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Outlaws Need Love Too

Human kindness has placed some of my “peeps” on the wrong side of the law. As I continue this series of stories about family love and history, in the spirit of Black History Month, I present the next two tiny “snippets;” which are not recorded but are closely aligned with recorded historical facts. It was at the table and around food—of course, that my brother, my cousins, and I were told our history; whereby, we came to understand who we really are. Through the art of oral tradition, African Americans like us discovered our history through stories passed down from generation to generation.

Tennessee Robinson

Tennessee Robinson, yes, that was her real name, is my great- great-great-grandmother. She was born in the late 1840s. She was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, whom, in the days of her youth, road across the countryside with the infamous outlaw known as “Belle Starr.” Tennessee lived in Indian territory in Arkansas. It was near or around the Little Rock and the Fort Smith area, where she connected with Myra “Belle” Reed. Belle Starr existed in a culture of outlaw males--including the likes of Jesse James; so, she benefited from the friendly companionship of other female riders.

*Note: When I was a teen, my great-grandmother, Ernestine shared this story with us and I never forgot it because I nearly choked to death on a piece of pound cake when I heard it (Laughing out Loud).

“Public Enemy Number One”

It was also after dinner on a Sunday afternoon, that my great-grandmother, Ernestine, along with my grandmother, great-uncle and great-aunts (Zerita, Calvin, Minnie, Mamie), talked about the time when my great-granddaddy, Calvin Luther (who was deceased by the time I was age 10 and first heard about it), unknowingly, extended a dinner invitation to another famous outlaw. My elders kept this story alive, with meticulous detail, for over 80 years.

It was on a fall day, late Saturday afternoon, that a stranger walked down from the south end of the railroad tracks to 1023 Hickory Street in North Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a common occurrence in 1933, for hobos and wanderers to train-hop through towns. They were usually harmless with no ill intentions to harm anyone. This stranger, however, was a white man who was dressed nicer than any typical hobo. He approached my great-grandfather, to offer his help around the house. He said his name was “Jack,” that he had just left Hot Springs, and he was returning home to Chicago. Luther, was taken aback at first, but after exchanging pleasantries on the front porch for a while, Luther instructed my great-grandmother, Ernestine, to set another silver service tray at the table. Originally, Calvin and Ernestine were the first to set forth the legacy of caring for others through food and fellowship. The family and their guest proceeded to dine on succulent pot roast, mashed potatoes, purple-hull peas, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and sweet potato pie. Then the unimaginable happened: a short time later, my family discovered that he was infamously marked by J. Edgar Hoover and his Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as America’s first “Public Enemy Number One.” John Herbert Dillinger.

My cousin, Christopher Weems (son of Mamie), who writes/creates under his artistic name, Lord Toph, took on the mantle, and published a short novella, delightfully detailing this legendary tale based on our family’s experience. It’s a good read! CLICK HERE>>


Lord Toph was born and raised in Little Rock Arkansas and attended college at the Memphis College of Art, what once was the Memphis Academy of Arts. He is an artist, author, composer, designer and producer. He is the founder of Monté CrisToph Multimedia and StarField Stories, a children’s literature publishing company. His list of published books include “Dillinger Comes to Dinner,” “Reveries of Romance & Sentiment,” “Five Old Wives’ Tales,” “Poetry for Yoonsil,” “The Girl Who Could Not Sneeze,” “Marvin in the Kooky Spooky House,” “The Sweet Eaters,” “Crusty Bigglenones” and “Fuzzy McKenzie.” Lord Toph has written numerous books and excerpts, some of which remain unpublished. He currently resides in New York City


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