should work for a civilization which will be built for the good of all. "Such a society none will wish to overthrow for none will profit by its downfall."
Theology of Rising Up
The religion of Vernon Johns thoroughly backed his civil rights approach. There were no contradictions and dilemmas in his approach as there are in many of the approaches of other religious thinkers. Johns used religion as a battering ram to help destroy the apartheid system in the South. His two great targets were racism and class inequality because these were the two great obstacles he faced and he faced them from both whites and blacks.
His clothes and speech, in fact, the whole demeanor of the man, reflected his philosophy. His whole aspect reflected his fight against class inequality in both the black and white communities. His aspect was testimony to his overwhelming hatred and absolute disgust with the entire Jim Crow system.
Alton Morton said that one time he heard Vernon Johns preach at a man's funeral. He said some people said he "needed to preach it again because he didn't call the man's name." But as far as Mr. Morton was concerned "The man was dead, what are you going to tell him?" He added that Johns "could elevate the common man."
His wife said "He was preaching down at St. Andrews. He said a black man would rather buy salt from a white man than sugar from a black man. He could tell us all these things that we were doing back then and he could foresee that we needed a change. He was speaking at St. Andrews church. I'll never forget it. I was a child (at the time). . . . I know one thing. He talked about the need for blacks to rise up. All the time he was telling us."
He did not like Communism. He held no brief for a political philosophy that denied God. The Communist creed in theory ("To each according to his ability . . .) is closer in spirit to the teachings of Jesus than is the Democratic belief that the strong have the right to exploit the riches of the earth without restraint or regulation, and usually at the expense of the weak and defenseless. (Powell 1995:22)
Economics as a Part of Rising Up
The film "The Vernon Johns Story" has a scene set in Montgomery where Johns preached a sermon entitled "Money Answereth All Things." He gave a definition of perpetual motion. "Give the average Negro a Cadillac and tell him to park on a piece of land that he owns." He added that if gold was discovered in the hottest region of hell you could rest assured that the white man would show up to mine it. And you could be equally assured that the coloreds would show up three weeks later offering their services as maids and butlers. He quoted the Bible saying that a feast is made for laughter, but money answereth all things. He said this meant that whoever controls the money controls the overall society. He stressed that ever present theme that blacks needed to own more businesses. He added injury to insult by saying that "I noticed that some of you noted that I had neglected to wear shoe strings. Well, I'll start wearing them when Negroes start producing them."
This is perhaps the single worst part of the Vernon Johns philosophy. Johns was a genius in the pulpit and yet, of the literally hundreds of sermons he gave, we only have a handful. He had virtually no publications during his lifetime. He did not make sure that his writings were published in the leading journals of the time. Frankly, it is a tragedy. And worse, neither Johns nor the Johns family and friends saved more than a few sermons. Also, tragically. the emphasis on economics as salvation made Johns unsuitable for participation in the civil rights movement.
Johns could never have really worked with the intellectuals and academics of his time. They tolerated him, but did not join him. If one was an integrationist in the early 1950s, who could they turn to? The gradualism of Du Bois and the NAACP? (It was not the NAACP that defeated the apartheid system.) The separatism of Booker T. Washington or Marcus Garvey? (These people never even got into the actual civil rights movement.) There was no one, except Johns, who consistently and constantly spoke against apartheid. The other intellectuals chose to work within the system. Johns might have been better off if he attacked the self-satisfied, gradualist intellectuals head-on. He should have written criticisms of that audience. But, from his perspective, these people were hopeless. They were too scared of losing what they had to resist the system.
The lack of publications and participation in the civil rights movement have to be seen at least partly as the result of his concentration on economics as the source of salvation for blacks. The approach was completely wrong. Today it is clear that not even white small businessmen can compete against the giant corporations such as Walmart. If whites cannot compete in this realm, what real hope is there for blacks when they face significant levels of discrimination not faced by their white counterparts? And thank goodness Martin Luther King, Jr. took a political course and used the power of the North to force the South to change, rather than try to build up black economic power as his main strategy.
Frankly, Johns should have concentrated more on politics and less on economic. He should have farmed less and published more. He wasted much of his talent by not concentrating on his intellectual side in deference to his business side (which he was terrible at anyway). There was a certain myopic quality about Johns. He never really changed his message even after repeated failures and job terminations. He was a prophet because he rejected the entire system of apartheid, but he was mistaken in his choice of methods to destroy that system.
