Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Butten shoos" and the Death Penalty

We have a post card, dated 1908, from a young Hope Hart to "Miz Virginia Moran".  When Hope grew up she left Dresden and moved to Washington DC where she worked in the offices of elected Tennessee officials on the Federal level.  It was always nice to have a local girl in DC when someone from Dresden needed a political connection!  However, on September 1, 1908 she was just a 10 year old girl writing a postcard about her visit with Brud Moran and sealing it with a kiss (S.W.A.K.)


Sept 1 1908
dere Miz Virgina
i shure am having a big time while i am hear.  Mister brud is shure nise i like his butten shoos and his rubber tar bugy.
forever yure frend
hope hart


On the front side of the post card is the Dresden home of Duke Cayce Bowers.   I didn't know anything about Duke Bowers but I do now.  Duke was born in Mobile Alabama in 1874, the son of Calvin Thomas Bowers and Ida C. Cayce.  His mother died when he was still a young boy in 1879.  His father Calvin died in 1895. 

In 1893, at the young age of 15, Memphis City Directories show Duke living in Memphis and working at Bowers & Co with Walter E. Cayce in business together as cider and vinegar manufacturers. John E. Bowers was listed as a Travel Agent with the same company. 

In the 1900 Census Duke is living with his aunt and uncle, Enis and Lydia Bowers, in Hickman Kentucky. His occupation is Merchant Grocer.  On October 24 1900 Duke married Ethel Gibbs in Weakley County.   

The 1903 the Memphis City Directory shows that Duke is back in Memphis with his family living at 237 Vance and working, most likely owning, the Little New Grocery.

Their daughter Ida is born in 1905.  By 1910 the Bowers family is living on Pauline Street in Memphis where Duke is still in the grocery business.  

Duke Bowers appears continuously in Memphis City Directories through 1917.  In the 1915 Directory he has a total of 43 grocery stores in Memphis!!!  It appears that he and his wife moved back to Dresden in 1916 because the city directories indicate Dresden as his residence.   

In 1917 Duke died of "cerebral apoplexy" and was interred in Sunset Cemetery.

But what did Duke Bowers believe in besides building a successful grocery business?  It's not often we know
anything except facts gleaned from government records about those that came before us.  But with Duke Bowers we know he believed in God and was against the death penalty so much so he took his fight to the Tennessee Legislature.  

In 1913 he was the author of  a brief entitled Life Imprisonment vs. The Death Penalty which was submitted to the 58th General Assembly and to the Judiciary Committee for the State of Tennessee.  

From page 31:
Duke C. Bowers, retired grocery merchant of Memphis, has returned to Nashville to resume his fight for the passage of a bill in the Legislature abolishing capital punishment in Tennessee.  Mr. Bowers is entering into the fight with great enthusiasm, and is making a telling campaign among the legislators and with the public. Largely through his efforts the issue of capital punishment has been brought before the people of Tennessee, and will be kept before them until after the bill in the Legislature is passed or defeated...

Page 61:
Duke C. Bowers' Argument Against Capital Punishment.  The first case of murder of which we have any record was that of Cain killing Abel.  In this instance God himself was the judge, the jury, and the whole court.  He did not put Cain to death, neither would he allow the people to do it....

Christ came and changed the old law, "an eye for an eye," declaring that vengeance belonged to God....  The difference in the teaching of Moses and Christ was that Moses shed his enemies' blood, while Christ shed His own blood for his enemies.

Page 62:
Because we are Southerners is no reason why we should favor lynching or hanging.  Christianity should be the same all over the country.

Page 64:
There are people in the North who think that we of the South are a lot of hot-heads, blood-thirsty murderers.  Let us abolish capital punishment and show these people that they are mistaken.

Page 95:
REJECTED.
After an arduous and expensive campaign...Mr. Duke C. Bowers. of Memphis and Dresden, saw his bill to abolish capital punishment in Tennessee defeated by much larger odds than he was prepared to expect.

Page 95 and 97:
FIGHT NOT ENDED, SAYS DUKE C. BOWERS
My fight to abolish the death penalty is not ended, and the abusive language heaped upon me by some of the opponents to the measure is not going to stop me.  "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.  I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have."
Duke C. Bowers,
Dresden Tenn., February 28


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