He was born February 8, 1900, in Fentress County, Tennessee, and died July 4, 1940 in Muncie, IN.
My mother, his eldest child, was 14 when he passed. Some of the last words he spoke, which she heard, were, “There’s nothing left for me in this old world.” When I was old enough to hear this often-repeated story from my mom, my heart broke for her in empathy. How could a father who was leaving so many children say those words? She did not seem to absorb them the same way I did and told the story more as an objective listener than his daughter. There was no welfare state; they were on their own, and Pearl was blind since childhood.
His wife, my grandma, was Pearl V. (Vestal? Not sure of spelling and she hated to be called by that name) Campbell. Bradley and Pearl had 6 children: Delphia Lucille (my mother, 12.10.25), Ruby Maxine (Higdon), Bradley Joseph (called Junior, although the names were transposed), Nellie Ann, Harold Lee and Benjamin Timothy, named after his grandfather Garrett. Pearl was pregnant when JBG died, and that baby did not live.
My mother says her dad suffered terribly, as a limit was put on the dispersion of morphine for pain. We do not know for sure the origin of cancer. He first noticed a problem when he was shaving and hit a mole on his neck. It became sore and never healed, and family lore says that was the origin, but that doesn’t seem likely in today’s medical expertise .
JBG worked in New Castle, IN, at the Chrysler factory. My mom was born in New Castle. Then he worked at Chevrolet in Muncie. When the effects of the Depression hit, Grandpa put all of their material items (toys, a Victrola, etc.) in storage, and they moved to TN to farm a small piece of land near family. He may have actually sold the items instead of storing; they never saw them again. They did own a car, which was a rarity, and drove to TN.
JBG was gregarious by nature and often supplemented income by traveling sales. I know that he sold some sort of glass. I understand that Pearl was often jealous because of his outgoing nature. He would often barter for items such as a chicken for payment of goods.
Because of sales, he ventured into an area of black population, against the advice and warnings of his white community. He reported that he was always treated very well by his customers there and appreciated them very much. When black hired hands worked alongside him, he is quoted by my mom, “Black people can eat at my table any time,” which in the context of the day translates to lack of prejudice, at least in that instance.
Finally, my mother remembers JBG in glowing memories. He was handsome, intelligent, talkative, musically gifted regarding instruments and very emotional about the imminence of WWII, upset about the invasion of Poland in particular, not because of any ties there but because it was a small, defenseless country. He cared much for his personal appearance, was clean and neat. He did smoke, as did most people. He took care to roll my mother’s anklet socks just so in order to please her. He doted on my mother, while my grandma doted on R. Maxine. He spent money on her dresses that raised eyebrows and comments from others. He would say to her that she would be “his” teacher, meaning he thought she might be a professional teacher one day. Pearl chose the name “Delphia” for my mother for a woman who had paid her tuition to the Kentucky Blind School. Bradley chose “Lucille” because he liked the name. She went by “Lucille” her entire life. JBG was a Christian. His father, Benjamin, was a preacher in the Seventh Day Adventist denomination, but my grandparents did not attend church regularly. My mother did attend a Seventh Day Adventist school in Muncie, however. JBG was about 5’11’, but the stories I’ve heard and pictures I’ve seen make him appear a large man if not by physical stature, by presence.