Critical of Education
In Charleston, West Virginia Vernon Johns had a column in the newly started West Virginia Digest. There were many articles critical of students.
December 9, 1939 (WVD:4) Johns discussed the lost art of sitting as a way to criticize students among others. He writes "The lost art of sitting registers its unhappy consequences in many ways. . . . The poor quality of academic work in our colleges could be traced frequently to the solitary existence led by numerous students' chairs whose bottoms remain cold and barren while their theoretical occupants are busy here and there.'"
Continuing this theme, he (January 13, 1940:4) relates the story of what Carter G. Woodson told him about black education: "The colleges are doing us more harm than our bootleggers and gamblers." He quotes a Harvard professor saying that "the A,.B. Degree should be conferred upon every American at birth so that he could devote his whole life to something useful instead of spending the first years of his manhood in college."
This criticism of college is also in line with Johns' emphasis on the value of hard physical work on the farm and in practical work in black businesses. He is criticizing the students and professors who emphasize education without reference to cooperating to start and maintain black businesses. He also wanted education to be an aid to helping the economic development of blacks.
In the West Virginia Digest (March 30, 1940:4), Johns writes that if the blacks ever had a wise dictator he would be advised to "pull about forty percent of the students out of Negro colleges. Maybe it would be seventy percent. This would be done in the interest of education, not against it."
He questions in several columns whether the black college graduate actually gets ahead economically on the ono college black. He questions the value of the idea of putting his own children in college, praising instead their life on a good farm that provided a comfortable, independent , and creative living.
In still another article (WVD April 6, 1940:4) he questions again the value of education. He talked of one family who in spite of having a son man who had earned three F's in one semester stilled insisted on his staying in college. "The reason given by these parents for wasting their earnings on the miseducation of such a son is the familiar one: don't want him to have to come up the way we came.' They need not worry! They came up by honest, simple industry. He will not come up at all, when they have completed his ruin. He will go down like the devil! And he will carry with him whatever his parents put in his way."
Vernon Johns was much like Henry Churchill King in that he put Jesus as the central figure of life. In his unpublished manuscript there are six times as many references to Jesus as to the next most mentioned person. He also mentioned Lincoln a great deal, as the most Christ-like person.
Other black preachers were not as militant as Johns. Johns was the full prophet, while Thurman, for instance, was not. Johns had a commitment to social action, Thurman did not. Thurman was not attempting to create the model church for social action involvement. His interest was in developing a model for inclusive religious fellowship (Smith, L 1981:133).
Johns would differ from King like Barbour, an early influence on King, would have differed from King (Lischer 1995:68). Like the personalists, Barbour insisted that the universe is upheld by moral laws and that Jesus represents the "moral ideal" for all generations, but these views were tempered by his realistic assessment of the immorality of racism and economic oppression. Like Niebuhr, he rejected nonviolence as a social philosophy and would later chide King for his "poor little ole' me" tactics that would lead to exercises in false nobility and needless suffering for Negroes.
A Radical/Egalitarian Religion
Vernon Johns was no copy cat follower of the "personalists" of his time. Vernon Johns's religion was the religion of the egalitarian Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus interpreted by St. Paul. Christianity as practiced has largely ignored the radical message of Jesus that attacked the class inequalities and injustices of his time. Protestantism especially has ignored the egalitarian message of Christianity for a gospel that has equated financial wealth with goodness. The actual words of Christ are too radical and discomforting to most people, especially to materialistic Americans.
Vernon Johns was definitely influenced by the message of the Social Gospel, even though he was more radical than the average proponent of this approach. His more radical position is shown by his rapid adoption of the thought of Reinhold Niebuhr.
Black and white proponents of the Social Gospel came in for criticism from Niebuhr. Howard Thurman (Smith, L 1981:123) was rightly criticized as was all of Christian liberalism by Niebuhr in his Moral Man and Immoral Society. It is the problem of all liberalism, which works within the system and does not challenge it. Thurman's problem is that he sees the individual as the key to remaking the social structure. It is easier the other way round. Johns was more amenable to Niebuhr. In contrast to Thurman's love- ethic Niebuhr believes life must not only be governed by a concept of love, but also by a distinct and profound concept of justice.
