The Madison County Journal
January 10, 2001
What is a 'Southern
Just what is a "Southern Gentleman"?
"The Southern Field and Fireside," published on May
19th, 1860, defined a Southern Gentleman as:
"A gentleman is not merely a person acquainted with certain
forms of conventionalities of life, easy and self-possessed in
society, able to speak, and act, and move in the world without
awkwardness, and free from habits which are vulgar and in bad
taste. A gentleman is something beyond this. At the base of all
his ease and refinement, and tact and power of pleasing, is the
same spirit which lies at the root of every Christian virtue.
It is the thoughtful desire of doing in every instance to others
as he would that others should do unto him - He is constantly
thinking, not indeed how he may give pleasure to others for the
mere sense of pleasing, but how he can show them respect, how
he may avoid hurting their feelings. When he is in society he
scrupulously ascertains the position of every one with whom he
is brought in contact, that he may give to each his due honor.
He studies how he may avoid touching upon any subject which may
call up a disagreeable or offensive association. A gentleman
never alludes to, never appears conscious of any personal defect,
bodily deformity, inferiority of talent, of rank, of reputation,
in the persons in whose society he is placed. He never assumes
any superiority - never ridicules, never boasts, never makes
a display of his own powers, or rank, or advantages; never indulges
in habits which may be offensive to others."
When traditional Southerners like me speak of Southern Values,
we are talking about just this kind of mindset. The Old South
had a code of conduct that all "gentlemen" were expected
to follow. Failure of any Southern man to follow this code immediately
labeled him as an inferior person.
Today, a few Southern men continue to follow this formula. You
will find a few of them in the military, some in the world of
politicians, a few businessmen and most, but not all, preachers.
Most of them fall into the Conservative political/social category.
Of course, many conservatives are not gentlemen, and a few liberals
How can we recover the concept of "Southern Gentlemen"?
Now that our schools have been told to teach "values,"
I would like to see the concept added to the school curriculum.
Just think. If our young men were being taught the precepts of
the above description we would have no insulting song lyrics,
no vulgar rap, no profanity in every other sentence and no insults
to those who have less valuable clothes. We would have young
men who devote themselves to creating a better community, helping
the less fortunate and defending the rights of all Americans.
Our young men would be devoting themselves to achieving the highest
possible education so that they can make the maximum contribution
to our society without thought of their own gain.
If we hope to re-create a "civil" society in our nation,
we need to resurrect the concept of the "Southern Gentleman."
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.
His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address
The Madison County Journal
January 10, 2001
A Moment with Margie
The 'white thing' and other legends
My Aunt Donnie Mae could tell ghost stories and other spooky
stuff in a way that could make the hair on the back of your neck
stand on end.
When I was little I loved to get her on the subject of her girlhood,
which usually led around to the strange stories she had been
told and other things she claimed to have lived through herself.
Aunt Donnie Mae lived most of her 89 years in the Bluestone Community
of Madison County and she knew every nook and cranny of the area,
having lived in various houses in the community and having spent
many days as a youngster in the surrounding woods and fields.
One of my favorite stories, and one she loved to tell the best,
was the legend of the "White Thing" (pronounced "thang").
Aunt Donnie claimed that a white cat-like creature haunted the
area around Bluestone when she was a girl, and long before, and
was sometimes heard screaming at night "like a woman."
(Panthers and mountain lions are often said to scream like that.)
She said coon hunters' dogs were frequently thrown off their
prey's scent, ending up howling at the base of a tree with no
raccoon in it, while the hunters following the dogs spotted a
snow white creature leaping from tree to tree.
One steamy, hot night my aunt and her brothers and sisters moved
pallets out onto the front porch to get some fresh air - a frequent
practice in the days before air conditioning.
Aunt Donnie said they had just settled down when they were all
awakened by a creature as it ran across their pallets with the
family dogs hot on its heels.
They all scrambled back inside, their screams drowned out by
the sound of the "white thing's" screams and the dogs'
The family were sharecroppers, moving from place to place around
the county to raise cotton and other crops on "shares"
with a property owner. Aunt Donnie often told the story of how
at least one of the houses they lived in was haunted. She claimed
noises could be heard in the night and that once something ripped
the buttons off a blouse she left hanging on the back of the
chair in a bedroom where she and her sisters were sleeping.
I was fascinated that she could point to the place where the
house had stood.
Another favorite story was one about her dad (my granddad) when
he was a boy.
Once when he was riding home at dusk on horseback from working
at a neighborhood farm, he rode past the crossroads where Adams
Clover Farm now stands. Of course, all the roads were dirt paths
then, and no store stood there at the time, only a bench for
travelers. As he looked toward the bench, he saw what appeared
to be an old man in a heavy dark cloak, sitting hunched over
on the bench, leaning on what looked like some type of cane.
He tipped his hat respectfully and called a greeting as he passed.
All at once, something jumped on the back off his horse, spooking
it to a gallop. He spurred the frightened horse forward with
the "thing," whatever it was, clinging onto the back,
where it stayed until the horse made it to his front yard. Grandpa
supposedly jumped off the horse, tearing himself away from the
thing which had still not made a sound, and ran into the house.
Aunt Donnie wasn't clear as to what had happened to the poor
horse after that!
Speculation was it could have been the "white thing."
And then there was one story that was particularly frightening
to me - although I loved to hear it told. This was the creature
called "bloody bones." Bloody Bones was said to peek
in windows late at night. (The thought of Bloody Bones often
caused me to end up sleeping with my parents.)
But perhaps the most fascinating legend was one that was ongoing
during my lifetime. Aunt Donnie was the oldest girl of 11 children,
and when their parents died at an early age, she became the mother
figure to most of them.
She also outlived all but one of the children, and claimed she
knew when one of them, and sometimes other members of the family,
were going to die. About three weeks or so before a death, Aunt
Donnie always heard three knocks on the door of her house, or
at whoever's home she might be staying. Whenever the knocks were
answered, no one would be there. I remember my Dad going to check
out knocks on her side door one night. She was scared and I believe
shook up because she knew what the knocks meant, so he brought
her back to our house to spend the night.
My dad had been pretty sick for some time, and just a few weeks
later, he died.
These are just a few of the stories I remember hearing at Aunt
I would love to hear from any of you about some of the things
I have mentioned, particularly the "white thing."
If any of you have ever heard (or seen!) the "white thing"
or can relate to any of my Aunt Donnie's stories, I'd love to
hear from you.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison