Education, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Honor graduate.

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From “The American Negro in College 1943-44,” The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races, volume 51, number 8 (August 1944).

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Macy Oveta Aldridge was born 20 January 1923 in Dudley, Wayne County, to John J. and Ora Bell Mozingo Aldridge. She attended Wayne County public schools, then received an undergraduate degree from Georgia State College (now Savannah State University.) After her honorable discharge in 1946, she resumed her education at the University of Pennsylvania and Glassboro State College. Cousin Macy worked as a laboratory technician for the United States Army Medical Corps and then as a teacher. She married Clay J. Claiborne and was mother of three sons. Macy Claiborne died 12 October 1999 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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Macy Aldridge Claiborne.

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Business, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Mound City Medical Forum gets ready.

Speaking of Tom Aldridge

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Pittsburgh Courier, 14 August 1937.

This is the earliest photograph I have seen of my great-grandfather, and he was 51 years old here. His hair, fallen over his forehead, seems thicker than in later studio portraits. Otherwise, disappointingly little detail can be seen. Twenty-four years later, he would be elected president of the National Medical Association.

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Military, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Pvt. Aldrich.

On 28 May 1917, James Thomas Aldridge appeared before a registrar in Brooklyn, New York. I imagine Tom dragging his feet, and his reluctance to serve shows through his notably exaggerated response to Question 9 — “Have no father (dead) Mother and three sisters to help to support” — and the basis for his claim for an exemption — “Dependents and poor health.” Tom described himself as a “student (medical),” and evidence demonstrates that he had entered medical school in the fall of 1916. (He may have done his first year at Leonard Medical School, then transferred to Meharry, from which he graduated in 1920. But what was he doing in Brooklyn? He wasn’t a resident, as demonstrated by the home address and precinct listed on the card.) Tom also gave his birth date as 14 May 1895, which would have made him 22. His age, however, is listed as 27. Neither is correct. He was born in 1886, and was 31 in 1917, but always fudged heavily on his age, possibly to disguise the long years that passed between finishing eighth grade in Dudley’s local school and entering high school at Shaw. Either way, he was called up.

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Until a couple of days ago, my knowledge of my great-grandfather’s World War I service was limited to brief mentions in his obits that he had been in the Medical Corps. While looking for something else, though, I ran across an Ancestry.com database, “New York Abstracts of World War I Military Service 1917-1919.” And there, under his preferred spelling — more about that later — was James T. Aldrich.

Serial number 2,546,996. White.

Huh? How ever did Tom pull that off?

In any case, there it is — his World War I record. Service did not take him far from his home in East Harlem. (Maybe his health was poorish, after all?) Enlistment in the Medical Reserve Corps on Broadway in January 1918. Then about nine months at the Army base that Governors Island once was. (On 8 October 1918, just before leaving Governors Island, he married Athalia Freeman.) Then on to Camp Alexander in Newport News, Virginia, for six months until his discharge in May 1919. Camp Alexander, established in 1918, served as an embarkation and debarkation camp for African-American troops.

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Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Doctor slain.

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March 1968. I was not quite four. I had a baby sister who’d just come through a terrible bout with meningitis. My world was 1400 and 1401 Carolina Street and kindergarten and, at the outer edges, my grandmothers’ houses in Newport News and Philadelphia. In six months, I’d be gazing adoringly at “beautiful singer-actress” Diahann Carroll on a black and white small-screen. Right then, though, if you’d said, “Your great-grandfather died,” I would have looked at you blankly. If you’d said, “Mother Dear’s daddy died,” I might have creased my forehead, sad for her. But I didn’t know my great-grandfather. Didn’t know I had one. And had I picked up this Jet, which was delivered to our house, and been able to read — which I couldn’t just then — this would not have resonated either:

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James Thomas Aldrich (born Aldridge) was killed 10 February 1968. After a funeral service in Saint Louis, his body was returned to North Carolina for a second service and burial in Dudley in the family cemetery he established.

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North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Vocation

Leaves post.

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Jet magazine, 28 September 1961.

 Jet magazine was founded in 1951. In 1955, its graphic coverage of Emmett Till’s murder catapulted its readership, and the magazine became known for chronicling the Civil Rights Movement. All this came swaddled in heavy layers of Negro firsts, Negro Hollywood,  and general Negro bougie news. I’m sure my grandmother was reading Jet — and probably subscribing to it — by 1961. What did she think when she saw her father, whom she only met once, lauded in its pages?

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Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

A con man is back.

I was gobsmacked. My grandmother had a brother? A brother more than 40 years her junior? This is what my cousin’s former wife told me:

[In 2012,] a man called (and for the life of me I cannot find the slip of paper on which I wrote his name and phone number) and stated that he was the illegitimate child of Thomas Aldrich. He was trying to find out information about his family and for some reason he found me because of [my husband.] He was born in 1954 to Thomas. His mother was a young, Jewish nurse at the hospital in which Thomas practiced. Thomas was very generous and left a trust fund for his son. Therefore, when he was murdered, his son was provided for. His son currently owns 5 hotels around the country, one in Chicago, one in Los Angeles, but I cannot remember the others.

A welter of emotions overtook me. Wow. A long-lost great-uncle. A couple of times over the next eighteen months, I reached out to W. to prod her memory. In the meantime, I waited and hoped that Tom’s son would find me. Any Google search of my great-grandfather’s name will quickly link to me and my blogs, so I believed that there was a decent chance I’d hear from him. A couple of weeks ago, W. told me she’d remembered that the man’s name was Malcolm, but still could not recall more. The information was too thin for me to formulate a good search query, so I continued to wait.

And then, this week, W. emailed to say that she’d suddenly remembered this man’s last name, had looked him up, and had been stunned at what she found. There was a photo, which did not seem to match the “nearly white” appearance he’d ascribed to himself. (Did the segregated Homer G. Phillips Hospital even have white nurses?) But the clincher: Malcolm Aldrich, alias Malcolm Couch, alias a hundred other names and Social Security numbers, is a convicted felon many times over, a defendant in dozens of lawsuits, a specialist in real estate scams and schemes and general fraud. While I was waiting for a hit on my blog, Saint Louis television statement KVOM was reporting this scandalous news. And then this. Lord. And see this from 2009.

Well, damn.

It is certainly possible that Malcolm Aldrich, or Couch, or whatever, is both the son of James Thomas Aldrich [Aldridge] and a shady slickster. Either way, I’m keeping my distance.

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