The Fellowship of Socialist Christians, in which Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading voice, was formed in 1930. It warned of the possibility of class war if the inequities of the social order were not removed. In the early thirties, the group was highly critical of Roosevelt's kind of whirligig reform and contemptuous of liberals who would merely patch up the old system. Neo-orthodox theologians criticized with special vehemence liberalism's optimistic doctrine of man and hence its doctrine of historical progress. Niebuhr took the position that "the white race in America will not admit the Negro to equal rights if not forced to do so." As with the earlier Social Gospel, however, racial inequities had a minor place in most protest literature of the period (Ahlstrom 1972:923).
Niebuhr said that the best defense against tyranny is a responsible and positive opposition to evil. Niebuhr deprecated the sanguine pacifist confidence that ethical rectitude would gradually triumph merely because of its normative desirability. This species of moral naiveté is tantamount to collusion with evil (Lewis 1978:36).
Separatist or Integrationist?
This section is necessary because there is some confusion over Johns' message. The actual message was an odd blend. The emphasis on economics partly originated from the Booker T. Washington approach as well as other racial separatist thinkers. Indeed, the emphasis on economic self-improvement and self-sufficiency is a mainstay of most separatist approaches. Because of this, it is not uncommon for many readers of the Johns' philosophy to think that he was for racial separatism. But that is the wrong conclusion.
Vernon Johns thought that blacks would never be able to oppose the apartheid system as long as they were economically dependent on the whites. He wanted to improve the economic position of blacks, not to keep them separate from whites, but to force the destruction of the apartheid system. If blacks were stronger economically they would not be so afraid to challenge the Jim Crow system of prohibitive laws. They could collectively work together because they would be independent and strong enough to cooperate together in effective efforts. It is funny when said, but Johns wanted to use separatist methods to achieve integrationist goals. As a prophet, Johns was great; but as a civil rights tactician, he was terrible.
The genius of Martin Luther King, Jr., even though it may have been somewhat accidental in nature, was that his philosophy of love made it possible for the Northern whites to support the civil rights movement. The genius of the civil rights movement was that it used the greater power of Northern whites to force the less powerful Southern whites to change. King used the political realm to change the entire system, including the economic system.
Jacob Benjamin Boddie was a minister at the Bethesda Baptist Church in New Rochelle, New York. His son Charles later became the president of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. As a young boy, Charles Emerson Boddie (1972) met Johns. He was even for a time coproprietor of one of Johns's retail outlets: Boddie Brothers Fruit and Vegetable Market, on Horton Avenue, New Rochelle. Boddie comments extensively on Johns's personal style.
Vernon Johns was a good physical specimen with a barrel chest and huge hands (Boddie 1972:61). He joked that his hands were like Virginia hams. Johns always clung to the belief that farming was the base line to establish independence and prosperity. He looked like a farmer, except for the scholarly horn-rimmed glasses that he always wore (Branch 1988:8). He had poor eyesight and usually listened to others read out loud. He could recite from memory long passages he had heard only once or twice. His eyes were noticeably crossed, this only slightly relieved by the glasses he wore. His eyelids drooped so that his eyes almost gave an impression of Oriental narrowness. One eye was slightly less shut than the other.
Boddie found the six-foot Johns to be a mulatto, indeed "not immediately recognizable as a black man." He had closely cropped, wire-straight, brownish-red hair. Hamilton (1991:45) writes that in some black circles, those blacks who could have passed but deliberately chose to be identified as black were that much more admired. After all, they did not have to subject themselves to the degradation and insults experienced by other American blacks.
Henry Powell said that Johns had "that country speech". He sounded like one of the worst crackers you ever heard with "you all" and what not." Since he was an educated man, it makes one suspicious that possibly Johns cultivated this speech pattern to further set himself off from what he regarded as the pomposity of the black middle class.
Boddie was very impressed by the gentleness and charm of Mrs. Johns. He met her when he substituted for the organist on a hot August night in his father's church in New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York. Mrs. Johns accompanied him on the organ and they both enjoyed discussing music following the service.
He commented that Johns knew a great deal about many things and had an authoritative and engaging way of pouring out this erudition. He had a mastery of the language using great imagery and wonderful word descriptions, but sometimes also had poor grammar. He had a very thick Southern accent which he never thought to change. Indeed, he may have cultivated the accent as a sign of his impatience with the black middle and intellectual classes.
