OPINION: To know, or not, about your history

Some people want to know about their lineage.
Some people don’t.
It’s hard to predict who will fit into each category.
Take Dr. Billy Walton of Tupelo. He’s the family physician I wrote about in this week’s Neighbors section, delivered to our Lee County readers.
Walton is moving through and studying in a new sense of spiritual realization, and he finds he’s drawn more and more to helping people in need.
But, he says rather firmly, he really hasn’t ever wondered too deeply where he came from and who he came from.
Walton was adopted as an infant from the Mississippi Baptist Children’s Home in Jackson and lived his early life in Attala County before growing up in Charleston.
No, he says, he’s never really sought to find his biological parents. Instead, he always thinks of his adopted mother and father as that, his parents.
I’m not so sure I’d be that way.
But I’m a very curious person. I suppose that’s a good quality in a reporter or editor. Ask lots of questions.
I have a friend who teaches at Sarah Lawrence College in New York City, and I think he may well be the most curious man I have ever met.
He always has questions and questions and questions.
Everybody’s got a story.
I’ve often wished every local library could turn itself into a rolling oral-history taker and make available a way for every person to drop by to talk and talk about his or her personal history.
I’ve given digital recorders to a few people I care about and asked them just to sit down on a quiet Sunday morning and start talking into the device.
“I was born …” is how I’d expect them to begin.
There’s a story I want to write, about a confluence of people and events to reveal, much to everyone’s surprise, that they are related.
I’ve asked a colleague, who knows the local people, to urge them to speak with me.
I think it would be quite a story.
But I’ll tell this much of it, in case they want to get in touch:
Effi Barry, the 63-year-old former first lady of our nation’s capital, died a little over a year ago. Her obituary talked about what a remarkable and loyal woman she was.
Of course, she was married to notorious, controversial Marion Barry. They divorced in 1993. But through his highly publicized drug-sex trial in 1990, she sat every day on the front row, calmly hooking a rug with a poised expression on her face.
In her final months, she began to research her family, especially her white father, whom she believed lived in Pontotoc. She never found him or a photo of him.
I understand it was quite a shock to those Pontotoc Countians to learn of their direct connection to her, a black woman, and her surviving brother and mother in Washington.
I wonder if any of them has been curious enough to reach out to learn more.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com. Read Patsy’s blog, From the Front Row, on NEMS360.com or follow her on Twitter.com and Facebook.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

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