Violence as a Philosophical Weapon
Vernon Johns had a quick, violent temper that often led him to engaged in violent behavior. Being a large man, his size lent to his ability to intimidate and silence others. This success further encouraged him not only to use, but to justify, the use of violence. People, both black and white, were, if not afraid of, certainly anxious around, Vernon Johns.
In the movie "The Vernon Johns Story", James Earl Jones as Vernon Johns asks the organist if she knew that Moses was once a prince in the pharaoh's court -- a prince in the enemy's court? "So one beautiful day Moses went for a stroll. It was common practice to whip your slave. It was socially acceptable. The slaves didn't like it, but they accepted it. Moses grabbed his sword and killed the cruel Egyptian."
Johns admitted that Moses felt remorse because he had no justification in killing the Egyptian. But cynically he added "Besides he would throw away his entire future with the royal court." But he justified the use of violence by saying that "Moses realized that slavery was an evil even greater than murder" that "slavery is an abomination". He implicated God as an accessory in this sordid murder by saying God, looking down on Moses, said: "Who is that man? I can use him in my program."
Johns talked about violence primarily for shock value to wake up the apathetic. He wanted his audiences to know that there was something more wicked than murder. The murderer usually kills just one person. Slavery and apartheid killed millions.
As much as Johns liked to talk about violence, the authors know of no incident where Vernon Johns beat up somebody. His size helped him intimidate people and this undoubtedly helped him avoid the actual use of violence.
Taylor Branch (1988:10) is of the opinion that " Within the insulated but resonant world of black church people, Johns became as famous as Mordecai Johnson and Howard Thurman." Johns had courted the woman who married Thurman (Mrs. Sue Bailey Thurman who was distinguished in her own right), and succeeded Mordecai Johnson as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, West Virginia.)
Johns was undoubtedly a far superior preacher to the likes of the more conventional Johnson and Thurman. In their own day, however, the fact that Johnson and Thurman had secure, full-time positions at the prestigious black Howard University meant that they had greater access to the world of speaking engagements. Their occupational positions, as well as their tamer messages, also made them far more acceptable to the blacks of the time.
Boddie (1972:66,69,74) says that Johns was known in infamy, not in endearment. His worst quality was his speech, which could be brash, coarse, and abrasive. He was very impatient with ignorance. At one association meeting, he yelled at a man hogging the floor "It behooves him to sit down and be quiet!" He often chastised the congregation for their sins. He would, like so many traditional preachers, attack black vices. In defense of his attacks, he would say "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." But in the pulpit, "While killing his audience, he was thrilling it." His sermon cadences seemed almost as though they were set to music. He used bodily surges which induced in his audience sympathetic vibrations.
Billie Allen (Bailey 1994:43) had a supporting role in the TV movie The Vernon Johns Story." She remembers Johns from her childhood days in Richmond, Virginia. She remembered how he "charged up" an audience. "Whenever he was speaking in the Richmond area, you had to get there early to get a good seat. 'Get your clothes on; you're going to make me late to hear Dr. Johns,' my mother would admonish. She thought of him as a scholar and dynamic speaker and totally agreed with his position that the most effective way to fight segregation was economically. That's why, even before the days of the civil rights movement, she used to picket A&P stores and other such places."
Johns was an eclectic reader and this is often shown in his sermons as he constantly throws in comments on his various readings, especially current reading in religion and philosophy. He had a quiet, conversational delivery . It was designed to appeal to reason. He did not have the hellfire and brimstone sermon. He did not like to have the congregation shout out to the preacher.
Vernon Johns told Alton Morton (interview) that he noticed that Alton would say hello to everyone that passed by him. Johns said I wish I was like you. "What do you mean Doc? I said well Doc if I was as old as you are and discovered that I had a problem I'd spend the rest of my days just trying to get along with people. He said Well that's why I'm not pastor of a church right now. I said What do you mean and he never did go into detail. He said I'm not interested in what they are there for. When I go into a church and it is packed I get out of there as quick as I got to get. And I couldn't figure what he meant. What he meant I don't know."
Johns loved speaking but seemed to have a definite distaste for the non-preaching job duties of the minister. This is reflected in his constantly returning to his farm, even though he lived in places as far away as Charleston, West Virginia and Montgomery, Alabama.
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